Yangism (Chinese: 楊朱學派; pinyin: Yángzhūxuépài) was a philosophical school founded by Yang Zhu, existent during the Warring States period (475 BCE – 221 BCE), that believed that human actions are and should be based on self-interest. The school has been described by sinologists as an early form of psychological and ethical egoism.[1] The main focus of the Yangists was on the concept of xing, or human nature,[1] a term later incorporated by Mencius into Confucianism. No documents directly authored by the Yangists have been discovered yet, and all that is known of the school comes from the comments of rival philosophers, specifically in the Chinese texts Huainanzi, Lüshi Chunqiu, Mengzi, and possibly the Liezi and Zhuangzi.[2] The philosopher Mencius claimed that Yangism once rivaled Confucianism and Mohism, although the veracity of this claim remains controversial among sinologists.[3] Because Yangism had largely faded into obscurity by the time that Sima Qian compiled his Shiji, the school was not included as one of the Hundred Schools of Thought.


"What Yang Zhu was for was self. If by plucking one hair he might benefit the whole world, he would not do it."[4]

— Mencius on Yang Zhu, Mengzi (4th century BC)

Yangism has been described as a form of psychological and ethical egoism.[1] The Yangist philosophers believed in the importance of maintaining self-interest through "keeping one's nature intact, protecting one's uniqueness, and not letting the body be tied by other things."[5] Disagreeing with the Confucian virtues of li (propriety), ren (humaneness), and yi (righteousness) and the Legalist virtue of fa (law), the Yangists saw wei wo, or "everything for myself," as the only virtue necessary for self-cultivation.[6] Individual pleasure is considered desirable, like in hedonism, but not at the expense of the health of individual.[7] The Yangists saw individual well-being as the prime purpose of life, and considered anything that hindered that well-being immoral and unnecessary.[7]

The main focus of the Yangists was on the concept of xing, or human nature,[1] a term later incorporated by Mencius into Confucianism. The xing, according to sinologist A. C. Graham, is a person's "proper course of development" in life. Individuals can only rationally care for their own xing, and should not naively have to support the xing of other people, even if it means opposing the emperor.[5] In this sense, Yangism is a "direct attack" on Confucianism, by implying that the power of the emperor, defended in Confucianism, is baseless and destructive, and that state intervention is morally flawed.[5]

The Confucian philosopher Mencius depicts Yangism as the direct opposite of Mohism, while Mohism promotes the idea of universal love and impartial caring, the Yangists acted only "for themselves," rejecting the altruism of Mohism.[8] He criticized the Yangists as selfish, ignoring the duty of serving the public and caring only for personal concerns.[7] Mencius saw Confucianism as the "Middle Way" between Mohism and Yangism.[3]

Influence on later beliefs

Mencius incorporated the Yangist concept of xing into his own philosophy. Some sinologists have argued that Yangism influenced Taoism, and can be seen as a "precursor" to later Taoist beliefs.[7]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d Ivanhoe, P.J.; Van Norden, Bryan William (2005). "Yangism". Readings in classical Chinese philosophy. Hackett Publishing. p. 369. ISBN 978-0-87220-780-6. "Yangzhu's own way has been described as psychological egoism (humans are in fact motivated only by self-interest), ethical egoism (humans should do only what is in their own self-interest), or primativism (humans should only do what is in the interest of themselves and their immediate family
  2. ^ Shun, Kwong-loi (2000). Mencius and Early Chinese Thought. Stanford University Press. pp. 40–41. ISBN 978-0-8047-4017-3.
  3. ^ a b Shun, Kwong-loi (2000). Mencius and Early Chinese Thought. Stanford University Press. p. 36. ISBN 978-0-8047-4017-3. "there is little evidence that Yangist teachings were influential during Mencius's time, and this has led some scholars to suggest that Mencius exaggerated the movement's influence
  4. ^ Graham, Angus Charles (1981). Chuang-tzǔ: The Seven Inner Chapters and other writings from the book Chuang-tzǔ. Allen & Unwin. p. 223. ISBN 978-0-04-299010-1.
  5. ^ a b c Stalnaker, Aaron (2006). Overcoming our evil: human nature and spiritual exercises in Xunzi and Augustine. Georgetown University Press. p. 57. ISBN 978-1-58901-094-9.
  6. ^ Senghaas, Dieter (2002). The clash within civilizations: coming to terms with cultural conflicts. Psychology Press. p. 33. ISBN 978-0-415-26228-6.
  7. ^ a b c d Bontekoe, Ronald; Deutsch, Eliot (1999). A companion to world philosophies. Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 142–143. ISBN 978-0-631-21327-7.
  8. ^ Ivanhoe, P.J.; Van Norden, Bryan William (2005). Readings in classical Chinese philosophy. Hackett Publishing. p. 153. ISBN 978-0-87220-780-6.

