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Transcript of Eastern Philosophy
establishes social order
moderation, centrality, balance
a Supreme Being and nature
the Way (tao)
Moral Law by which civilization should develop and behave
virtue of kindness (esp. of a ruler toward people)
the person of jen is the perfect person:
"Wishing to establish his own character, he also establishes the chatacter of others, and wishing to be prominent himself, he also helps others to be prominent." (Analects 6:28)
chung (conscientiousness) and shu (altruism)
Cliffs that rise a thousand feet,
Without a break,
Lakes that stretch a hundred miles,
Without a wave,
Sands that are white throughout the year,
Without a stain,
Pine tree woods, winter and summer,
Streams that forever flow and flow,
Trees that for twenty thousand years
Your vows have kept,
You have suddenly healed the pain of a traveler’s heart,
And moved his brush to write a new song.
551 BC-479 BC
384 BC-322 BC
428/427 BC-348/347 BC
Socrates 469 BC-399 BC
forgetfulness of personality
stillness of soul
communication with nature
relation of individual to universe
centered around human personality
pleasure, interests, aspirations, acheivements
domination of nature
V i r t u e
"human" and "two"
"to love humans," and
"to return li" (Analects 12:1)
reconcile one's own desires with the needs of others
excellence of function (ergon)
intellectual and moral
"man is a political animal"
“What you do not wish for yourself, do not do to others.”
"You treat me as if I professed to know the matters I ask about, and as if I might agree with you if I wished to. But that is not so. On the contrary, I inquire into the proposition along with you because I do not know. I will tell you whether I agree or not when I have examined it." (Charmides165b)
Immanuel Kant's interpretation of the Bible's Golden Rule:
"Act so that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in that of another, always as an end and never as a means only."
(The Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals)
Eastern and Western Philosophy
Aristotle on art:
spectator point of view
dichotomy between artist who represents and object represented
Confucius on art:
"If I feel in my heart that I am wrong, I must stand in fear even though my opponent is the least formidable of men. But if my own heart tells me that I am right, I shall go forward even against thousands and tens of thousands." (The Works of Mencius, 2(1)2.7)
"...if one honest man in this State of Massachusetts, ceasing to hold slaves, were actually to withdraw from this co-partnership and be locked up in the county jail, therefor, it would be the abolition of slavery in America. For it matters not how small the beginning may seem to be: what is once well done is done forever." (Henry David Thoreau, Civil Disobedience)
Influence of Confucius
Student of Confucius
"human nature is good"
Contemporary of Confucius
interprets "Tao" differently
wu wei wu
cultivate tao and virtue
"I will not open the door for a mind that is not already striving to understand, nor will I provide words to a tongue that is not already struggling to speak." (Analects 7.8)
Zhuangzi said then, "Looked at from their differences, liver and gall are as far apart as the states Chu and Yue. Looked at from their sameness, the ten thousand things are all one."
Book of Zhuangzi, Ch. Five, transl. by P. Kjellberg, in in Readings in Classical Chinese Philosophy, ed. by P. J. Ivanhoe and B. W. Van Norden, Seven Bridges, New York, 2001, p.227.
“Good government consists in the ruler being a ruler, the minister being a minister, the father being a father, and the son being a son.” (Analects 12.11)
"The gentlemen is benevolent without being wasteful, imposes labor upon the people without incurring their resentment, desires without being covetous, is grand without being arrogant, and is awe-inspiring without being severe." (Analects 20.2)
"...at fifty, I understood Heaven's Mandate." (Analects 2.4)
"The virtue of a gentlemen is like the wind, and the virtue of a petty person is like the grass-when the wind moves over the grass, the grass is sure to bend." (Analects 12.19)
Eastern and Western Philosophy
1. Philosophy is about asking some of the big questions of life. The way one approaches these questions reflects the way one thinks and how they engage in the philosophical life.
•Note about generalizations. In the west there are different kinds of philosophers and different kinds of philosophies. E.g. Dr. Pearson studies Greek philosophy, I study French phenomenology. These are different ways to approach philosophy, and within each there is disagreement. This is true of the east as well. Different philosophers, different philosophies.
•I will be making some generalizations, but these generalizations do not mean that the philosophies and philosophers are monolithic for either culture.
