The Art of Chinese PhilosophyEight Classical Texts and How to Read Them

The Art of Chinese PhilosophyEight Classical Texts and How to Read Them

Paul Goldin

Print publication date: 2020

ISBN: 9780691200798

Publisher: Princeton University Press

Abstract

This book provides an unmatched introduction to eight of the most important works of classical Chinese philosophy—the Analects of Confucius, Mozi, Mencius, Laozi, Zhuangzi, Sunzi, Xunzi, and Han Feizi. The book places these works in rich context that explains the origin and meaning of their compelling ideas. Because none of these classics was written in its current form by the author to whom it is attributed, the book begins by asking, “What are we reading?” and showing that understanding the textual history of the works enriches our appreciation of them. A chapter is devoted to each of the eight works, and the chapters are organized into three sections: “Philosophy of Heaven,” which looks at how the Analects, Mozi, and Mencius discuss, often skeptically, Heaven (tian) as a source of philosophical values; “Philosophy of the Way,” which addresses how Laozi, Zhuangzi, and Sunzi introduce the new concept of the Way (dao) to transcend the older paradigms; and “Two Titans at the End of an Age,” which examines how Xunzi and Han Feizi adapt the best ideas of the earlier thinkers for a coming imperial age. In addition, the book presents explanations of the protean and frequently misunderstood concept of qi—and of a crucial characteristic of Chinese philosophy, nondeductive reasoning. The result is an invaluable account of an endlessly fascinating and influential philosophical tradition.