‘Climate Crisis’ and Political Responsibility in Early Confucianism

Suzuki, Yumi (4 October 2019). ‘Climate Crisis’ and Political Responsibility in Early Confucianism (Unpublished). In: Climate Change and Asian Philosophy: A Dialogue in Environmental Ethics. Universität Bergen. 04. - 05.10.2019.

Full text not available from this repository. (Request a copy)

Unlike Daoist authors whose ideals of zì rán (自然) (self-so) and wú wéi (無為) (non-doing) are generally thought to be compatible with contemporary environmental ethics, early Confucian followers are often thought to be anti-naturalistic or at least have never thought of natural environment as an important subject that requires their serious attention. Both Kongzi’s agnostic attitude towards heavenly events (Lunyu 5/13, 11/12) and Xunzi’s accounts of hierarchic relations between humans, animals, and plants (Xunzi 9/39/9-10) typically represent their limited focusses on social and political affairs. Nevertheless, strong interests in human nature (xìng 性) found in the Mengzi and the Xunzi indicates a view that both Confucian moral values such as rén (仁) and yì (義) and ideal political institutes are considered to be natural creations inevitable and indispensable for human life. This paper demonstrates that Xunzi’s political philosophy deeply originates with his keen discernment of heavenly nature (tiān 天), viz. rotating stars, four seasons, climate changes, weathers, natural disasters like flood and drought, as well as human behaviour. Xunzi maintains that yāo 妖 (ominous events) such as famine and diseases as caused by political deficiency, but not by natural or supernatural forces (17/81/10-82/4). The virtue (dé 德) of the ruler accordingly lies in his ‘ecological responsibilities’ of properly responding to natural revolutions to succeed in various domestic enterprises completed at proper times and effectively coping with the natural crises (17/79/16-21) as well as satisfying and regulating the nature of its people since humans intrinsically do not differ from other animals (23/113/3 ff.). I suggest that his attempt is not to integrate nature into his anthropocentric political system but on the contrary to align political system with its own natural state and surroundings, thus rather can be nature-centred.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)


06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of Art and Cultural Studies > Institute of Philosophy

UniBE Contributor:

Suzuki, Yumi


100 Philosophy
100 Philosophy > 170 Ethics
100 Philosophy > 180 Ancient, medieval & eastern philosophy




Dr Yumi Suzuki

Date Deposited:

20 Apr 2020 13:44

Last Modified:

20 Apr 2020 13:44

Uncontrolled Keywords:

Environmental Philosophy, Chinese Philosophy, Confucianism, Xunzi



Actions (login required)

Edit item Edit item
Provide Feedback