UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

From the internal to the external : a selected translation and study of four archaeological texts and their account of human nature Ashton, Clayton Howard


This thesis covers four of the Confucian bamboo strip manuscripts discovered in the Guodian archaeological site: Liude, Xing zi ming chu, Cheng zhi wen zhi and Zun deyi. Much of the scholarship to date on the Guodian manuscripts has treated all of the Confucian texts as a unit, or has examined each text in isolation, ignoring the potential differences and similarities between individual texts or groups of texts within this corpus. This thesis is intended to address this problem by investigating the conceptual themes that connect these four texts into a single, coherent philosophy. Because the four texts addressed in this thesis appear to have been originally bound together into a single bundle of bamboo strips, they present an ideal starting point for this investigation. Chapter One examines the distinction made between the biological relationships of the family and the non-biological relationships of the social and political world, and how this affects people's innate emotional dispositions. Chapter Two considers the question of human nature as it was understood at the time, and the possibility that these texts were written as a response to the concept of human nature that had been recently proposed by rival philosophers. Chapter Three examines how these fundamental questions of biology, society and human nature form the foundation of a political philosophy, and how later thinkers would adopt the rhetoric of this philosophy, but would do away with the fundamentally Confucian beliefs that underlie the political vision of these four specific texts.

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