Maddalena Poli G'19

Maddalena  Poli
Doctoral Candidate
Early China
University of Pennsylvania

Henry Luce Foundation/ACLS Program in China Studies Predissertation-Summer Travel Grants 2019
Doctoral Candidate
Early China
University of Pennsylvania
Theories of Human Nature (Xing) in Early China (5th c. BCE–2nd c. CE) and Their Implications

My research addresses transmitted sources and excavated manuscripts elaborating the concept of human nature (xing 性) from the 5th c. BCE to the 2nd c. CE. I have been identifying the most influential theories on human nature, detailing the scope of their influence, paying particular attention to those sources that represent the emergence of a technical vocabulary dedicated to the topic. Philosophical stances were not purely theoretical: how human nature was defined is reflected in applied contexts of interpersonal relationships; the relationship between the individual and the state; practices of education and government. It was also echoed in laws addressing intentionality and responsibility. Recent recoveries of excavated material from the 3rd c. BCE makes this project a timely intervention to discuss conceptions of human nature and hot these impinge on other philosophical issues.