Early Confucian “Human Supremacy” and Its Daoist Critique


  • Hans-Georg MOELLER University of Macau, China




humanism, anti-humanism, Mengzi, Xunzi, Zhuangzi


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.


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How to Cite

Moeller, H.-G. (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