•Zhuangzi said then, "Looked at from their differences, liver and gall are as far apart as the states Chu and Yue (two neighbor centuries in the middle and eastern China in that time). Looked at from their sameness, the ten thousand things are all one."
oIt is just as easy to make mistakes by saying that two systems are absolutely the same, as to say that they are absolutely different.
One of philosophy’s biggest questions is: What is good for humans?
•This question relates to ethics: rules of conduct, morality, virtue, - what is right and wrong, honorable or dishonorable, praised and blamed
•In the west we often try to break the question of the good for humans down into parts:
oWhat can we say is good – without exception, universally
oWhat is a human like – what makes humans distinctively the kind of creatures that are concerned with ethics.
•In the east the distinction is not drawn as finely. Less breaking down, and more seeing as a whole
•One way to see the difference in these approaches is to look at art
2. These 2 pictures have similar titles: “A Man Fishing,” and “A Boy Fishing”
•What strikes you about these pictures? What differences do you see?
3. Close up of boy. (shows a different Homer concerned with a man on the water) Here’s our western picture. What is this painting about?
4. Here’s the eastern painting. What is this painting about?
•Notice the writing: Poem celebrates nature, minimizes the human
•The poem and the painting express the same thing in Classical Chinese art.
•Did you find the fisherman?
5. Close-up of fisherman
6. What do these two painting say about the good of humans?
•In the Chinese painting, the human presence is not separate from the surroundings, but part of nature. And nature is something that provides humans with meaning by seeing humans as part of nature.
•In the Homer painting nature is something to be conquered; something over which humans have domain, something to dominate. The human is separate from nature – unique, and here the center of focus.
7. Let’s look at another depiction: This guy isn’t exactly a fisherman. Poseidon represents what’s been handed down to us from Greek art:
•The glorification of the beauty of the human form
•Reinforces the idea the humans are unique in all nature
8. Aristotle – a Greek we’ll spend sometime looking at today – builds his ethics around the idea that humans are unique.
9. And He’s one of the first in the west to clarify what art is
•He says art is mimesis: roughly imitation of nature – but also the perfection of nature
oWith art, what is lacking can be perfected – we can add symmetry
oOr since nature decays, art can express the perfection of what nature could be
oThe human artist sets herself off – apart – from nature – as judge, creator, as the one who dominates – and thereby creates a dichotomy between the artist and the subject, and between the human and nature.
10. The Big Picture: Does this picture conform to Aristotle’s ideas about art?
•Is the picture symmetrical?
•Do the humans dominate – are they presented as unique from nature?
10a Did you find another fisherman?
11. Confucius and art. He is one of the first people in the east to provide a way to think about the purpose of art. But his understanding of art differs from Aristotle’s
12. For Confucius, art is about ethical education. It’s about human relations with each other and with nature. And it’s about the reformation of society such that all humans become equal.
•This brings us back to our original philosophical question: What is good for humans.
13. Here are three great philosophers – whose influence is still felt 2500 years later.
•Plato, Confucius, and Aristotle all live about the same time – within 100 years of each other.
•And they’re all concerned with the good of humans – specifically virtue. What it means for people to be virtuous, to have a good character, and to live well.
•If we look at their portraits we find a clue to how they are thinking about virtue.
oPlato – points up – points to something that transcends human comprehension, something perfect that, if humans can find it, they can get closer to perfection as well.
oAristotle – points outward and downward – sees virtue as part of the political life of humans – in the polis, common values can be seen and agreed on, these values can be achieved in humans in as much as they apply their reason to them.
oConfucius – clasps his hands together – reflects harmony with other and with himself; reflects his concern that virtue is about social order and about internal harmony (as he indicates by placing his palms toward his heart).
Virtue is an inward manifestation of manners, rituals, ceremonies, reflects appropriateness (note his costume – elaborate, appropriate for some kind of ceremony.
•Generalization: West concerned with Truth, and East with Balance; West concerned with rights and East with social responsibility
14. Socrates and Confucius on virtue:
•Plato challenges the basic assumptions of society. And so does Confucius. Both see their societies as corrupt.
•Hence, Socrates’ audience constantly misunderstands him; and Confucius does not attain the government post he thought he should hold.
