Sunday, May 19, 2013

Selections from Xunzi I

Scott Bradley

Here are some selections from Xunzi (c. 312-? BCE), sometimes with comment, chosen to show both what I see as insightful and not quite so. All quotes are from Xunzi: Basic Writings; Burton Watson (Columbia Univ. Press, 2003).


"Learning should never cease."

"[I]f the gentleman studies widely and each day examines himself, his wisdom will become clear and his conduct be without fault."

"If you do not climb a high mountain, you will not comprehend the highness of the heavens; . . ." (This comprehension, Zhuangzi might suggest, would require a very high mountain indeed.)

"The finest thoroughbred cannot travel ten paces in one leap, but the sorriest nag can go a ten days' journey. Achievement consists in never giving up."

"He who tries to travel two roads at once will arrive nowhere." (This may be a dig at Zhuangzi's "walking two roads")

"Learning continues until death and only then does it stop. . . To pursue it is to be a man, to give it up is to become a beast."

"The learning of a gentleman enters his ear, clings to his mind, and manifests itself in his actions. The learning of a petty man enters his ear and comes out his mouth." (Why you dirty . . .)

"To volunteer information when you have not been asked is called officiousness; to answer two questions when you have been asked only one is garrulity. . . The gentleman should be like an echo."

"Do not answer a man whose questions are gross. . . Do not argue with a contentious man."

"[W]hat lacks completeness and purity does not deserve to be called beautiful." (Zhuangzi tells us that 'completion' is the beginning of destruction and these judgments are relative in any case.)

You can check out Scott's other miscellaneous writings here.

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