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 ...
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. (shrink)
This essay discusses selected English translations of the Daode jing by people who do not know Chinese, and criticizes them on three counts: they rely heavily on earlier translations; they fail any basic test of accuracy; and they distort and simplify the philosophy of the original. The paper concludes by considering why publishers continue to market such works, and why readers consume them.
One of the challenges of reading ancient Chinese philosophical texts is to recognize that certain keywords have attained significantly different senses in the more recent language, and to try to reconstruct, on the basis of contemporary documents, what these terms would have meant to classical audiences. One such term is zhong å¿ , which is often mechanically translated as loyalty. Throughout the imperial period, and in many Eastern Zhou contexts, zhong did indeed mean something very similar to loyalty. However, simply (...) plugging in the word loyalty every time one encounters zhong can lead to seriously incorrect translations, especially when dealing with texts from before the third century BCE. This article discusses a range of complex early meanings including treating people right, being honest with oneself in dealing with others, and adjudicating a case fairly. In addition, the relationship with zhong ä¸ is explored by means of a revealing Western Zhou bronze inscription. (shrink)
Heng Xian is a previously unknown text reconstructed by Chinese scholars out of a group of more than 1,200 inscribed bamboo strips purchased by the Shanghai Museum on the Hong Kong antiquities market in 1994. The strips have all been assigned an approximate date of 300 B.C.E., and Heng Xian allegedly consists of thirteen of them, but each proposed arrangement of the strips is marred by unlikely textual transitions. The most plausible hypothesis is one that Chinese scholars do not appear (...) to take seriously: that we are missing one or more strips. The paper concludes with a discussion of the hazards of studying unprovenanced artifacts that have appeared during China’s recent looting spree. I believe the time has come for scholars to ask themselves whether their work indirectly abets this destruction of knowledge. (shrink)
This is a study of the ninth chapter of the Huai-nan-tzu, a Chinese philosophical text compiled in the mid-second century BC. The chapter (entitled Chu-shu [The techniques of the ruler]) has been consistently interpreted as a proposal for a benign government that is rooted in the syncretic Taoist principles of the Huai-nan-tzu and is designed to serve the best interests of the people. I argue, on the contrary, that the text makes skilful (and deliberately deceptive) use of vocabulary from the (...) major philosophical traditions of the day, in an attempt to subdue all philosophical sectarianism and wrench various antecedent philosophical ideas into the justification of a supreme political state. The best interests of the people are understood as nothing more than their material needs, since the text also denies that the ruler's subjects are possessed of 'minds' in any philosophical sense. It is this process of systematically undermining other philosophical traditions that I call 'insidious syncretism. '. (shrink)
"Confucianism" presents the history and salient tenets of Confucian thought, and discusses its viability, from both a social and a philosophical point of view, in the modern world. Despite most of the major Confucian texts having been translated into English, there remains a surprising lack of straightforward textbooks on Confucian philosophy in any Western language. Those that do exist are often oriented from the point of view of Western philosophy - or, worse, a peculiar school of thought within Western philosophy (...) - and advance correspondingly skewed interpretations of Confucianism. This book seeks to rectify this situation. It guides readers through the philosophies of the three major classical Confucians: Confucius, Mencius and Xunzi, and concludes with an overview of later Confucian revivals and the standing of Confucianism today. (shrink)
Scholarship on Xunzi in English has been plagued by imprecise readings of the text and general philosophical naivete. It is hoped that this account will provide a sympathetic and accurate reading of this central thinker. ;The Introduction addresses the problems of interpretation raised by the text at hand, and all philosophical texts like it. A method of "interpretation as integrity," modeled on the theory of "law as integrity" put forward by Ronald Dworkin, is finally defended and adopted. ;Chapter I takes (...) up Xunzi's celebrated criticism of the earlier philosopher Mencius, pointing out Xunzi's fundamental analogy between ruler and polity on the one hand, and mind and person on the other. The discussion leads to a consideration of Xunzi's philosophy of mind. It is concluded that the refutation of Mencius is no refutation at all, but an excellent point of departure for a study of Xunzi's thought. ;Chapter II considers Xunzi's view of Heaven. Xunzi's mechanism is compared, and ultimately contrasted, with the deism of Tindal: there is a dimension to Xunzi's Heaven that finds no analogue in Tindal's cosmos. The chapter ends with a rejection of the commonplace that Xunzi is a conventionalist. ;Chapter III begins with an overview of Western approaches to the problem of ritual, gravitating towards an emphasis on contractarianism, since this model comes closest to what we find in Xunzi. But it is shown how the differences between Xunzi and Hobbes, a frequent comparandum, highlight the unmistakable absolutism in Xunzi's style of contractarianism. ;Chapter IV opens with an account of the Dialecticians, an unfederated group of sophists whom Xunzi criticized frequently and earnestly. The reasons behind Xunzi's animadversions are found in his theory of language. Despite the vast freedom of names that Xunzi allows, in anticipation of Saussure and others, Xunzi is shown not to countenance ontological relativity. Instead, Xunzi postulates a Way , a universal ontology. The ramifications of this commitment are wide-ranging and contribute to the basic character of Xunzi's philosophy. (shrink)