Ethics in the Xunzi

Chapter

Abstract

Xunzi’s views on ethics can be approached from at least two different perspectives. One, a more historical perspective, seeks to understand how Xunzi relates to the rest of the Chinese tradition, by way of comparison and contrast with other Chinese thinkers. The other perspective is more philosophical, and is concerned with understanding how Xunzi’s ideas fit together, and what are their strengths and weaknesses. This chapter takes the latter approach, since other chapters in this book cover Xunzi’s relation to his historical context. I first survey the main elements of Xunzi’s ethics and highlight the way that his approach pays attention to rules for behavior, social roles, virtues, and consequences of actions. Next, I offer an account of how these various elements relate to each other in Xunzi’s view, and I discuss some of the challenges involved for classifying his ethics in terms of various well-known forms of normative theory. After this reconstruction, the final section of the essay explores points where people may be inclined to object to his ideas, as well as aspects of his view that may still seem plausible and relevant in today’s world.

Bibliography

  1. Ames, Roger. 2011. Confucian Role Ethics: A Vocabulary. Hong Kong: Chinese University Press. (Argues that Confucian ethics should be understood as role ethics, as opposed to virtue ethics, consequentialist ethics, or deontological ethics.)Google Scholar
  2. Cua, Antonio. 1985. Ethical Argumentation: A Study of Hsün Tzu’s Moral Epistemology. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.Google Scholar
  3. Cua, Antonio. 1989. “The Problem of Conceptual Unity in Hsün Tzu, and Li Kou’s Solution,” Philosophy East and West 39(2): 115–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Dubs, Homer H. 1927. Hsüntze: The Moulder of Ancient Confucianism. London: A Probsthain.Google Scholar
  5. Goldin, Paul R. 1999. Rituals of the Way: The Philosophy of Xunzi. Chicago: Open Court.Google Scholar
  6. Goldin, Paul R. 2001. “Virtue, Nature, and Moral Agency in the ‘Xunzi’” (review essay). Journal of the American Academy of Religion 69(2): 495–98.Google Scholar
  7. Goldin, Paul R. 2011. Confucianism. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  8. Hagen, Kurtis. 2007. The Philosophy of Xunzi: A Reconstruction. Chicago and La Salle, IL: Open Court.Google Scholar
  9. Hutton, Eric. 1996. “On the Meaning of Yi (義) in Xunzi.” MA thesis, Harvard University.Google Scholar
  10. Hutton, Eric. 2002. “Moral Reasoning in Aristotle and Xunzi.” Journal of Chinese Philosophy 29(3): 355–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Hutton, Eric, trans. 2014. Xunzi: The Complete Text. Princeton: Princeton University Press. (Cited here as “H” followed by “page number.line number.”)Google Scholar
  12. Hutton, Eric. 2015a. “Xunzi and Virtue Ethics.” In Routledge Companion to Virtue Ethics, ed. Lorraine Besser-Jones and Michael Slote. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  13. Hutton, Eric. 2015b. “On the ‘Virtue Turn’ and the Problem of Categorizing Chinese Thought.” Dao 14(3): 331–53. (Argues that many criticisms of virtue ethical readings of Confucian texts fail to take into account the diversity within virtue ethics and rest on assumptions about the classification of ethical theories that virtue ethical interpreters might not hold.)Google Scholar
  14. Knoblock, John. 1988–94. Xunzi: A Translation and Study of the Complete Works, 3 volumes (vol. 1: 1988, vol. 2: 1990, vol. 3: 1994). Stanford: Stanford University Press. (Cited here as “K” followed by “volume.page number, chapter.paragraph number.”)Google Scholar
  15. Lau, D.C. 劉殿爵, and F.C. Chen 陳方正, eds. 1996. A Concordance to the Xunzi 荀子逐字索引. Hong Kong: The Commercial Press 商務印書館. (Cited here as “HKCS.”)Google Scholar
  16. Lee, Ming-huei. 2013. “Confucianism, Kant, and Virtue Ethics.” In Virtue Ethics and Confucianism, ed. Stephen Angle and Michael Slote. New York: Routledge. (Argues for a deontological reading of Confucian ethics. Also provides a useful introduction to debates in Chinese-language publications over the proper way to interpret Confucian ethics.)Google Scholar
  17. Liu, Yuli. 2004. The Unity of Rule and Virtue: A Critique of a Supposed Parallel between Confucian Ethics and Virtue Ethics. Singapore: Eastern Universities Press/Marshall Cavendish International.Google Scholar
  18. McDowell, John. 1979. “Virtue and Reason.” The Monist 62: 331–50. (An influential article in the development of modern Western virtue ethics. Defends the value of Aristotle’s virtue-based approach to ethics against rule-based approaches.)Google Scholar
  19. Mou, Bo. 2009. Chinese Philosophy A–Z. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.Google Scholar
  20. Robins, Dan. 2014. “Xunzi.” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2014 Edition), ed. Edward N. Zalta. URL = <http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2014/entries/xunzi/>.Google Scholar
  21. Rosemont, Henry, Jr., and Roger T. Ames, trans. 2009. The Chinese Classic of Family Reverence: A Philosophical Translation of the Xiaojing. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.Google Scholar
  22. Soles, David. 1999. “The Nature and Grounds of Xunzi’s Disagreement with Mencius.” Asian Philosophy 9(2): 123–33. (Claims that Mencius has an agent-centered, virtue-based ethics, and that Xunzi in contrast has a rule-centered, consquentialist ethics.)Google Scholar
  23. Van Norden, Bryan. 2013. “Towards a Synthesis of Confucianism and Aristotelianism.” In Virtue Ethics and Confucianism, ed. Stephen Angle and Michael Slote. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  24. Wang, Kai 王楷. 2011. Natural and Cultivated: The Spirit of Xunzi’s Moral Philosophy 天然与修为 : 荀子道德哲学的精神. Beijing: Peking University Press 北京大学出版社.Google Scholar
  25. Watson, Burton. 2003. Xunzi: Basic Writings. New York: Columbia University Press. (Cited here as “W.”)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of UtahSalt Lake CityUSA

Personalised recommendations