External links

Australian philosophy

Australian philosophy refers to the philosophical tradition of the people of Australia and of its citizens abroad.


Axiology (from Greek ἀξία, axia, "value, worth"; and -λογία, -logia) is the philosophical study of value. It is either the collective term for ethics and aesthetics, philosophical fields that depend crucially on notions of worth, or the foundation for these fields, and thus similar to value theory and meta-ethics. The term was first used by Paul Lapie, in 1902, and Eduard von Hartmann, in 1908.Axiology studies mainly two kinds of values: ethics and aesthetics. Ethics investigates the concepts of "right" and "good" in individual and social conduct. Aesthetics studies the concepts of "beauty" and "harmony." Formal axiology, the attempt to lay out principles regarding value with mathematical rigor, is exemplified by Robert S. Hartman's science of value.

Cosmology (philosophy)

Philosophical cosmology, philosophy of cosmology or philosophy of cosmos is a discipline directed to the philosophical contemplation of the universe as a totality, and to its conceptual foundations. It draws on several branches of philosophy—metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of physics, philosophy of science, philosophy of mathematics, and on the fundamental theories of physics. The term cosmology was used at least as early as 1730, by German philosopher Christian Wolff, in Cosmologia Generalis.

Danish philosophy

Danish philosophy has a long tradition as part of Western philosophy.

Perhaps the most influential Danish philosopher was Søren Kierkegaard, the creator of Christian existentialism, which inspired the philosophical movement of Existentialism. Kierkegaard had a few Danish followers, including Harald Høffding, who later in his life moved on to join the movement of positivism. Among Kierkegaard's other followers include Jean-Paul Sartre who was impressed with Kierkegaard's views on the individual, and Rollo May, who helped create humanistic psychology.

Early modern philosophy

Early modern philosophy (also classical modern philosophy) is a period in the history of philosophy at the beginning or overlapping with the period known as modern philosophy.

Ethical egoism

Ethical egoism is the normative ethical position that moral agents ought to do what is in their own self-interest. It differs from psychological egoism, which claims that people can only act in their self-interest. Ethical egoism also differs from rational egoism, which holds that it is rational to act in one's self-interest.

Ethical egoism holds, therefore, that actions whose consequences will benefit the doer can be considered ethical in this sense.

Ethical egoism contrasts with ethical altruism, which holds that moral agents have an obligation to help others. Egoism and altruism both contrast with ethical utilitarianism, which holds that a moral agent should treat one's self (also known as the subject) with no higher regard than one has for others (as egoism does, by elevating self-interests and "the self" to a status not granted to others). But it also holds that one is not obligated to sacrifice one's own interests (as altruism does) to help others' interests, so long as one's own interests (i.e. one's own desires or well-being) are substantially equivalent to the others' interests and well-being, but he has the choice to do so. Egoism, utilitarianism, and altruism are all forms of consequentialism, but egoism and altruism contrast with utilitarianism, in that egoism and altruism are both agent-focused forms of consequentialism (i.e. subject-focused or subjective). However, utilitarianism is held to be agent-neutral (i.e. objective and impartial): it does not treat the subject's (i.e. the self's, i.e. the moral "agent's") own interests as being more or less important than the interests, desires, or well-being of others.

Ethical egoism does not, however, require moral agents to harm the interests and well-being of others when making moral deliberation; e.g. what is in an agent's self-interest may be incidentally detrimental, beneficial, or neutral in its effect on others. Individualism allows for others' interest and well-being to be disregarded or not, as long as what is chosen is efficacious in satisfying the self-interest of the agent. Nor does ethical egoism necessarily entail that, in pursuing self-interest, one ought always to do what one wants to do; e.g. in the long term, the fulfillment of short-term desires may prove detrimental to the self. Fleeting pleasure, then, takes a back seat to protracted eudaimonia. In the words of James Rachels, "Ethical egoism ... endorses selfishness, but it doesn't endorse foolishness."Ethical egoism is often used as the philosophical basis for support of right-libertarianism and individualist anarchism. These are political positions based partly on a belief that individuals should not coercively prevent others from exercising freedom of action.


Hedonism is a school of thought that argues that the pursuit of pleasure and intrinsic goods are the primary or most important goals of human life. A hedonist strives to maximize net pleasure (pleasure minus pain). However upon finally gaining said pleasure, happiness may remain stationary.

