Home

Mencius said that human nature is good.I disagree with that.- Xun Zi

Xunzi: Basic Writings (Translations from the Asian Classics)

$7.50


Xun Zi (荀子, : Xún Zǐ, : Hsün Tzu), född ca , död ca , var en .

Indeed, Xunzi's conception of the good may have been narrower thanthe Mohists'. The Mohists had argued that in the absence of aunifying political authority, families would be torn apart bynormative disagreement, and they regularly treat traditional familystructures as constitutive of social order and thus of thegood. Perhaps surprisingly, there is little evidence that Xunzifollowed the Mohists on this point. His normative arguments appeal tothe poverty and violence that he claims would prevail in the absenceof rituals and duties, but say nothing about families. And the ritualsand duties he defends on the grounds of their consequences appear toinclude the rituals and duties specific to traditional familystructures. Thus, though Xunzi may end up recognizing a wider range ofvalues than do the Mohists, his normative arguments probably depend ona narrower conception of the good than had the Mohists'arguments.

This concept of moral power was quite old in China even in Xunzi's time, though initially it referred to the power gained from the spirits through sacrifice. Beginning with Confucius, it become ethicized into a kind of power or charisma that anyone who cultivated virtue and followed the Way developed. Through this moral power, a king could rule effectively without having to personally attend to the day-to-day business of governing. Following his example, the people would become virtuous as well, so crime would be minimal, and the ruler’s subordinates could carry out the necessary administrative tasks to run the state. In Confucian thought, the most important role of the ruler is that of moral example, which is why the best government was that of a sage who followed the ritual principles of the Way. Confucius seemed to believe that the moral power of a sage king would render laws and punishments completely unnecessary: the people would be transformed by the ruler’s moral power and never transgress the boundaries of what is right. Xunzi, while still believing in the efficacy of rule through moral force, is not quite as optimistic, which is likely related to his view on human nature. He thinks punishments will still be necessary because some people will break the law, but a sage king will only rarely need to employ punishments to keep the people in line, while a lord-protector or ordinary ruler will have to resort to them much more. This increased acceptance of the necessity for punishments may have influenced Xunzi’s student Han Feizi, to whom is attributed the most developed theory of government through a strict system of rewards and punishments that was employed by the short-lived Qin dynasty.

reflection of one's inner power.- Xun Zi

A person is born with feelings of envy and hate. If he gives way to them, they will lead him to violence and crime, and any sense of loyalty and good faith will be abandoned.
Xun Zi

they cannot study or work at achieving.- Xun Zi

This concept of moral power was quite old in China even in Xunzi's time, though initially it referred to the power gained from the spirits through sacrifice. Beginning with Confucius, it become ethicized into a kind of power or charisma that anyone who cultivated virtue and followed the Way developed. Through this moral power, a king could rule effectively without having to personally attend to the day-to-day business of governing. Following his example, the people would become virtuous as well, so crime would be minimal, and the ruler’s subordinates could carry out the necessary administrative tasks to run the state. In Confucian thought, the most important role of the ruler is that of moral example, which is why the best government was that of a sage who followed the ritual principles of the Way. Confucius seemed to believe that the moral power of a sage king would render laws and punishments completely unnecessary: the people would be transformed by the ruler’s moral power and never transgress the boundaries of what is right. Xunzi, while still believing in the efficacy of rule through moral force, is not quite as optimistic, which is likely related to his view on human nature. He thinks punishments will still be necessary because some people will break the law, but a sage king will only rarely need to employ punishments to keep the people in line, while a lord-protector or ordinary ruler will have to resort to them much more. This increased acceptance of the necessity for punishments may have influenced Xunzi’s student Han Feizi, to whom is attributed the most developed theory of government through a strict system of rewards and punishments that was employed by the short-lived Qin dynasty.

It is actually quite surprising how little Xunzi builds into hisconception of the good, at least in these normative arguments. TheMohist argument against music, sketched above, assumes that theenjoyment produced by music does not count as a good, and we naturallyexpect Xunzi to reject this assumption. But he does not reject it;indeed, he treats enjoyment as a possible source of disorder, anddefends music on the grounds that it helps avert thatdisorder. Similarly, we might expect Xunzi to appeal to the aestheticproperties of music, which the Mohists simply ignored, as a source ofvalue. But he does no such thing. His arguments imply that music'saesthetic properties have value only insofar as they contribute to itsnon-aesthetic effects. (The same is true in his defence of ritual:though there are passages that make it clear that Xunzi had a profoundaesthetic appreciation for ritual, this plays no role in his normativearguments.) In these arguments, Xunzi rejects the Mohists'arguments, but does not dispute the rather narrow conception of thegood that they are based on; he implicitly agrees that music (andritual) should be judged solely on the basis of its practicalconsequences.