This article explores two opposing views from Warring States China concerning the value of human natural spontaneity (hereafter xìng) and large-scale government coercion. On the one hand, the Ruist (Confucian) philosopher Xunzi championed a comprehensive and coercive ethical, political, and social system or Way (dào) that he believed would lead to social order and moral cultivation while opposing people’s xìng. On the other hand, the authors of roughly books 8–10 of Zhuangzi, the primitivists, criticized a Way bearing a striking resemblance to Xunzi’s on the grounds that it seriously harms people by opposing their xìng. I argue that the primitivists offer compelling reasons for Xunzi to modify his own Way regarding its relationship with xìng, though their own proposed alternative Way is not very attractive. I conclude with a brief discussion of one primitivist-inspired alternative view found in the Lü Shi Chun Qiu, which plausibly suggests that one way of respecting people’s xìng is by offering them opportunities to explore their natural abilities.
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All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Religious studies