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Li and Equality with a Special Focus on Xunzi

Eunkang Koh 1

1서울과학기술대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

This study has its origins in the doubts over existing discussions regarding the core concept of rites (禮, li) being based on the ‘difference order’ in the Xunzi. Because rites rationalized differences, it resulted in justifying inequality based on social status, gender and age. Viewed from this standpoint, the conclusion can be reached that the concept of rites cannot coexist with modern democratic values. While the core concept of rites that this study is focused on is the ‘non-dominant order’, the ‘difference order’ is included as a by-product. Humans live together. While they live together, they nevertheless pursue individual desires. Conflicts emerge during the process of pursuing individual desires while living together. Divisions (分, fen) are required to prevent such conflicts. First, individuals should be divided into groups, with the appropriate number (數, shu) allocated to each group. This is called a divided fraction (分數, fenshu), and can be regarded as an essential point needed to actualize rites. Rites are expressed based on such divisions and numbers. Differences emerge between individuals and groups based on these divided fractions. However, these differences do not mean inequality. This study does not perceive that the core concept of rites lies in the differences which can emerge in accordance with the divided fraction, but that the core concept of rites lies in the division. The separation of gathered individuals into divisions and number creates ethical problems as to whether they will follow the given divided fraction or resist against it. The struggles and mutual intervention over dominance and subordination that began with the unverified belief that an individual desires the same object as other individuals should not be included in the primary ethical problem. It is difficult to regard a specifical individual or group separated based on the divided fraction as occupying a dominant position over other individuals or groups. The purpose of rites is not to establish a dominant-subordination order that reflects the differences between individuals and groups. On the contrary, it has more to do with the actualization of equality as non-domination between the individuals and groups.

Citation status

* References for papers published after 2022 are currently being built.