Moral agent in the Laozi and Plato
The theory of the moral agent is the normative theory which prescribes actions following the higher authority. In this thesis, I conduct a comparative analysis of Plato and the Laozi to uncover what they say about the moral agent. My findings will show that the same theory is used, in relation to the formation of the moral agent, the final moral ends and moral motivations, in ancient Chines and Greek philosophies, in particular the Laozi and Plato. With regard to the evidence of the notion of moral agent in the Laozi and Plato, I find that both encourage people in a socio-political context to follow the role model set by an exemplary figure in each, which is the sage in the Laozi and the philosopher-king in Plato. With regard to the process of the education/cultivation of people to the stage of the role model, each related aspect of the exemplary figure has been presented, such as the final moral ends, moral psychology and their actions. I argue that we can find that the moral agent can be cultivated/educated by following a higher authority in the Laozi and Plato, the dao and the cosmic god respectively, whereas the relation between the moral agent and human society are presented differently in each philosophy. Both the dao and the cosmic god represent the highest good for humans, because they contain the principles of the order for humans to emulate. We can find that the final moral ends for the Laozi is to live in accordance with the dao, whereas for Plato it is to become godlike as much as possible. On the basis of the relation between the moral agent and the final moral ends, I argue that although both the Laozi and Plato draw attention to the connection between desires and motivation of action for moral agents, the treatment of knowledge is different between, which leads to a difference in the treatment of desires. Both think that desires are necessary for the motivations of the moral agent to act. Moral agents can be cultivated (the Laozi) and educated (in Plato) and controlled in a certain way so as to regulate the desires that would motivate them to act. The moral motivation for the Laozi would for the moral agent to have no desires, whereas the best life for the moral agent in Plato would be that the rational soul rules the whole human body and soul. For the Laozi acting wuwei and being in the status of having no desires is to live in accordance with the dao, whereas for Plato, letting the rational part of the soul rule the life of human beings is the final moral end that leads the human life to become as godlike as possible. The finding of this thesis is that we can identify, interpret and evaluate the notion of the moral agent including the relation to the formation of moral agent, the final moral ends and moral psychology in both the Laozi and Plato. By identifying the notion of the moral agent in the Laozi and Plato, I demonstrate the value this could add to discussions in contemporary moral theories.