• Created by: hsikay
  • Created on: 11-01-20 12:43


  • "Master Mo"
  • 480-390 BCE
  • Warring States period (breakdown in social law and order with collapse of Zhou and movement into constant competing warfare between states)
  • From State of Lu (vassal state during the Zhou dynasty) 
  • First true philosopher of China known to us
  • Humble origins (craft/ artisan class)
  • Later worked his way up to an official government post (Minister in the state of Song) 
  • Antiaristocratic 
  • Studied with followers of Confucius (later became a critic - one of the earliest/ harshest - of the Confucian tradition)
  • Originated from the same state as Confucius and around the same period 
  • Led organised utopian movement of direct social action (e.g. military defence of states viewed as victims of wars of expansion)
  • Inspired followers to dedicate to a unique view of social justice (taxed, judged and punished followers)
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Mòjiā / "Mohist School" of Philosophy

  • Ideal state would be highly centralised, orderly and ideologically unified
  • Ideological differences seen as primary source of human suffering
  • Advocated strict chain of command leading up through monarch and resting in Heaven
  • Advocated form of state consequentialism to maximise three basic goods: wealth, order, population (Instead of Confucian 'ren'/ benevolence)
  • Adherent of 'greatest good for the greatest number'
  • Framework is consequentialist as accords primacy to the Good (i.e. social harmony and prosperity) 
  • 'Jian'ai'/ "universal love/ "Impartial care" (alternative to Confucian familial love)
  • Everyone is equal before Heaven
  • Heaven desires 'li' (right actions/ justice - rewards right actions and punishes wrong)
  • Central ethical problem was excessive partiality not lack of compassion 
  • People tend to understand the world through hardships
  • When we ponder our successes/ failures we can attain true self-knowledge 
  • Importance of senses (over imagination and abstract concepts)
  • Concerned with what is best for society (what is right and beneficial for individuals to do is determined by what benefits society) 
  • Begins with an ethical theory about maximising desirable outcomes (opposite of Confucius)
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Simple/ malleable view of human nature

  • Primary goal to shape/ change behaviour and the way people are treated (not cultivate emotions, attitudes or virtues)
  • Simple/ malleable view of human nature (no interest in moral psychology or culture and ritual)
  • Believed humans can change held attitudes quickly and easily (but not a self-cultivationist or interested in the realisation of 'The Self' - the character of the ruler isn't crucial just need to be competent)
  • Humans can be induced to take up almost any form of behaviour 
  • Belief in a psychological tendency to respond to the treatment one receives 
  • To win favour of their rules, many inclined to act as the ruler desires
  • Those who do not respond to influences can be motivated/ controlled by system of strict rewards and punishments enforced by the state and guaranteed by support of Heaven, ghosts and spirits
  • People will follow the example of the virtuous ruler as they secure peace and prosperity by contributing to the collective goal of impartial concern (Like Confucians values and virtues are effective in government) 
  • Properly crafted rational arguments provide compelling motivation to act for anyone able to understand them 
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Movement ended with Qin Dynasty

  • Mozis later followers lasted until the Qin Dynasty 
  • Perhaps because a paramilitary group would not be tolerated by and survive the centralised and militarized regime of the Qin
  • Qin Dynasty suppressed other philosophies
  • Ironic as several ideas in Legalist philosophy (adopted by Qin) find precedents in Mozis philosophy
  • Han Dynasty officially adopted Confucianism which affected the Mohist movement 
  • Later Mohists continued early interests of Mozi and developed sophisticated systems of logical analysis and a formal ethic based upon calculations of benefit and harm
  • Mohism influenced Daoism in particular (and critique of  Confucianism) 
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Chapter 14: Universal Love ('jian'ai')

  • Seen as the remedy for political and social defects (extends to the ordinary people) 
  • Reason for hardships because people act as individuals who only have a sense of love for themselves and near family (partiality towards friends/ family recommended by Confucius)
  • The pursuit of self-interest generates disorder (lack of indiscriminate concern) 
  • If all saw the reality of the world as Heaven sees the world, equally distributing love amongst all of humankind, no one would engage in acts of theft, warfare, murder ect..., which are endemic of the ongoing greed/ violence of Warring states era
  • Heaven is seen as overarching guiding power and this is the mandate of Heaven
  • Appeal to 'Tian'/ Heaven as a standard (heaven has become the source of an absolute/ objective moral standard that requires we seek to benefit everyone) 
  • Liberating mechanism by which Mohist society would eliminate these ills would be practising universal love
  • This would see all individuals as equal and deserving of ones love
  • If people all loved one another, the strong would not dominate the weak, the rich would not ridicule the poor, ect.. 
  • Mutual concern produces a harmonious and flourishing society 
  • Kinliness ('ren') should be extended to everyone (impartiality) - collective love
  • Direct critique of Confucian conceptions of filial piety (relationship between child and parent and up to central Emporer figure who is overarching father of all) 
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Chapter 11; Exalting Unity (Promoting Social Harmo

