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Chinese Philosophical Texts

12. Guide for Reading Graham

1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 Below are questions to keep in mind while reading A. C. Graham’s Disputers of the Tao: Philosophical Argument in Ancient China (La Salle, Illinois: Open Court, 1989). These are suggestions to help you focus your reading and gather notes.

2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 Graham uses the Wade-Giles romanization of Chinese, while this course uses the Pinyin system. The equivalents of the philosophers’ names are listed below:

3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 Tao = Dao

4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 1 K’ung Ch’iu = Kŏngzĭ, Confucius

5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 Sun-tzu = Sūnzĭ

6 Leave a comment on paragraph 6 0 Mo-tzu = Mòzĭ

7 Leave a comment on paragraph 7 0 Meng-tzu = Mèngzĭ, Mencius

8 Leave a comment on paragraph 8 0 Chuang-tzu = Zhuāngzĭ

9 Leave a comment on paragraph 9 0 Hsün-tzu = Xúnzĭ

10 Leave a comment on paragraph 10 0 Han Fei tzu = Hán Fēizĭ

11 Leave a comment on paragraph 11 0 Shang-tzu = Shāng Jūn

12 Leave a comment on paragraph 12 0 Lü-shih ch’un ch’iu = Lǚ Shì Chūn Qīu

13 Leave a comment on paragraph 13 0 Chan-kuo ts’e = Zhàn guó cè

14 Leave a comment on paragraph 14 0  

15 Leave a comment on paragraph 15 0 A. Questions to keep in mind while reading pp. 1-53.

16 Leave a comment on paragraph 16 0 1.  What was the social background to the emergence of classical Chinese thought?

17 Leave a comment on paragraph 17 0 2.  Establish the approximate dates of the works being discussed.

18 Leave a comment on paragraph 18 0 3.  What was the social role attributed to Confucius, and how is this role manifested in the structure and contents of the Analects (Lún yŭ 論語)?

19 Leave a comment on paragraph 19 0 4.  Describe the attitude to the past exemplified by the quoted passages from the Analects.

20 Leave a comment on paragraph 20 0 5.  What is  禮, and what role does it play in the social thought of the Analects?

21 Leave a comment on paragraph 21 0 6.  What is the attitude to the spirits and Heaven in the Analects?  Can you suggest any reasons why such an attitude might have been adopted?

22 Leave a comment on paragraph 22 0 7.  Describe the Analect’s ideas about the nature and role of language.

23 Leave a comment on paragraph 23 0 8.  How did the historical background, organization and social nature of the Mohists differ from those of the Confucians, and how did these affect their philosophy?

24 Leave a comment on paragraph 24 0 9.  Explain the historical and intellectual significance of the “three tests” of arguments

25 Leave a comment on paragraph 25 0 10.  Compare and contrast the unifying principle of philosophy of the Mohists with that of the Confucians.

26 Leave a comment on paragraph 26 0 11.  In what manner do Mohist ideas about Heaven and ghosts relate to their moral and political ideas?

27 Leave a comment on paragraph 27 0  

28 Leave a comment on paragraph 28 0 B. Questions to keep in mind while reading pp. 53-85, 95-105.

29 Leave a comment on paragraph 29 0 1.  What are the sources for our knowledge of the philosophers and schools discussed in this section, and what problems do they present?

30 Leave a comment on paragraph 30 0 2.  What are the approximate dates for the thinkers and doctrines discussed?

31 Leave a comment on paragraph 31 0 3.  What theme or themes provide a thread that runs through (guàn 貫) all the thinkers and traditions discussed in these pages (the Yangists, the school of Shén Nóng 神農, the “sophists,” Sung Hsing (Sòng Xíng 宋銒), and the chapter “Inward Training” 內業 Nèi yè)?  What terms or concepts were introduced to philosophy that indicated this common thread?

32 Leave a comment on paragraph 32 0 4.  What are the three basic principles of the Yangist tradition, and what is their common ground?

