On Han Fei's Pragmatism
Sun, Shun-Chih

Han Fei, one of the princes of the Han State, China, was born around 281 B.C. and died in 233 B.C.. Han Fei‘s pragmatism emphasized facing situations, testing hypotheses by evidence, judging values according to their effects, and looking at gain and harm amorally. Han Fei‘s pragmatism was based on the self-interested human nature. He thought that it was proper to human nature to pursue gain and avoid harm and that the relations among people were established on the basis of self-interest, regardless between kings and ministers, fathers and sons, husbands and wives, and employers and employees. Han Fei saw pragmatism as standard of values: whatever produced satisfactory effects was valuable, and whatever did not was useless. Han Fei also used pragmatism as foundation of rewards and punishments. On the one hand, he applied pragmatism to standard of rewards and punishments: rewarding those who corresponded to state interests and punishing those who did not. On the other, he used pragmatism as a means to rewards and punishments: bestowing wealth and nobility on people of merits as rewards and imposing harm on the criminals as punishments. The ultimate purpose of Han Fei‘s pragmatism was to make his state wealthy and powerful, and its way to success was with emphasis on warfare and agriculture under sovereignty of the king and through efficiency of the ministers in fulfilling certain tasks--monitoring people to obey the law with special emphasis on agriculture and warfare.

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