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Heart and Mind in Ancient China – Or: A Desirable Theory


Gassmann, Robert H (2011). Heart and Mind in Ancient China – Or: A Desirable Theory. Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, 74(2):237-273.

Abstract

Thinkers in the Zhànguó period of Chinese history debated intensely whether men were by nature “good” or “bad”. This debate has for many years been an important focus of sinological interest, but usually these properties were not attributed to men, but rather to so-called “human nature” (xìng 性) – thus, in effect, mirroring well-known (and problematic) “European” positions and discussions. The aim of this paper is, on the one hand, to redirect attention to the original Zhànguó positions and to explore the reasons for their variance by offering novel and close historical readings of relevant passages, and on the other, to propose a viable historical reconstruction of the common anthropological assumptions underlying these positions by blending it with the traces of a dominant cognitive image present in the texts. This calls for a systematic rethinking of the role of hearts (in the plural), desires, and behavioural patterns in their interplay and as elements of a concept of the psychological build of human beings current in early China.

Thinkers in the Zhànguó period of Chinese history debated intensely whether men were by nature “good” or “bad”. This debate has for many years been an important focus of sinological interest, but usually these properties were not attributed to men, but rather to so-called “human nature” (xìng 性) – thus, in effect, mirroring well-known (and problematic) “European” positions and discussions. The aim of this paper is, on the one hand, to redirect attention to the original Zhànguó positions and to explore the reasons for their variance by offering novel and close historical readings of relevant passages, and on the other, to propose a viable historical reconstruction of the common anthropological assumptions underlying these positions by blending it with the traces of a dominant cognitive image present in the texts. This calls for a systematic rethinking of the role of hearts (in the plural), desires, and behavioural patterns in their interplay and as elements of a concept of the psychological build of human beings current in early China.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Asian and Oriental Studies
Dewey Decimal Classification:180 Ancient, medieval & eastern philosophy
290 Other religions
Language:English
Date:2011
Deposited On:23 Feb 2012 16:56
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 15:28
Publisher:Cambridge University Press
ISSN:0041-977X
Additional Information:Copyright: Cambridge University Press.
Publisher DOI:10.1017/S0041977X11000048
Permanent URL: http://doi.org/10.5167/uzh-56761

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