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Open Access Thesis

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Degree Program


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Master of Arts (M.A.)

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Legalism, as one of the most useful philosophies of government, has attracted a great deal of scholarly attention. The work of Han Fei—one of the most influential proponents of Legalism—has been scrutinized and critiqued for centuries as immoral. I intend to show Legalism, especially the Han Feizi, is moral through focusing on four aspects of Han Fei’s work. First, his understanding of human nature. Han Fei states people are born with a hatred of harm and a love of profit. This understanding of human nature can never lead to a cognitive distortions in governing. So it is a moral basic of a philosophy. The second element is a focus on the context of Han Fei’s writings. If his works are read in detail back to his age, one cannot reach an immorality conclusion. Then, based on his understanding of subjects and his correspondingly suggested strategies, his goal is moral because he wants to built a peaceful and stable society, which was unobtainable at that time. Finally, Han Fei’s conception of punishment, which has been thought of immoral, actually is a moral tool to protect the majority of subjects who are innocent.


First Advisor

Yuan Ke

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 License.