Law and Morality in Ancient China: The Silk Manuscripts of Huang-Lao

By R. P. Peerenboom | Go to book overview

VII. The Evolution of
Huang-Lao Thought

I have argued that the Huang-Lao thought of the Boshu is best understood as a foundational naturalism in which the human social order is based on and implicate in the natural order. As a naturalism, the natural order is normatively privileged. As a foundational naturalism, it is predetermined. That the human social order—encompassing personal behavior as well as social institutions—is grounded in, justified by, and judged against the natural order is evidenced in various ways. Jurisprudentially, the author advances a natural law theory in that laws arise from dao, the natural order. In terms of philosophy of language, he sponsors a realist, correspondence theory of names in which names and forms (xing ming) are a direct manifestation of dao. Sociopolitically, he favors a hierarchy where social classes are held to be "natural," a constant and given feature of the preconfigured natural order. These aspects of Huang-Lao philosophy are predicated on a foundational, correspondence epistemology in which one discovers dao, the objective natural order articulated in terms of li (principles), fa (laws), and xing ming (forms and names), by eliminating subjective bias through the attainment of emptiness and tranquility (xu jing).

But Huang-Lao thought did not spring fully bloomed from the mind of the author of the Boshu alone. Rather, the author melded into a single system ideas of diverse thinkers and schools. In Chapters IV to VI, I presented Huang-Lao thought as a development of and response to several major thinkers, primarily Confucius, Han Fei Zi, Lao Zi, and Zhuang Zi. Yet there are many more who contributed important pieces to the Huang‐ Lao intellectual synthesis: some conceived of dao-nature as predetermined; others predicated law on dao; still others explicated xing ming as objective forms and names. Although no one person may have combined these ideas into the Huang-Lao system of the Boshu, each furnished one or more of the key building blocks. In section 1, I examine these antecedents of Huang-Lao thought. I begin with the rise of naturalism, and then turn to

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Law and Morality in Ancient China: The Silk Manuscripts of Huang-Lao
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Law and Morality in Ancient China *
  • Contents vii
  • Preface xi
  • Acknowledgments xv
  • I - Introduction 1
  • II - The Natural Way of Huang-Lao 27
  • III - The Socical and Political Philosophy of Huang-Lao 75
  • IV - The Anthropocentric Pragmatism of Confucius 103
  • V - The Pragmatic Statesmanship of Han Fei 139
  • VI - The Daoist Ways of Lao Zi and Zhuang Zi 171
  • VII - The Evolution of Huang-Lao Thought 217
  • VIII - Epilogue 263
  • Appendix - He Guan Zi and Huang-Lao Thought 273
  • Notes 285
  • Bibliography 355
  • Index 375
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