Philosophy Compass 9 (3):155-164 (2014)

‘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 how the term Legalism could be useful and what would be necessary in order for it to serve that use. I then turn to an investigation of certain aspects of the most prominent Legalist philosopher, Han Fei, that is quite important for understanding his philosophy and situating him in the context of the early Chinese philosophical milieu. In particular, I focus on an analysis of Han Fei's conception of the Way (dao), arguing that features of his philosophy most often discussed, namely, his advocacy of law (fa), administrative techniques (shu), and positional power (shi), arise out of his conception of a cosmic Way. I then turn to Han Fei's understanding of the role of history, demonstrating how it differs radically from the views of his contemporaries, raising serious challenges to Confucian, Daoist, and Mohist conceptions of history
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DOI 10.1111/phc3.12099
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References found in this work BETA

The World of Thought in Ancient China.Benjamin I. Schwartz - 1985 - Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
Three Ways of Thought in Ancient China.Arthur Waley - 1939 - Stanford University Press.

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Aspects of Shen Dao's Political Philosophy.Eirik Lang Harris - 2015 - History of Philosophy Quarterly 32 (2):217-234.

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