Four Cardinal Virtues of Mencius

One of the most significant developments in Diamond’s philosophy in recent years has been the incorporation into his work of the four so-called “Cardinal Virtues” of the Confucian philosopher Mencius (孟子). The Virtues, all originating from Confucius himself, are named Zhi (智), Jen (also transliterated Ren仁), Yi (義) and Li (禮).  

 Zhi, commonly translated as knowledge or wisdom, is in Diamond’s terms the state of Belovedness* – the feeling of feeling loved by the mother – our ultimate wisdom. Zhi actuates Jen, commonly translated benevolence or humaneness, which is what Diamond terms the Soul*, the deepest part of the self, that is pure love (Mencius, like Diamond, fervently believed in the essential goodness of human nature). In other words feeling the mother’s love enables us to find our own Soul. Following on, Yi, righteousness or goodness, is the grateful return for that love, which Diamond terms Cantillation*. The fourth Virtue, Lipropriety or proper ritual, is the eternal law that impels all this, the equivalent of what Diamond terms an endum*: something that is worthy to be acted upon for its own sake. Overall Diamond’s interpretation of the Four Cardinal Virtues and their relationship to one another offer an ideal model for all human behavior and motivation.

See also: Individual entries on Jen*Li*Yi*, Zhi*.

Timeline: Diamond has been developing this model since c. 2010. Until c. 2015, Li was assigned the role of  Cantillation rather than Yi: the switch occurred in the middle of 2015, and the subsequent “endum” role for Li was developed in 2018.

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