The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Xun Zi

In Chinese, "Xun Zi" refers to both the philosopher and the book he is attributed to. In this article, the book is spelled "the Xunzi"

Xn Zǐ (荀子, or Hsün Tzu c.310-237 BC) was a Chinese philosopher who lived during the Warring States Period. His social and political theories are developed from and influenced by Confucianism. Active during the Hundred Schools of Thought, he wrote a book known as the Xunzi, in which he developed a systematic doctrine mostly oriented on "realism" and "materialism", as opposed to Mencius' interpretation of Confucius' thought.

He taught that man is innately selfish and evil and that the natural state of human societies is anarchy, endless war and chaos. He was one of the first thinkers to recognise that morality is a social institution and debated on the difference nature and nurture. Xun Zi also said that goodness is attainable only through education and conduct befitting one's status. His unsentimental and authoritarian inclinations were developed by his students Li Si and Han Feizi into the doctrine embodied in the School of Law, or Legalism.

Besides the book written by Han Feizi, the Xunzi is the only known book of Chinese antiquity to show an elaborated and constructed doctrine. Each chapter deals with a given topic and often fights against concurrent ideas, as the ones of Daoism, Mohism, and even idealist version of Confucianism defended by Mencius.

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Last updated: 05-13-2005 07:56:04