Xunzi’s Flawed Philosophy of Controlling Nature & Ourselves

Xunzi (荀子), a rouge Confucianist, was born in 310 BC, 240 years after Confucius. Herein a critique of his anti wu wei philosophy of effort and control.

On Controlling Nature

How can humans control nature, when we can’t control our own nature? And remember, our own innovative nature is a biological manifestation of nature itself. This is the flaw in Xunzi’s thought — circularity.

We are products of nature — today we find our species programmed by time with our current “bang two rocks together and make stuff” primate innovation drive. By acting out our drive we are not controlling nature; we are being controlled. We can’t control this drive, thus how can we control nature? It’s quite silly, and arrogant.

To answer his (slippy slope to primate egomania) “but why not” question a different way, with thousands of years hindsight; nature plays a longer game. The West went on to develop this short-sighted “we control nature” philosophy more thoroughly than Xunzi could have ever imagined, and we now see the limitations and repercussions of that only beginning to manifest.

Anyhow, today we have Western philosophy and science for this pursuit. We really don’t need Chinese philosophy to retrace these same steps. Instead, the Chinese thought lineage serves a wider/longer view — revealing the shortcomings of these Western scientism style thinkings, and perhaps suggesting a modified path later this century after this system collapses. As scholar Wing-Tsit Chan noted above, the Taoist/Confucian doctrine is the harmony of man and nature.

That’s what’s missing today.

On Blank Slate

No Xunzi, they actually cannot become each other.

Why? Because people differ. It is in their nature to be what they are; this thing, not that thing. Blank slate theory was falsified, biology determines potentiality. My problem with him is his taking of concepts to extremes.

Here he takes the now proven concept of Confucianism that *populations* can be “bettered” slightly, within their biologic potentiality, to mean that deficient *individuals* can become gifted (by their willpower). No, a thing can not exceed its nature.

This appears to be another example of Xunxi’s belief in willpower over nature? The Dao De Jing understood that pushing for something that is contrary to reality is the way of suffering. The deficient man can be a slightly more educated non-criminal deficient man. That is all.

I’m surprised Xunzi is categorized as “naturalistic” Confucianism, and Mengzi “idealistic.” He seems quite idealistic, more so even than Mengzi, going directly against nature. I follow naturalistic Confucianism, which must conform to science: the study of nature.

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Sol 太阳 쏠

Sino-philosophy: Confucianism, Dao De Jing, and Legalism. Comparative philosophy: Anglo vs Sino thought-lineages—we can use both!