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Abstract

In this paper I discuss the aesthetic dimension of ritual action. In order to demonstrate how the rites render action aesthetically expressive, I draw on the notion of an "art of context" and further detail the Confucian understanding of artistic practice as an essential component for moral cultivation. In turn, I use John Dewey's account of aesthetic form in order to support and further demonstrate the ability of the rituals and arts to organize action and to thereby render it aesthetically significant. However, Dewey's account entails that we question either conceptual or institutional limitations of aesthetic form as such limitations restrict its value. With this in mind, I question the Confucian emphasis on "traditional" arts and go on to suggest that the list of accepted arts be expanded to include those that enrich the lives of individuals other than the literati. Finally, I argue that such expansion is, in fact, in accord with the Confucian emphasis on the humanitarian virtues since it entails that the arts have the characteristic ability to create and sustain various communities.

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