Xunzi’s Ritual Model and Modern Moral Education
Keywords:Ritual, Confucianism, Moral Psychology, Education
While the early Confucians were largely content to maintain the rituals of ancient kings as the core of moral education in their time, it is not obvious that contemporary humans could, or should, draw from the particulars of such a tradition. Indeed, even if one takes ritual seriously as a tool for cultivation, there remains a question of how to design moral education programs incorporating ritual. This essay examines impediments faced by a ritualized approach to moral education, how they might be overcome, and how a ritual method could be developed in modernity. I contend that a Confucian notion of ritual, particularly as elaborated in the Xunzi, is both compatible with modern moral education and capable of making a distinct contribution to moral education in terms of how rituals can be used to structure and inculcate a shared climate of respect and humaneness both in- and outside the classroom. Specifically, the ritual education method includes emphases on inculcating moral fluency via symbolic practices and distinctions, training and appropriately associating promoral dispositions, enhancing moral imagination, and developing awareness of other minds. The model is thus a multifaceted approach to moral education through (meta)cognitive development.
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