Chenyang Li’s new book, The Philosophy of Confucian Harmony, has been heralded as the first book-length exposition of the concept of harmony in the approximately 3,000 year old Confucian tradition. It provides a systematic analysis of Confucian harmony and defence of its relevance for contemporary moral and political thought. In this philosophical discussion of Li’s book, I expound its central claims, contextualize them relative to other work in English-speaking Confucian thought, and critically reflect on them, particularly in light of a conception of harmony that is salient in the sub-Saharan African tradition. Hence, this article aims to continue the nascent dialogue between indigenous Chinese and African philosophical traditions that has only just begun.
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For many thinkers such as Tutu (1999) one’s self-realization is constituted by living harmoniously whereas for others the latter is an essential means to another value considered basic such as the promotion of vital force (Bujo 1997) or the common good (Gyekye 1997).