Zhu Xi’s Normative Realism and Internal Moral Realism

  • JeeLoo LiuEmail author
Part of the Dao Companions to Chinese Philosophy book series (DCCP, volume 13)


This chapter places ZHU Xi’s metaphysics and moral theory in the context of contemporary debates on realism and anti-realism. This chapter distinguishes the notion of li理 (rendered as ‘principle’ in this chapter) in ZHU Xi’s metaphysic and the notion of li in his moral philosophy. In ZHU Xi’s metaphysics, this chapter identifies the theme of normative realism, which posits normative principles in the nature of particular things. With regard to ZHU Xi’s moral theory, this chapter defines it as internal moral realism, which locates moral principles within human mind. The two themes constitute an apparent paradox: are normative principles external or internal to human mind? Are humans regulated by outside laws or are they self-regulated? This chapter appeals to some contemporary Chinese scholars’ analyses to resolve this paradox. The conclusion is that ZHU Xi’s normative realism and internal moral realism are two sides of the same coin, because in his moral metaphysics, the objective principles in things themselves are necessarily sustained by the internal moral principle in human mind. Without the latter, the former would have no significance, and yet the former cannot be reduced to the latter. Objective moral principles both exist outside and within human mind.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyCalifornia State University, FullertonFullertonUSA

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