This article shows how Pierre Hadot’s idea of philosophy as a way of life can be applied to Confucian philosophy. Specifically I will show how the philosophy of the Confucian thinker Mencius has two characteristics that are indicative of a philosophy that is a way of life. For Hadot, Ancient Greco-Roman philosophical schools were mainly concerned, not with philosophical discourse, but with changing their students’ way of living. Based on Mencius’ own words, it can be inferred that he also believed that his philosophizing was mainly about transforming people, and that he treated philosophical discourse as ancillary to this. Furthermore, Hadot believed that “spiritual exercises” were employed by Ancient GrecoRoman philosophical schools to precisely help transform the lives of their aspirants. He divides these spiritual exercises into two phases. The first is “Concentration of the I” where the aspirant ceases to identify with his conventional and vicious self. This leads to the second phase, namely, “Expansion of the I” where the aspirant becomes free to identify with the whole of reality. I suggest that spiritual exercises, or something similar, can also be seen in Mencius’ teachings. In particular, Mencius’ activity of “reflection and extension” can be considered a kind of “Concentration of the I,” whereas his intimation of attaining unity with Heaven and the world through cultivating qi, can be understood as a kind of “Expansion of the I.”
Joseph Emmanuel D. Sta. Maria, (2020), The Philosophy of Mencius as a Way of Life: A Rapport between Mencian Confucianism and Pierre Hadot’s Conception of Philosophy. Journal of Confucian Philosophy and Culture, 34, 43-72.