Chinese Philosophy Studyguide for Midterm
Chinese Philosophy Studyguide for Midterm PHIL 336
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This 15 page Study Guide was uploaded by Yisu on Wednesday October 5, 2016. The Study Guide belongs to PHIL 336 at University of New Mexico taught by Emily McRae in Fall 2016. Since its upload, it has received 34 views. For similar materials see Chinese Philosophy in Philosophy at University of New Mexico.
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Date Created: 10/05/16
Study-guide for Test 1 on 10/11/16 Analects (Kongzi) and Confucianism o Confucianism essentially tries to tackle the problem of living the “right” life, and in practicing this “right” way, also lends to helping with social/political/personal struggles for justice, goodness, harmony, and happiness. Some central themes of study in Confucianism include: Goodness in a person. What makes a good person? The “Gentleman” (who is good and right by practicing, learning, and thinking of all the aspects of what is good in a person) vs. the Petty “Little” Person who is concerned only with selfish gains in life. The importance of Ritual, which is basically the correct “mannerism” that one should treat others and the correct way of conduct in all activities in everyday life. The importance of Learning/Education and Self-Cultivation so that one can strive to be the ideal “gentleman” instead of the petty man. o It is insights gleamed from many of the following passages about goodness that the 4 Confucian Virtues came to be defined: Benevolence, Righteousness, Ritual Propriety, and Wisdom. Ritual propriety also leads to Filial Piety—to treat your family with benevolence, righteous respect and thoughtful care is perhaps the most fundamental step toward practicing the virtues toward others in a larger community more distant from oneself. o A short essay assignment was due on Tuesday (8/30) about what ‘goodness’ is according to Confucius. Here is a list of the most relevant passages in the Analects from Readings in Classical Chinese Philosophy by P.J. Ivanhoe and W. Van Norden): 3.3 Only a good person can appreciate the value of ritual/manners and culture/music 4.1 - 4.7 The importance of Goodness 5.8 ‘Ability’ is not goodness 5.10 One’s action reflects goodness 5.19 ‘Dutifulness’ and ‘purity’ (either one by itself) is not goodness 6.22 (2nd half) finally gives a direct ‘definition’ of goodness o Confucius is reluctant to praise a person to be “good” from knowing that they seem to have a single “good” quality (ability, dutifulness, purity, etc. by itself) about him. This seems to agree with the passage of 6.22, where he finally says that a good person is concerned first with his/her own ‘self-cultivation’—the bettering of oneself by studying and practicing qualities that are good—to become as “complete” as possible and in doing so reach the state of being the Confucian “gentleman”. This also agrees with the passage 2.12, where Confucius says that a ‘gentleman’ should not be a “vessel” that is of a single use/quality, but should be as well rounded in abilities/learning/qualities as possible. o Another very important Confucian concept about the ‘good person’ to notice is the “duality” of Action and Intention. Confucius seems to think the truly good person will perform all the right and appropriate actions and that these actions are only worthwhile and ‘good’ when they are based upon sincere intentions. If a person only has good intentions and do not act, he/she falls into being a hypocrite and “petty person” by only thinking and claiming about being good; whereas if a person only performs good deeds yet does so only because he/she has been told so by others or by law, this is also hypocrisy. Mozi and Mohism o A central idea in Mohism is ‘Impartial Caring’, where Mozi advocates that many societal and familial conflicts can be resolved if only everyone would love and care for the families of others just as they would love and care for our own families. This would eliminate the prejudice of others since one would care for them as one’s own family; and eliminate selfish greed of the upper class in society since they would care enough as to reasonably share society’s resources with the much less well-off. Mozi’s True Benevolence argument can be found when he proclaims the impartial ruler to be the preferable ruler when compared with an impartial one, in chapter 16. Mozi’s Improve the World argument is found in chapter 20, where he said the sage kings were frugal and only spent their resources on inventions that improved the world. His thought experiment occurs in chapter 16 when he asks us to consider which person we would trust more to take care of our own parents if we must leave them: the partial person who only cares to provide and respect his own parents, or the impartial person who would provide and respect our own parents equally as he would do for his own parents. o Arguments against Impartial Caring are answered by Mozi in chapter 16: “How can impartiality be applied to measure the goodness of a person?” A man who is partial to his own well-being would leave his friends to their fates in time of need in order to serve himself well. A son/daughter who is partial