Thursday, May 29, 2008


(Chinese philosopher, 551–479 B.C.) Confucius promoted the general observance of li (rites, norms of conduct established over time), while advocating a sensible attitude that recognised the importance of adapting tradition to context. Confucian ethics holds ren (goodness, humanity) to be the highest ideal.

Lao Tzu

(Chinese philosopher, c. 6th century B.C.). Also known as Lao Tzu, Loazi is thought to be a contemporary of Confucius and credited with writing the Daodejing (also Tao Te Ching).

Mao Zedong

(Chinese revolutionary, political leader and Marxist political theorist, 1893-1976). Mao Zedong was the main political leader of the Chinese Revolution, the first head of the People's Republic of China, and the principal theorist of "Mao Zedong Thought" or "Maoism", a contemporary development of revolutionary Marxist theory. Mao's writings deal with topics as broad as art and literature, organizational questions, and military strategy and tactics, in addition to philosophical matters. Mao drew heavily from Lenin's Philosophical Notebooks on Hegel in writing his main work on dialectical materialism, On Contradiction, and its companion text on Marxist epistemology, On Practice. Mao also wrote a considerable amount on issues of political philosophy, elaborating on and developing Marx and Lenin's theories of class dictatorship and democracy in works such as On New Democracy and On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People. Mao's "official" Selected Works run into five heavy volumes. While he remains a controversial figure, Mao is having a considerable impact on contemporary philosophy, notably through his influence on Louis Althusser, Alain Badiou, and others, including Slavoj Žižek, who recently edited a collection of his philosophical writings under the title On Practice and Contradiction (Verso, 2007).


Mencius a.k.a. Meng-tzu, Meng K’o, (Chinese Confucian philosopher c. 379–272 B.C.). Most notable for his assertion of the innate goodness of human nature.

John Rogers Searle

(American philosopher, 1932–). Searle is a prominent and often controversial contributor to philosophy of language and philosophy of mind; he is also noted for the account of social reality he gives in The Construction of Social Reality (1997). Searle's books are written in a clear, conversational style, a factor that contributes to his wide readership among lay-people. His early work was in speech act theory, where he elaborated and contributed new elements to John Austin's work in the field. Searle's philosophy of mind comprises three major components: a critique of computationalism and strong AI (the "Chinese Room Argument"), a theory of intentionality, and a theory of consciousness. Searle believes consciousness to be defined by first-person subjective experience, and thus irreducible to third-person objective description (based on neural states, for example); to attempt such a description is to immediately jettison the subject under consideration (consciousness). Searle also supposes consciousness to be an emergent property of brain processes and a function of brain biology. Searle's books include Intentionality: An Essay in the Philosophy of Mind (1983), The Rediscovery of the Mind (1992), The Mystery of Consciousness (1997), Rationality in Action (2001), and Mind: A Brief Introduction (2004).

Xún Zǐ

Xún Zǐ or Hsün Tzu (荀子; Chinese Confucian philosopher, c.310–237 B.C.). Xún Zǐ is best known for his opposition to Mencius’s view of the inherent goodness of human nature. For Xún Zǐ, rules of proper behaviour function to counter the corrupt desires and motivations of individuals.

Zhu Xi

Zhu Xi or Chu Hsi (Chinese Neo-Confucian philosopher, Song Dynasty, 1130–1200). Considered the greatest of the Neo-Confucian scholars, Zhu Xi’s thought initially represented a challenge to orthodox Neo-Confucianism. His commentaries on "The Four Books", however, would eventually form the basis for all civil service examinations conducted in China for the next 400 years, until that system was abolished in 1905.