Mozi: Basic Writings

Translated by BURTON WATSON
Copyright Date: 2003
Pages: 140
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    Mozi (fifth century B.C.) was an important political and social thinker and formidable rival of the Confucianists. He advocated universal love -- his most important doctrine according to which all humankind should be loved and treated as one's kinfolk -- honoring and making use of worthy men in government, and identifying with one's superior as a means of establishing uniform moral standards. He also believed in the will of Heaven and in ghosts. He firmly opposed offensive warfare, extravagance -- including indulgence in music and allied pleasures -- elaborate funerals and mourning, fatalistic beliefs, and Confucianism.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-53417-8
    Subjects: Philosophy, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
    (pp. vi-x)
    (pp. 1-18)

    Almost nothing is known about the life of Mo Di, or Master Mo, the founder of the Mohist school of philosophy. A number of anecdotes in which he figures are found in the Mozi, the book compiled by his disciples to preserve the teachings of their master, and other late Zhou and early Han works contain scattered references to him and his school. But they tell us little about the man himself. He seems to have lived some time between the death of Confucius in 479 b.c. and the birth of Mencius in 372 b.c., flourishing probably in the latter...

    (pp. 19-34)

    Master Mozi¹ said: These days the rulers and high officials who govern the nation all desire their states to be rich, their population numerous, and their administration well ordered. And yet what they achieve is not wealth but poverty, not a numerous population but a meager one, not order but chaos. In actual fact, they fail to get what they seek and instead achieve what they abhor. Why is this?

    Mozi said: It is because the rulers and high officials who govern the nation fail to honor the worthy and employ the capable in their administration. If a government is...

    (pp. 35-40)

    Mozi said: In ancient times, when mankind was first born and before there were any laws or government, it may be said that every man’s view of things was different. One man had one view, two men had two views, ten men had ten views—the more men, the more views. Moreover, each man believed that his own views were correct and disapproved of those of others, so that people spent their time condemning one another. Within the family fathers and sons, older and younger brothers grew to hate each other and the family split up, unable to live in...

    (pp. 41-52)

    Mozi said: It is the business of the benevolent man to try to promote what is beneficial to the world and to eliminate what is harmful. Now at the present time, what brings the greatest harm to the world? Great states attacking small ones, great families overthrowing small ones, the strong oppressing the weak, the many harrying the few, the cunning deceiving the stupid, the eminent lording it over the humble—these are harmful to the world. So too are rulers who are not generous, ministers who are not loyal, fathers who are without kindness, and sons who are unfilial,...

    (pp. 53-64)

    If a man enters an orchard and steals the peaches and plums, everyone who hears about it will condemn him, and if those above who administer the government catch him they will punish him. Why? Because he injures others to benefit himself. When it comes to carrying off dogs, swine, chickens, and piglings, the deed is even more unrighteous than entering an orchard to steal peaches and plums. Why? Because the loss to others is greater. It shows a greater lack of benevolence and is a more serious crime. When it comes to breaking into another man’s stable and seizing...

    (pp. 65-68)

    When a sage governs a state, the benefits to the state are doubled; when he governs the world, the benefits to the world are doubled. The doubling is not accomplished by acquiring territory outside, but by eliminating needless expenditures within the state itself. In this way the benefits can be doubled. When the sage administers the government, in issuing orders, beginning enterprises, employing the people, or expending wealth, he does not do anything that is not in some way useful. Therefore wealth is not wasted, the strength of the people is not taxed, and yet many benefits are procured.


    (pp. 69-80)

    Mozi said: The benevolent man in planning for the welfare of the empire is no different from a filial son planning for the welfare of his parents, is he? Now when a filial son plans for the welfare of his parents, what is it he aims at? If his parents are poor, he seeks to enrich them; if the members of the family are few, he seeks to increase their number; if the family is in disorder, he seeks to bring it to order. In his efforts he may in time find his strength prove insufficient, his wealth inadequate, and...

    (pp. 81-96)

    Mozi said: The gentlemen of the world today understand small matters but not large ones. How do we know this? We know it from the way they conduct themselves at home. If at home a man commits some offense against the head of the family, he may still run away and hide at a neighbor’s house. And yet his parents, brothers, and friends will all join in warning and admonishing him, saying, “You must be more cautious! You must be more circumspect! When you are living at home, how can it be right for you to offend the head of...

    (pp. 97-112)

    Mozi said: Now that the sage kings of the Three Dynasties of antiquity have passed away and the world has forgotten their principles, the feudal lords regard might as right. So we have rulers and superiors who are not generous and subordinates and subjects who are not loyal, fathers and sons, younger and older brothers who are not loving or filial, brotherly or respectful, virtuous or good. The leaders of the state do not diligently attend to affairs of government, and the humble people do not diligently pursue their tasks. The people give themselves up to evil, violence, thievery, and...

    (pp. 113-120)

    It is the business of the benevolent man to seek to promote what is beneficial to the world, to eliminate what is harmful, and to provide a model for the world. What benefits men he will carry out; what does not benefit men he will leave alone. Moreover, when the benevolent man plans for the benefit of the world, he does not consider merely what will please the eye, delight the ear, gratify the mouth, and give ease to the body. If in order to gratify the senses he has to deprive the people of the wealth needed for their...

    (pp. 121-128)

    Mozi said: These days the rulers and high officials who govern the nation all desire their states to be rich, their population to be numerous, and their administration to be well ordered. And yet what they achieve is not wealth but poverty, not a numerous population but a meager one, not order but chaos. In actual fact, they fail to get what they seek and achieve what they abhor. Why is this? Mozi said: It is because of the large number of fatalists among the people.

    The advocates of fatalism say, “If fate decrees that the state will be wealthy,...

    (pp. 129-140)

    The Confucians¹ say: “There are degrees to be observed in treating relatives as relatives, and gradations to be observed in honoring the worthy.”² They prescribe differences to be observed between close and distant relatives and between the honored and the humble. Their code of rites says: “Mourning for a father or mother should last three years; for a wife or eldest son, three years; for a paternal uncle, brother, or younger son, one year; and for other close relatives, five months.” Now if the length of the mourning period is determined by the degree of kinship, then close relatives should...

  16. Index
    (pp. 141-146)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 147-156)