“Ritual in the Xunzi: A Change of the Heart/Mind” by Winnie Sung

Philosophy Seminar Series: Thursday, 22 Mar 2012, 2-4pm, Philosophy Resource Room; Speaker: Winnie Sung, Postdoctoral Fellow, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore; Moderator: Dr. Ben Blumson


This paper seeks to advance discussion of Xunzi’s view of ritual by examining what it is that ritual addresses and the way in which it targets the problem. I argue that the root of the problem is the natural inclination of human beings to be concerned only with self-interest. The reason ritual works is that, on the one hand, it requires a person to disregard concern for self-interest and observe ethical standards and, on the other, it allows one to express feelings in an ethically appropriate way. The ideal effect of ritual on the person is a sense of ease and security; the ideal character shaped by ritual is one of deference and responsiveness in dealing with affairs and people. Based on these conclusions, I will flesh out implicit assumptions Xunzi might have adopted to help us understand the nature of ritual transformation for Xunzi.

About the Speaker: Winnie Sung is a postdoctoral fellow of Chinese Philosophy at Nanyang Technological University. She received her BA in philosophy from University of Toronto and Ph.D. from the University of New South Wales. She is interested in early Chinese thought, with emphasis on Xunzi and Confucian ethics.

More information on the Philosophy Seminar Series can be found here. A list of past talks in the series can be found here.