Ritual: Meaning and Recognition

  • Tangjia WangEmail author
Part of the Philosophical Studies in Contemporary Culture book series (PSCC, volume 21)


The concept, “ritual”, is employed in many academic disciplines, such as anthropology, sociology, psychotherapy, and religious studies. However, it manifests diverse significance for different scholars from different disciplines. In modern societies most important human activities are related to ritual in some way and its constitutive role in the formation and organization of society has begun to be taken seriously by some scholars. Today, through speech and symbols (a pattern or convention related to behavior) ritual has become so popular in the political, military, economic, religious, and ordinary lives of individuals that it is reasonable to advance the claim that humans are ritualized beings. In fact, ritual secretly regulates the lives of individuals in such a way that it colors, enriches, and structures their lives to such an extent that it transmits a cultural tradition through its widespread inheritance among generations, providing good reason to believe that the boundary of ritual is the boundary of culture. From ancient to modern times, Chinese Confucianism has regarded ritual as an important philosophical subject. Accordingly, within this chapter, I shall confine myself to considering some general philosophical issues regarding ritual from the perspective of Confucianism. My analysis will not consider all of the fine details of ritual, as I find such details better suited for consideration within the disciplines of anthropology and sociology. Considering such fine details within this chapter would only serve to exemplify the general meanings of ritual I will be addressing. As a result, in the following sections, I will address the general meanings of ritual, the relationship between ritual and symbols, and how ritual is actualized and socially recognized.


Confucianism Ritual Meaning Social reality Li 



This chapter is the product of two conferences on ritual, which were held respectively at Hong Kong Baptist University (2005) and the University of Notre Dame (2007). I would like to thank the conference organizers, Professor Ping Cheung Lo, Professor David Solomon, and Professor Ruiping Fan, in addition to the sponsor of the Ritual Book Project, Professor H. Tristram Engelhardt, Jr., for creating a wonderful and unified spiritual space for participants from different cultural backgrounds. In addition, I would especially like to thank Mrs. Corinna Delkeskamp-Hayes, Professor Ivanhoe, and other conference participants for their critical and constructive comments on this chapter.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of PhilosophyFudan UniversityShanghaiPeople’s Republic of China

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