Adam Smith and Confucius on Virtue Ethics: Very Similar Conclusions

18 Pages Posted: 15 Apr 2019

See all articles by Michael Emmett Brady

Michael Emmett Brady

California State University, Dominguez Hills

Clark Tang


Date Written: March 29, 2019


An analysis of Confucius and Smith demonstrates that both are presenting arguments that are extremely close in their conclusions.The Analects present a powerful case against utilitarian ethics in a manner which is very similar to Smith’s argument against utilitarianism.

Smith and Confucius analyze and apply virtue ethics in a manner that is consistent and coherent. A reader who understands Confucius will understand Smith, although Smith’s rationale for the practice of virtue ethics is more detailed and extensive than that of Confucius. On the other hand ,one can argue that Confucius reaches the same conclusions in a more simple and direct manner than Smith. Reading both reinforces the views expressed by the other.

Keywords: Adam Smith, Confucius, Virtue Ethics, Utilitarian Ethics, Jeremy Bentham, The 'Poor Man's Son'

JEL Classification: B10, B12, B14, B16, B20, B22

Suggested Citation

Brady, Michael Emmett and Tang, Clark, Adam Smith and Confucius on Virtue Ethics: Very Similar Conclusions (March 29, 2019). Available at SSRN: or

Michael Emmett Brady (Contact Author)

California State University, Dominguez Hills ( email )

1000 E. Victoria Street, Carson, CA
Carson, CA 90747
United States

Clark Tang

Independent ( email )

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