Yi as “Meaning-Bestowing” in the Xunzi

Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 20 (1):115-131 (2021)
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Abstract

This essay aims to explore Xunzi’s 荀子 problem, which was originally proposed by David S. Nivison. The problem revolves around a tension in Xunzi’s writings about human nature. In his chapter “Human Nature is Bad (Xing’e 性惡),” Xunzi states that humans have inborn selfish desires and natural feelings, and if they do not control or regulate these desires and feelings, there will certainly be chaos. However, in the chapter “The Regulations of a Sage King (Wangzhi 王制),” Xunzi argues that human beings possess yi 義, which is an important feature distinguishing them from other creatures. I try to analyze how yi should be understood in the Xunzi by focusing on the relationship of yi with fen 分 (division) and li 禮 (ritual). In the process, I also consider Hall and Ames’s understanding of yi as “meaning-bestowing,” and pay attention to Xunzi’s mention that yi is something that enables human beings to jump from natural to social divisions.

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References found in this work

The Construction of Social Reality.John Searle - 1995 - Philosophy 71 (276):313-315.
Xunzi: The Complete Text.Eric L. Hutton - 2014 - Princeton: Princeton University Press. Edited by Eric L. Hutton.
Thinking through Confucius.David L. Hall & Roger T. Ames - 1987 - Philosophy East and West 41 (2):241-254.

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