The Development of Xunzi's Theory of Xing

Early China 26:99-158 (2001-2002)

Authors
Dan Robins
University of Hong Kong
Abstract
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."
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