Conceptions of responsibility and visions of the common life: a comparative study of Karl Barth and Mou Zongsan
Item statusRestricted Access
Embargo end date29/06/2021
This thesis is a comparative study of the practical theories of responsibility across different traditions. The two thinkers under comparison are the Christian theologian Karl Barth and the Confucian philosopher Mou Zongsan. The thesis demonstrates that, despite their significant divergence, both Barth and Mou place the conception of responsibility at the centre of their visions of the common life. Furthermore, their moral theories allow us to develop a constructive position on the character and practice of responsibility, that is, our genuine wills and actions of responsibility can only take form in dialogical relationships with the supreme person(s) and with each other. The comparative project includes four interrelated tasks. First, in the case of Karl Barth, we investigate the meaning and significance of the theological ethics of individuals called by the divine Word of God to be morally responsible for her life and the lives of others. Second, in the case of Mou Zongsan, we examine the Confucian conception of responsibility and its significance for moral exercises of extending the innate knowledge. Third, we compare two conceptions of responsibility in terms of its source and action and their practical relevance to the common life. Finally, we consider the potential for their approaches to refine the ethics of responsibility in conversations with its modern and traditional forms in moral philosophies and its extensions in political and social theories. Drawing from constructive dialogues across traditions and disciplines, we can pave the way for promising versions of responsibility and contribute to the enterprise of comparative ethics. The new formulations of responsibility are two ethical syntheses with teleological components under act-deontological frames which allow us to stress the practical dimension of responsibility without sacrificing its normative sources. Moral knowledge and moral action can also be reunited in accordance with their traditions. Furthermore, by offering mandates which secure the formal and constant character in the dynamic and contextualized process of moral formation, such conceptions can assist our contextual and virtuous action towards a common life. Finally, they provide nascent political languages which connect tradition and democracy without undermining each side, and moreover, articulate the purpose and means of moral formation in democratic politics.