Han Fei's doctrine of self-interest

Submitted by James Miller on Sun, 02/22/2009 - 13:27
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TitleHan Fei's doctrine of self-interest
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2001
AuthorsGoldin, P. R.
JournalAsian Philosophy
Date Published2001
ISBN Number0955-2367
KeywordsHan, Fei d. 233 - B.C, Self-interest, Taoism -- Terminology, Taoism and state

The writer examines Han Fei's doctrine of self-interest. The third century B.C. Chinese philosopher presents an early discussion of the concepts of gong and si in "The Five Vermin" chapter of Han Feizi. Here, Han understands si as "acting in one's own interest" and gong to be the direct opposite. While he does not view si as inherently reprehensible, he does insist that a ruler must remember that ministers invariably propose policies in order to enrich themselves. There is a clash between the interests of the rule and those of the ministers; - the latter hope for a comfortable career, and the ruler is obligated to eliminate the posers in order to find those rare but invaluable adjuvants who are truly capable of administering the state. In general, if si is the self-interest of the minister, gong is the self-interest of the ruler.