Friday, September 28

Reading assignment:  Naturalist Schools of Thought in the Late Classical Period

Confucianism faced a series of challenges during the Warring States period, and the great early Confucian followers whose writings we have today, Mencius and Xunzi, were men who responded effectively to these challenges, and broadened the shape of Confucianism as they did so. Mohism and Daoism were the chief challenges faced by Mencius, whom we studied briefly last week.  Xunzi, the leading Confucian master at the Jixia Academy - the neighborhood in the capital city of Qi where third-century B.C. representatives of the Hundred Schools came to dwell under state sponsorship - responded further to Mohist and Daoist doctrines, but he also responded brilliantly to the challenges offered by a variety of intellectuals whom we group together under the general term "Naturalist thinkers." We will explore Xunzi's thought on Monday; today, we will become acquainted with the intellectual trends he opposed.

Naturalist texts show a wide differences in interests and approaches.  Some focused on "yin-yang" theories, others on qi, others on a set of ideas associated with what were known as "the five forces" of nature (water, fire, earth, wood, metal). Your readings on the Naturalist Zou Yan, and of two short Naturalist treatises, will illustrate this variety. What they all shared, however, was a belief that man should look to Nature as a standard by which to order their lives and judge values of good and bad, right and wrong.  This is a powerful approach, and one that Daoism -- most particularly the Dao de jing -- also shared.