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What Are the Rituals Texts and Sacred Places for Legalism

The view of the people`s legalists as greedy and selfish was not unusual for this intellectual current: it was shared, among others, by such an important Confucian thinker as Xunzi荀子 (c. 310-230 BC) and is evident in many other texts (Sato 2013). But in stark contrast to Xunzi and other Confucian thinkers, legalists rejected the possibility that the elite—leaders and ministers—would be able to overcome their selfishness. The question of the quality of the rule is discussed below; Here, it is enough to focus on those of the ministers. For thinkers across the spectrum of Confucian thought, it was natural that the government should be composed of morally upright “noble men” who would serve out of commitment to the ruler above and the people below. To the legalists, it was equally obvious that this could not be the case. Shen Dao explains: The term “legalistic school” (fa jia 法家) is ubiquitous in the study of ancient Chinese political philosophy. Despite the many criticisms of its inaccuracy (e.g. Goldin 2011), the term can still be used wisely as long as two important points are taken into account. First, the legalists were not a self-confident and organized intellectual current; On the contrary, the name was invented as a post-factum categorization of certain thinkers and texts, and its main function before the twentieth century was that of a bibliographic category in imperial libraries. Therefore, the identification of a thinker or a text as “legalistic” will forever remain arbitrary; The term can be used as a heuristic convention, but should not (Pace Creel 1974) be used as an analyzer.

Second, “legalism” is a problematic name. The Chinese term fa jia is already misleading because it inadvertently reduces the rich intellectual content of this current to a single keyword, fa. “Legalism” is a doubly misleading English translation, since the semantic scope of the term fa 法 is much broader than “law”; it also refers to methods, norms, impersonal regulations, etc. (Creel 1974:147-149; Goldin, 2011). It is therefore incongruous to discuss fa jia in the context of the Western notion of “rule of law” as it was popular in modern Chinese research (e.g., Hsiao 1979: 442-446) and as is sometimes still done today (Fu Zhengyuan 1996: 158-161). Given these intrinsic inaccuracies of the term “legalism”, it can only be used for heuristic reasons, as follows. The term is simply so prevalent in the scientific literature that replacing it with a new name will only confuse readers further. Finally, as recently as 2011, the Oxford Handbook of World Philosophy portrayed legalists as realists, stating: “What united these men was that they were all theorists or practitioners of some sort of realistic and amoral art of governing aimed at consolidating and strengthening the power and wealth of the state and its autocratic ruler. Their thinking was realistic because they were based on what they thought were raw facts about how people actually behave. It was amoral, because they didn`t care at all whether the institutions and methods they advocated were morally justified. [3]: 59 Now, Shen Buhai has spoken of the necessity of Shu (“technique”) and Shang Yang practices the use of Fa (“standards”).

What is called Shu is to create positions according to responsibilities, to hold the actual services accountable according to official titles, to exercise power over life and death, and to examine the abilities of all its ministers; These are the things that the sovereign himself holds in his hands. It includes mandates and ordinances issued at government offices, punishments that are final in the minds of the people, rewards due to careful observers of norms, and punishments imposed on those who violate orders. This is what subjects and ministers take as an example. If the ruler is without Shu, he will be eclipsed; if subjects and preachers do not have the Fa, they will be rebellious. So neither can be suppressed: both are devices of emperors and kings. [129] [6]: 94 [130][131][132]: 184 [133][134] Teaching the people to “sing and sing only about war” could easily refer to military indoctrination as we see in other countries that have used mass armies.

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