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AI and the Confucian conception of the human person: Some preliminary reflections

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conference contribution
posted on 06.10.2021, 07:33 by Sor Hoon TANSor Hoon TAN
The understanding of autonomy and rationality central to the development of AI, and also assumed by cultures influenced by the European Enlightenment to be central to what it means to be human, does not have the same importance in Confucian understanding of the human person. For Confucians, what is most central to our humanity is inter-personal relations. One can be human only in relation to other human beings. Living well is a process of cultivating one’s person through one’s relationship to family members, friends, neighbours, colleagues, fellow citizens, any other human being one comes into contact with, and conducting oneself virtuously in those relationships, from the most intimate to the most fleeting. While not denying the conveniences and new opportunities of all kinds brought about by AI, from a Confucian perspective, AI magnifies the bias towards the Enlightenment view of autonomous rational human agent and thereby carries the risk of distorting human development. As we increasingly worry about being outstripped in intelligence by AI, and strive to integrate AI with human processes to benefit rather than threaten human welfare, with both intelligence and welfare understood in ways that emphasize the value of Enlightenment autonomy and rationality, we increase the peril of neglecting other aspects of our humanity.


Publication Date



School of Social Sciences


AI and the Human Person: Chinese and Western Perspectives, Apr 4-5, 2019, Santa Clara University