to his/her own parents would not treat a friend’s parents well should the friend be forced to leave them in his care. An impartial person would care for his friends and treat their parents as well as he treats his own when they are placed in his care. We would obvious prefer the impartial person, and in this his/her goodness is obvious. “How can impartiality be applied tell a good ruler from a bad one?” The partial ruler tends to his own comfort before that of his people and would not lower himself to assist them in their time of need at the expense of his own luxury. The impartial ruler would tend to his people the same way he tends to himself or his own family, even if it means great person sacrifice. Which ruler is a good ruler that we should prefer becomes obvious when the two are compared. “Impartiality is simply too difficult to practice!” Yet there is already precedence of this being practiced by the sage kings Yu of Xia dynasty, Tang of Shang dynasty, and King Wen and Wu who founded the Zhou dynasty. The fought for the good of all people and their care for them extended to all corners of the lands they ruled, and not just at their own seats of power. Greater things have been done by people who starved themselves for their king’s idea of beauty and threw themselves toward fire for their king’s need of their bravery. o One can also detect a great sense of practicality in Mozi’s ideas and policies. He advocates that one should really only follow tradition because it somehow actually benefits the people of the world in their welfare, and if a tradition or long-accepted norm does more harm than good, it should be reevaluated and perhaps abandoned. He lays out the arguments for this in Chapter 16 and 25 of the book of Mozi. This is also reflected in his ‘condemnation of fatalism’ expressed in Chapter 35 of Mozi, wherein he denies what are essentially superstitious “excuses” of fatalists who say that things will be good only if fate means it to be good, otherwise there is nothing to be done. Mozi himself clearly believes in taking action to change things rather than waiting for circumstances to change by itself. Also laid out in this are his 3 ideas of gauging the logic and correctness of an argument or action by means of having a precedent for it to look to, evidence supporting its logic, and its application and its apparent effects being good and beneficial. o Mohism at its heart has the betterment of society as the primary goal. It assumes by default that all people are already actually good at heart, and that we don’t always practice a way of living that benefits everyone because we do not always consciously think of acting toward this effort. If a person could actually help society without first having to cultivate his/herself, he/she could and should simply do so by practicing what is within his/her ability. This leads him to condemn the lavish and wasteful ways of large organized musical performances and grand funerals where gold is literally buried with the departed. o It is not explicitly stated in the Mozi, but he seems to assume that human beings have a Nature within us, and it is good. He assumes we are already selfless enough by nature to agree with the arguments of sacrificing what is reasonable in our own lives in order to improve the conditions of living for everybody in the community. He assumes we simply need to be convinced by the explicit expressions in the arguments of Mohism to become fully equipped to practice it. As soon as we are consciously aware of the goodness of Mozi’s arguments, he assumes we would be compelled to agree and therefore also start practicing it. All we have to do is become aware of the issue of any social ills to choose the right course to improve it. All we need is to hear his arguments to explicitly start thinking about the issue and to start changing our behaviors to fix the issue. Yangism that is presented in the reading of the short story of “Robber Zhi” has a much more egoist view on human nature. Robber Zhi basically says that human beings do have a nature, but it should be “for ourselves”, and that human lives are simply too short to be spent worrying about the needs of others against the yearning of our own hearts. We should simply follow our own desires and focus our energy and efforts on achieving them, regardless of the result this may have on other people. o Psychological egoism is simply disproven since people (even children), when seeing the suffering of others, would feel the need and act to do what they can to help, even if it is a sacrifice of comfort and profit on their part. There are also plenty of people (such as cigarette smokers) who are aware of the fact that their action is actually detrimental to their own health and self, but continues to do it despite their better rationality telling them not to. o Ethical egoism argues that self-sacrifice for others is actually an artificially imbued concept in people, and that it is actually not the “nature” that a person should follow, and this “nature” that we are born with is actually “self-satisfaction” and our own profit. “To serve oneself” is the only good reason for anyone to do anything. Human lives are simply too short to be spent worrying