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Mozi (Chinese-English)

  • Mozi
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Library of Chinese Classics: Mozi
Author: Mo Di
Translated into modern Chinese by Zhou Caizhu and Qi Ruiduan
Translated into English by Wang Rongpei and Wang Hong
Library binding book, vol. I, II, dimensions 960 x 640, 1/16
Publisher: Hunan People's Publishing House, 2006
ISBN: 7543840294 9787543840294

Mozi was a collection of works and sayings by the distinguished thinker and politician Mozi (cir. 468 B.C.--376 B.C.) and his disciples. The original book contained 71 chapters, yet they were gradually scattered after the Six Dynasties (220-589). As a result, only 53 chapters are still in existence. Mozi covers a wide range of subjects, including politics, military science, philosophy, ethics, economy, logic, natural science and technology, and is the chief representative work of Mohism. Altogether ten propositions are put forward in Mozi: "Universal Love", "Denouncing Aggressive Warfare", "Respecting the Virtuous", "Identifying with the Superior", "Economizing Expenditures", "Simplicity in Funerals", "Against Music", "The Will of Heaven", "On Ghosts", "Against Fatalism". The present book is based on Mozi Re-annotated by Sun Yirang and dozens of editions and Chinese versions of Mozi. It it the first complete English translation of the works of Mozi.

Mohism, an ancient Chinese thought school springs from the teachings of Mo Di (Mo-Ti), or Mozi (Mo-Tsu, "Master Mo"), about whom little is known, not even what state he was from. The Shi Ji, a Han dynasty record, tells us only that he was an official of the state of Song and that he lived either at the same time as or after Confucius (d. 479 B.C.), with whom he is often paired by Qin (221-206 B.C.) and Han dynasty (206 B.C.-219 A.D.) texts as the two great moral teachers of the Warring States era. Most likely, he flourished during the middle to late decades of the 5th century B.C., roughly contemporaneous with Socrates in the West. ‘Mo?is an unusual surname and the common Chinese word for "ink." Hence scholars have speculated that this was not Mozi's original family name, but an epithet given him because he was once a slave or convict, whose faces were often branded or tattooed with dark ink.

Mozi was an important political and social thinker and formidable rival of the Confucianists. A strong argument can be made that it is Mozi, not Confucius, who deserves the title of China's first philosopher. Before the rise of the Mohist school, Ru or so-called "Confucian" thought seems to have consisted mostly of wise aphorisms offering moral coaching aimed at developing virtuous performers of traditional ritual roles. Mozi and his followers were the first in the Chinese tradition to point out that conformity to traditional mores in itself does not ensure that actions are morally right. This critical insight motivated a self-conscious search for objective moral standards, by which the Mohists hoped to unify the moral judgments of everyone in society, thus eliminating social disorder and ensuring that morality prevailed. The normative standard through which they proposed to achieve these aims was the "benefit" (l? of "all under Heaven": Actions, practices, and policies that promote the overall welfare of society are morally right, those that interfere with it are wrong. This utilitarian standard was justified by appeal to the intention of Heaven (Tian), a god-like entity that the Mohists argued is committed impartially to the benefit of all. Heaven's intention provides a reliable epistemic criterion for moral judgments, they held, because Heaven is the wisest and noblest agent in the cosmos. This basic utilitarian and religious framework motivated a set of ten core ethical and political doctrines, which the Mohists sought to persuade the rulers of their day to put into practice. This article will discuss the motivation for the Mohist philosophical and political project, the central epistemic and logical notions that structure Mohist thought, and the details of the Mohists' ethical and political doctrines, including their strengths and weaknesses.

Central elements of Mohist thought include advocacy of a unified ethical and political order grounded in a utilitarian ethic emphasizing impartial concern for all; active opposition to military aggression and injury to others; devotion to utility and frugality and condemnation of waste and luxury; support for a centralized, authoritarian state led by a virtuous, benevolent sovereign and managed by a hierarchical, merit-based bureaucracy; and reverence for and obedience to Heaven (Tian, literally the sky) and the ghosts worshiped in traditional folk religion. Mohist ethics and epistemology are characterized by a concern with finding objective standards that will guide judgment and action reliably and impartially so as to produce beneficial, morally right consequences. The Mohists assume that people are naturally motivated to do what they believe is right, and thus with proper moral education will generally tend to conform to the correct ethical norms. They believe strongly in the power of discussion and persuasion to solve ethical problems and motivate action, and they are confident that moral and political questions have objective answers that can be discovered and defended by inquiry.

Like most classical Chinese texts, the Mozi, our main source for Mohist thought, originally consisted of a collection of bamboo-strip scrolls called pian, or "books," each of which was itself a distinct text or series of short texts ranging in length from several hundred to several thousand graphs. Hence the Mozi is not a single composition or work, in the modern sense, but an anthology of diverse writings probably composed at different times by different writers or editors. No part of the anthology purports to be from the hand of Mo Di himself.

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