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Mainstream Chinese Philosophical Thoughts----Introduction---- 20.06.2006
Lecture Outline • I. Uncommon Assumptions of Chinese Culture • II. Background of the Zhou Dynasty • III. The Zhou Dynasty
I. Uncommon Assumptions of Chinese CultureI.1 An Immanental Cosmos • Chinese Philosophical Culture: prelude the existence of any transcendent being or principle. • “transcendence”: a principle, A, is transcendent with respect to that, B, which serves as principle if the meaning or import of B cannot be fully analyzed and explained without recourse to A, but the reverse is not true. • i.e. there is a One behind the Many
I.1 An Immanental Cosmos • Anglo-European philosophical tradition: require the presumption of such transcendence. • In Plato’s Timaeus: Ideas/ Forms • independent of the Cosmos • Provide the models with which the Cosmos is made
I.1 An Immanental Cosmos • Aristotle’s Unmoved Mover: • the primary substance • as the eternal, immutable, immaterial source of all other things • the principle that accounts for all change and motion • grounds our understanding of the natural world • the Unmoved Mover is undetermined by the Cosmos or any element in it
I.1 An Immanental Cosmos • Materialism • construe the world in terms of “atoms” • atoms are independent and unchanging units of which everything else is comprised • atoms transcend the things of the world. They are the determinants of these things while remain unaffected by that which they determine.
I.1 An Immanental Cosmos • Existentialist Perspective • principles have their ultimate origin in human agents • human world: is placed upon each individual who have to achieve “authenticity.” • one has to make this world his own by reconstruction and valuation • self-actualized individuals become transcendent principles of determination, independent of the world they create
I.1 An Immanental Cosmos • Chinese Culture • Confucian concept of self: an ethical agent • understanding human events does not require recourse to “qualities,”“attributes, “ or “characteristics” • Confucian is more concerned with an explication of the activities of specific persons in particular situations, rather than the essential nature of abstract moral virtues
I.1 An Immanental Cosmos Does not presuppose the unity of Being behind things. • In the Chinese world view, “ten thousand things” (wanwu) is an ad hoc summing up of beings and events. • Correlations among these “ten thousand things’ are nonfundational since they are only a matter of empirical experience and conventional interpretation.
I.1 An Immanental Cosmos • Judeo-Christian tradition: substantial self • “Rational”/ “logical” order: realized by the imposition of principles derived from the Mind of God/ from transcendent laws of nature/ from positive laws of a given society/ from a categorical imperative resident in one’s conscience
I.1 An Immanental Cosmos • Chinese tradition: diffuse senses of “self” • “Aesthetic” order: a consequence of the contribution to a given context of a particular aspect, element, or event which both determines and is determined by the context • i.e. it discloses an ad hoc unity formed by irreplaceable items.
I.2. Conceptual Polarity • Western: concept of transcendence introduce conceptual inventory • Familiar concepts: God & the world, being & not-being, subject & object, mind & body, reality & appearance, good & evil
I.2. Conceptual Polarity • Chinese philosophy affects the language • Chinese cosmos: tian (“heaven”/ “sky”), di (earth) & ren (man) • Prelude transcendence, renders dualistic contrast • Conceptual polarity: concepts are symmetrically related • E.g. yin/yang
I.2. Conceptual Polarity • Chinese culture: • Yin does not transcend yang; yang does not transcend yin • Yin is always “becoming yang” & vice versa • Day is always “becoming night”/ night is always “becoming day”
I.2. Conceptual Polarity • Confucian cosmos: a context both constitutes and is constituted by the elements which comprise it • An organism is conceived as a whole with parts interrelated in accordance with some purpose • But, there is no element/ part transcends the rest. Every element in the world is relative to every other. All elements are correlative.
