Xunzi and the primitivists on natural spontaneity (xìng) and coercion

Frank Saunders

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


This article explores two opposing views from Warring States China concerning the value of human natural spontaneity (hereafter xìng) and large-scale government coercion. On the one hand, the Ruist (Confucian) philosopher Xunzi championed a comprehensive and coercive ethical, political, and social system or Way (dào) that he believed would lead to social order and moral cultivation while opposing people’s xìng. On the other hand, the authors of roughly books 8–10 of Zhuangzi, the primitivists, criticized a Way bearing a striking resemblance to Xunzi’s on the grounds that it seriously harms people by opposing their xìng. I argue that the primitivists offer compelling reasons for Xunzi to modify his own Way regarding its relationship with xìng, though their own proposed alternative Way is not very attractive. I conclude with a brief discussion of one primitivist-inspired alternative view found in the Lü Shi Chun Qiu, which plausibly suggests that one way of respecting people’s xìng is by offering them opportunities to explore their natural abilities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)210-226
Number of pages17
JournalAsian Philosophy
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Jul 3

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Religious studies
  • Philosophy


Dive into the research topics of 'Xunzi and the primitivists on natural spontaneity (xìng) and coercion'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this