Please wait a minute...
Frontiers of Philosophy in China

ISSN 1673-3436

ISSN 1673-355X(Online)

CN 11-5743/B

Postal Subscription Code 80-983

Front. Philos. China    2015, Vol. 10 Issue (2) : 212-238
research-article |
The Origin and Differentiation of the Theories of Human Nature in Pre-Qin China
GUO Yi()
Institute for Confucian Culture, Qufu Normal University, Qufu 273165, China
 Download: PDF(422 KB)  
 Export: BibTeX | EndNote | Reference Manager | ProCite | RefWorks

In early China, views concerning human nature underwent significant development, with philosophers moving from seeing it as desire or instinct to seeing it as virtue or essence. Before Confucius’s time, human beings’ xing, or nature, was construed as desire and instinct, i.e., as a physical nature. The key problem faced by theorists of human nature at that time was how to manage nature with virtue, i.e., how to use virtue to both control and enrich nature. A later, wide-reaching development was the use of qi to explain human nature. Laozi began, taking de or virtue to be the internal essence of the human being; Confucius took de or virtue to be xing or nature. Following this development, the main current of the theory of human nature in the pre-Qin period divided into two branches. One, created by the later Confucius, inherited in part by Zisi, and developed by Mencius, took virtue as nature and insisted on the a priority of internal morality. The other branch, inherited in part by Zisi and developed by the author of Xing Zi Ming Chu and Xunzi, featured the development of the old tradition which took yu, or desire, as nature.

Keywords human nature      physical nature      rational nature      Pre-Qin China      Laozi      Confucius     
Issue Date: 19 June 2015
 Cite this article:   
GUO Yi. The Origin and Differentiation of the Theories of Human Nature in Pre-Qin China[J]. Front. Philos. China, 2015, 10(2): 212-238.
[1] XU Keqian. A Contemporary Re-Examination of Confucian Li 禮 and Human Dignity[J]. Front. Philos. China, 2018, 13(3): 449-464.
[2] HUANG Yong. Confucian Ethics: Altruistic? Egoistic? Both? Neither?[J]. Front. Philos. China, 2018, 13(2): 217-231.
[3] NI Peimin. Toward a Gongfu Reconstruction of Confucianism —Responses to Comments by Huang Yong, Fan Ruiping, and Wang Qingjie[J]. Front. Philos. China, 2018, 13(2): 240-253.
[4] CUI Xiaojiao. Paradoxes in the Textual Development of the Laozi: A Closer Examination of Chapters Eight and Twenty-Four[J]. Front. Philos. China, 2017, 12(3): 393-407.
[5] ZHANG Weiwen. The Philosophy of “Naturalness” in the Laozi and Its Value For Contemporary Society[J]. Front. Philos. China, 2017, 12(3): 340-357.
[6] Thomas Michael, CHEN Yazhou. Approaching Laozi : Comparing a Syncretic Reading to a Synthetic One[J]. Front. Philos. China, 2017, 12(1): 10-25.
[7] Franklin Perkins. The Laozi and the Cosmogonic Turn in Classical Chinese Philosophy[J]. Front. Philos. China, 2016, 11(2): 185-205.
[8] NIE Minli. Yin and Yang , and the Hot and the Cold[J]. Front. Philos. China, 2016, 11(1): 73-87.
[9] BAO Yongling. Water, Plant, Light, and Mirror: On the Root Metaphors of the Heart-Mind in Wang Yangming’s Thought[J]. Front. Philos. China, 2015, 10(1): 95-112.
[10] HUANG Mei Tin. The Encounter of Christianity and Daoism in Philippe Couplet’s Confucius Sinarum Philosophus[J]. Front. Philos. China, 2014, 9(4): 615-624.
[11] Hektor K. T. Yan. Beyond a Theory of Human Nature: Towards an Alternative Interpretation of Mencius’ Ethics[J]. Front. Philos. China, 2014, 9(3): 396-416.
[12] QU Hongmei. A Comparative Study on Confucius’ and Chrysippus’ Cosmopolitan Theories[J]. Front Phil Chin, 2013, 8(3): 397-409.
[13] LU Youcai. Survey of Confucius’s Approach to Expediency[J]. Front Phil Chin, 2012, 7(2): 244-254.
[14] DING Ji. The Manifestation Range of Innately Good Knowledge and Ability, and the Danger of Separation: On Zhuzi’s Question about Understanding Words[J]. Front Phil Chin, 2012, 7(2): 217-243.
[15] WANG Hongxia. On the Academic Differences between Xihe School and Zhusi School[J]. Front Phil Chin, 2012, 7(1): 55-74.
Full text