A Humanist Reading of Wang Chong’s Defence of Divination
Keywords:Wang Chong, divination, humanism, inclusive humanism, ontocosmological humility
In this article, I present a new perspective on the thought of Wang Chong (王充, 27 CE – ca 97 CE) by drawing on Chung-Ying Cheng’s understanding of inclusive or intrinsic humanism. Specifically, I show how this type of humanism is reflected in Wang’s defence of divination and how his reinterpretation of the concepts of spontaneity (ziran 自然), endowment (ming 命), and natural disposition (xing 性) provide insights into the capabilities, concerns, and role of humans in the universe. Additionally, I describe the importance of ontocosmological humility in divination and inclusive humanism, then discuss how such a disposition or virtue figures in the modern scientific literature. While I offer a humanist reading of Wang’s defence of divination in this article, I also argue that ontocosmological humility can guide humans in making responsible actions and transforming themselves, other creatures, and the universe.
Aquinas, St. Thomas. 2017. The Summa Theologiae of St. Thomas Aquinas. Translated by the Fathers of the English Dominican Province. https://www.newadvent.org/summa/.
Aristotle. 2001. “Nicomachean Ethics.” In The Basic Works of Aristotle, edited by Richard McKeon, 935–1126. New York: The Modern Library.
Cabural, Mark Kevin. 2020. “Cicero and Wang Chong: On Divination, Philosophy, and Science.” PhD diss., The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.
———. 2023. “Cicero and Wang Chong and their Critique of Divination.” Philosophia: International Journal of Philosophy 24 (1): 1‒18.
Cai, Zong-qi. 2005. “Multiple Vistas of Ming and Changing Visions of Life in the Works of Tao Qian.” In The Magnitude of Ming: Command, Allotment, and Fate in Chinese Culture, edited by Christopher Lupke, 169–202. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press.
Cheng, Chung-Ying. 1972. “Chinese Philosophy: A Characterization.” In Invitation to Chinese Philosophy, edited by Arne Naess, and Alastair Hannay, 141–65. Oslo: Universitetsforlaget.
———. 1998. “The Trinity of Cosmology, Ecology, and Ethics in the Confucian Personhood.” In Confucianism and Ecology: The Interrelation of Heaven, Earth, and Humans, edited by Mary Evelyn Tucker, and John Berthrong, 211–35. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Cicero, Marcus Tullius. 1923. Cicero: De Senectute, De Amicitia, De Divinatione. Translated by William Armistead Falconer. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Crutzen, Paul J., and Eugene F. Stoermer. 2000. “The ‘Anthropocene.’” Global Change News Letter 41: 17–8.
Dong, Zhongshu. 2016. Luxuriant Gems of the Spring and Autumn. Translated by Sarah A. Queen, and John S. Major. New York: Columbia University Press.
Fung, Yu-lan. 1953. A History of Chinese Philosophy. Vol. II: The Period of Classical Learning (from the Second Century B.C. to the Twentieth Century A.D.). Translated by Derk Bodde. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.
Hodgson, Peter. 1993. “Humility and Cosmology.” New Blackfriars 74 (871): 252–62.
Kaku, Michio. 2011. Physics of the Future: How Science Will Shape Human Destiny and Our Daily Lives by the Year 2100. New York: Doubleday.
Li, Chenyang. 2012. “Equality and Inequality in Confucianism.” Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 11 (3): 295–313.
McLeod, Alexus. 2018. The Philosophical Thought of Wang Chong. Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan.
Pinsent, Andrew Charles. 2021. “Aquinas on Humility and Relational Greatness.” In The Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Humility, edited by Mark Alfano, Michael P. Lynch, and Alessandra Tanesini, 202–11. London, New York: Routledge.
Puett, Michael. 2005/2006. “Listening to Sages: Divination, Omens, and the Rhetoric of Antiquity in Wang Chong’s Lunheng.” Oriens Extremus 45: 271‒81.
Raphals, Lisa. 2003. “Fate, Fortune, Chance, and Luck in Chinese and Greek: A Comparative Semantic History.” Philosophy East and West 53 (4): 537–74.
———. 2012. Zhongguo, Xila yu Luoma de huaiyilun yu zhanbu 中國，希臘與羅馬的懷疑論與占卜 (Skepticism and Divination in China, Greece and Rome). Translated by Sun Zhuo. Accessed May 13, 2020. https://faculty.ucr.edu/~raphals/pubs/2012sinfraneng.pdf.
———. 2013. Divination and Prediction in Early China and Ancient Greece. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Sagan, Carl. 1997/2000. Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space. New York: Ballantine Books.
Smith, Richard. 1991. Fortune-tellers and Philosophers: Divination in Traditional Chinese Society. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press.
Song, Yunwoo. 2018. “Divination and Deviation: The Problem of Prediction and Personal Freedom in Early China.” PhD diss., University of Pennsylvania.
The editorial board of Key Concepts in Chinese Thought and Culture, ed. 2015. Key Concepts in Chinese Thought and Culture 1. Beijing: Foreign Language Teaching and Research Press.
Van Norden, Bryan W., trans. 2008. Mengzi: With Selections from Traditional Commentaries. Indianapolis/ Cambridge: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc.
Wang, Chong. 1907. Lun-heng: Philosophical Essays of Wang Chong Part I. Translated by Alfred Forke. Leipzig: Otto Harrassowitz, London: Luzac & Co., Shanghai: Kelly & Walsh Limited.
———. 1962. Lun-Heng: Part II, Miscellaneous Essays of Wang Ch’ung. Translated by Alfred Forke. New York: Paragon Book Gallery.
Wang, Yueqing, Qinggang Bao, and Guoxing Guan. 2020. History of Chinese Philosophy Through its Key Terms. Translated by Shuchen Xiang. Nanjing: Nanjing University Press.
How to Cite
Copyright (c) 2023 Mark Kevin CABURAL
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Authors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms:
- Authors are confirming that they are the authors of the submitting article, which will be published (print and online) in journal Asian Studies by Znanstvena založba Filozofske fakultete Univerze v Ljubljani (University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Arts, Aškerčeva 2, 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia). Author’s name will be evident in the article in journal. All decisions regarding layout and distribution of the work are in hands of the publisher.
- Authors guarantee that the work is their own original creation and does not infringe any statutory or common-law copyright or any proprietary right of any third party. In case of claims by third parties, authors commit their self to defend the interests of the publisher, and shall cover any potential costs.
- Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website) prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work.