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Mental Partitioning and Explanations of Mental Conflict: An Investigation of Han Sources with Reference to Greek Psychology

Abstract

This article examines the problem of mental partitioning and mental conflict in Han 漢 dynasty sources. It begins by outlining two Greek psychological models—the Platonic tripartite model and the Stoic monistic model—and explains the connection between the two psychological models and their differing descriptions of mental conflict. It then analyzes passages from a seldom discussed text, the Extended Reflections (Shenjian 申鑒), written by the Eastern Han thinker Xun Yue 荀悅. A combined analysis of the Extended Reflections with fragments from other Han dynasty thinkers uncovers debates on mental partitioning and mental conflict that are in some ways analogous to those found in Greek philosophical literature. One view posits that the human psyche is composed of two parts capable of producing conflicting motivations. The other view sees all actions as stemming from a single psychological center. The conclusions of this article offer new perspectives on early Chinese moral psychology that have important implications for modern research on early Chinese philosophy.

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Davis, J.P. Mental Partitioning and Explanations of Mental Conflict: An Investigation of Han Sources with Reference to Greek Psychology. Dao 21, 407–430 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11712-022-09840-0

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Keywords

  • Mental partitioning
  • Mental conflict
  • Xing
  • Qing
  • Han 漢 dynasty philosophy
  • Reason and emotion