Taoist Philosophy st Century for the 21

An Alternative Way to View Life, Society, and the World

You-Sheng Li
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Culture background is different  A way to see different cultures is to look their visual arts. Visual arts represent what they see and what they want to see in their world. The artists represent their culture and their people.

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Richard E. Nisbett, from the University of Michigan, and his colleagues in cooperation with Chinese did some comparative studies to show the difference between Chinese and Western people. They found:
Chinese and English native speakers use different parts of brain when they are doing simple arithmetic. The Chinese use a brain region involved in the processing of visual information while the English speaker, language processing area of the brain.  When watching a photograph, American students pay more attention to object in the foreground of the scene while Chinese spend more time studying the background and taking in the whole scene. Conclusion: Chinese see the world as something to live in, and enjoy, and Western, something to work on, and so they 1/6/2013 8 need a focus.

Comparisons of India, West, and China
India
Frame of thinking God
Universe Neither Religion Caste Invasion Backward Caste

West World
God souls Science Secondary expansion forward club

China
I
Sky+ancestor souls+bodies philosophy Two levels uprising stay there clan

society

Other authors

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The main stream culture in Chinese history is Complementary Confucianism/Taoism, and Taoism is the basis and is the key

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Confucianism developed on the basis of Taoism, Lao Tzu was Confucius’ teacher. In Chinese history, intellectuals were Confucian in the government office but Taoist at home. To understand Chinese culture from the Western view, Taoism is the key, which marks the difference between the East and the West. 10

What is Taoist philosophy

Taoism is a philosophy, a religion, and a way of life. It emphasizes the natural way, harmony, and effortlessness. Taoism aims at the opposite direction in comparison with the Western civilization. It was founded by LaoTzu, Chuang Tzu and other philosophers from the sixth century to the third century BC based on ancient Chinese traditions In the second and third centuries AD, it developed into a major religion. From then, there were three major religions, namely Confucianism, Buddhism, and 1/6/2013 Taoism in China 11

Taoism in Comparison with Marxism ---Different ways to view life and society

Taoism: Spare time, relaxing, the whole human nature. Only two things to aim at: Aesthetic pursuit (pure enjoyment), and a long healthy life. From the view of individuals, emphasis on psychological experience. Marxism: Working time, economic pursuit, the part of human nature which helps us to compete and survive. From the view of society, emphasis on materialism, economic growth .
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The striking features of Taoism as a religion (Ancient & Modern)
The fundamental belief of Taoist religion is that you do not have to die physically, which is essentially what behind the modern medicine and science. (long healthy life)  Taoist religion is based on the ancient Taoist philosophy, which is famous for their atheistic view against Mohism and Confucianism  The birth of Taoist religion in the second and third centuries was associated with a massive uprising of peasants.  One of the major parts of religious practice of 1/6/2013 15 Taoism is sex.

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My education background allows me to look at and interpret Chinese Taoist philosophy from biology, not from biological view but from the biological world, in which man is only a member.
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I worked in the field of human genetics for many years I graduated from far the best medical school in China. Chinese traditional medicine is also a way of life, a philosophy. The philosophy of the Chinese traditional medicine is Taoism. All my talk today is nothing new to the real essence of Taoism but only an interpretation in modern terms, which has been ignored by most scholars. You do not need to pay attention to every word I say, but get the main idea.
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Taoism is based on primary society, and Taoism advocates the separation of primary and secondary societies
Primary society is genetically coded society, and was the only society before civilization .  Any secondary society, like modern society, is created by man with a designed ideology, laws and social power to control human behaviour. In the same way, we form various clubs. Secondary society has nothing to do with our genetics, and is a pure creation of man.  Primary society suits human nature well, and secondary society does not. In the 1/6/2013 19 primary society, pursuit: aesthetics+health.

Let the state remain small with a few people. Tools and other artefacts are numbered in tens and hundreds yet people won’t use them. Life is valued high, and nobody ventures far to risk it. There are boats and chariots yet people have no desire to ride on them; there are arms and weapons yet people have no reason to marshal them. Let us revert to the knotstring method for recording. Enjoy the tastiness of your food, admire the beauty of your clothing, delight yourself with your home and its environment, and be happy with your culture. The neighbour states are so near that people can see each other and hear each other’s chickens and dogs yet people reach old age and death without interaction. (Lao Tzu, Chapter 80) (Secondary in nature by men) 1/6/2013 20

