PHIL4381 The Pre-Qin Debate over People’s Nature

This seminar course will guide students in close study of the content and significance of the debate over the role of people’s nature (xìng 性) in pre-Qin Chinese ethics and moral psychology. The course will examine the origins of the debate as reflected in discussions in The Annals of Lv Buwei and the Zhuangzi “primitivist” writings. We will then move on to discuss how passages in Mengzi appear to be responding to the sorts of views found in the Annals and “primitivism.” Next we will explore the development of Xunzian discourse on people’s nature as a response to both “primitivist” and Mencian ideas. Finally, we will consider whether the Zhuangzi presents a further “Daoist” development of xìng discourse. We will also consider the underlying question of to what extent, if any, appeals to xìng can ground or constrain normative claims. All primary source readings will be available in Chinese and in English translation.