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C O U R S E 
Chinese Thought: Ancient Wisdom Meets Modern Science
Edward Slingerland, University of British Columbia
C O U R S E   L E C T U R E 
Yang Zhu and Mid-Warring States' Focus on the Body
Notes taken on October 24, 2019 by Edward Tanguay
the physiological turn
Yang Chu (440–360 BCE) [yahng JEW]
the discovery of the body
the body becomes a philosophical topic
we don't know much about him
we've lost his writings
rivals referred to his teachings as egoism
the teaching of being for yourself only
an individualist primativist
not happy with society
wants to drop out of society
all about individual survival
no big plan
xing [shing] "human nature"
related etymologically to life
only living things have xing
it's dynamic
the natural tendencies of some living thing
tendencies it has over the course of its life
not a static quality
contains what it's prone to develop into over time
it's prone to harm
it's fragile
needs to be protected
it needs to be nourished
he's concerned about humans
the central part of his philosophy
the vessel that holds our xing is the physical body
keep nature intact, keep it whole, nourish it, and don't harm it
we have been given this from heaven
stay physically healthy
eating well
don't get killed, e.g. in Warring States wars
if you are engaged in politics, you putting your body at risk
so disengage from society
he is opposed to the idea that we are going to be engaged in saving the world in any way
being a busy body and getting involved with other people is a sure way to get your head chopped off or be harmed in some way
you really want to be just looking out for yourself
we don't have the Yangzi anymore
but we do have bits of his teaching embedded in other texts
some of the chapters of the Zhuangzi have been picked out as Yang Zhu chapters
they express more the views of the Yang Zhu school
but all the chapters are vaguely Daoist, about dropping out of society and not buying into Confucius values
The Zhuangzi Yang Zhu chapters
Yellow Emperor ruling all of Heaven, a good ruler
Wants to be a good Laozian ruler, get in touch with the Dao
wants to bring people in harmony with nature and each other
but Master Kkuang Ch'eng comes and says: the more you try to rule things, the more you bring them out of order
so emperor gives up his throne, goes to live in a hut, then comes back and asks, "I venture to ask about the governing of the body. What should I do in order to live a long life?"
and the Master is now pleased
this is clearly a Yang Zhuian master
then the master teaches him secrets of preserving the body and bodily health
"Keep your nature intact, protect your genuineness (zhen, your real essence and nature uncorrupted by society, all the bad things we learn from the Confucians), and don't involve your body in trouble for the sake of external things."
this can sound like selfishness, just look out for yourself
but there is a deeper religious idea here
your body and nature has been given to you as a gift, and it's your religious duty for you to protect it
when you harm your body or harm your genuineness, you are going against heaven's will
the Confucian's are wrong, heaven's will has nothing to do with politics or society
what heaven wills for us is the same thing that heaven wills for the fish swimming in the lakes, i.e. they don't have to worry about other fish, it's just every fish for themselves
people who are concerned with society are critical of him
the Moists see him as a horrible egoist
religion, biology and the individual
focusing philosophical attention on the physical, biological body in a way that hadn't been done before in Warring States thought
physical health
the flow of your chi
how the organs are working
the individual
this was the first time in Warring States that we had a philosopher saying that the individual is important in and of themselves
they don't need to save the world
they don't need to be anything particular in society
this focus on the physical body became a way people talked in the Warring States period
terms like human nature become common
the physiological-turn texts
terms for body
terms for organs
talking about the chi in a physiological, technical sense
vital energy
vital essence
pervades the universe and animates living things
why the physiological turn happened
the results of philosophers mixing with other specialists
rulers would set up think tanks
invite intellectuals of various kinds
be resident and debate about what the best way to rule is
the ruler got ideas from them
so scholars of various schools start meeting and debating
also why people started to be concerned about the rules for formal debate during this time
early medical specialists
Bian Que (died 310 BCE)
macrobodic hygiene
breath control
physical exercise
precursors to Tai chi
fortune tellers
if you have some kind of sickness, what demon is responsible for it and what you have to do to get the demon off your back
all this had an impact on philosophers
a new model for the body and self
xin [sheen], connection between heart and mind
which organ we should pay attention to