A Social Theoretical Interpretation of Dai Zhen’s Critique of Neo-Confucianism

Matthew M. Chew


This study analyzes and evaluates the social thought of Dai Zhen. It interprets Dai’s thought in terms of a critique of ideology that problematizes Song dynasty Neo-Confucian moral vocabulary. Dai thinks that social critique is the ultimate goal of scholarship and he was explicit about this belief. This study will show that he analyzes the negative social consequences of Song Neo-Confucian moral discourse in sociologically sophisticated ways, and that he has developed this understanding through a series of works that began with Yuanshan (The Origin of Goodness) and ended with Mengzi Ziyi Suzheng (Commentaries on the Meaning of Terms in Mencius). Contemporary social theorist and cultural critics should find Dai’s work relevant because his deconstruction of the reified moral vocabulary of his times is postmodern in spirit and he elucidated how discourses can concretely impact on society.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5539/ach.v4n2p22

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