about the needs of others against the yearning of our own hearts. We should simply follow our own desires and focus our energy and efforts on achieving them, regardless of the result this may have on other people. o We could object to egoism by observing it to simply be immoral and probably just evil if one who goes by it would act to profit himself at the expense of others. But there is also a more practical objection in the Mohist paradox: if the egoist must be an egoist, he better do damn well to keep his idea hidden from others, since if others thought as he did, they would kill him to profit themselves if they agreed, and they would kill him to save the world if they didn’t, either way, the egoist gets the short end of the stick and his plan completely backfires. Mengzi and Confucianism o Mencius was born 100 years after Confucius’ death, roughly living from 372 B.C. to 289 B.C. o He is often considered the “other” great thinker in Confucianism, second to only Confucius himself, though another great exponent of Confucianism will arise in Xunzi, who was born probably just decades after Mencius’ death. o Mencius is famous for being the one to argue that “human nature is good”. According to him, not only do human beings have a nature that each of us is born with, but that nature must necessarily be good. He presents many analogies and real world examples for this argument. o The most famous argument he makes for human nature being inherently good is the thought experiment of “a Child falling into a Well”. Suppose that you see a child playing near a well, and playful as children are, he comes too close and falls into the well. Can you truly imagine that either you yourself or any human being who sees this happening would not feel a sudden alertness rise up in your body and rush immediately to help? If you think that this is reasonable for nearly all human beings, then human beings must be good at heart. One might argue that not all people take action to help when similar situations arise in their daily lives, and sociological research on this have provided many examples where the passersby ignores someone in need of assistance. But what does the passerby actually think even as he/she walks by and does not reach out to help? Is it pity or is it disdain for the victim? I think most of us will probably assume that it is pity—you would feel sorry for the victim rather than think them a nuisance, and it is because this is most like what we would feel ourselves, even if we do not reach out to help. This fundamental difference between how we naturally perceive the victim contributes to this argument that we by nature are good, since we become concerned and feel sorry for the victim rather than distain and hate them for their misfortune. o Mencius also makes the analogy of virtues being part of the human body just as 4 limbs are part of each of us and these. The 4 Confucian Virtues mentioned by him are: Benevolence, Righteousness, Ritual Propriety, and Wisdom. These are 4 “sprouts” that naturally grow within us since birth, and if we continue to nurture these sprouts, they will grow as we do and become more mature and complete qualities of our character. o Objection: if humans are by nature good, from whence comes evil? And the answer is: depending on how harsh our life circumstances are and what external influences tell us, we may fail to cultivate these, though it is not necessarily through our own fault, and this is why there are people who do evil. Passage in Mengzi 2A6 sets out these virtues. Passage 6A2 tells us about how our nature can be damaged by external influences. o The very fact that King Xuan felt pity for the ox at sight and spared it proves that he has the “sprout” of compassion within him. How he does not practice it more is not a problem of lacking the ability, since he clearly has the tool (compassion), but rather he is simply not carrying it through since he may feel that it is menial and unpleasant and too demanding to do the actual “action” that is needed. He says that the very fact that we feel Compassion for others in our society (or even for animals) leads us to having the virtue of Benevolence. We are allowed to have our own preference of good and bad, this is a heart of Distain for the bad things, and it leads us to like the good, and in following this good that we prefer over evil, we have Righteousness. We know to respect our superiors, our elders, our parents and their wisdom. Even the rebelliously revolutionary thinkers had to learn from their parents when they were young. This deference leads us to the correct mannerisms when interacting with other people, and this leads us to (ritual) Propriety. We approve and disapprove of facts we are told of the world and actions of other through our intuitive sense of the just and unjust, from this we come to know right from wrong, this leads us to our own firm beliefs of good and bad, and so we are led to become wise through Wisdom. Daodejing (Laozi) and Daoism o Pluralism: there may be no one fixed “Dao”. There is a Dao of heaven in as the workings of nature and reality. There is a Dao of Men as the virtuous are righteous and the evil are wrong. There is a Great Dao of morality that people their