Daoist nature or Confucian nurture

moral development in the Yucong 語叢 (Thicket of Sayings)

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Abstract

In the course of human development there has been a long debate on the notion of nature versus nurture, comparing the relative importance of an individual’s innate qualities (‘nature’ as the pre-wiring determined by biological factors or innatism) with personal experiences and environmental influences (‘nurture’ in the sense of acquired learning after birth). The Guodian Yucong texts dated to the fourth century BCE can be read as one of the earliest responses in early China to the question of human development and social advancement. These texts have not chosen to delineate the rigid dichotomy of nature and nurture, but to acknowledge their roles, confirming the importance of both inborn human nature endowed by heaven (tian), and external social practice as well as learning efforts in human development and socio-political construction. The Yucong is a good example of the Guodian manuscripts not fitting exactly into received traditions such as the Daoist, which is emphatic on the natural way, the Way of heaven; or the Confucian, which emphasizes cultural patterning, the way of man, in moral development. Rather, these manuscripts represent a third—more moderate—picture of self-cultivation, with what I term an ‘interweaving’ of the Daoist nature and the Confucian nurture approach.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDao companion to the excavated Guodian bamboo manuscripts
EditorsShirley Chan
Place of PublicationCham, Switzerland
PublisherSpringer, Springer Nature
Chapter14
Pages259-283
Number of pages25
ISBN (Electronic)9783030046330
ISBN (Print)9783030046323
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Publication series

NameDao Companions to Chinese Philosophy
PublisherSpringer Nature
Volume10
ISSN (Print)2211-0275
ISSN (Electronic)2542-8780

Keywords

  • Chinese philosophy
  • Confucian
  • Daoist
  • excavated texts
  • Classical Chinese
  • ancient history

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