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Growing Moral

A Confucian Guide to Life

Stephen C. Angle

Publication Date - 15 April 2022

ISBN: 9780190062897

288 pages
5 x 7 inches

In Stock


Ancient and enduring, rich and wide-ranging, the tradition of Confucianism offers profound insights into how we can lead good lives--lives built on understanding that we are deeply connected to one another.

For thousands of years, Confucian thinkers have carefully honed a philosophy for living fully, passing that knowledge along to their students over generations. Kongzi, also known as Confucius (551-479 BCE), is the most famous of the 2500-year-long tradition's philosophers. Though Kongzi lived more than two millennia ago and on the other side of the earth from many picking up this book, his teachings about how to live reverberate everywhere there are parents, children, and families; everywhere people feel stirrings of compassion for others, but sometimes selfishly ignore them; everywhere people wonder how they should interact with their environment.

In Growing Moral, philosopher Stephen C. Angle engages readers to reflect on and to practice the teachings of Confucianism in the contemporary world. Angle draws on the whole history of Confucianism, focusing on three thinkers from the classical era (Kongzi, Mengzi, and Xunzi) and two from the Neo-Confucian era (Zhu Xi and Wang Yangming). While laying out the fundamental teachings of Confucianism, the book highlights the enduring lessons that the philosophy offers contemporary readers.

Although the book reveals the many helpful ways we can engage Confucian philosophy in our modern lives, it also scrutinizes those elements of Confucianism that may not align with 21st-century standpoints. Angle questions whether Confucianism, historically affiliated with patriarchal societies and monarchical governments, genuinely can be attractive to those committed to gender equality and democratic politics, and points the way towards a progressive, evolving version of Confucianism that is nonetheless consistent with the principles it has upheld over the centuries.

At its core, Confucianism describes a way for humans to live and grow together in our world--a way characterized at its best by joy, beauty, and harmony. This book builds a case for modern Confucianism as a way of life well worth the attention of reflective modern readers no matter their age, where they live, or the paths they've taken so far.


  • Focuses on the practices, recommendations, and values that are central to the Confucian vision of living a good life, and on the reasoning that motivates this way of living
  • Enlivened with contemporary examples that demonstrate a progressive, synthetic vision of Confucianism as extremely relevant to living in our world today
  • Draws on the most influential five thinkers from the Confucian tradition, and presents Confucianism as offering a relatively unified vision of how to live a good life in the modern world
  • Remains accessible to the intelligent and curious reader who has no background in Confucianism or East Asian philosophy
  • Comprises short chapters which do not need to be read straight-through

About the Author(s)

Stephen C. Angle received his B.A. from Yale University in East Asian Studies and his Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Michigan. Since 1994 he has taught at Wesleyan University, where he is now Director of the Fries Center for Global Studies, Mansfield Freeman Professor of East Asian Studies, and Professor of Philosophy. The author of several previous books on Confucianism, Angle has co-directed two NEH Summer Institutes and is a recipient of two Fulbright grants, a Berggruen Fellowship, a Millicent C. McIntosh Fellowship, and a Chiang Ching-Kuo Postdoctoral Research Fellowship. In 2006 Angle was awarded Wesleyan's Binswanger Prize for Excellence in Teaching.


"Steve Angle offers a wide-ranging and masterful exploration of what it could mean to live a Confucian life. Attuned to the fine rewards such a life will promise, Angle maps a new, progressive Confucianism that retains and revitalizes the best of what the old can do." -- Amy Olberding, The University of Oklahoma

"The conversational tone of this gem of a guide for living should engage a wide audience, from the merely curious who know little of Confucianism to academics who teach and publish in Confucian philosophy. Grounded in impeccable scholarship, the author skillfully weaves vignettes of everyday life with the wisdom from ancient Confucian texts to persuade readers that Confucian philosophy can help them live a better life, become a better person, and contribute to the society they live in. It presents a progressive Confucianism that urges its adherents to critically examine its legacy and adapt its enduring values to new historical realities and possibilities in a manner that would advance human civilization." -- Sor-hoon Tan, Philosophy, Singapore Management University

"Highly readable and full of insights, this book not only shows brilliantly how Confucianism can be relevant and beneficial today as a way of life, but also illustrates how one can appropriate a tradition and be progressive at the same time. This is how Confucius would teach his ideas today, if he comes back to life." -- Peimin Ni, Grand Valley State University

"Angle... delivers an entertaining introduction to Confucian philosophy and its applications to modern life." --Publisher's Weekly

"Stephen C. Angle's new book is not simply an introduction to Confucianism - although it functions very well as that - but a prospectus for it." --South China Morning Post

Table of Contents

    One: What is Confucianism?
    1. Introduction
    2. The History of Confucianism

    Two: How to Be a Confucian
    3. Be Filial
    4. Follow Rituals
    5. Cultivate Your Sprouts
    6. Read in the Right Way
    7. Listen to the Right Music
    8. Reflect Regularly
    9. Pay Attention
    10. Be Engaged

    Three: Making Progress
    11. Commitment
    12. Fake It Till You Make It
    13. Expanding the Self
    14. Dealing with Conflict
    15. Enlightenment and Sagehood
    16. Death

    Four: Challenges and the Future
    17. Progressive Confucianism
    18. Gender
    19. Hierarchy
    20. Confucians Around the Globe

    Further Reading