Chuang Tzu: I have only heard of letting nature take its course but I have never heard the world can be governed by men. Self-containment and self-enjoyment prevent our nature from becoming interruptive. Accepting and liking ourselves prevents the loss of our natural virtue. If people do not change their nature and do not lose their virtue, why do we need any human administration? When the ancient sage Yao ruled, everyone enjoyed themselves but lost their serenity. When the tyrant Chieh ruled, everyone saddened their heart but lost their enjoyment. If there is no serenity and enjoyment, the Tao cannot present its virtue. If there is no virtue any rule or order cannot last. (Chapter 11) 1/6/2013 21

For this talk, which is limited by time, I will talk two things to illustrate my point, the Taoist point of view.
1. Culture and its definition 2. The primary and secondary society
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A Few Words About the Definition of Culture
You can find a lot of definitions of culture in textbooks and dictionaries, which are all from the Western view.  As I have said before, I study the issue of culture from a Taoist view, in which God, the world, and I roll into One. Therefore, I see the biological world including plants and animal as a whole when I define culture. The following is one definition.  Our behaviour is determined by genetics and culture environment, and so culture is the learned part of our behaviour. 1/6/2013

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Culture is how to spend one’s spare time, the time left when the basic biological desire is fulfilled.

What we spend our spare time on is considered as culture, or highly cultural things such as theatre, TV shows, reading and so on. Culture has an aesthetic nature, which is good to our health. To pursue a long healthy life is also entering our culture. Culture, or any other innovation including secondary society, is created only using spare time when one’s basic desire is fulfilled. The definition has an open end, which reflects that there is no fixed rule what culture is to going to be, both individually and nationally. The possibility is 1/6/2013 24 indefinite. We can do whatever want, and no limit.

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Conclusion: A nation or a people can form an ideology, namely a philosophy of life, a set of law, and a pyramid of social power to set up doing a particular thing using their spare time for hundred years even a thousand years, and achieving the most spectacular grandeur. That is the nature of secondary society, and it is why Taoism promotes the separation of primary and secondary society. Taoism does not oppose civilization if it does not ruin the primary society and make people suffer.
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In front of those pyramids we are all laboring ourselves like ants.

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Wealth does not spell Happiness

To determine how happy a people or a nation is: Parameters which are supposedly leading to happiness, such as wealth, education, health. Adrian White (Leicester, UK) studied and ranked 178 countries, and concludes: Denmark is the happiest, and Canada, the 10th. New Economic Foundation (London, UK) used the happy Planet Index including ecological footprint to rank 233 countries with Vanuatu the first, Canada the 111st. In 2003, an European institute studied 69 countries concluding that African countries, the happiest; the East 1/6/2013 Europe, the unhappiest, and the West Europe 32

What Makes us Happy?
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Freedom, democracy, tolerance, wealth, orderly society Faith, relaxing, outdoor activity, always having something to do, smiling and laughing, treating surrounding people well, active life, self control, readiness to look life in an alternative way Being grateful, helping others, enjoying what you have, thankful to your teacher, forgiving others, love your family and friends, taking care of your body, control yourself in a adverse situation
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The Taoist View

The main part or a major part of Taoist religion is life cultivation. Their life cultivation is religion, is also a way of life including ideology and practice Both Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu mentioned breathing meditation (Chi Kong) in their classic books To insure a real happy life, Taoism emphasizes the effortlessness in keeping both your body and your mind intact, not contaminated by civilization. The real people: People who lived in primitive primary society are called the real people. We, in modern society, have to study and practice Taoism to reach the goal as real people. 1/6/2013 34

Concluision: Happiness is not the same as Natural Joy, which is advocated by Taoism

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Happiness cannot be measured by social parameters such as wealth, education, and so on, since happiness is very much a subjective matter. Happiness cannot be measured by subjective feeling either. How happy we feel depends how our culture has taught us. From a physician’s perspective: real happiness makes our body healthy but the pseudo-happiness with a burning effect harms our health. 35

The Happy Self-Burner is a Possible Reality
There is no impassable gap between imagination and reality:  1. Imagination and reality are the same at the nervous cell level. Neurons only have two status: activated or inactivated, or their membrane is depolarized or re-polarized.  2. Imagination and reality are the same at the brain level if you are lost in your imagination without a strong awareness that you are imaging.  3. Imagination and reality are the same at the body level only to certain degree. In a competitive society, you may feel happy but 1/6/2013 your body is still burning away.

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The five major diseases, namely cancer, heart attack, stroke, psychosis, and suicide are all related to unhappiness. The incidence of those five diseases cannot be used to measure a person’s happiness but can be used as an indicator whether a population is happy or not.

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Although many factors affect the incidence of those diseases which makes the issue a complex one but the suicide rate was doubled in USA and Canada in the twenty century.

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How can we be happy?

