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Reconsidering Richard Shusterman’s Somaesthetics

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The Confucian Debate between Mèng Zǐ and Xún Zǐ

image of Contemporary Pragmatism

In his work on somaesthetics, Richard Shusterman employs Confucianism’s take on ritualized self-cultivation to address blind spots in Euro-American accounts. However, Shusterman’s remarks on the later classical-era thinker Xún Zǐ (荀子) hint at a possible tension with the former’s pragmatism and promotion of somatic self-fashioning. The classical Confucian debate between Mencius (Mèng Zǐ; 孟子) and Xún Zǐ on human nature being either “good” or “bad” broaches issues of somaesthetics, namely as concerns self-cultivation being either internally spontaneous or externally imposed. Looking at this debate can thus help the project of somaesthetics by bringing old, though in this case novel, vocabulary to bear on an issue with which Shusterman wrestles – the “ontic” status of somaesthetic practice.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Philosophy, University of Vienna, Austria,


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