•Though they come to reform from different ways, they both see the necessity of reforming society through virtue. Self-examination, self-questioning, seeking virtue were the only way one could start down the path toward becoming virtuous.
o“it is the greatest good for a man to discuss virtue every day and those other things about which you hear me conversing, . . . for the unexamined life is not worth living.” (Apology 38a)
o"If a man does not constantly ask himself, 'What is the right thing to do?' I really don't know what is to be done about him." (Analects 15.15)
•Likewise, with Socrates, philosophy is preparation for dying – for being at peace with one’s own soul. This is so because the philosopher is not concerned with material things, but with Goodness. A similar sentiment is found in Confucius.
o"Without Goodness, one cannot remain constant in adversity and cannot enjoy enduring happiness. Those who are Good feel at home in Goodness, whereas those who are clever follow Goodness because they feel that they will profit from it." (Analects 4.2)
o“What about living? Is this not the work of the soul?.. Will a soul ever accomplish its work well if deprived of its virtue?” (Republic 353e).
•The question becomes how does one become virtuous. As we’ve seen in the Apology, Socrates claims he is not a teacher, but he does provide a method of exploration, a way to examine assumptions critically. He uses the dialectic method – asks questions, looks for ways that an explanation fails, and seeks a new formulation that doesn’t have the old faults.
•Likewise, Confucius does not provide a systematic doctrine, but a way of thinking. He, like Socrates, doesn’t provide the answers, but the questions.
One major difference between Socrates and Confucius is that Socrates attaches human virtue to the metaphysical principle of “the good”. The Good is a perfection humans cannot attain to, it transcends humans’ abilities to comprehend it. The study of philosophy is the only way we can come closer to understanding the Good.
Confucius does not think in terms of metaphysics. He is concerned with the way things can be changed in the world through social reform. Philosophy is only useful insofar as it make all humans and society better.
15. Confucius and Aristotle: Aristotle, though he’s also concerned with metaphysics, sees a very practical side to virtue.
•Aristotle and Confucius are both discuss ethics in similar terms
•Ren and arête can both be translated as virtue
oRen: Humanity / Humaneness / Goodness 2 symbols together taken together, the symbol means that virtue is about human relations
oRen implies that we are irreducibly social. the Chinese "self") and other, and community are often conflated in Chinese thought. We are larger selves in the Chinese picture as we are essentially attached to each other through ren.
•Arete is a word we’ve seen already Aristotle makes the meaning more precise:
oSomething’s excellence (arête/virtue) relates to how well it conforms to its desired function. (e.g. a shoe is excellent (has arête or virtue) if it covers the foot, and protects it from things that might harm it; a pencil is excellent if it writes well.)
oTo figure out if a human is virtuous (or excellent in the sense of arête), Aristotle thinks we need first to figure out what humans are for – what our function is.
oFor Aristotle the proper function for humans is to be happy – to live a flourishing life.
•Confucius focuses on loving humans and returning li. These two things, when held together, mean that virtue is about becoming the kind of people who know how to love other people in word and deed.
oLi is like the word part of kleos – li involves the rituals, ceremonies, and other activities that make for an orderly society. These are like habits that we perform in order to become better – like practicing the piano. They function to create order in society, and to make it possible to reconcile individual needs with the needs of the community.
16. In addition to virtue as love of humans and returning li, virtue is part of some other central concepts in Confucius.
•Rectification of names - establishes social order
•the Mean - moderation, centrality, balance
•Heaven - a Supreme Being and nature
•the Way - Moral Law by which civilization should develop and behave
•jen (humanity) - virtue of kindness (esp. of a ruler toward people)
17. jen – the man of jen is the perfect man:
•"Wishing to establish his own character, he also establishes the chatacter of others, and wishing to be prominent himself, he also helps others to be prominent." (Analects 6:28)
•Involves chung (conscientiousness) and shu (altruism)
18. These ideas are not foreign to the west. In fact they can be summed up in what we call “the golden rule.”
•What is the golden rule? Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
•Confucius formulates it this way: “What you do not wish for yourself, do not do to others;” (Analects 12.2)
•Immanuel Kant's formulates it for western philosophy: "Act so that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in that of another, always as an end and never as a means only."
•What’s the difference?
oKant’s is formal, abstract, impersonal
oConfucius’ is practical, applicable, personal – shows that philosophy is a practice that all engage in; and they engage in it to be in harmony with their community and their surroundings.
19. Mencius takes Confucius’ teachings further.
•He focuses the idea of education on self-education – on self-cultivation.
•Also, he makes some claims about humans that Confucius remains silent on – humans are good.
•This is an ontology – a statement about what it means to be human – and its made much like Aristotle’s statements about the function of humans is made – to ground his philosophical project.