rulers can follow to be righteous and lasting in their legacy. o Primitivism: an oft-cited theme in the Daodejing is its advocacy for a “simpler” morality of a pre-civilization era, in which people lived agrarian lives without the baggage of government, politics, and doctrines of morality such as Confucianism telling them of how to be a good person in very specific ways. It is assumed that in those days, people simply lived their lives and acted in goodness naturally, without the need of specific education about it all. It is assumed that they did so because they used to follow The Way, naturally, and teachings and education based on doctrines have corrupted people such that they now strive for the “goodness” specified in teaching, yet can no longer achieve it because certain hypocrisy arise out of this “artificial” way based on strict definitions. o The Way is the fundamental working of the universe from which all things were created and continue to be nourished; supremely powerful yet completely humble and accepting and has no preference/does not favor either the “higher” or “lower” things in creation. We can best take this as simply a force that symbolizes the “lasting/enduring” way of living: if you go with it and live “naturally”, you will enjoy success and goodness without having even had to consciously try; for rulers, they will rule well by following it and their reign will be just and their name will be “lasting”, but if a ruler abuses power and thus goes against The Way, he may succeed for a time but his reign will be overturned and he will be “forgotten” in time as a great evil and his legacy will not last. If we can live naturally by simply doing what is good and right at any particular moment in our lives, we are said to be practicing Wu Wei (non-action)—naturally doing the right things and achieving results without ever having to consciously exert ourselves. o Laozi seems to often go out of his way to praise the “lower”, the “less”, and the “worse” things both in the natural world and in our perceptions. Is “less” necessarily worse than “more”? Is “big” necessarily better than “small”? Is there really this quality called “good” that is preferable to this other one called “bad”? The Way/Nature created and sustains all things equally and without favoritism. This binary way we perceive the world is a “one-sided” human obsession: things and events (ones in our lives, too) did not ask to be judged and labeled, but we humans insist on tagging our perceptions onto them forcibly. This is a great source of the unpleasantness we suffer in life, since even though getting cancer is indeed admittedly just “bad”, our anxiety and obsession with feeling bad and cursing fate contributes a very large part in our suffering from it, perhaps even more than the actual pain and the danger of death. In this way, language dictates our concepts, understanding, and personal welfare. And just what sort of “Way” can be transcendent and be free of this constraint that is “words”? Why the one that cannot be explained by words of course! Our bondage to words only limit the way we think and if we can just abandon this obsession with mere “exact” words and “definitions” we may be able to comprehend so much more with ease. Zhuangzi and Daoism o Zhuangzi dives into more explicit aspects of Daoist thought by exploring the limits of language and epistemology (limits of knowledge). o His epistemological understanding that is derived from The Way is a mixture of relativism, particularism, and skepticism. 1. Particularism says that there may be an “objective” and “true” reality (state of things), but it is very contact-sensitive and easily disturbed by changing factors such as the predisposition of the examiner and the very act of examination of it. 2. Skepticism says that there may indeed be an “objective” and “true” reality, but it may actually be unknowable to us and that no matter how hard we try, we cannot actually get at it completely. 3. Relativism says that the standards by which we evaluate the reality of things vary from person to person, and from viewpoint to viewpoint; so no single view on things is right or wrong since another person with another viewpoint will consider things by a different standard and arrive at a different conclusion. o Relativism leads into the discourse about the Peng bird and the quail. The Peng bird, being a greater bird, flies high and far. A person seeing this may simply think that the way that the Peng bird flies is simply better than that of a quail. But this is a “single” limited viewpoint that goes by a very particular set of standards: the quail may be completely fine with the way it flies, and may consider its own way of flying to be “very good”. So all this comparing of trying to find out a strict reality of what is good, bad, worse, better, may actually be a pointless endeavor if we just consider that our viewpoints dictate our assessments, and viewpoints differ from individual to individual. o The story of Cook Ding seems to have a lot to do with Wu Wei (non-action). Ding seems to have practiced his art for so long with great dedication that he has achieved a state of non-action where he simply does what he has been doing all these years and