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An overview of the philosophies of confucius and chuang tzu

The earliest version Confucius 551—479 BC traced normativity to earlier human invention. Metaphorical trails are left by past human walkings, i. A later version Mencius 372—239 BC focused on natural human psychology.

The correct path is that to which our natural moral psychology inclines us. Mencius may have been reacting to Mohism. Mozi 470—391 BC had earlier initiated a shift in focus to more natural and objective, less culturally relative way of grounding normative judgment. Ethical questions thus have a single correct answer in an ideally engineered and shared normative linguistic practice.

  1. These chapters combine the anarchistic ideals of a simple life close to nature that can be found in the Laozi with the practices that lead to the cultivation and nurturing of life. It is to this claim, I believe, that Zhuangzi is directly responding.
  2. Confucius and the Analects The other driving philosophy of dynastic China was created by a politician, musician, and philosopher named Confucius. Now that I have called us one, did I succeed in not saying something?
  3. We ordinarily confine ourselves within our social roles, expectations, and values, and with our everyday understandings of things. Zhuangzi does not view it as a rational or logical construction, but a complicated, multi-layered natural one.
  4. The trend from social construction humanism toward naturalism had been gradual. Many stories in the text target the notion that utility is a naturally constant value—particularly the human utility that Mozi champions.

Mohist utilitarian metaethics pointed to natural realism. We should forget or ignore all social norms and practices, including linguistic ones. Utility perhaps egoistic utility does motivate our behavior as naturally as water follows the paths created by natural contours of earth. Language should not interfere in any way with this natural guiding interaction between us and the course es of nature. The salient differences between the two traditions accounts of behavior are that the Chinese does not focus on sentential items actions, events, beliefs particularly as conclusions of belief plus desire mental arguments.

Behaviorally, it amounts to dealing with it under that word-concept. Instead of the western reality vs. Problems of justifying approvals and disapprovals of word usage led such later Confucians as Mencius, to rely more on cultivating an intuition.

  • In the Skeptical reading, the textual contradictions are also resolved by appealing to different perspectives from which different judgments appear to be true;
  • This discussion is not confined to the content of the particular chapters, but rather represents a fuller articulation of the inter-relationships of the ideas between the Inner Chapters, and also between these ideas and those expressed in the Outer and Miscellaneous Chapters, where these appear to be related;
  • Although the Daoist adept, Liezi, to whom the text is attributed is said to have lived before Zhuangzi, the text clearly dates from a later period, perhaps compiled as late as the Eastern Han, though in terms of linguistic style the material appears to date from around the same period as Zhuangzi;
  • In chapter two, it was the predicament itself that Zhuangzi described, and he tried to focus on the inseparability and indistinguishability of the two aspects of this single process of transformation.

Since the account of cultivation typically presupposed practice in conformity with the social practice requiring justification, the threat of circularity pushed traditionalists eventually to teach about and appeal to an allegedly innate or pre-social human psychology. By contrast, the craft—inspired Mohists went on to emphasize the use of measurement tools and operations as the standards guiding term use. This fuels the traditional view of him as a Daoist.

Confucius and Laozi, The Great Philosophers of the East

Humans are as natural as monkeys, birds, and fish. This stance makes the complexity of the natural network only the first level of variety and possibility. The pipes of earth, these are the hollows everywhere; the pipes of men, these are rows of tubes.

Tell me about the pipes of Heaven.

9e. Taoism and Confucianism — Ancient Philosophies

These are apparently the holes in the heart through which thought courses and the mouths which utter it, so that the breath blown by heaven through the inner formations of different men issues in contradictory utterances.

He situates us at indexed points in this network seeking paths forward from here and now, choosing from among the plethora of those accessible which, if any, to follow. Nature gives us a complex network of iterative guiding structures among which we are about to swim. As we walk through a day, we encounter attitudinal states—joy, sorrow, surprise, ennui etc. All guidance is at a point in the network and available to and for some emergent object—physical, living, animal or human.

We light on paths and react with heart-mind responses. Zhuangzi recognizes its involvement in the construction process, but is skeptical of making it a kind of natural authority. It is, after all, only one of the natural organs involved—our daily reactions include being directed by our stomachs, our eyes, etc. Why, Zhuangzi wonders, should we think they need a single authority?

Humans naturally exhibit variety in how they find or choose a course of behavior. They may be capacities of individuals an overview of the philosophies of confucius and chuang tzu of social groups, embodied in their social practices.

Zhuangzi does not view it as a rational or logical construction, but a complicated, multi-layered natural one.

Then who or what does the choosing? It seems as if there is a natural authority, but we cannot find its authoritative source. The trend from social construction humanism toward naturalism had been gradual. It seems, he says, there must be one, but we find no evidence of it. We approve of behaviors and place our trust in its reactions but find no sign of what is authorizing or making them. Should I be pleased with them all?

