Reading: "Legalism," pp. 1-12
Lecture PowerPoint Deck
The last of the major schools that we'll explore in this class is Legalism. Legalism was a major intellectual stream in the persuader tradition, drawing from both Confucianism and Daoism in important respects, though distinctly different from them in overall thrust. We will be surveying the history and nature of Legalist thought only briefly, not because it was not important -- it could be argued that no school of early thought was more important, since Legalism was the basis of the Qin Dynasty reunification of China in 221 BCE, and of the design of the 2000-year long Chinese imperial state -- but because its interests do not dovetail elegantly with the dominant philosophies of contrast with the West: Confucianism and Daoism.
Your readings for Wednesday include a historical introduction to the development of Legalism. For the following Monday you'll be reading two chapters from the most influential of Legalists texts, the Han Feizi, a work that is, in its own way, a syncretic blend of a variety of "proto-Legalist" tendencies that emerge in China in the fourth and early third centuries BCE, as well as selections from an archaeologically recovered text that will illustrate the way that Legalist ideas combined with those of other schools, chiefly Daoism.