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Han Feizi (ca. 280 - 233 BCE), was a philosopher and statesman of the Warring States Period. Han Fei was a member of the royal house of Han and believed to have been a disciple of the Confucian philosopher Xunzi. Han Fei is one of the most representative expounders of the legalist school (fajia) in ancient China. The Hanfeizi, the book named after him, is a collection of 55 chapters which comprises the main arguments of his legalist precursors, one of the earliest commentaries on the Daodejing and an extensive use of anecdotes and stories from historical records to support and develop his own contribution to the school and his criticism of the ru.

Key works Liao 1939 Watson 1967
Introductions Feng & Bodde 1937 Lai 2018 Liu 2006
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  1. Han Feizi’s Genealogical Arguments.Lee Wilson - forthcoming - In Eirik Lang Harris & Henrique Schneider (eds.), Adventures in Chinese Realism: Classic Philosophy Applied to Contemporary Issues. Albany, NY, USA: SUNY Press.
    Han Feizi’s criticisms of Confucian and Mohist political recommendations are often thought to involve materialist or historicist arguments, independently of their epistemological features. Drawing largely on Amia Srinivasan’s recent taxonomy of genealogical arguments, this paper proposes a genealogical reading of passages in “The Five Vermin [五蠹 wudu]” and “Eminence in Learning [顯學 xianxue].” This reveals Han Feizi’s arguments to be more comprehensively appreciated as problematizing Confucian and Mohist political judgments as arising from undermining contingencies, rendering them irrelevant, if not detrimental, (...)
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  2. Han Fei's Rule of Law and its Limits.Alejandro Bárcenas - 2019 - In Alexus McLeod (ed.), The Bloomsbury Research Handbook of Early Chinese Ethics and Political Philosophy. New York and London: Bloomsbury. pp. 155-183.
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  3. Han Fei's Views on Women's Rationality.Barbara Hendrischke - 2018 - Journal of the Oriental Society of Australia 49:32-49.
    Han Fei (d. 233 BCE) is for this paper called the author of the many essays that have been collected in the Hanfeizi. Despite their diversity, these essays share investigative direction and also methods of research and argumentation. Problems of political organisation are central to their contents and are with hardly any exception viewed from the perspective of human interaction. Lessons for political ordering are for this reason drawn from the observation of social intercourse with a particular focus on the (...)
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  4. Understanding “Dao's Patterns”: Han Fei.Barbara Hendrischke - 2018 - In Karyn L. Lai, Rick Benitez & Hyun Jin Kim (eds.), Cultivating a Good Life in Early Chinese and Ancient Greek Philosophy: Perspectives and Reverberations. New York: Bloomsbury. pp. 68-80.
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  5. The [Not So] Hidden Curriculum of the Legalist State in the Book of Lord Shang and the Han-Fei-Zi.Brandon R. King - 2018 - Comparative Philosophy 9 (2):69-92.
    This paper loosely draws some parallels between the experience of a subject in a so-called “Legalist” state with that of a contemporary student in Western schooling today. I explore how governance in the Book of Lord Shang and the Hanfeizi can be interpreted as pedagogy. Defining pedagogy in a relatively broad sense, I investigate the rationalizations for the existence of the state, the application of state mechanisms, and even the concentration of the ruler’s power all teach subjects habits, attitudes, and (...)
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  6. The Court as a Battlefield: The Art of War and the Art of Politics in the "Han Feizi".Albert Galvany - 2017 - Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies:1-24.
    Most scholarly contributions analysing the Han Feizi tend not only to overlook the influence military literature might have had on its conception and unfolding, but also to assert that the figure of the ruler, as described in this text, and that of the commander, as portrayed in military treatises, are incompatible. In refuting this view, I shall attempt to demonstrate that the writings collected in the Han Feizi fully embrace the logic of military con- frontation, which entails, among other things, (...)
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  7. Implications of Han Fei’s Philosophy for China’s Legal and Institutional Reforms.Mingjun Lu - 2016 - Journal of Chinese Political Science:1-18.
    In his treatise Han Fei Zi, the Chinese ancient thinker Han Fei proposes a governance structure that emphasizes the institutionalization of legal norms, judicious sovereign intervention, and ministerial obligations. These three core concepts of Han’s legal thinking are informed by both the Taoist law of Nature and the Confucian philosophy as is expounded by Xun Zi. Recognition of the Taoist and Confucian influences brings to light the ethical and normative dimensions of Han’s legal thought, dimensions that, I propose, provide new (...)
