Fa (concept)

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Fa (Chinese :;Mandarin pronunciation:  [fà] ) is a concept in Chinese philosophy that covers ethics, logic, and law. It can be translated as "law" in some contexts, but more often as "model" or "standard." First gaining importance in the Mohist school of thought, the concept was principally elaborated in Legalism. In Han Fei's philosophy, the king is the sole source of fa (law), taught to the common people so that there would be a harmonious society free of chance occurrences, disorder, and "appeal to privilege". High officials were not to be held above fa (law or protocol), nor were they to be allowed to independently create their own fa, uniting both executive fiat and rule of law. [1]

Simplified Chinese characters standardized Chinese characters developed in mainland China

Simplified Chinese characters are standardized Chinese characters prescribed in the Table of General Standard Chinese Characters for use in mainland China. Along with traditional Chinese characters, they are one of the two standard character sets of the contemporary Chinese written language. The government of the People's Republic of China in mainland China has promoted them for use in printing since the 1950s and 1960s to encourage literacy. They are officially used in the People's Republic of China and Singapore.

Chinese philosophy philosophy in the Chinese cultural sphere

Chinese philosophy originates in the Spring and Autumn period and Warring States period, during a period known as the "Hundred Schools of Thought", which was characterized by significant intellectual and cultural developments. Although much of Chinese philosophy begins in the Warring States period, elements of Chinese philosophy have existed for several thousand years; some can be found in the Yi Jing, an ancient compendium of divination, which dates back to at least 672 BCE. It was during the Warring States era that what Sima Tan termed the major philosophical schools of China: Confucianism, Legalism, and Taoism, arose, along with philosophies that later fell into obscurity, like Agriculturalism, Mohism, Chinese Naturalism, and the Logicians.

Mohism Chinese philosophy

Mohism or Moism was an ancient Chinese philosophy of logic, rational thought and science developed by the academic scholars who studied under the ancient Chinese philosopher Mozi and embodied in an eponymous book: the Mozi. It evolved at about the same time as Confucianism, Taoism and Legalism, and was one of the four main philosophic schools from around 770–221 BC. During that time, Mohism was seen as a major rival to Confucianism. Although its influence endured, Mohism all but disappeared as an independent school of thought.


Xunzi, a philosopher that would end up being foundational in Han dynasty Confucianism, also took up fa, suggesting that it could only be properly assessed by the Confucian sage (ruler), and that the most important fa were the very rituals that Mozi had ridiculed for their ostentatious waste and lack of benefit for the people at large. [2]

Xun Kuang Ancient Chinese philosopher

Xun Kuang, also widely known as Xunzi, was a Chinese Confucian philosopher who lived during the Warring States period and contributed to the Hundred Schools of Thought. A book known as the Xunzi is traditionally attributed to him. His works survive in an excellent condition, and were a major influence in forming the official state doctrines of the Han dynasty, but his influence waned during the Tang dynasty relative to that of Mencius.

Han dynasty 3rd-century BC to 3rd-century AD Chinese dynasty

The Han dynasty was the second imperial dynasty of China, preceded by the Qin dynasty and succeeded by the Three Kingdoms period. Spanning over four centuries, the Han period is considered a golden age in Chinese history. To this day, China's majority ethnic group refers to themselves as the "Han Chinese" and the Chinese script is referred to as "Han characters". It was founded by the rebel leader Liu Bang, known posthumously as Emperor Gaozu of Han, and briefly interrupted by the Xin dynasty of the former regent Wang Mang. This interregnum separates the Han dynasty into two periods: the Western Han or Former Han and the Eastern Han or Later Han (25–220 AD).

Confucianism Chinese ethical and philosophical system

Confucianism, also known as Ruism, is described as tradition, a philosophy, a religion, a humanistic or rationalistic religion, a way of governing, or simply a way of life. Confucianism developed from what was later called the Hundred Schools of Thought from the teachings of the Chinese philosopher Confucius, who considered himself a recodifier and retransmitter of the theology and values inherited from the Shang and Zhou dynasties. In the Han dynasty, Confucian approaches edged out the "proto-Taoist" Huang–Lao as the official ideology, while the emperors mixed both with the realist techniques of Legalism.

Mohism and the School of Names

The concept of fa first gained importance in the Mohist school of thought. To Mozi, a standard must stand "three tests" in order to determine its efficacy and morality. [3] The first of these tests was its origin; if the standard had precedence in the actions or thought of the semi-mythological sage kings of the Xia dynasty whose examples are frequently cited in classical Chinese philosophy. The second test was one of validity; does the model stand up to evidence in the estimation of the people? The third and final test was one of applicability; this final one is a utilitarian estimation of the net good that, if implemented, the standard would have on both the people and the state. [4]

Mozi Chinese political philosopher and religious reformer of the Warring States period

Mozi, original name Mo Di, was a Chinese philosopher during the Hundred Schools of Thought period. A book named after him, the Mozi, contains material ascribed to him and his followers.

Xia dynasty dynasty in China

The Xia dynasty is the first dynasty in traditional Chinese history. According to tradition, the Xia dynasty was established by the legendary Yu the Great after Shun, the last of the Five Emperors gave his throne to him. The Xia was later succeeded by the Shang dynasty.

The third test speaks to the fact that to the Mohists, a fa was not simply an abstract model, but an active tool. The real-world use and practical application of fa were vital. Yet fa as models were also used in later Mohist logic as principles used in deductive reasoning. As classical Chinese philosophical logic was based on analogy rather than syllogism, fa were used as benchmarks to determine the validity of logical claims through comparison. There were three fa in particular that were used by these later Mohists (or "Logicians") to assess such claims, which were mentioned earlier. The first was considered a "root" standard, a concern for precedence and origin. The second, a "source", a concern for empiricism. The third, a "use", a concern for the consequence and pragmatic utility of a standard. These three fa were used by the Mohists to both promote social welfare and denounce ostentation or wasteful spending. [5]

Inferences are steps in reasoning, moving from premises to logical consequences; etymologically, the word infer means to "carry forward". Inference is theoretically traditionally divided into deduction and induction, a distinction that in Europe dates at least to Aristotle. Deduction is inference deriving logical conclusions from premises known or assumed to be true, with the laws of valid inference being studied in logic. Induction is inference from particular premises to a universal conclusion. A third type of inference is sometimes distinguished, notably by Charles Sanders Peirce, distinguishing abduction from induction, where abduction is inference to the best explanation.

Analogy inference or argument from one particular to another particular

Analogy is a cognitive process of transferring information or meaning from a particular subject to another, or a linguistic expression corresponding to such a process. In a narrower sense, analogy is an inference or an argument from one particular to another particular, as opposed to deduction, induction, and abduction, in which at least one of the premises, or the conclusion, is general rather than particular in nature. The term analogy can also refer to the relation between the source and the target themselves, which is often a similarity, as in the biological notion of analogy.

A syllogism is a kind of logical argument that applies deductive reasoning to arrive at a conclusion based on two or more propositions that are asserted or assumed to be true.

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  1. Han Fei. (2003). Basic Writings. Columbia University Press: New York, p. 7, 21- 28, 40, 91
  2. Robins, Dan (Fall 2008). Zalta, Edward N., ed. "Xunzi". The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
  3. Mozi. (2003). Basic Writings. Burton Watson, Ed. Columbia University Press: New York, p. 122
  4. Fraser, Chris (Summer 2010). Zalta, Edward N., ed. "Mohism". The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.