From Desire to Civility: Is Xunzi a Hobbesian?

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9 Citations (Scopus)


This article argues that, contrary to conventional wisdom, Xunzi's and Hobbes's understandings of human nature are qualitatively different, which is responsible for the difference in their respective normative political theory of a civil polity. This article has two main theses: first, where Hobbes's deepest concern was with human beings' unsocial passions, Xunzi was most concerned with human beings' appetitive desires (yu?), material self-interest, and resulting social strife; second, as a result, where Hobbes strove to transform the pathological (anti-)politics of resentment into the politics of recognition by creating rational egalitarian citizenship under the all-encompassing constitutional sovereign power, Xunzi attempted to nourish human beings' basic appetitive desires (yu?) by instituting a li? ordered civil entity. This article concludes by showing how Confucian civility that Xunzi reconstructed by means of the li? can effectively deal with unsocial passions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)291-309
Number of pages19
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2011 Sept

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Philosophy


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