Is Xunzi a utilitarian? Revisiting a disagreement

Asian Philosophy 28 (4):358-367 (2018)

ABSTRACTIn Chinese scholarship, Xunzi is often regarded as an eclectic Confucian master who accepted some form of utilitarian thoughts. This characteristic was also observed by some western scholars such as Benjamin I. Schwartz. In a recent study, I argued that the basic character of Xunzi’s philosophy is utilitarianism in a broad sense based on an examination on his intellectual criticism and political criticism. Xunzi asserts that humans are innately driven by self-interested desires, and he evaluates all intellectual works and political behaviours by their utility. However, he does not limit utility to only basic animal desires such as food and sex. In Xunzi’s view, humans also have innate emotions; hence, these emotions should also be accounted for in their utility. This is similar to John Stuart Mill’s redefinition of Bentham’s concept of utility. Are Xunzi’s and Mill’s concepts of utility exactly the same? This question has yet to be examined. This article is a comparative study between utilitarianism and Xunzi’s philosophy which especially explores the compatibility of these two philosophies.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1080/09552367.2019.1538085
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

Our Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 44,293
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Xunzi: The Complete Text.Eric L. Hutton - 2014 - Princeton University Press.
The World of Thought in Ancient China.Benjamin I. Schwartz - 1985 - Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
The World of Thought in Ancient China.Benjamin I. Schwartz - 1988 - Philosophy East and West 38 (4):411-419.
Mencius.D. C. Lau - 1972 - Philosophy East and West 22 (1):113-114.

View all 12 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Nivison and the "Problem" in Xunzi's Ethics.James Behuniak - 2000 - Philosophy East and West 50 (1):97-110.
Xunzi's Systematic Critique of Mencius.Kim-Chong Chong - 2003 - Philosophy East and West 53 (2):215 - 233.
Xunzi's Systematic Critique of Mencius.Kim Chong Chong - 2003 - Philosophy East and West 53 (2):215-233.
Sheltering Under the Sacred Canopy: Peter Berger and Xunzi.T. C. Kline Iii - 2001 - Journal of Religious Ethics 29 (2):261-282.
Xunzi's Philosophy and the School of Huang-Lao.Yu Mingguang - 2002 - Contemporary Chinese Thought 34 (1):37-60.
Xunzi: Basic Writings.Burton Watson (ed.) - 2003 - Columbia University Press.
Xunzi and Han Fei on Human Nature.Alejandro Bárcenas - 2012 - International Philosophical Quarterly 52 (2):135-148.
Cultivation : The Goal of Xunzi’s Ethical Thought. [REVIEW]Shiyou Zhan - 2007 - Frontiers of Philosophy in China 2 (1):25-49.
Mencius and Xunzi on Xing.Winnie Sung - 2016 - Philosophy Compass 11 (11):632-641.
Li, Qing, and Ethical Transformation in the Xunzi.Winnie Sung - 2017 - Asian Philosophy 27 (3):227-247.


Added to PP index

Total views
17 ( #503,528 of 2,271,452 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
2 ( #571,397 of 2,271,452 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes

Sign in to use this feature