Wednesday, October 3

Your fourth journal entry is due today, uploaded through Oncourse.

Reading: Legalism 

The "Hundred Schools" of thought that emerged from the Warring States persuader tradition were contending to set the agenda for China's future utopia. The schools best remembered today -- the Confucians, the Mohists, and the Daoists -- were all impressive developments in intellectual history.  But the school that ultimately achieved the goal all the others had been pursuing was the Legalists. When the Qin state swept the rest of the warring states away and established a new "imperial state," ruling over all of China, it was Legalism that formed the basis of their political vision.

Legalist "philosophy" was a confluence of the thoughts of several thinkers, as described in your reading. The writer whose name is most closely associated with this is Han Feizi, a patrician from Han who studied at Jixia with Xunzi. Han Feizi adapted the writings of others, and incorporated into his rich Legalist mix a large admixture of Daoist thought as well. His book, the Han Feizi (or the portions he wrote -- there are many late additions in it), is the purest expression of Legalism as an intellectual system. It is principally an extension of political ideas associated with the approach of Shang Yang a century earlier, but synthesizes as well the ideas of politicians and persuaders who, during the late Warring States era who articulated with varying degrees of systematization strategies and tactics associated with achieving the type of political shift that Shang Yang had advocated.

Legalism's ultimate triumph relied heavily on a third figure, Li Si, another Xunzi pupil.  However, although Li Si will enter our story briefly on Wednesday - just long enough to make sure that his friend and Jixia classmate, Han Feizi, did not survive to become a threat to his own ambitions - it won't be till late in the course, when we focus on the Qin Dynasty era, that we will fully explore Li Si's importance to Chinese history.