Angle, S. C., & Makeham, J. (2010). Wang Yangming as Virtue Ethicist. The Dao Companion to Neo-Confucianism.
Three ideas are implicit in the title of this chapter. To begin with, it is constructive to view WANG Yangming 王陽明 (1472-1529), widely acknowledged as the most influential Confucian thinker of the Ming dynasty, as a virtue ethicist. Second, because Wang has much in common with many other Neo-Confucian philosophers, the Neo-Confucian approach to ethics quite generally can be fruitfully understood as a type of virtue ethics. If this is true, then a third idea also follows, namely that Western virtue ethicists should pay attention to Wang and to Neo- Confucian philosophy, because here is a new (to the Western philosophers) source of thinking about ethics from which they may well have things to learn. For the most part, the latter two ideas will remain implicit in this essay. My primary focus is on the structure of Wang’s ethics; on why he is best regarded as a virtue ethicist; and on how he believed that people are able to develop themselves such that they become virtuous and follow the way (dao 道). I am confident that readers interested in other Neo-Confucian philosophers, or in virtue ethics itself, will see the relevance of the present analysis of Wang’s ethics to their own concerns.