I.2. Conceptual Polarity • Aristotle’s naturalism: there is an aim/end that characterizes the highest purpose/ purposes transcends the nature world • The Unmoved Mover is an unconditional aim • Confucian cosmos: no such unconditional end
I.2. Conceptual Polarity • Western dualism: an unconditioned power to determine the essential order and meaning of the world • i.e. a radical separation between the transcendent/ nondependent creative source and the determinate/dependent object of its creation
I.2. Conceptual Polarity • The Chinese creative source does not require reference to its creation for explanation • E.g. God vs. the world in the Judeo-Christian tradition • This pattern of dualism frames Western metaphysical speculations
I.2. Conceptual Polarity • Polarity in Chinese metaphysics: a relationship of 2 events which requires the other as a necessary condition for being what it is • Each existent is “so of itself” and does not derive its meaning and order from any transcendent source. • “Self” in the locution “so of itself” has a polar relationship with “other”
I.2. Conceptual Polarity • Polarity in classical Chinese philosophical tradition: Each particular is a consequence of every other. • Each of the existing particulars is constitutive of every other as well. Each pole can only be explained by reference to the other
II. Background of the Zhou Dynasty (1111-249 B.C.) • The conquest of the Shang Dynasty (1757-1112 B.C.) by the Zhou in 1111 B.C. initiated a transition from tribal society to feudal. • To consolidate the empire, the Zhou challenged human ingenuity and ability, cultivated new trades and talents, and encouraged the development of experts from all levels of society. • E.g. Prayers for rain were gradually replaced by irrigation. • Man and his activities were given greater importance. • Humanism, in gradual ascendance, reached its climax in Confucius.
II.1. Tianming天命/ the “Mandate of Heaven” • Having overthrown the Shang, founders of the Zhou had to justify their right to rule. • Consequently, they developed tianming (the “Mandate of Heaven”), a self-existent moral law whose constant, reliable factor was de德/ “virtue”. • According to this doctrine, human’s destiny (ming命) depended, not upon the existence of a soul before birth or after death nor upon the whim of a spiritual force, but upon one’s own good words and good deeds.
II.1.Tianming/ the “Mandate of Heaven” • The Zhou asserted that the Shang Dynasty, though they had received the mandate to rule, had failed it because they ruled the country badly. • The mandate/tianming, therefore, passed on to the founders of Zhou, who deserved it because of their de/virtue. • The further of the house of Zhou also depended upon whether further rulers were virtuous.
II.2.The Growing Importance of de/“Virtue” • The idea that the destiny of a man or the future of a dynasty depended upon de rather than upon the pleasure of some mysterious, spiritual power marked a radical development from the Shang to the Zhou Dynasty. • The term, de, is not founded in the oracle bones on which Shang ideas and events are recorded, but it is a key word in early Zhou documents. • During the Shang, the influence of spiritual beings on man has been almost total, for all important thing could be done with first seeking their approval. • But in the Zhou their dealing places were regulated by the rulers.
II.2.The Growing Importance of de/“Virtue” • As the Book of Li/ Rites/Liji [one of the Six Classics before Confucius] says, “The people of Yin (Shang) honor spiritual beings, serve them, and put them ahead of ceremonies… The people of Zhou honor ceremonies and highly value the conferring of favors. They serve the spiritual beings and respect them, but keep them at a distance. They remain near to man and loyal to him.”
II.3. A Change in the Belief in the “Lord” • Belief in the Lord also underwent a radical transformation. • In the Shang, the Lord was the supreme personal deity who had great influence in the human world. • e.g. sent blessings, gave protect in battles, sanctioned undertakings, passed on the appointment or dismissal of officials. • Such belief continued in the early Zhou, but was gradually replaced by the concept of Tian/ “Heaven” as the supreme spiritual reality.
II.3. A Change in the Belief in the “God” • This does not mean that either Tian/ Heaven/ spiritual beings did not continue to be highly honored and greatly respected. • But Tian’s personal power was supplanted by human de and human effort. • And man, through his moral deeds, could now control his own destiny.
