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Frontiers of Philosophy in China

Front. Philos. China    2019, Vol. 14 Issue (1) : 132-151     https://doi.org/10.3868/s030-008-019-0008-5
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Emotional Attachment and Its Limits: Mengzi, Gaozi and the Guodian Discussions
Karyn Lai()
School of Humanities and Languages, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia
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Abstract

Mengzi maintained that both benevolence (ren 仁) and rightness (yi義) are naturally-given in human nature. This view has occupied a dominant place in Confucian intellectual history. In Mencius 6A, Mengzi’s interlocutor, Gaozi, contests this view, arguing that rightness is determined by (doing what is fitting, in line with) external circumstances. I discuss here some passages from the excavated Guodian texts, which lend weight to Gaozi’s view. The texts reveal nuanced considerations of relational proximity and its limits, setting up requirements for moral action in scenarios where relational ties do not play a motivational role. I set out yi’s complexity in these discussions, highlighting its implications for (i) the nei-wai debate; (ii) the notion of yi as “rightness,” or doing the right thing; and (iii) how we can understand the connection between virtue and right action in these early Confucian debates. This material from the excavated texts not only provides new perspectives on a longstanding investigation of human nature and morality, it also challenges prevailing views on Warring States Confucian intellectual history.

Keywords Confucian philosophy      Mengzi      Mencius      human nature      Gaozi      Guodian      cultivation      emotions      rightness      yi and ren     
Issue Date: 16 April 2019
 Cite this article:   
Karyn Lai. Emotional Attachment and Its Limits: Mengzi, Gaozi and the Guodian Discussions[J]. Front. Philos. China, 2019, 14(1): 132-151.
 URL:  
http://journal.hep.com.cn/fpc/EN/10.3868/s030-008-019-0008-5
http://journal.hep.com.cn/fpc/EN/Y2019/V14/I1/132
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