Ethical hedonism is the idea that all people have the right to do everything in their power to achieve the greatest amount of pleasure possible to them. It is also the idea that every person's pleasure should far surpass their amount of pain. Ethical hedonism is said to have been started by Aristippus of Cyrene, a student of Socrates. He held the idea that pleasure is the highest good.

Hundred Schools of Thought

The Hundred Schools of Thought (Chinese: 諸子百家; pinyin: zhūzǐ bǎijiā) were philosophies and schools that flourished from the 6th century to 221 B.C. during the Spring and Autumn period and the Warring States period of ancient China.An era of great cultural and intellectual expansion in China, it was fraught with chaos and bloody battles, but it was also known as the Golden Age of Chinese philosophy because a broad range of thoughts and ideas were developed and discussed freely. This phenomenon has been called the Contention of a Hundred Schools of Thought (百家爭鳴/百家争鸣; bǎijiā zhēngmíng; pai-chia cheng-ming; "hundred schools contend"). The thoughts and ideas discussed and refined during this period have profoundly influenced lifestyles and social consciousness up to the present day in East Asian countries and the East Asian diaspora around the world. The intellectual society of this era was characterized by itinerant scholars, who were often employed by various state rulers as advisers on the methods of government, war, and diplomacy.

This period ended with the rise of the imperial Qin dynasty and the subsequent purge of dissent.

List of Chinese philosophers

This article is a list of Chinese philosophers.

List of Slovene philosophers

Slovene philosophy includes philosophers who were either Slovenes or came from what is now Slovenia.

List of years in philosophy

The following entries cover events related to the study of philosophy which occurred in the listed year or century.

Philosophy of dialogue

Philosophy of dialogue is a type of philosophy based on the work of the Austrian-born Jewish philosopher Martin Buber best known through its classic presentation in his 1923 book I and Thou. For Buber, the fundamental fact of human existence, too readily overlooked by scientific rationalism and abstract philosophical thought, is "man with man", a dialogue which takes place in the "sphere of between" ("das Zwischenmenschliche").

Philosophy of film

The philosophy of film is a branch of aesthetics within the discipline of philosophy that seeks to understand the most basic questions regarding film. Philosophy of film has significant overlap with film theory, a branch of film studies.

Philosophy of geography

Philosophy of geography is the subfield of philosophy which deals with epistemological, metaphysical, and axiological issues in geography, with geographic methodology in general, and with more broadly related issues such as the perception and representation of space and place.

School of Names

The Logicians or School of Names (Chinese: 名家; pinyin: Míngjiā) was a school of Chinese philosophy that grew out of Mohism during the Warring States period in 479–221 BCE. It is also sometimes called the School of Forms and Names (Chinese: 形名家; pinyin: Xíngmíngjiā; Wade–Giles: Hsing2-ming2-chia1). Deng Xi has been named its founder.

School of Naturalists

The School of Naturalists or the School of Yin-yang (陰陽家/阴阳家; Yīnyángjiā; Yin-yang-chia; "School of Yin-Yang") was a Warring States era philosophy that synthesized the concepts of yin-yang and the Five Elements.

Si (concept)

Si 思 is a concept in Chinese philosophy that is usually translated as "reflection" or "concentration." It refers to a species of attentive, non-rational thought that is directed at a specific subject.

Turkish philosophy

Turkish philosophy has long been affected by Islam and the country's proximity to Greece and ancient Greek philosophy.

Yang Zhu

Yang Zhu (; simplified Chinese: 杨朱; traditional Chinese: 楊朱; pinyin: Yáng Zhū; Wade–Giles: Yang Chu; 440–360 BC), also known as Yang Zi or Yangzi (Master Yang), was a Chinese philosopher during the Warring States period. An early ethical egoist alternative to Mohist and Confucian thought, Yang Zhu's surviving ideas appear primarily in the Chinese texts Huainanzi, Lüshi Chunqiu, Mengzi, and possibly the Liezi and Zhuangzi.The philosophies attributed to Yang Zhu, as presented in Liezi, clash with the primarily Daoist influence of the rest of the work. Of particular note is his recognition of self-preservation (weiwo 為我), which has led him to be credited with "the discovery of the body". In comparison with other Chinese philosophical giants, Yang Zhu has recently faded into relative obscurity, but his influence in his own time was so widespread that Mencius (孟子) described his philosophies along with the antithetical ideas of Mozi (墨子) as "floods and wild animals that ravage the land" (Liu: 1967: 358).

Schools of Thought
Regional schools

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.