Mozi (墨子) and the Caretaker Argument
The ancient Chinese philosopher Mozi (墨子) lived during the middle of 5th Century BCE. Not much is known about him, though the Records of the Grand Historian (史記), completed around 94 BCE, reports that he was an official in the state of Song around the time that Confucius (孔子) lived. He may also have been an artisan from the state of Lu, Confucius’s own home state.
Mozi was the first philosopher in history known to argue for a consequentialist theory of ethics. The Mozi, written by his followers, contains the ten main doctrines of Mohism, including a defense of “impartiality” over the Confucian doctrine that one should be more partial to those in one’s own family. Instead, Mozi advocated for a state version of consequentialism according to which the benevolent person should promote what is beneficial for all and eliminate what is harmful for all.
As far as we know, the Mohists were the first to introduce explicit argumentation into their philosophy in ancient China, including the use of thought experiments. In the so-called “Caretaker Argument”, Mozi asks: If you had to entrust your family to someone else’s care, who would you prefer, the partial caretaker or the impartial caretaker?
- Hannah Kim, Teaching Asian Texts through Bridge Concepts
- Chris Fraser, The Philosophy of the Mozi: The First Consequentialists