Why Is Legalism Considered a Philosophy and Not a Religion

Guan Zhong and later Mozi (470–391 BC) recommended objective, reliable, easy-to-use standards or models,[94][14]:348–349[95] or models that resisted what sinologist Chad Hansen called “the cultivated intuition of self-admiring societies,” experts in singing ancient texts. [14]: 348–349 [77] For Guan Zhong, Fa could complement any traditional scheme, and he uses Fa alongside the Confucian Li (the unique principles or norms of things that determine and distinguish them) that he always cherished. What the Fa has made possible is to follow the instructions to the letter. [14]: 348-349 [93] With minimal training, anyone can use the Fa to perform a task or verify results. [94] In principle, looking at their roots in Guan Zhong and Mozi, one could say that legalists all use the Fa in the same (administrative) way. [77] [96] Although the term “legalism” was only coined during the Han-漢 Dynasty (206/202 BC – 220 AD), its roots – or, more precisely, the idea of grouping together several thinkers who are eventually called “legalists” – go back to Han Fei 韓非 (died 233 BC), who is often considered the most important representative of this intellectual current. In chapter 43, “Defining Standards” (“Ding fa” 定法) by Han Feizi 韓非子, the thinker presents himself as a synthesizer and enhancer, the ideas of two of his predecessors, Shang Yang 商鞅 (died 338 BC) and Shen Buhai 申不害 (died 337 BC). (Han Feizi 43:397-400). The pairing of Shen Buhai and Shang Yang and the addition of Han Fei himself to them have become common since the beginning of the Han Dynasty (see, for example, Huainanzi 6:230; 11:423; 20:833). Historian Sima Qian 司馬遷 (ca. 145–90 BC) A.D.) A.D.) identified these three thinkers as adherents of the doctrine of “fulfillment and title” (xing ming 刑名) (Shiji 62:2146; 68:2227; Translation borrowed from Goldin 2013: 8).

This term was synonymous with the last fa jia (Creel 1974:140). In addition to crises and bloodshed, the Warring States period was also a time of opportunity for intellectually active individuals. It was an extraordinarily dynamic period, marked by new beginnings and profound changes in all areas of life. Politically, the loose aristocratic units of the spring and autumn periods have been replaced by centralized, bureaucratized territorial states (Lewis 1999). Economically, the introduction of iron utensils (Wagner 1993) has revolutionized agriculture, allowed higher yields, led to the development of wasteland, led to population growth and accelerated urbanization and commercialization of the economy. On the military front, new technologies such as the crossbow, as well as new forms of military organization, led to the replacement of aristocratic tank armies with mass infantry armies composed of peasant conscripts, resulting in a drastic increase in the scale and complexity of warfare (Lewis 1999). And socially, the hereditary aristocracy that dominated the Zhou world for much of the Bronze Age (c. 1500-400 BC). A.D.) was overshadowed by a much wider layer of shi士 (sometimes translated as “service men”) who owed their position primarily to their abilities rather than their pedigree (Pines 2013c).

These profound changes required new approaches to various administrative, economic, military, social and ethical issues: old truths had to be reconsidered or reinterpreted. For intellectuals eager to tackle a multitude of new issues – and especially for legalists – it was a golden age. Shen Buhai and his philosophical successor Han Fei regarded the ruler in a situation of constant danger from his assistants,[14] 347 and the target of Han Fei`s standards was particularly the learned bureaucracy and ambitious advisors – the Confucians. [14]:347 Declaring that “the superior and inferior battles are fought a hundred battles a day,”[19] long sections of the Han Feizi provide an example of how ministers undermine various rules and focus on how the ruler can protect himself from treacherous ministers, emphasizing their mutually different interests. [85] People aspire to wealth and glory; They are afraid of punishment: this is their basic disposition (Qing 情). This attitude should not be changed, but well understood and manipulated: “If a law is established without examining the disposition of the people, it will not succeed” (Shang jun shu 8:63; Book of Lord Shang 8:3). In order to steer the population towards efforts that benefit the state, namely agriculture and war, even if they consider them “bitter and dangerous”, a combination of positive and negative incentives should be created. The entire socio-political system represented by Shang Yang can be seen as an implementation of this recommendation (Pines 2016b).

