The Relationship between Human Nature, Emotions and Desire in the Xunzi

Date: 28 Sep 2017


“Human nature is evil” is a well-known claim made by the early philosopher Xunzi (fl. 3rd. century BC). Because of this audaciousness of the statement, Xunzi’s theory had been largely ignored for thousands of years. In contemporary Chinese philosophy, many scholars are attempting to rethink Xunzi’s theory on human nature (xing). Most of these discussions, however, have neglected a key question – how are xing, emotions (qing) and desire (yu) related to each other? If we can answer this question, we should be better placed to understand more precisely just what his claim “human nature is evil” actually entails. In this seminar, I will draw upon Aristotle’s dichotomy of form and matter to advance new insights into this question.

About the speaker

Dr Zugang Wu is an Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science of Xinan Shiyou University, Sichuan, China, and a visiting scholar at La Trobe University’s China Studies Research Centre. He received his PhD from Wuhan University in 2012 majoring in Chinese Philosophy. He has authored numerous publications on Xunzi thought in Chinese journals.

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