Early Confucian “Human Supremacy” and Its Daoist Critique

Authors

  • Hans-Georg MOELLER University of Macau, China

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.4312/as.2023.11.3.71-92

Keywords:

humanism, anti-humanism, Mengzi, Xunzi, Zhuangzi

Abstract

The early Confucian texts Mengzi 孟子 and Xunzi 荀子 introduce strict distinctions between the human and non-human realms and formulate genealogies and theories of “human supremacy”. Starting from the claim that humans are superior to animals and other non-human beings, they draw the sociopolitical conclusion that the former ought to enact supremacy by dominating and domesticating the latter. Taking up non-humanist ideas formulated in the Laozi 老子, the Zhuangzi 莊子forcefully challenges those genealogies and theories. Numerous stories in the Zhuangzi express a Daoist anti-humanism seeking to subvert “humanist supremacy”, and, especially, its sociopolitical and moral practice. It is concluded that this specific Daoist anti-humanism is embedded in a wider project of promoting a state of human ease, and that its function is therapeutic rather than ideological.

Downloads

Download data is not yet available.

References

Alberts, Eli. 2007. A History of Daoism and the Yao People of South China. New York: Cambria.

Ames, Roger T. 2021. Human Becoming: Theorizing Persons for Confucian Role Ethics. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Chinese Text Project. n. d. Accessed January 31, 2023. https://ctext.org/.

Gentz, Joachim. 2013. “Religious Diversity in Three Teachings Discourses.” In Religious Diversity in Chinese Thought, edited by Perry Schmidt-Leukel, and Joachim Gentz, 122‒39. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1057/9781137318503_10

Gier, Nicholas F. 2000. Spiritual Titanism: Indian, Chinese, and Western Perspectives. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Girardot, Norman. 2008. Myth and Meaning in Early Daoism: The Theme of Chaos (Hundun). St. Petersburg, FL: Three Pines Press.

Graham, A. C. 2001. Chuang-Tzu: The Inner Chapters. Indianapolis: Hackett.

Huang, Yong. 2005. “Copper Rule versus the Golden Rule: A Daoist-Confucian Proposal for Global Ethics.” Philosophy East and West 55 (3): 394‒25. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1353/pew.2005.0024

———. 2018. “Patient Moral Relativism in the Zhuangzi.” Philosophia 46 (4): 877–94. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11406-018-9959-8

Lau, D. C. 1970. Mencius. Translated with an Introduction by D. C. Lau. London: Penguin.

Lee, Ting-mien. 2022. “Yang Zhu and Mozi as Critics of Unification Warfare.” In The Many Lives of Yang Zhu: A Historical Overview, edited by Carine Defoort, and Ting-mien Lee, 47‒78. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Moeller, Hans-Georg. 1999. “Zhuangzi’s Dream of a Butterfly. A Daoist Interpretation.” Philosophy East and West 49 (4): 439‒50. DOI: https://doi.org/10.2307/1399947

Moeller, Hans-Georg, and Paul D’Ambrosio. 2017. Genuine Pretending: On the Philosophy of the Zhuangzi. New York: Columbia University Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.7312/moel18398

Parkes, Graham. 1989. “Human/Nature in Nietzsche and Taoism.” In Nature in Asian Traditions of Thought: Essays in Environmental Philosophy, edited by J. Baird Callicott, and Roger T. Ames, 79‒97. Albany: State University of New York Press.

———. 2013. “Zhuangzi and Nietzsche on the Human and Nature.” Environmental Philosophy 10 (1): 1‒24. DOI: https://doi.org/10.5840/envirophil20131012

———. 2018. “The Art of Rulership in the Context of Heaven and Earth.” In Appreciating the Chinese Difference: Engaging Roger T. Ames on Methods, Issues, and Roles, edited by Jim Behuniak, 65‒90. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Tu, Wei-Ming. 2009. “Confucian Humanism as a Spiritual Resource for Global Ethics.” Peace and Conflict Studies 16 (1): 1‒8. DOI: https://doi.org/10.46743/1082-7307/2009.1099

Ziporyn, Brook. 2020. Zhuangzi: The Complete Writings. Indianapolis: Hackett. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/9781119009924.eopr0446

Downloads

Published

7. 09. 2023

How to Cite

Moeller, Hans-Georg. 2023. “Early Confucian ‘Human Supremacy’ and Its Daoist Critique”. Asian Studies 11 (3): 71-92. https://doi.org/10.4312/as.2023.11.3.71-92.

Similar Articles

1-10 of 38

You may also start an advanced similarity search for this article.