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There are a number of similarities between pragmatism and early Confucianism regarding their views of the self and society. I explore these, as well as some key differences, by comparing texts associated with Confucius with the work of three notable pragmatists: William James, George Herbert Mead, and John Dewey. I find that all four thinkers view human experience as intertwined with nature which leads them to form relational understandings of the self, ultimately sparking in them a tendency to view societies as communities that should by kept harmonious through various processes of cooperative social interaction. However, I find there are notable differences between Confucian and pragmatist views on how to best structure such societies. Confucians prefer a static and stratified social order, while pragmatists tender societies that have as much internal interaction as possible at the expense of stratification. I argue this is due, in part, to an underlying metaphysical distinction, that being Confucianism’s acceptance of a universal metaphysical order and pragmatism’s rejection of any such notion.
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Hrechdakian, Zephyr, "Confucianism and Pragmatism: Similarities in Notions of Selfhood and Society" (2022). Senior Projects Spring 2022. 172.
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