Yu in the Xunzi: Can Desire by Itself Motivate Action?

Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 11 (3):369-388 (2012)
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Abstract

This paper argues that yu 欲 (desire), in Xunzi’s view, cannot by itself motivate action. Such a clarification will also bear on our understanding of the relation between xin 心 (the heart/mind) and yu in the Xunzi. This paper is divided into three main sections. The first section seeks to explicate the common assumption that yu can be an independent source of motivation. In the second section, I will conduct textual analysis that challenges such an assumption and argues that only xin can by itself motivate action. In the third section, I explain that the issue of whether yu can conflict with xin is not applicable in Xunzi’s thought and extrapolate the implications that xin is always activated and that xin has natural inclination to pursue the objects of yu. For these reasons, the source of moral failure lies in xin being active in certain problematic ways.

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Author's Profile

H. C. Winnie Sung
Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

Citations of this work

Ritual Education and Moral Development: A Comparison of Xunzi and Vygotsky.Colin J. Lewis - 2018 - Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 17 (1):81-98.
Virtue and Virtuosity: Xunzi and Aristotle on the Role of Art in Ethical Cultivation.Lee Wilson - 2018 - Journal of Confucian Philosophy and Culture 30:75–103.
Mencius and Xunzi on Xing.Winnie Sung - 2016 - Philosophy Compass 11 (11):632-641.
Li, Qing, and Ethical Transformation in the Xunzi.Winnie Sung - 2017 - Asian Philosophy 27 (3):227-247.

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References found in this work

Mozi: Basic Writings.Burton Watson - 2003 - Columbia University Press.
Xunzi and the Prudence of Dao : Desire as the Motive to Become Good.Kurtis Hagen - 2011 - Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 10 (1):53-70.
Hsün-tzŭ on terminology.Y. P. Mei - 1951 - Philosophy East and West 1 (2):51-66.

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