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  8. Fortune and the Dao: A Comparative Study of Machiavelli, the Daodejing, and the Han Feizi.Jason P. Blahuta - 2015 - Lexington Books.
    Times of prolonged conflict spur great minds to seek a lasting peace. Thus was the case of Warring States China, which saw the rise of the Hundred Schools of Thought, including the Doadejing and the Han Feizi, and Renaissance Italy, which produced Niccolò Machiavelli. Witnessing their respective societies fall prey to internal corruption and external aggression, all three thinkers sought ways to produce a strong, stable state that would allow both the leader and the populace to endure. Fortune and the (...)
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  9. Monarch and Minister: The Problematic Partnership in the Building of Absolute Monarchy in the Han Feizi 韓非子.Romain Graziani - 2015 - In Yuri Pines, Paul Goldin & Martin Kern (eds.), Ideology of power and power of ideology in early China. Leiden and Boston: Brill. pp. 155-180.
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  10. Being Worthy of Persuasion: Political Communication in the Han Feizi.Kevin DeLapp - 2014 - China Media Research 10 (4):29-38.
    This paper examines the attitudes toward political persuasion at work in the writings of Han Feizi (280-233 BCE). Particular attention is given to differentiating Han Feizi's thought from Western analogs under which it has suffered hermeneutically, especially comparisons with Plato's so-called "noble lie." After probing some of the psycho-social assumptions of ancient Greek versus Chinese political discourse, Han Feizi's own view is reconstructed, according to which practices of deception and secrecy are permissible under specific moral and political conditions. It is (...)
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  11. Jiang, Chongyue 蔣重躍,Hanfeizi’s Political Thought韓非子的政治思想: Beijing 北京: Beijing Shifan Daxue Chubanshe 北京師範大學出版社, 2010, 238 Pages. [REVIEW]Paul D’Ambrosio - 2014 - Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 13 (2):273-275.
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  12. Legalism: Introducing a Concept and Analyzing Aspects of Han Fei's Political Philosophy.Eirik Lang Harris - 2014 - Philosophy Compass 9 (3):155-164.
    ‘Legalism’ is a term that has long been used to categorize a group of early Chinese philosophers including, but not limited to, Han Fei (Han Feizi), Shen Dao, Shen Buhai, and Shang Yang. However, the usefulness of this term has been contested for nearly as long. This essay has the goal of introducing the idea of ‘Legalism’ and laying out aspects of the political thought of Han Fei, the most prominent of these thinkers. In this essay, I first lay out (...)
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  13. Political Theory and Linguistic Criteria in Han Feizi’s Philosophy.Aloysius P. Martinich - 2014 - Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 13 (3):379-393.
    Han Feizi’s 韓非子 thought, I argue, contains a political theory that justifies principled, law-governed government. A key element of his theory is a solution to the problem of rectifying names. He recognized that the same word can have varying criteria of application depending on the purpose of the practice that requires a criterion. Some criteria for a practice are good and some bad. A wise ruler knows which criteria are good and appropriate to ruling. His view is illuminated by considering (...)
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  14. Legalism in Chinese Philosophy.Yuri Pines - 2014 - The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
    Legalism is a popular—albeit quite inaccurate—designation of an intellectual current that gained considerable popularity in the latter half of the Warring States period (Zhanguo, 453–221 BCE). Legalists were political realists who sought to attain a “rich state with powerful army” and to ensure domestic stability in an age marked by intense inter- and intra-state competition. They believed that human beings—commoners and elites alike—will forever remain selfish and covetous of riches and fame, and one should not expect them to behave morally. (...)
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  15. Dao Companion to the Philosophy of Han Fei. Edited by Paul R. Goldin. Dao Companions to Chinese Philosophy, 2. [REVIEW]Lukas Pokorny - 2014 - Religious Studies Review 40 (3):172.
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  16. Goldin, Paul, Ed., Dao Companion to the Philosophy of Han Fei: New York: Springer, 2013, 10 + 288 Pages. [REVIEW]Henrique Schneider - 2014 - Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 13 (3):425-429.
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  17. A Weapon in the Battle of Definitions: A Special Rhetorical Strategy in Hánfēizǐ.Lukáš Zádrapa - 2014 - Asiatische Studien - Études Asiatiques 68 (4):969-999.