  • Key and central to functioning of Mohist state 
  • Struggles between factions of ideology causes war 
  • People should be united behind a single purpose and ideal 
  • Sought to base unity of his ideology upon a common dislike/ distrust of confusion and chaos
  • Strong centralised state (common idea across classical Chinese schools of thought - exception of Daoism) 
  • Other schools of thought need to be eliminated to prevent disharmony (Similar to legalism) 
  • Need agreement on principles/ standards to bind together superiors and inferiors (Sage Kings ensured harmony of attitudes between those above and below)
  • Life in the state of nature was full of conflict as there was disorder in the absence of a leader (each followed their own ideas about what is right) 
  • The one most worthy ('yi') and talented was established as the Son of Heaven ('tian zi') - the most benevolent man (ren) 
  • Society is harmonious when compliance is valued with superiors 
  • Could settle for relativism (because morality is just customs of society) or can recognise higher standard ('fa') against which different traditions may be judged 
  • Need agreed and shared standards (otherwise each will go his own way and conflicts arise)


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Chapter 8: Exalting Worth ('yi')

  • Promoting the idea of meritocracy (not in conflict with Confucianism) 
  • People should be promoted on the basis of their merit (similar to Legalists)
  • If only able people should be promoted the state will be prosperous, orderly and the population will increase
  • Newly mobile (middle) class of educated gentlemen - Junzi 
  • Warring states period - traditional aristocracy losing importance and position of power
  • Ideal state should not be based on patrilineal, patronage or filial loyalty but all individuals universally loved so should all have jobs assigned to them equal to their merit/ capability
  • The rationale for exalting 'yi' is its effectiveness, not obligation or moral worth per se
  • Nothing is good in itself (If something is valuable, that is to be understood in instrumental terms)
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Moderation in Use ( & Tradition)

  • Maxim is most directly critical of Confucian world view
  • Mozi preached moderation in use (individuals should only use as much as they require)
  • Turning away from frivolous or unnecessary pastimes (e.g. excessiveness in funerals in Confucianism - death of a family member is no different to death of stranger due to universal love) 
  • Key traditional and classical Chinese ritual condemned (e.g. music as wasteful/ unnecessarily ornate/ waste of time learning the arts - important in Confucian worldview)
  • Traditions are many and various, culturally relative and specific so will not reveal what is right and true everywhere (moral activity should be universalised so cannot be learned from tradition)
  • Conformity to traditional customs doesn't guarantee actions are right ('yi') so have to appeal to a higher 'objective' standard (Confucians stress tradition as conveying right action) 
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Condemning Offensive Warfare

  • Idea of expending wealth and blood (causing suffering) in warfare was because of the greed/ necessity to prove power 
  • Aristocratic notion of warfare (earning glory) condemned 
  • Methodology of society in the Warring States period was shifting so denouncing attempt to unify China through force
  • Not pacifists (a lot of the Mozi document discusses requirements for defensive warfare)
  • Realists (focus on defensive warfare to protect Mohist state from intruders but not spreading Mohism through war)
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Metaphysical Speculations

  • Universal love spread from Heaven
  • Ideas of ghostly observation
  • Supernatural force of observation 
  • Idea that regardless of how well someone profits as individual it cannot be done by unjust means (will be punished) 
  • Focus upon consequences of individual actions (not intent - Confucian ideals - importance of individual) 
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  • Consequentialists and individuals being judged right/ wrong by supernatural observers
  • Accuse Confucians of having a fatalistic view of the world (if they occur they are the way they are meant to be)
  • Attack Folk thought/ view of the world that it does not matter if one does good/ wrong or if things happen as intended as there is nothing that could have been done to change that fate
  • Individuals have the power to direct their own lives 
  • Confucius thought the cosmos was ruled by fate thus indifferent to human concerns
  • Mohists reject Fate (cosmos is basically moral under the guidance and judgement of Heaven)
  • Cannot contribute to welfare if believe that flourishing and prosperity depend upon fate 
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Further comparisons with Confucianism

  • Mohists agree with Confucian principles of benevolence, consideration for others, not treating others in ways you do not want to be treated but believe they should be universalised (not just work on a local scale e.g. family) 
  •  Confucians transformed an aristocratic ethic of success and leadership through noble character into a virtue ethic that emphasised obligations to role and status rather than universally binding obligations 
  • For Mo, a good government is one that realises harmony, identifiable material benefits for the society, and encourages an increase in population 
  • Confucians thought of the good society as a civil association led by people who had cultivated admirable characteristics (virtuous and valuable dispositions) 
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