Changing Conceptions of “Human Completing” (ren cheng) in Late Warring States and Early Han Texts | September 19, 2023
Alexus McLeod, Professor of Religious Studies, Indiana University, Bloomington
A common refrain in late Warring States and early Han texts is that tian sheng ren cheng 天生人成 (heaven generates, humanity completes). There are variations of this statement in a number of texts in the period, including the Xunzi, Zhuangzi, and Chunqiu Fanlu. The idea is developed in a number of other texts as well, such as the Huainanzi. Dr. Mcleod discusses here the changing conception of the notion of “human completing” in early Han philosophy, which coincides with a move toward naturalist metaphysics and correlative cosmology. He argues that the ethical conception of human completing found in the Xunzi gave way to a metaphysical conception of human completion found in the Chunqiu Fanlu and Huainanzi, with heavy influence of the Zhuangzi. Looking to a number of specific examples in the Chunqiu Fanlu and Huainanzi, he will reveal the ways in which this metaphysical shift led to cheng being seen as part of the process of constructing the cosmos itself, thereby leading to an understanding of humanity as playing a pivotal role in determining the natural constitution of the world we inhabit.
Alexus McLeod is Professor of Religious Studies at Indiana University. His work is primarily in Early Chinese Philosophy and Mesoamerican Philosophy. He is author of a number of works in each area, most recently "The Dao of Madness: Mental Illness and Self-Cultivation in Early Chinese Philosophy and Medicine" (Oxford University Press, 2021) and "An Introduction to Mesoamerican Philosophy" (Cambridge University Press, 2023). He is also editor of the journal "The Philosophical Forum."