20. Lao Tzu goes in the opposite direction. (Note Lao Tzu is the elder of Confucius).
•He sees humans as having lost their union with nature – with the Tao (the way).
•If we think about it in Lao Tzu’s terms we as humans have accrued a lot of habits, and these habits have made us lose our natural way of under-going and doing.
oThink about water – it’s a powerful force, it shaped the Grand Canyon, powers electricity plants, and make grass grow. And it does it without deliberating about it, it does it by following its nature.
•Now, if I say to you act naturally – what will you do? Will you feel natural? Will you feel self-conscious? – most likely.
•The trick is to rid oneself of what keeps one from being natural. This is what his principle of wu wei wu means – act without acting.
•To learn this is to find the way of virtue
22. The influence of Confucius on the east and on the west is profound. Max Weber commends him for his rationalism, calls him the prophet of the enlightenment.
And someone you’ve read recently in Rhetoric relies on him as well to formulate his concept of civil disobedience.
•"If I feel in my heart that I am wrong, I must stand in fear even though my opponent is the least formidable of men. But if my own heart tells me that I am right, I shall go forward even against thousands and tens of thousands." (The Works of Mencius, 2(1)2.7)
•"...if one honest man in this State of Massachusetts, ceasing to hold slaves, were actually to withdraw from this co-partnership and be locked up in the county jail, therefore, it would be the abolition of slavery in America. For it matters not how small the beginning may seem to be: what is once well done is done forever." (Henry David Thoreau, Civil Disobedience)
•End with asking for questions
The ideal Greek fisherman?
"Look at nothing in defiance of ritual, listen to nothing in defiance of ritual, speak of nothing in defiance or ritual, never stir hand or foot in defiance of ritual." (Analects 12.1)
What is the difference between RIGHTS and RITES?
"A Man Fishing"
What kinds of questions do philosophers ask?
What is piety?
What is the Good?
What is our relationship with gods/God?
How should we live?
What is morality?
How do I live in a dangerous, unpredictable world?
What is my relation to others?
What does nature teach?
How does one best live?
What is wisdom without action?
How can one be content?
How does one align oneself with the Tao?
"If a man does not constantly ask himself, 'What is the right thing to do?' I really don't know what is to be done about him." (Analects 15.15)
"Without Goodness, one cannot remain constant in adversity and cannot enjoy enduring happiness.
"Those who are Good feel at home in Goodness, whereas those who are clever follow Goodness because they feel that they will profit from it." (Analects 4.2)
“it is the greatest good for a man to discuss virtue every day and those other things about which you hear me conversing, . . . for the unexamined life is not worth living.” (Apology 38a)
“What about living? Is this not the work of the soul?.. Will a soul ever accomplish its work well if deprived of its virtue?” (Republic 353e).
Tao - Way; path; supreme reality; absolute reality which is formless in nature, humble, soft, fluid, returning and ever becomingTe - the shape and power of the Tao; the way the Tao is particularized; the virtue of the TaoChing - a book or classical worksee 1, 51, 54
Key Concepts:Wu and wu wei: Jo: Jou: Yin/Yang:without acting tender, weak, gentle, jo + pliant, flexible, female and male. yielding, soft mild, kind, meek principles
43The gentlest thing in the worldovercomes the hardest thing in the world.That which has no substanceenters where there is no space.This shows the value of non-action.Teaching without words,performing without actions:that is the Master's way.See also 10,11,27,51
76Men are born soft and supple;dead, they are stiff and hard.Plants are born tender and pliant;dead, they are brittle and dry.Thus whoever is stiff and inflexibleis a disciple of death.Whoever is soft and yieldingis a disciple of life.The hard and stiff will be broken.The soft and supple will prevail.
36If you want to shrink something,you must first allow it to expand.If you want to get rid of something,you must first allow it to flourish.If you want to take something,you must first allow it to be given.This is called the subtle perceptionof the way things are.The soft overcomes the hard.The slow overcomes the fast.Let your workings remain a mystery.Just show people the results.
42The Tao gives birth to One.One gives birth to Two.Two gives birth to Three.Three gives birth to all things.All things have their backs to the femaleand stand facing the male.When male and female combine,all things achieve harmony.Ordinary men hate solitude.But the Master makes use of it,embracing his aloneness, realizinghe is one with the whole universe.