II.4. Ancestors in the Zhou Dynasty • Ancestors were regarded in Zhou times. • During the Shang, great ancestors (e.g. deceased kings) were either identified with the Lord, or considered as mediators through whom requests were made to the Lord. • In the Zhou, they were still influential but, as in the case of Tian, their influence was exerted not through their power but through their moral example and inspiration. • Such ancestors were to be respected but to be kept from interfering with human activities. Individual and social categories were to be stated in moral terms.
III. The Zhou Dynasty (1111-249 B.C.) • Zhou Dynasty: the longest dynasty of China > 800 years • Generally believed that agriculture began and developed in the Zhou Dynasty. • Before the Zhou unified China, they were a subsidiary of the Shang Dynasty. It was generally believed that agriculture began and developed in the Zhou. • Zhou Dynasty: “the additions and abridgements can be known” (Analects 2.23)
III. The Zhou Dynasty (1111-249 B.C.) 1. West Zhou (1122-771B.C.): early Zhou Dynasty - strong and stable - The Duke of Zhou (uncle of King Mo) proposed feudalism and the system of li 禮 (ritual propriety). 2. East Zhou (770-256B.C.): relocation of the capital to the East, the nobles were struggling for power and land, the king was weak and neglected. -Spring-Autumn Period (770-403B.C.): when Confucius and Laozi was born -Warring Period (403-221B.C.): when Mencius, Xunzi, Zhuangzi, and Han Feizi were born
III. The Zhou Dynasty (1111-249 B.C.) • Feudalism: The King gave land/resources to his relative/warriors, so that they could help him to rule the state. • Nobles: 5 kinds; sub-nobles • Nobles: land, official, soldiers, annual meetings with the King, regular contribution to the King • Sub-nobles: land, annual meetings with the superior, regular contribution to the superior • Nobles/sub-nobles: rule their land • A comparison to feudalism in the Western world?
III. The Zhou Dynasty (1111-249 B.C.) • 1. West Zhou Books written: -The Book of Poetry/Odes (Shijing) contains poems/songs reflecting the everyday life of all kinds of people in the community (especially farming activities; sacrificial offerings in farming; the relationship between the State and farming). -The Book is actually closely related to ancient musical activities and dancing, also considered as the Music book of ancient China.
III. The Zhou Dynasty (1111-249 B.C.) • 1. West Zhou -The Book of Poetry/Odes (Shijing) • The more ancient a poem in the Book of Poetry is, the closer relation between it and official/ sacrificial music/dance. Later poems are folk songs. • Poems are dated from 12th century to 7th century B.C. • Many of their stylistic qualities go under modification until the time of Confucius.
III. The Zhou Dynasty (1111-249 B.C.) • 1. West Zhou Books written: -The Book of Rites (Liji), discuss the proper way of behaving in everyday life. It is believed that the book was written by the Duke of Zhou.
III. The Zhou Dynasty (1111-249 B.C.) • 1. West Zhou Books written: - The Book of Documents (Shujing), relates the events of the sage-kings Yao and Shun who resigned around the 22nd century B.C. The virtue, wisdom and humility which characterized these rulers and their administration, and particularly their practice in selecting a successor of passing over their own sons in favor of more worthy men from among the people, have been held up as ideals for the guidance of later ages.
III. The Zhou Dynasty (1111-249 B.C.) • 2. East Zhou: Spring-Autumn and Warring Period, also known as the Period of Hundred Schools. • Politically unstable, wars among the nobles • Intellectuals (including the philosophers we are going to discuss in class) traveled to various states to actualize their ideas and teachings.
The Growth of Humanism In the Zhou Dynasty • Humanistic tendency since the Zhou Dynasty, not the humanism that denies or slights a Supreme Power, but one professes the unity of man and “Heaven.” • In this sense, humanism has dominated Chinese thought from the dawn of its history. • Humanism was an outgrowth, not of speculation, but of historical and social change.