Shen Tao – 慎到 (pīnyīn: shèn dào) – 395 B.C. - 315.B.C. - is another of the contemporaries of Mencius and Yang chu that made the chinese thought flourish. He proposed a synthesis between the Taoist 道家 (pīnyīn: Dào jiā) and Legalist 法家 (pīnyīn: Fǎ jiā) thinking. His work is lost, and the references to him are mostly found on the Shen Zi (a probable late reconstruction) and in the 韓非子 – Han Feizi.
The key themes developed by Shen Tao are:
  • Spontaneity or naturality - 自然 - (Shenzi, VIII-59, 『鳥飛於空,魚游於淵,非術也。故為鳥為魚者,亦不自知其能飛能遊。苟知之,立心以為之,則必墮必溺。猶人之足馳手捉,耳聽目視,當其馳捉聽視之際,應機自至,又不待思而施之也。苟須思之而後可施之,則疲矣。是以任自然者久,得其常者濟。』, “When birds fly in the air and fish swim in the deeps, they do not do so through any conscious art. Therefore birds and fish do not, themselves, know that they are capable of flying or swimming; if they knew this and set their minds on doing it, they would inevitably fall down and be drowned. It is likewise with the moving of man's feet and grasping of his hands, the listening of his ears and seeing of his eyes. At the time of their moving, grasping, hearing and seeing, these act so of their own accord at the proper occasion and do not wait for the act of thinking before doing so. If they had to wait for thought before acting, they would become exhausted. Hence, it is those persons who accord themselves with the spontaneous who long survive, and those who attain to the constant norm who win out.”).
  • Shen Tao asserted that Power or Authority - 勢 (simplified: 势, pīnyīn: shì) was the key element for the ruler to assert his position. This is an early legalist view that was further developed by Han Feizi - (Han Feizi, XL-1, 『 慎子曰:“飛龍乘雲,騰蛇遊霧,雲罷霧霽,而龍蛇與螾螘同矣,則失其所乘也。賢人而詘於不肖者,則權輕位卑也;不肖而能服於賢者,則權重位尊也。堯為匹夫不能治三人,而桀為天子能亂天下,吾以此知勢位之足恃,而賢智之不足慕也。夫弩弱而矢高者,激於風也;身不肖而令行者,得助於眾也。堯教於隸屬而民不聽,至於南面而王天下,令則行,禁則止。由此觀之,賢智未足以服眾,而勢位足以詘賢者也。” 』, “Shenzi said : ‘A flying dragon rides on the clouds, and a floating snake travels on the mist ; but when the clouds disperse and the mist lifts, the dragon and the snake are not different from a cricket or an ant, because they have then lost the element on which they rode. If men of talent are subjected by worthless men, it is because their authority is weak and their position low, whereas if the worthless can be subjected by men of talent, it is owing to the authority of the latter being strong and their position honored. Yao as an ordinary citizen would have been unable to govern three people, whereas Chieh as the Son of Heaven was able to bring the whole empire into disorder. From this I know that it is authority and position that should be relied upon, whereas talent and wisdom are not respected. If a bow being weak, an arrow is yet carrie high, it is because it is speeded up by the wind ; if a person being of no worth, his orders yet carry, it is because they are assisted by the masses. When Yao was of low rank, the people did not liste ; but when he was sitting with his face to the south and was king over the empire, his orders carried, and his interdicts had force. From this I see that talent and wisdom are not sufficient to subdue the masses, but that authority and position are able to subject even men of talent.’ ”).

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