The Ideal of Junzi Leadership and Education for the Common Good


  • Yang Hengda
  • Dennis P. McCann


The concept of the common good in both Western and Confucian philosophy presupposes a specific practical approach to moral education roughly identified as “virtue ethics”. This paper will attempt to outline this approach as proposed in the Confucian classics, by focusing on the ideal of Junzi (君子) leadership—that is, the personal embodiment of moral excellence—and its relationship to the Grand Union (Datong, 大同), Confucius’ symbol of the common good. Our focus will be on the
practice of moral leadership—represented by the Junzi—describing how in Confucius’ Analects (Lunyu, 論語) it unfolds in a process of self-cultivation whose goal is specified in the Golden Rule (Analects 15:24). Its outcome is a form of moral leadership capable of sustaining common good, inasmuch as the proper ordering of personal and social relationships becomes as natural as breathing. 
The concentric circles of responsibility, extending from personal to social—inclusive of care for family (jiā, 家), country (guó, 国), and the whole world (tiān xià, 天下)—provide a basis for envisioning an educational practice intending the common good What takes root in the individual person naturally has social consequences.