Confucians and Dewey on community
This thesis offers a comparison between liberalism, Dewey’s pragmatism, and Confucianism on their views of community. Today, as China struggles with the influences of modernity, the relations between its Confucian heritage and liberal democracy have been much debated. Some scholars contend that classical Confucianism and the communitarian critique of liberal politics converge, because they both challenge the dominance of modern liberalism. Among the communitarian theories, John Dewey’s theory of democratic community comports well with the Confucian doctrine of community to argue against rights-based liberalism. For in a Confucian community, as in a Deweyan democracy, public consensus is often achieved at the aesthetic and practical levels rather than based on the claims of reason. For pragmatists like Dewey and Confucians, experiencing the world aesthetically is a practical way to improve the social functions of everyday life. In this thesis, following John Dewey, I argue that as a crucially communicative and social practice, art plays a key role on communal harmony. When traditional Confucian China as a ritual-based community is grounded in aesthetic practices, it is comparable and compatible with Dewey’s view of community. In addition, the Confucian theory of community is a source for putting contemporary communitarian ideas into practice. I conclude that by relating aesthetics to his democratic theory, Dewey puts forth a theory of pragmatist community that suits well with the Confucian ideal.
Fu, Hui (2006). Confucians and Dewey on community. Master's thesis, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from