1: Strict and literal or excessive observance of the law or a religious or moral code of institutionalized legalism that restricts free choice. 2: a legal clause or rule. The basic premise of [legalism] is that human beings are naturally prone to committing wrongdoing, and therefore the authority of law and state is necessary for human well-being. This school is against Confucianism because Confucianism, especially according to Mengzi, emphasized the goodness inherent in human nature. (208) Almost all the ideas of Confucianism have been eliminated, as have the other books. Place and language of worship: There was no specific place of worship or language because legalism was a state order and belief system rather than a religion. Han Feizi is said to have been a disciple of the Confucian reformer (and the last of the five great sages of Confucianism), Xunzi (l.c. Confucianism, commonly regarded as China`s dominant ethic, opposed the introduction of legal texts, the oldest of which dates back to the sixth century BC. On bronze containers. [57] For the Confucians, the classics provided the prerequisite for knowledge.

[58] Orthodox Confucians tended to consider organizational details under both the minister and the leader, leaving these matters to subordinates,[6]:107 and also wanted ministers to control the ruler. [14]:359 The second surviving text, Han Feizi 韓非子, is attributed to Han Fei, a descendant of the ruling family of the state of Hán 韓 (not to be confused with the Hàn 漢 dynasty), a tragic figure allegedly killed in the custody of the King of Qin, whom Han Fei wanted to serve. Of all the legalistic texts in the Han Imperial Catalogue, Han Feizi fared best during the vicissitudes of time: the 55 chapters attested in the Han Catalogue are still intact. Whether the entire book was written by Han Fei or not is controversial: considerable differences between the chapters in terms of style and argumentation lead many scholars to suspect that they come from different authors. On the other hand, the differences can be explained by the fact that they reflect Han Fei`s intellectual maturation process or the need to adapt reasoning to different target groups; and since most of the chapters offer a coherent perspective, this increases the likelihood that most of them were actually written by Han Fei (Goldin 2013). Overall, the Han Feizi is considered philosophical and literally more appealing than Lord Shang`s book, and it has been studied more in China, Japan, and the West. The second pillar of legalistic political philosophy is his view of human nature. Legalists avoid arguing whether human wickedness or goodness is innate, or whether or not all humans possess fundamentally similar qualities. What matters to them is first that the overwhelming majority of people are selfish and greedy; secondly, that this situation cannot be changed by education or self-cultivation; and third, that people`s selfishness can become an asset to the leader rather than a threat. Let “men follow the benefit as water flows downwards” (Shang jun shu 23:131; Book of Lord Shang 23:2) is obvious: the task is to enable people to satisfy their desire for fame and fortune in a way that meets the needs of the state and does not contradict them. Shang Yang explains how to achieve this: Han Feizi drew on this aspect of Xunzi`s work, as well as earlier writings from the Warring States period in China (c.

481 – 221 BC) by a Qin statesman named Shang Yang (died 338 BC) to develop his philosophy that, since humans are evil by nature, Laws of control and punishment are a necessity for the social order. Although legalism led to great loss of life and culture during the Qin Dynasty, it is worth remembering that the philosophy that developed in a period of constant war in China, when each state was fighting for control against all the others, and the enforcement of order in this chaos was obviously considered extremely important. Compared to Plato by the sinologist Chris Fraser, the Hermeneutics of the Mohists contained the philosophical seeds of what Sima-Tan would call the “Fa school” (“legalists”) and contributed to the political thought of contemporary reformers. [97] The Mohists and the Guanzi text attributed to Guan Zhong are of particular importance to the understanding of Fa,[101] which means “to illustrate” or “to imitate.” [14]:349 [102],[103] Dan Robins of the University of Hong Kong considers the Fa “important in early Chinese philosophy mainly because of the Mohists.” [104] Constant reforms and adjustments are therefore necessary.