achieves excellent results without even having to be conscious of all his actions. This “flow state” is like that described by modern psychologists about the “zone” that people get into when performing a cognitively demanding task. When totally engaged in this highly focused “flow state”, which often occurs when people play a video game, chess, or perform on a musical instrument, people become so focused that they often lose track of time and the awareness for their surroundings. One can practice “goodness” in the same way so that when you’ve been doing the moral and good thing every day of your life, you do so effortlessly and without having to worry over choosing the right from wrong, since you have become so consummate at doing the right thing. o Zhuangzi understood “fate” in that he understood that dying is just a natural part of the cycle of life. When his wife died, she simply returns to a part of “existence” that is “nothingness”. She was nothingness before she was born and she returns to nothingness when she died. We do not mourn our own state of nothingness before we were born, so just what is so sad about the nothingness that we return to after death? Xunzi and Confucianism o Xunzi’s theory of human nature is that human nature is like untended and unrefined “bent” wood found in nature. It is by nature chaotic and vulgar, plagued by negative emotions and intentions since living things all seek to satisfy themselves by nature, and rationality and goodness toward others simply do not do this for oneself. So human nature is bad. 1. He presents a thought experiment saying that if we take away the things that we are “taught” to practice (such as ritual propriety/mannerism/respect, laws, goodwill toward others, etc.), society will fall into chaos since the strong will oppress the weak and the many will oppress the few in order to follow their nature and satisfy their own needs. 2. He argues against Mengzi by partially paralleling the 4 sprouts with 1. Human beings have a natural fondness for selfish profit, this leads to contention with others, and lowers their respect and deference for them. 2. Human beings have a natural sense to dislike and hate others, this leads to their cruelty and villainy, and reduces their loyalty and trustworthiness. 3. Human beings have sensual desires that lead them to lasciviousness and chaos (of breaking proper relationship etiquettes), this leads to the breakdown of ritual/mannerism, righteousness, and the general correct conduct befitting of a good human being. o The argument that he makes for human nature being bad leads him to the conclusion that “goodness” is not a part of nature, but rather a “deliberate effort” on our part that must be cultivated with learning and practice. o Criticism mostly based on “if goodness is not in our nature, why and how did people establish the correct rituals and morals in the first place?” Xunzi responded by saying that even though craftsmen do not have the material their work with (wood, clay, etc.) in their nature, they still work and make great things out of them. The products they make (morals in our case) is the result of “deliberate effort”, and not of the nature of the craftsmen. o We better ourselves by learning and practicing the “correct” rituals. 1. Their origin is the former kings who set it out for us so that we learn to not let our desires exhaust material goods and lead to contention and chaos. 2. In satisfying our desires with moderation, ritual is a means of nurture. When our desires do not exceed our place and needs, and yet our desires are satisfied properly by moderation, it nurtures our body and senses. Proper measure/caution and deference/respect (achieved by practice of proper ritual) nurtures the prosperity of our life/safety. Righteous and good form (conduct/behavior) nurture our character/disposition. 3. The highest stage of ritual is when it perfectly expresses an inner disposition with proper outward action. The next best is when the action can inspire the disposition it should have originally come from. And at the very least it should convey to us the proper disposition/feeling/moral that we should hold but lack by seeing others properly practice it. o Xunzi accuses the Mohist notion of frugality in funeral to be an arrogance against those who have departed. The Mohist way of not mourning and not giving proper respect with the correct clothing and material when burying the dead would be to ask us to treat our dearest family as if they were criminals upon death. Proper ritual is needed to express proper sorrow/love (disposition) that we should hold for our families and rulers. o Xunzi accuses the Mohist way of not having music performed as a way of planting the seed for chaos in society. Music brings joy to people, and the former kings composed music so that it has order in its harmony, and when people hear it, they are united by this harmony, but in a way that does not disrupt the order of different levels of society. This social order expressed by the music inspires affection, respect, and unity in people. The Mohist way of treating everyone with impartial care is a breakdown of social order in Xunzi’s view.
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