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Music and Affect: The Influence of the Xing Zi Ming Chu on the Xunzi and Yueji

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The Xing Zi Ming Chu 性自命出 (Dispositions Come from What Is Allotted; hereafter XZMC) presents a distinctive account of human dispositions that centers on the spontaneous arising of affects like joy and sadness. This focus on emotion grounds a particular conception of the function of music and ritual that gives music a central role in self-cultivation. Although the account of human dispositions in XZMC was ultimately overshadowed by the opposing views of Mengzi 孟子 and Xunzi 荀子 and the question of whether our dispositions are good or bad, its views remained central for Ru 儒 philosophy of music. The first three parts of the essay trace the development of the ideas appearing in XZMC through the “Discourse on Music” chapter of the Xunzi and parts of the Yueji 樂記. The fourth section highlights the distinctiveness of XZMC’s account through a contrast with the views of Mengzi and Xunzi. The essay concludes by examining the ways in which, in accounting for ritual and music, both the Mengzi and Xunzi employ views like those of the XZMC, even if those are in tension with their core philosophical theories.

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Perkins, F. Music and Affect: The Influence of the Xing Zi Ming Chu on the Xunzi and Yueji . Dao 16, 325–340 (2017).

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