As the Mohist doctrine of inclusive care (jian ai 兼愛) is usually understood, it is an affront to both human nature and commonsense morality.1 We are told that the Mohists rejected all particularist ties, especially to family, in the interests of a radically universalist ethic.2 But love for those close to us is deeply rooted in our natures, and few would deny that this love has moral significance. If the Mohists did deny this, it would be easy to dismiss them, (...) regardless of the abstract weight of their arguments. But the Mohists did not deny this. They consistently took it for granted that we have special attitudes and obligations toward those close to us. Filial piety was one of their core values, and .. (shrink)
Reply to Ian Johnston Content Type Journal Article Pages 1-2 DOI 10.1007/s11712-012-9274-1 Authors Dan Robins, School of Arts and Humanities, The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, 101 Vera King Farris Drive, Galloway, NJ 08205, USA Journal Dao Online ISSN 1569-7274 Print ISSN 1540-3009.
This article is a study of the Later Mohists' 'Lesser Selection (Xiaoqu)', which, more than any other early Chinese text, seems to engage in the study of logic. I focus on a procedure that the Mohists called mou . Arguments by mou are grounded in linguistic parallelism, implying perhaps that the Mohists were on the way to a formal analysis of argumentation. However, their main aim was to head off arguments by mou that targeted their own doctrines, and if their (...) argument succeeds then it entails that linguistic parallelism can never ground a cogent argument. In a way, this committed them to the view that formal logic cannot work, but the fact that they did not pursue this line of investigation was by no means inevitable. One consequence of this study is that the Later Mohists conducted their logical work by studying the behaviour of terms and verb phrases, and did not identify the sentence as a significant linguistic unit. This tends to confirm Chad Hansen's generalisation that early Chinese philosophers did not posit sentences or other sentence-like entities such as propositions, beliefs, or laws. Focusing on subsentential expressions did not stop the Mohists from addressing genuinely logical issues, but it may help explain the fact that they never developed a conception of logical structure. This study includes the complete Chinese text of the 'Lesser Selection' and a translation in English. (shrink)
This essay defends a novel interpretation of the term xìng 性 as it occurs in Chinese texts of the late Warring States period (roughly 320–221 BCE). The term played an important role both in the famous controversy over the goodness or badness of people’s xìng and elsewhere in the intellectual discourse of the period. Extending especially the work of A.C. Graham, the essay stresses the importance for understanding xìng of early Chinese assumptions about spontaneity, continuity, health, and (in the human (...) case) motivation. These assumptions make xìng fundamentally different from the contemporary nature concepts with which it is often equated. In particular, people’s xìng is not a near-equivalent of human nature or (in modern Chinese) of rénxìng 人性. (shrink)
The section of the Xunzi called "Xing e" 性惡 (xing is bad) prominently and repeatedly claims that people's xing is bad. However, no other text in the Xunzi makes this claim, and it is widely thought that the claim does not express Xunzi's fundamental ideas about human nature. This article addresses the issue in a somewhat indirect way, beginning with a detailed examination of the text of "Xing e": identifying a core text, removing a series of interpolations, analyzing the structure (...) of the core text, and distinguishing between three positions that are defended there. This analysis shows that the claim that people's xing is bad is not really central to "Xing e." More ambitiously, it supports the conclusion that Xunzi's ideas about people's xing changed over time. Though Xunzi did claim that people's xing is bad, he later abandoned the claim, and replaced it with an account of wei 偽 "artifice.". (shrink)
(Uncorrected OCR) Abstract of thesis entitled The Debate over Human Nature in Warring States China submitted by Dan Robins for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy at the University of Hong Kong in April 2001 This dissertation is an account of the most famous disagreement in early Chinese philosophy. The disagreement is usually thought to have taken place between Mencius (c. 385-303 BC) and <span class='Hi'>Xunzi</span> (c. 310-230 BC) (the two most prominent Confucians of the Warring States period), and to (...) have concerned the goodness or badness of human nature. I give a novel interpretation of the dispute, and a fully-worked out account of its history. I argue that ren zhi xing A2tt (or �eople� xing� is not a near analogue of human nature, and that the dispute unfolded over a short period between <span class='Hi'>Xunzi</span> and members of a Mencian school operating decades after Mencius� death. I try to show that if we read Mencian and Xunzian discussions of the issue as contemporary documents, we can see them interacting in surprisingly precise ways. This allows me to portray the specifically philosophical character of the dispute in much tighter focus than has previously been possible. My interpretation of the concept of xing stresses its links with nature, health, and spontaneity. A person� xing is a locus of continuity with nature that sustains normal physiological and psychological functioning, including in particular the proper functioning of her sense organs and the appropriate production of emotions and desires. This functioning might also involve certain sorts of behavior; if it is a person� xing to behave in a particular way, then she will behave that way as reliably and as thoughtlessly as she desires food when hungry. Xing is vulnerable, and can be damaged by either deprivation or over-indulgence. This damage undermines a person� spontaneity in a way that renders her unhealthy. The dispute concerned the extent to which virtue could be made to participate in the spontaneous economy sustained by xing. Mencius� followers argued that the right sort of self-cultivation could nurture a natural growth that would preserve xing while i ii developing virtue. <span class='Hi'>Xunzi</span> argued that no serious course of moral improvement could limit itself to natural development. Both parties made several attempts to incorporate a theory of xing into their moral and psychological views. By distinguishing between chronological layers of their texts, I am able to trace developments in their views and interactions between them. Though I focus on these Confucian philosophers, I suggest that the dispute was originally provoked by primitivist philosophers whose texts have been preserved in the Zhuangzi, which is usually considered a Daoist anthology. I follow scholars such as Herbert Fingarette, Robert Eno, and Chad Hansen in attributing a �erformance model�of action to early Chinese philosophers. In detailed interpretations of central statements of Mencian and Xunzian psychology, I show how they stressed ability rather than desire. I build on this conclusion to dispute accounts that make reasoning or moral intuition central to the dispute over people� xing. (shrink)