    Regardless of the actual views on the art of embellished speech of the author(s) presented by the collection of essays known as Hánfēizǐ, the work is well known for its formal intricacy and refinement. The composition of several chapters appears unique against the background of other transmitted texts of the Warring States period, and the same is true of some textual strategies serving to convey the presented ideas with intensified rhetorical appeal. In this study, I aim to identify one of (...)
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  18. Han Fei's Enlightened Ruler.Alejandro Bárcenas - 2013 - Asian Philosophy 23 (3):236-259.
    In this essay I revise, based on the notion of the ‘enlightened ruler’ or mingzhu and his critique of the literati of his time, the common belief that Han Fei was an amoralist and an advocate of tyranny. Instead, I will argue that his writings are dedicated to advising those who ought to rule in order to achieve the goal of a peaceful and stable society framed by laws in accordance with the dao.
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  19. The Polarization of the Concepts Si (Private Interest) and Gong (Public Interest) in Early Chinese Thought.Erica Brindley - 2013 - Asia Major 26 (2).
    Many scholars of early China agree that the fourth century bce witnessed a surge in intellectual interest in concepts that have been dubbed the self, “subjectivity,” the private realm, and the body. As such a sphere came into greater focus in intellectual circles, so did a new discourse that evaluated what it meant to benefit or deprive the self and its related parts. The famous statement purportedly by Yang Zhu 楊朱 (or Yangzi 楊子) that claims he was not willing to (...)
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  20. The Dao Against the Tyrant: The Limitation of Power in the Political Thought of Ancient China.Daniel Rodríguez Carreiro - 2013 - Libertarian Papers 5:111-152.
    In Chinese history the periods known as Spring and Autumn (770-476 BC) and the Warring States (475-221 BC) were times of conflict and political instability caused by the increasing power of centralized and competing states. During this time of crisis many schools of thought appeared to offer different philosophical doctrines. This paper describes and studies ideas about the limitation of power defended by these different schools of ancient Chinese thought, and suggests some reasons why they failed to prevent the emergence (...)
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  21. Beyond the Rule of Rules: The Foundations of Sovereign Power in the Han Feizi.Albert Galvany - 2013 - In Paul R. Goldin (ed.), Dao Companion to the Philosophy of Han Fei. Springer. pp. 87--106.
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  22. Han Fei on the Problem of Morality.Eirik Lang Harris - 2013 - In Paul R. Goldin (ed.), Dao Companion to the Philosophy of Han Fei. Springer.
    In much of pre-Qin political philosophy, including those thinkers usually labeled Confucian, Daoist, or Mohist, at least part of the justification of the political state comes from their views on morality, and the vision of the good ruler was quite closely tied to the vision of the good person. In an important sense, for these thinkers, political philosophy is an exercise in applied ethics. Han Fei, however, offers an interesting break from this tradition, arguing that, given the vastly different goals (...)
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  23. Constraining the Ruler: On Escaping Han Fei's Criticism of Confucian Virtue Politics.Eirik Lang Harris - 2013 - Asian Philosophy 23 (1):43-61.
    One of Han Fei’s most trenchant criticisms against the early Confucian political tradition is that, insofar as its decision-making process revolves around the ruler, rather than a codified set of laws, this process is the arbitrary rule of a single individual. Han Fei argues that there will be disastrous results due to ad hoc decision-making, relationship-based decision-making, and decision-making based on prior moral commitments. I lay out Han Fei’s arguments while demonstrating how Xunzi can successfully counter them. In doing so, (...)
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  24. The Difficulty with “The Difficulties of Persuasion”(“Shuinan” 說難).Michael Hunter - 2013 - In Paul R. Goldin (ed.), Dao Companion to the Philosophy of Han Fei. Springer. pp. 169--195.
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  25. Submerged by Absolute Power: The Ruler's Predicament in the Han Feizi.Yuri Pines - 2013 - In Paul R. Goldin (ed.), Dao Companion to the Philosophy of Han Fei. Springer. pp. 67--86.
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  26. Han Feizi and the Old Master: A Comparative Analysis and Translation of Han Feizi Chapter 20,“Jie Lao,” and Chapter 21,“Yu Lao”. [REVIEW]Sarah A. Queen - 2013 - In Paul R. Goldin (ed.), Dao Companion to the Philosophy of Han Fei. Springer. pp. 197--256.
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  27. Did Xunzi's Theory of Human Nature Provide the Foundation for the Political Thought of Han Fei?Masayuki Sato - 2013 - In Paul R. Goldin (ed.), Dao Companion to the Philosophy of Han Fei. Springer. pp. 147--165.
