Xunzi and Early Chinese Naturalism

By Janghee Lee

Subjects: Religion, Chinese Religion And Philosophy, Asian Studies
Series: SUNY series in Chinese Philosophy and Culture
Paperback : 9780791461983, 141 pages, January 2010
Hardcover : 9780791461976, 141 pages, November 2004

Table of contents

1. Introduction

2. Background


Xin in the Mencius
Xin in the Zhuangzi


3. The Notions of Tian and Xing in Xunzi


Tian as the Source
Xing as Given Qualities


The Definition of Xing
The "Badness" of Xing


4. The Notion of Xin


The Evolution of the Notion of Xin in Ancient Chinese Philosophy
The Customary Usage of Xin in the Xunzi
Xin as the Faculty of Self-Governance


Critical Thinking and Empirical Knowledge
The Volitional Aspect of Xin
The Problem of the Blindness of Xin and Xin's Capacities


5. Li and Morality

Conventional but Nonarbitrary Names


The Origin of Li
The Functions of Li
Li as a Practice
An "Objective" Aspect in the Notion of Li


Li and the Autonomy of Xin


Legalism and Xunzi
Xin and Li


6. Naturalism and Autonomy


Background for Kant's Ethics
Kant's Deontological Ethics and the Notion of Autonomy
Chinese Naturalism and Xunzi's Notion of the Autonomy of Xin


7. Xunzi in the History of Chinese Philosophy


Li Zehou's View of Chinese Philosophy
Humankind and Nature in Xunzi's Philosophy





Explores Xunzi's thought in relation to the early Chinese philosophical context that relied on the natural world.


Xunzi, one of the founders of Confucianism, is often compared to Aristotle in the sense that Xunzi is a great synthesizer as well as an original thinker in his own right. This book situates Xunzi's philosophy in the context of early Chinese philosophy, particularly with what the author identifies as Chinese "naturalism. "

Early Chinese naturalism refers to a unique Chinese philosophical orientation that seeks normativity in the realm of nature. In early China, where the notion of transcendence never occupied a central position in philosophical discourse, it was perfectly reasonable for philosophers to turn to the "naturalness" or "spontaneity" of nature as a source of value or guidance for a way of life. Janghee Lee argues that the most prominent features of Xunzi's philosophy—his famous doctrine that human nature is bad and his strong emphasis on ritual—can best be understood as Xunzi's critical response to the naturalistic trend of his time, which can be found not only in Daoist philosophers like Zhuangzi, but also in other Confucian philosophers such as Mencius. According to the author, Xunzi's concept of xin (mind-heart) provides a crucial hint for understanding his ritual-oriented philosophy, clearly contrasted with the naturalistic tendencies of early Chinese philosophy.

Janghee Lee is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Ethics Education at Gyeongin National University of Education.