The Ji Self in Early Chinese Texts

In Jason Dockstader Hans-Georg Moller & Gunter Wohlfahrt (eds.), Selfhood East and West: De-Constructions of Identity. Traugott Bautz. pp. 17-45 (2012)
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The ji 己self is a site, storehouse, or depot of individuated allotment associated with the possession of things and qualities: wholesome and unwholesome desires (yu 欲) and aversions, emotions such as anxiety, and positive values such as humaneness and reverence. Each person's allotment is unique, and its "contents" are collected, measured, reflected on, and then distributed to others. The Analects, Mencius, Xunzi, Daodejing, and Zhuangzi each have their own vision for negotiating the space between self and other. Works as seemingly dissimilar as the Analects and Daodejing both agree that positive qualities located within the self should be shared with others, and that the self can be optimized rather than maximized through sharing, emptying, or clearing. Sommer compares the ji self with other terms for body and person current in classical times. This self is strongly individuated, but it exists primarily in relation to other human beings (ren 人 ). These "others" are almost never one's own kind and are usually people who fall outside one's ascribed familial and social relationships. Negotiations between self and other often reflect apprehension regarding degrees of distance, intimacy, worth, recognition, or understanding (zhi 知) between people.

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Deborah A. Sommer
Gettysburg College


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