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  28. Studies of the Han Feizi in China, Taiwan, and Japan.Masayuki Sato - 2013 - In Paul R. Goldin (ed.), Dao Companion to the Philosophy of Han Fei. Springer. pp. 257--281.
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  29. Han Fei, De, Welfare.Henrique Schneider - 2013 - Asian Philosophy 23 (3):260-274.
    This paper explores the relation of order and welfare for Han Fei's philosophy. It will be claimed that the Legalist did indeed show concern for the overall quality of life of society, claiming that his model state would lead to a substantial increase for the individual's welfare. On the other hand, although he acknowledges (and cares) for these positive consequences, Han Fei does not attach any value for legitimizing the system he proposes to them. Even if there were any value (...)
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  30. Shen Dao's Theory of Fa and His Influence on Han Fei.Soon-ja Yang - 2013 - In Paul R. Goldin (ed.), Dao Companion to the Philosophy of Han Fei. Springer. pp. 47--63.
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  31. Xunzi and Han Fei on Human Nature.Alejandro Bárcenas - 2012 - International Philosophical Quarterly 52 (2):135-148.
    It is commonly accepted that Han Fei studied under Xunzi sometime during the late third century BCE. However, there is surprisingly little dedicated to the in-depth study of the relationship between Xunzi’s ideas and one of his best-known followers. In this essay I argue that Han Fei’s notion of xing, commonly translated as human nature, was not only influenced by Xunzi but also that it is an important feature of his political philosophy.
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  32. Dao Companion to the Philosophy of Han Fei.Paul R. Goldin (ed.) - 2012 - Springer.
    This edited volume on the thinker, his views on politics and philosophy, and the tensions of his relations with Confucianism (which he derided) is the first of its kind in English.Featuring contributions from specialists in various ...
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  33. Virtue Politics and Political Leadership: A Confucian Rejoinder to Hanfeizi.Sungmoon Kim - 2012 - Asian Philosophy 22 (2):177-197.
    In the Confucian tradition, the ideal government is called "benevolent government" (ren zheng), central to which is the ruler's parental love toward his people who he deems as his children. Hanfeizi criticized this seemingly innocent political idea by pointing out that (1) not only is the state not a family but even within the family parental love is short of making the children orderly and (2) ren as love inevitably results in the ruin of the state because it confuses what (...)
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  34. The Leadership Philosophy of Han Fei.Morgen Witzel - 2012 - Asia Pacific Business Review 18 (4):489-503.
    This work discusses the ideas on leadership that are to be found in the works of Han Fei, the pre-eminent philosopher of Legalism in ancient China. It describes the fundamental Legalist principles of fa, shi and shu and the ‘two handles’ of reward and punishment which were the primary means by which leaders controlled organizations. The work discusses the various elements of Han Fei's ideas on leadership including the nature of leadership, the duties and responsibilities of the leader and the (...)
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  35. Song, Hongbing 宋洪兵, New Studies ofhanFeizi’s Political Thought 韓非子政治思想再硏究: Beijing 北京: Renmin Chubanshe 人民出版社, 2010, 414 Pages. [REVIEW]Soon-ja Yang - 2012 - Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 11 (2):266.
    Song, Hongbing 宋洪兵, New Studies of han Feizi’s Political Thought 韓非子政治思想再硏究 Content Type Journal Article Pages 1-4 DOI 10.1007/s11712-012-9265-2 Authors Soon-ja Yang, Inha University, 253 Yonghyeon 4-dong, Nam-gu, Incheon, South Korea 402-751 Journal Dao Online ISSN 1569-7274 Print ISSN 1540-3009.
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  36. Preliminary Remarks: Han Fei Zi—First Modern Political Philosopher?Tongdong Bai - 2011 - Journal of Chinese Philosophy 38 (1):4-13.
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  37. Han Feizi’s Thought and Republicanism.David Elstein - 2011 - Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 10 (2):167-185.
    Feizi’s philosophy is usually represented as an amoral autocracy where the ruler is the sole political power and runs the state by controlling the people through rewards and punishments. While his system is formally autocratic, this article argues that the purpose behind this system bears some similarity to the republican political ideal of non-domination. In this interpretation, Han Feizi makes the ruler the sole power to mitigate the danger of the state being dominated by ministers. He does not employ republican (...)