33 Leave a comment on paragraph 33 0 5.  What links are there between the Yangist tradition and the Mohists?

34 Leave a comment on paragraph 34 0 6.  What are the major principles of the tradition of Shén Nóng?  In what ways did these reflect developments in Warring States society?

35 Leave a comment on paragraph 35 0 7.  Assess the strengths and weaknesses of Mencius’s attack on the Shén Nóng tradition as articulated by Ch’en Hsiang (Chén Xiàng 陳相).

36 Leave a comment on paragraph 36 0 8.  Why would elements of the Shén Nóng tradition, which treated law and administration as causes or symptoms of decay, have appealed to thinkers who defended the new state order?

37 Leave a comment on paragraph 37 0 9.  What was the point of paradoxes such as those formulated by Hui Shih (Huì Shī) and Kung-sun Lung (Gōngsūn Lóng 公孫龍), i.e., what were these thinkers ultimately seeking to prove?  What is the historical significance of this development?

38 Leave a comment on paragraph 38 0 10.  What is the meaning of Sung Hsing’s (Sòng Xíng’s) doctrine of “separating pens”?  What other anecdote cited in this section expresses a similar idea?

39 Leave a comment on paragraph 39 0 11.  What is the common ground of Sung Hsing’s doctrine of “separating pens” and his doctrine that “to be insulted is not disgraceful”?  How does Hsün-tzu’s (Xúnzĭ’s) critique of the latter doctrine reflect this common ground?

40 Leave a comment on paragraph 40 0 12.  What beliefs and practices underlay the doctrine expounded in the “Inward Training”?  In what way does this text reflect the mutual influence of religion, philosophy, and science in this period?  What evidence of such mutual influence have you seen in texts discussed earlier?

41 Leave a comment on paragraph 41 0  

42 Leave a comment on paragraph 42 0 C. Questions to keep in mind while reading pp. 107-170.

43 Leave a comment on paragraph 43 0 1.  What are the approximate dates of the texts being discussed?

44 Leave a comment on paragraph 44 0 2.  Graham states that unlike Confucius, Mencius “wants political and economic measures.”  What are the basic political and economic measures that he advocates?  What are their underlying principles?  How do they relate to the political practices of his day?

45 Leave a comment on paragraph 45 0 3.  How does the Mencius’s theory of human nature relate to earlier theories?  How does its theory on this point borrow essential features from the earlier theories that it claims to refute?

46 Leave a comment on paragraph 46 0 4.  What are the Mencius’s arguments for the goodness of human nature?  (This includes both the debates with Master Kao [Gào] and the passages assembled by Graham.)  Do you find them persuasive?

47 Leave a comment on paragraph 47 0 5.  In what manner are the doctrines of the “Great Learning” and the “Doctrine of the Mean” derived from those of the Mencius?  In what ways do they differ?

48 Leave a comment on paragraph 48 0 6.  What are the four branches of knowledge in the later Mohist texts?  Around what objects are they arranged, and what are the principles of their sequence?  (This question basically calls for an elucidation of the chart on p. 139.)

49 Leave a comment on paragraph 49 0 7.  How do the three types of knowledge in the later Mohist canon relate to the three gnomons of the earlier chapters (see pp. 36-39)?

50 Leave a comment on paragraph 50 0 8.  How has utilitarianism developed between the earlier Mohist chapters and the later?

51 Leave a comment on paragraph 51 0 9.  What is the aim of the first discipline (discourse), and what is its source of doubt?

52 Leave a comment on paragraph 52 0 10.  What is the primary problem in the use of language discussed in “Names and Objects”?  How does this problem relate to the nature of classical Chinese?  How does it relate to the Mohist search for logical necessity in argument?

53 Leave a comment on paragraph 53 0 11.  What is the aim of the second discipline (ethics), and what is its source of doubt?  What is common to the first two disciplines?

