China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
This paper examines two antithetical views of the ethics and efficacy of deception. I argue that the Sunzian account of indirect action differs in important ways from indirect action associated with wu wei 無為 or “acting without acting” in Warring States thought. The Sunzi is famous (or infamous) for its advocacy of deception and indirect strategies in warfare. Its explicit advocacy of deception distinguishes it from other Militarists texts, which either reject deception or advocate it in practical terms as an important strategic tool, and from the Xunzi which rejects deception and indirection outright in both civil and military contexts (Raphals 2016). Here I contrast Sunzian accounts of deception, indirection, skill and emotion to those of the Guanzi and Zhuangzi. I begin with a brief account of some problems associated with deception. Next, I turn to deception in the Sunzi, with interest in two questions. First, how does its account of deception engage indirect action? Second, how does the Sunzian account of deception engage the heart-mind and emotions? In the third section I contrast these to the very different accounts of indirection, the role of the heart-mind and emotions in wu wei in the Guanzi and Zhuangzi.