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Lost and Found Theories of Law in Early China

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image of Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient

The so-called "Chinese view of law" is but one among many ways of understanding law in early China. Early Chinese thinkers held varied views of law's origins in nature or culture, its relationship to the sacred, and its connection with sagehood. Confucians tended to present law as an artificial and ineffective instrument for the promotion of moral order. In contrast, Mohist and Huang-Lao thinkers consistently viewed law as a natural and effective tool for the moral rectification of society when wielded by the sagely ruler, but differed in their conceptions of the sacred and the nature of the cosmic order. On parle souvent de « La perspective chinoise sur la loi » comme si elle était unique. Cependant, les penseurs chinois anciens avaient plusieurs perspectives différentes sur les origines naturelles ou culturelles des lois et sur leurs rapports avec le sacré et avec la sagesse. Les Confuciens présentaient surtout la loi comme un moyen artificiel et inefficace de promouvoir l'ordre moral. Au contraire—quoique les Mohistes et les Huanglaos aient eu des notions très différentes du sacré et de l'ordre cosmique—les deux voyaient surtout la loi comme un outil naturel et efficace qu'un roi éclairé pouvait utiliser pour rectifier les mœurs.


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