Among them, should we deem some as rulers and as servants? Are the rulers and servants incapable of governing each other? Are they not capable of taking turns as ruler and servants? Is there a genuine ruler among them? Being a product of ritual training. Nor could one trained practitioner have authority over another in resolving interpretive disputes about how to execute the ritual, e. He insisted we need a neutral, non-cultural or natural basis for such meta-choices of social practices of choosing and interpreting practices.

The narrative history of Classical thought found near the end of the Zhuangzi Ibid. Many stories in the text target the notion that utility is a naturally constant value—particularly the human utility that Mozi champions. Among this series of parables, the most famous, the useless tree, illustrates the relativity of usefulness to Hui Shi. He had also objected to Confucian reliance on acquired intuition since it made access to such judgments esoteric. His utility standard, Zhuangzi is suggesting, is still relative to the way of translating it to behavior.

The growing awareness that norms of behavior are intertwined with norms of language use, produced another feature of this strand of thought bringing the natural world into our guidance. Primitivists came to advocate silence—letting the natural paths of the world take over completely. For most of history, the Laozi has exemplified this rejection of language.

Shen Dao, based on his version of logical determinism i. Later Mohist writings contain several acute critiques of such a trending pro-silence posture. Language is natural and arguments for silence are self-condemning.

It is natural for us to make a judgment, but not nature making it. Normativity arises from within nature, but nature only makes all its normative, behavior-guiding paths for us naturally available.

There are no naturally ideal observers. We should, however, adopt an attitude of epistemic modesty in making our perspective based choices and recommending our interpretations to others. Hence nature makes no choice that implies a more absolute, or superior normative status on either perspective. Does it amount to taking the view of nature but of nowhere in particular or is it a naturally occurring, perspective on perspectives, a recognition an overview of the philosophies of confucius and chuang tzu the plurality of natural perspectives?

  1. Currently, in Taiwan, Chen Guying is the leading scholar and interpreter of Zhuangzi, and he uses his knowledge of western philosophy, particularly western epistemology, cosmology, and metaphysics, to throw new light on this ancient text.
  2. Does it amount to taking the view of nature but of nowhere in particular or is it a naturally occurring, perspective on perspectives, a recognition of the plurality of natural perspectives?
  3. How do we know either that our past practice was correct or that we are correctly following them in this new situation, here and now, based solely on our eyes and ears?
  4. Translated by Burton Watson.
  5. Employ someone different from both me and you to correct it, given that they are different from us both, how can they correct it? Employ someone who is like both of us to correct it, given that they are like us both, how can they correct it?

He provokes us to realize that we may make progress and improve our guiding perspective by simulating the guiding perspectives of others. Still a third outcome of the interaction, as with violent gangsters, reminds us simply to keep our distance.

New accumulated insights about natural structures may improve our range of options, from our own point of view.

Zhuangzi (Chuang-Tzu, 369—298 B.C.E.)

First, we do this from our own present perspective. We neither judge all to be right nor all to be wrong—nor even that all are equal. Certainly, not all are equally worthy of our choice. We need not judge that all are good choices for those following them—only that the grounds of their choice may be different from ours.

They might still be dogmatic, careless, or unwarranted even given the situational grounds of their choice. Nothing about the naturalness of such choices arising makes them right. We neither seek to follow all at once or each equally—as Hui Shi seems to suggest. Nor do we resolve to follow none—as Shen Dao suggests. We are more inclined to follow a path, and given our similarities, think we might pursue it with benefit when we know some natural being like us found and followed it.

And Zhuangzi clearly does ridicule the social moralists Confucians and Mohists as well as Hui Shi for the narrowness of their range of choices—their failure to appreciate the richness and complexity of alternative ways of life. The judgment from no-where-when is no-judgment.

That we progress in such exchanges is something we ourselves judge, not the cosmos. The latter structures his analysis mainly on comparatives.

Ergo, there are no real distinctions and the world is actually one. Now that I have called us one, did I succeed in not saying something? One and the saying make two, two and one make three. Proceeding from here even an expert calculator cannot get to the end of it, much less a plain man. Commitment is setting off along a path. We have momentum and a trajectory.

The shape of the path combines with these and commits us to walk on or continue in a way that depends on the discernible shape of the path. Walking a path involves staying mostly within its physical boundaries. Zhuangzi would not make that point in terms of deduction from a normative premise or principle. The internal and external paths themselves have a causal and normative relation to our walking behavior. A sentence would state the action or the intent—rather like the conclusion of a practical syllogism rather than, as as fits in this metaphorical space, as performing a role in a play or or part in a symphony.

The focus of ancient Chinese theory was on names on the analogy of path markers: Confucian social versions emphasized the names of social roles and statuses more than of natural kinds. Human language is a natural sound. The cosmos does not select which way to make the choice. Graham had noted that Zhuangzi returns to the metaphor nearer the middle of the dialogue, noting that here Zhuangzi seems to be taking back some of its implications.

The Later Mohists advocated a version of pragmatic-semantic realism. This is the basis of a social standard of correct word use enshrined in past practice. The world, in effect, gives us many ways of establishing conventional distinctions and assigning names.