54 Leave a comment on paragraph 54 0 12.  What is the aim of the fourth discipline (argumentation 辯 biàn)?  What assumptions does it make about the nature of intellectual dispute and of language?

55 Leave a comment on paragraph 55 0 13. Is there any common ground, especially in terms of overarching purpose, between the Mencius and the later Mohists?  How does this relate to common historical circumstances (as sketched by Graham)?

56 Leave a comment on paragraph 56 0  

57 Leave a comment on paragraph 57 0 D. Questions to keep in mind while reading pp. 170-235.

58 Leave a comment on paragraph 58 0 1.  What is the approximate dating of the texts being discussed?

59 Leave a comment on paragraph 59 0 2.  Is it useful to retroactively apply the term “Daoism” to the Chuang-tzu (Zhuāngzĭ) and the Lao-tzu (Lăozĭ)? Do they have a significant number of common themes or features?

60 Leave a comment on paragraph 60 0 3.  What are the main elements or “strata” in the Zhuāngzĭ text, and what is their sequence of development?

61 Leave a comment on paragraph 61 0 4.  Identify the six principal themes that Graham extracts from the Zhuāngzĭ, and epitomize each in a few sentences.

62 Leave a comment on paragraph 62 0 5.  Are the ideas that Graham presents as “the assault on reason” actually an attack on rationality?  What is the target of the passages cited?

63 Leave a comment on paragraph 63 0 6.  For what reasons do the authors of the Zhuāngzĭ text have such frequent recourse to stories about animals?   How do these relate to the stories about cripples and mutilated men?

64 Leave a comment on paragraph 64 0 7.  What is the point of the stories about cooks, carpenters, swimmers, cicada-catchers, etc., and how do these relate to ideas about the nature of the sage?

65 Leave a comment on paragraph 65 0 8.  For the Confucians and the Mohists, Heaven was the ground of morality or the arbiter of fate.  What is the role of Heaven in the Zhuāngzĭ?

66 Leave a comment on paragraph 66 0 9.  What is the central argument of the passages related to the theme of the “Great Man”?

67 Leave a comment on paragraph 67 0 10.  Why are many passages of the Zhuāngzĭ, and most of the Dào dé jīng 道德經, written in verse?  What are the advantages (in Chinese) of writing in verse rather than prose?

68 Leave a comment on paragraph 68 0 11.  What evidence is there in the Zhuāngzĭ and the Dào dé jīng of the derivation of philosophy from experiences obtained through breathing exercises and meditation?

69 Leave a comment on paragraph 69 0 12.  What are the attributes of the “Way” in the Dào dé jīng (pp. 219-223)?  How do these relate to the philosophical project of the text?

70 Leave a comment on paragraph 70 0 13.  How does the theme of “reversal” in the Lăozĭ relate to ideas noted in the discussion of other texts?

71 Leave a comment on paragraph 71 0 14.  What does the discussion of the theme and intended audience of the Lăozĭ (pp. 234-235) indicate about the relationship between philosophy and kingship in this period?

72 Leave a comment on paragraph 72 0  

73 Leave a comment on paragraph 73 0 E. Questions to keep in mind while reading pp. 235-311.

74 Leave a comment on paragraph 74 0 1.  What is the approximate dating of the three major texts discussed (Hsün-tzu [Xúnzĭ], Shāng Jūn shū, Hán Fēizĭ) and to what audience were they addressed?

75 Leave a comment on paragraph 75 0 2.  What is the attitude of the Xúnzĭ to philosophical dispute and to the critical examination of language?

76 Leave a comment on paragraph 76 0 3.  Compare the attitude of the Xúnzĭ to Heaven in the poem on p. 240 with that evinced in the prose passages that are cited in the same section.  Are they consistent?

77 Leave a comment on paragraph 77 0 4.  The great dispute between the Mencius and the Xúnzĭ deals with the moral character of human nature.  How does this divergence of opinion affect the social and political philosophy of the two texts?  In what sense can they both be said to be “Confucian” texts?