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  38. Han Fei Zi's Philosophical Psychology: Human Nature, Scarcity, and the Neo-Darwinian Consensus.Owen Flanagan & H. U. Jing - 2011 - Journal of Chinese Philosophy 38 (2):293-316.
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  39. Persistent Misconceptions About Chinese “Legalism”.Paul R. Goldin - 2011 - Journal of Chinese Philosophy 38 (1):88-104.
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  40. Is the Law in the Way? On the Source of Han Fei’s Laws.Eirik Lang Harris - 2011 - Journal of Chinese Philosophy 38 (1):73-87.
    In this paper, I analyze the ‘Da ti’ chapter of the Han Feizi 韓非子. This chapter is often read as one of the so-called Daoist Chapters of text. However, a deeper study of this chapter allows us to see that, while Daoist terminology is employed, it is done so in a way that is certainly not reminiscent of either the Zhuangzi 莊子 or the Laozi 老子. Neither, though, does it have quite the flavor of other chapters in the Han Feizi (...)
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  41. Hanfeizi and Moral Self-Cultivation.Philip J. Ivanhoe - 2011 - Journal of Chinese Philosophy 38 (1):31-45.
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  42. The Sovereign in the Political Thought of Hanfeizi and Thomas Hobbes.A. P. Martinich - 2011 - Journal of Chinese Philosophy 38 (1):64-72.
  43. Han Fei in His Context: Legalism on the Eve of the Qin Conquest.Peter R. Moody - 2011 - Journal of Chinese Philosophy 38 (1):14-30.
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  44. Shen Dao’s Own Voice in the Shenzi Fragments.Soon-ja Yang - 2011 - Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 10 (2):187-207.
    Feizi 韓非子 in terms of the concept of shi 勢 (circumstantial advantage, power, or authority). This argument is based on the A Critique of Circumstantial Advantage (Nanshi 難勢) chapter of the Hanfeizi, where Han Feizi advances his own idea of shi after criticizing both Shen Dao and an anonymous Confucian. However, there are other primary sources to contain Shen Dao’s thought, namely, seven incomplete Shenzi 慎子 chapters of the Essentials on Government from the Assemblage of Books (Qunshu zhi yao 群書治要) (...)
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  45. Individualism in Early China: Human Agency and the Self in Thought and Politics.Erica Fox Brindley - 2010 - University of Hawaii Press.
    Conventional wisdom has it that the concept of individualism was absent in early China. In this uncommon study of the self and human agency in ancient China, Erica Fox Brindley provides an important corrective to this view and persuasively argues that an idea of individualism can be applied to the study of early Chinese thought and politics with intriguing results. She introduces the development of ideological and religious beliefs that link universal, cosmic authority to the individual in ways that may (...)
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  46. The Dynamics of Masters Literature: Early Chinese Thought From Confucius to Han Feizi.Wiebke Denecke - 2010 - Harvard University Press.
    Introduction: Chinese philosophy and the translation of disciplines -- The faces of masters literature until the Eastern Han -- Scenes of instruction and master bodies in the Analects -- From scenes of instruction to scenes of construction: Mozi -- Interiority, human nature, and exegesis in Mencius -- Authorship, human nature, and persuasion in Xunzi -- The race for precedence: polemics and the vacuum of traditions in Laozi -- Zhuangzi and the art of negation -- The self-regulating state, paranoia, and rhetoric (...)
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  47. Writing an Empire: Cross-Talk on Authority, Act, and Relationships with the Other in the Analects, Daodejing, and HanFeizi.Arabella Lyon - 2010 - College English 70 (4):350-366.
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  48. Interpreting Lao.Han Fei - 2009 - In Thomas F. Cleary (ed.), The Way of the World: Readings in Chinese Philosophy. Shambhala.
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  49. Taking Lessons From Lao.Han Fei - 2009 - In Thomas F. Cleary (ed.), The Way of the World: Readings in Chinese Philosophy. Shambhala.
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  50. Morality in Politics: Panacea or Poison?Eirik Lang Harris - 2009 - Dissertation, University of Utah
    In the Western philosophic tradition, virtue theory has rarely been extended to the political realm. There is a long tradition that advocates the role of virtue in ethical theory, but the implications of this tradition for political theory have largely been neglected. However, in the Chinese tradition, we very early on see the use of virtue-based theories not only in ethics but in political thought as well. Indeed, one of the most sophisticated early Confucian philosophers, Xúnzǐ 荀子 (fl. 298–238 BCE), (...)
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