Political Theory

Liberty and the Struggle for the Early Chinese State


This conference explored the distinction in ancient Chinese thought during the Warring States period between Confucians, who generally emphasized the goodness of human nature and the limited role of government, and Legalists, who emphasized the negative aspects of human nature and the need for state coercion to maintain social order. Readings were from Confucius, Lord Shang, Mencius, Xunzi, and Han Fei Tzu.


Conference Readings

Han Fei Tzu: Basic Writings. Translated by Burton Watson. New York: Columbia University Press, 1964.

Discourses on Salt and Iron: A Debate on State Control of Commerce and Industry in Ancient China. Translated by Esson M. Gale. Taipei, Taiwan: Ch’eng Wen Publishing Company, 1973.

Confucius. Analects (with selections from traditional commentaries). Translated by Edward Slingerland. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 2003.

Mengzi [Mencius (with selections from traditional commentaries)]. Translated by Bryan W. Van Norden. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 2008.

Shang Yang. The Book of Lord Shang: A Classic of the Chinese School of Law. Translated by J. J. L. Duyvendak. London: Arthur Probsthain (late Probsthain & Co.), 1928.

Xun Kuang. Xunzi: A Translation and Study of the Complete Works. Translated by John Knoblock. Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 1994.