Edinburgh Research Explorer

Early confucian perspectives on emotions

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDao Companion to Classical Confucian Philosophy
EditorsVincent Shen
PublisherSpringer Netherlands
Pages203-225
Number of pages23
ISBN (Electronic)9789048129362
ISBN (Print)9789048129355
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014

Abstract

The emotions were a central and constant feature of early ethical debates from antiquity onwards. Early Chinese thinkers diverged greatly in their attitudes toward the emotions, and in how they imagined their place in moral life. While for Confucius (Kongzi, 551-479 BCE) the morally cultivated person was one whose virtue was completed by joy and pleasure, likes and dislikes, and the fulfillment of his own desires, the Daodejing called for the eradication of these very emotions and desires as a prerequisite to the achievement of oneness with the Way. While Mencius (Mengzi, 372-289 BCE) reasoned that certain innate feelings constituted the natural beginnings, or “sprouts” (duan) of virtue and moral action, Mozi (c. 480-390 BCE) regarded spontaneous feelings as inherently partial and thus the cause of injustice, corruption and extravagance on the part of rulers. Underlying such radically diverging perspectives on the role of emotions in moral and political were, more fundamentally, competing visions of what it meant to be human and how to fully realize our moral potential: do we achieve our proper human state through stillness, oneness, and solitude, or through movement, change, and engagement in the world of people and things? Can we rely on our “natural” and spontaneous feelings to lead us to right action or must we constrain and order these feelings through our intelligence and the use of institutions and cultural forms?.

ID: 118841854