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Human Nature, Ritual, and History

Studies in Xunzi and Chinese Philosophy (Studies in Philosophy and the History of Philosophy, Volume 43)

Antonio S. Cua

Publication Year: 2012

In this volume, distinguished philosopher Antonio S. Cua offers a collection of original studies on Xunzi, a leading classical Confucian thinker, and on other aspects of Chinese philosophy.

Published by: The Catholic University of America Press

Series: Studies in Philosophy and the History of Philosophy


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

The first part of this volume consists of a selection of eight papers written over twenty-seven years (1976–2002) on various aspects of Xunzi’s moral philosophy, including the problematic character of original human nature; the moral, aesthetic, and religious dimensions of li (ritual); ethical uses of history; ethical knowledge; ...


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pp. xi-xii

Part I. Xunzi’s Moral Philosophy

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1. Philosophy of Human Nature (1976)

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pp. 3-38

The topic of human nature has been an enduring preoccupation of major thinkers of both East and West. The underlying question pertaining to man’s nature, far from being an unambiguous question, appears to be flexible and responsive enough to accommodate varying and conflicting pictures of human life as answers to a common question. ...

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2. Dimensions of Li (Propriety) (1978)

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pp. 39-72

In recent years, the notion of li has received considerable philosophical attention.1 Like ren (humanity) and yi (righteousness), li is a rich and fluid notion with a long history of evolution.2 A Chinese brought up in Confucian morality might have acquired a fair comprehension of the uses and import of li in different circumstances of his life. ...

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3. Ethical Uses of the Past (1984)

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pp. 73-98

The ethical use of the distinction between the past (gu) and the present (jin), of historical characters, situations, and events, is a familiar and prominent feature of early Confucianism. Henceforth, I shall refer to this feature as “the use of the historical appeal.” To a Western philosopher, the use of this appeal, instead of deductive argument, ...

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4. The Problem of Conceptual Unity (1984)

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pp. 99-120

It is reported that Confucius once said to Zengzi, “My way has one thread that runs through it (Wudao yi yi guanzhi).”1 The “way” (dao) here, it is widely acknowledged, refers to Confucius’s teachings. Zengzi construed this dao to consist of zhong (conscientiousness) and shu (consideration for others). ...

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5. The Unity of Virtues (1985)

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pp. 121-137

One major legacy of the Lunyu (The Analects) is a complex ethical vocabulary for the assessment of personal character and conduct. In addition to terms for central notions of virtue (de), i.e., ren (humanity), li (propriety), and yi (rightness), the vocabulary contains a large number of terms for particular virtues, ...

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6. The Possibility of Ethical Knowledge (1989)

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pp. 138-159

This essay is an inquiry into the nature and possibility of knowing dao in the Xunzi. First, I offer a reconstruction of Xunzi’s conception of dao as the object of ideal ethical knowledge, and on this basis sketch a Confucian thesis on ethical judgments, for convenience labeled “practical coherentism” (section 1). ...

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7. The Ethical and the Religious Dimensions of Li (Propriety) (1999)

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pp. 160-190

This essay presents a Confucian perspective on li. My main concern is the question, how can a Confucian moral philosopher move from the ethical to the religious dimension of li? The first section provides an analysis of the scope, evolution, and functions of li. ...

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8. Ethical Significance of Shame: Insights of Aristotle and Xunzi (2002)

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pp. 191-244

The principal aim of this paper is to offer a constructive interpretation of the Confucian conception of shame. We focus on Xunzi’s discussion as the locus classicus of the Confucian conception of shame as contrasted with honor. In order to show Xunzi’s conception as an articulation and development ...

Part II. Other Studies in Chinese Philosophy

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9. Practical Causation and Confucian Ethics (1974)

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pp. 247-258

There are times in which a reflective moral agent experiences a state of perplexity over his status or existence within the world. This perplexity may be occasioned by his lack of understanding of the course of natural events in relation to his needs, desires, ideals, and aspirations. This experience may give rise to a more general attitude toward the world. ...

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10. Moral Theory and the Quality of Life (1978)

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pp. 259-280

In our world today we are faced with a difficult, multifaceted predicament regarding the character of our natural environment. Population growth; industrial waste; pollution of our soil, rivers, and lakes; extermination of wildlife pose a set of interrelated problems that have an important bearing on the quality of human life.1 ...

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11. Confucian Vision and the Human Community (1980)

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pp. 281-291

The conception of the unity and harmony of man and nature (tianren heyi) has been a pervasive feature in the history of Chinese philosophy. Of special interest to the inquiry concerning the relation between the individual and the community is the Confucian preoccupation with the problem of realizing this vision within human society. ...

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12. Ethical Significance of Thomé H. Fang’s Philosophy (1987)

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pp. 292-302

In The Chinese View of Life, Thomé H. Fang (Fang Dongmei) presents a highly original thesis on the unitary spirit of Chinese morality and moral thought.1 A historian or textual scholar will probably find Fang’s exposition unpersuasive, but a philosopher sympathetic with hermeneutical method may find Fang’s thesis ...

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13. Reason and Principle in Chinese Philosophy (1995)

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pp. 303-316

Perhaps the best approach to the Chinese conception of reason is to focus on the concept of li, commonly translated as “principle,” “pattern,” or sometimes “reason.” While these translations in context are perhaps the best, explicating the uses of li is desirable and instructive for understanding some of the main problems of Chinese philosophy. ...

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14. Emergence of the History of Chinese Philosophy (1999)

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pp. 317-347

This essay is an inquiry into the constructive challenge of Western philosophy to the development of the history of Chinese philosophy. The discussion focuses on the methodological aspects of three major works that appeared from 1919 to 1982. ...

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15. Xin (Mind/Heart) and Moral Failure: Notes on an Aspect of Mencius’s Moral Psychology (1999)

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pp. 348-370

The following is a study of an aspect of Mencius’s moral psychology. The first section deals with xin (mind-heart) as the seat of the “four beginnings” (siduan) of the four Confucian cardinal virtues, e.g., ren (benevolence, human-heartedness), yi (rightness, righteousness), li (rites, ritual propriety), and zhi (wisdom). ...


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pp. 371-388

Index of Names

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pp. 389-394

Index of Subjects

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pp. 395-400


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pp. 401-406

E-ISBN-13: 9780813215976
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813213859

Page Count: 418
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: Studies in Philosophy and the History of Philosophy

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Xunzi, 340-245 B.C. Xunzi.
  • Philosophy, Confucian.
  • Philosophy, Chinese -- To 221 B.C.
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