State of Nature Theory in Traditional Chinese Political and Legal Thought
Northwestern Interdisciplinary Law Review, Vol. VIII, No. 1 (2015), pp. 131-152
21 Pages Posted: 29 Nov 2015
Date Written: November 1, 2015
State of nature theory has served as an important theoretical foundation for various political theories. It is usually used to justify the development and existence of certain political institutions and/or to explain why and how a government could come into being from a state of nature. While numerous studies have examined the role of state of nature theory in Western political thought — most notably, in the political thought of Thomas Hobbes and John Locke — very few studies have examined state of nature theory in Chinese political thought. This Article argues that certain traditional Chinese thinkers did in fact explicitly set forth state of nature arguments as theoretical foundations and justifications for their political thought. It describes and analyzes the state of nature theories of three important traditional Chinese thinkers: Mozi (c. 480-390 B.C.), Xunzi (c. 4th to 3rd century B.C.), and Liu Zongyuan (773-819 A.D.). It also compares their respective state of nature theories with one another, as well as with those of Hobbes and Locke. It concludes with a discussion of the implications of its findings on Chinese political and legal theory more broadly.
Keywords: legal theory, legal philosophy, state of nature theory, Chinese legal theory, Chinese law
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