Han Fei's doctrine of self-interest

Asian Philosophy 11 (3):151 – 159 (2001)
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Chapter 49 of the Han Feizi, entitled 'Wudu', includes one of the earliest discussions in Chinese history of the concepts of gong and si: Han Fei takes si to mean 'acting in one's own interest'. Gong is simply what opposes si. 'Acting in one's own interest' is not inherently reprehensible in Han Fei's view; but a ruler must remember why ministers propose their policies: they are concerned only with enriching themselves, and look upon the ruler as nothing more than a resource to be exploited in their quest for material aggrandizement. The interests of the ministers and the ruler are diametrically opposed. Ministers hope for a comfortable career; a ruler must weed out the posers in his search for those rare and invaluable adjuvants who are genuinely capable of administering the state. In short, if si is the self-interest of the minister, gong is the self-interest of the ruler



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