The problem of moral spontaneity in the guodian corpus

Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 7 (3):237-256 (2008)
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Abstract

This paper discusses certain conceptual tensions in a set of archeological texts from the Warring States period, the Guodian corpus. One of the central themes of the Guodian corpus is the disanalogy between spontaneous, natural familial relationships and artificial political relationships. This is problematic because, like many early Chinese texts, the Guodian corpus believes that political relationships must come to be characterized by unselfconsciousness and spontaneity if social order is to prevail. This tension will be compared to my earlier work on the “paradox of wu-wei (effortless action),” and the Guodian corpus’ “solution” to the problem of teaching spontaneity—drawing upon the transformative power of music—will be placed within the landscape of early “Confucian” and “Daoist” theories concerning human nature and self-cultivation.

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