Class #31

Xunzi's Psychology

Reading:   Xunzi, "Removing Blinders"

Lecture PowerPoint Deck

It is not hard to see that this chapter is a response to Daoist-style teachings, and the response is two-fold--the Xunzi attacks some aspects of Daoist ideas and incorporates others. Can you identify each? The chapter links up with the first two essays of the text in discussions of study and self-cultivation. Look for aspects of these linkages. Note in particular overlapping discussions on the nature of study that appear in Section O of this chapter and page 22 of Watson's translation of "Encouraging Learning."

The title of this chapter is extremely hard to translate; Watson has "Dispelling Obsession," but its literal meaning is something like "removing one's blinders" (blinders are what horses wear to make sure they can only see the road directly ahead, without the distraction of the "whole picture"). This is one of two Xunzi chapters which I'm asking you to read online because of some key differences from the Watson translation, and because the inserted commentary should help you prepare better for class.

If there is time, towards the end of class I will summarize from a chapter of the Xunzi that you will not read (chapter 22: "Rectification of Names") the theory of language that Xunzi developed. It is interesting in itself, and also useful for recalling how Mohism and the Zhuangzi raised important issues concerning language and certain knowledge. Xunzi, the most encyclopaedic of all early Chinese thinkers, naturally saw in these ideas a challenge to Confucianism that needed to be addressed.