78 Leave a comment on paragraph 78 0 5.  How does the Xúnzĭ‘s theory of mind relate to its understanding of the nature of the sage?  How do these ideas relate to those in the Zhuāngzĭ?

79 Leave a comment on paragraph 79 0 6.  Compare the theory of history in the Xúnzĭ with that in the legalist texts.

80 Leave a comment on paragraph 80 0 7.  Graham labels legalism “an amoral science of statecraft.” To what extent is this description appropriate?

81 Leave a comment on paragraph 81 0 8.  The basic concepts of legalism are “law” (法), “techniques” (shù 術), and the “power base/force of circumstances” (shì 勢).  Briefly define these three concepts and explain how they relate to one another.

82 Leave a comment on paragraph 82 0 9.  In his discussion of the relation between the Lăozĭ and the Hán Fēizĭ, Graham argues that in the latter text the ruler functions as an “impersonal mechanism of state” (p. 288) whose functions could be performed by an elementary computer (p. 291).  He asserts that the text is written from the point of view of bureaucrats and that it confines the ruler to a passive role.  To what extent is this account justified?

83 Leave a comment on paragraph 83 0 10.  What forms do appeals to the autonomy of the local communities take in the different philosophical traditions?

84 Leave a comment on paragraph 84 0  

85 Leave a comment on paragraph 85 0 F. Questions to keep in mind while reading pp. 313-382.

86 Leave a comment on paragraph 86 0 1.  What is the approximate dating of the intellectual developments discussed? Who would have articulated the correlative systems, and to whom might they have been addressed?

87 Leave a comment on paragraph 87 0 2.  Define “correlative thinking.” What were the major systems of correlative thought employed in the late Warring States and early Han?

88 Leave a comment on paragraph 88 0 3.  What aspects of correlative thought are common to all cultures?  What aspects of the Chinese language might have led to its intellectual influence in China?

89 Leave a comment on paragraph 89 0 4.  From what groups in society did the concepts employed to fashion a correlative cosmology emerge?  What impact did their adoption have on the intellectual world of the late Warring States?

90 Leave a comment on paragraph 90 0 5.  Graham treats the rise to dominance of correlative systems as the end of philosophy in China.  What common ground did the correlative systems share with the philosophical schools, and in what way were they a natural development of tendencies inherent in the latter?

91 Leave a comment on paragraph 91 0 6.  In the section on the differences between proto-sciences and modern science, Graham distinguishes the latter by its reliance on “mathematized laws” and testing through “controlled experiments.”  What third distinguishing feature does he note elsewhere in the chapter?  How does this third feature help to account for the appeal of proto-sciences within the intellectual universe of the late Warring States?

92 Leave a comment on paragraph 92 0 7.  On pp. 318 and 322 Graham notes that prior to the Scientific Revolution the only choice was “between a correlative cosmos and no cosmos at all.”  What factors might have led thinkers to prefer a correlative cosmos to no cosmos?  Does modern science actually provide a cosmos in the manner sought by earlier thinkers?

93 Leave a comment on paragraph 93 0 8.  What might account for the importance of enumeration and numerology in all the systems of correlative cosmology?

94 Leave a comment on paragraph 94 0 9.  What were the major natural bases of the theory of the Five Phases, and what were some of its weaknesses?

95 Leave a comment on paragraph 95 0 10.  What key points distinguished the uses of the 易 as the basis of a cosmological theory from those of the other systems discussed?

96 Leave a comment on paragraph 96 0 11.  In what ways did the syncretism discussed in the last section mark a major break with Warring States intellectual traditions?  In what ways was it a continuation and culmination?

97 Leave a comment on paragraph 97 0 12.  In the light of ideas presented in this course, what are the major problems with the “Chinese secret of immortality” suggested on p. 373 and in the introduction?

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