Opportunities are far less than ambitions, which is designed by our society . Ambitions is much more than opportunities, which produces disappointment or unhappiness. Competitive system asks us to fight with other people who as able and clever as we are. Such fight will accelerate itself until we all burn out. Are we born to work? Are we born to compete vigorously? The answer is no. The civilized mind forced us to work and compete, and the civilization teaches us how to feel happy. What is the burning effect of our competitive society on the people?
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According to the American Psychological Association
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43 percent of adults suffer adverse health effects from stress 75-90 percent of all physician office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints Stress is linked to the six leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver and suicide In terms of lost hours due to absenteeism, reduced productivity and worker compensation benefits, stress costs American industry more than 300 billion annually.
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Comparisons of India, West, and China
India
Frame of thinking God
Universe Neither Religion Caste Invasion Backward Caste

West World
God souls Science Secondary expansion forward club

China
I
Sky+ancestor souls+bodies philosophy Two levels uprising stay there clan

society

Other authors

Where to find 1/6/2013 happiness

In Heaven Caste

On earth Secondary

In mind Primary

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The Primary Society

People had knowledge and art but only for enjoyment. They were not for economic reason or self-ambition. It is only aesthetic pursuit (pure enjoyment). Culture had no power to modify human nature. There was no enough pressure for people to change or for the society to select certain qualities of humans in a fixed direction. About 150 people in face-to-face relationship, and equality and reciprocity are the rule. There is no forceful authority. We are born with primary society, but living in a secondary society. We can still see the trace of 1/6/2013 42 primary society in modern world: The Primary Group.

Charles Horton Cooley (1864-1929) first saw the self as a social product that is formed in the process of interaction within the primary group. Cooley identified the primary group as “those characterized by intimate face-to-face association and cooperation. They are primary in several senses but chiefly in that they are fundamental in forming the social nature and ideals of individuals. The result of intimate association, psychologically, is a certain fusion of individualities in a common whole, so that one’s very self, for many purposes at least, is the common life and purpose of the group. Perhaps the simplest way of describing this wholeness is by saying that it is a 1/6/2013 43 ‘we’”.

Aesthetic pursuit is natural and healthy

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In the ancient time, yin and yang were in harmony. Gods and spirits were quiet and did not interfere with people. The four seasons followed their own course. Animals and plants were not harmed. Humans lived to their full life span. People had knowledge but there was no use of it. This is called the big One. Chuang Tzu Chapter 16
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Why Taoism appeared in China but not in the West

When civilization was to start, there were many possibilities and directions. The West civilization chose a fast moving direction motivated by competition while the Chinese chose to stay where they were and emphasizes harmony. The West broke the primary society and let the individuals form a secondary society; The Chinese kept the primary society relatively intact. In my opinion, the modern world with a powerless united nations and without any fighting superpowers are like the political situation in Chinese history which 1/6/2013 birth to Taoism. 49 gave

The Hsia Dynasty ( ?21001766 BC )
The Hsia dynasty was the first dynasty in Chinese history. It was founded by Yu the Great in cooperation with all the tribes in the Yellow river valley to fight flood. In stead of building banks and dams, Yu tried to find a better course for the water to go to the sea. The population was about 2.4 million, but the territory was big. No conflict due to overpopulation. No other nation in their world competed with the super nation, the dynasty. The political lesson from the success of the establishment of the Hsia dynasty: Follow the natural 1/6/2013 50 way,--- a Taoist Way.

The Two Level System of Chinese Ancient Society from 2100BC to 475BC
1.King and his clan (quasi-primary society + intellectuals) 2. Vassals and their clans (quasi-primary society + intellectuals) ------------------------------------3. Tribal village and their clans (primary society)
(The relatively powerless king only provided a platform for vassals to work out their difference. It is like the primary society, also like the United Nations ) 51

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An Important Assumption

A primary society or quasi-primary society will form automatically if :  1. The population is less than a few hundred;  2. The society is based on face-to-face interactions;  3. No contact with and no ideological influence from secondary society;  4. No outside force threatening their survival.

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The six criteria and quasi-primary societies in the two level system
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The clans of the king, the vassals, and the tribal villages were all quasi-primary societies; The king and vassals may live a richer life but 10 percent tax rate did not change the idle style of the rural life; The king and vassals formed a face-to-face quasiprimary society; The vassal and the chiefs of the tribal village all formed face-to-face primary society; Equality and reciprocity are the principles guiding the interactions at all levels; The administration and military conflicts were minimal.
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The Two Level System of Chinese Ancient Society from 221BC to 1911AD
1.Emperor and his clan (quasi-primary society + intellectuals) 2. Bureaucrats and their back-up intellectuals (secondary society) ------------------------------------3. Tribal village and their clans (quasiprimary society)
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Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) Was Established by Uprising Peasants

Without special permission, any government officials could not go into the countryside otherwise they would be executed. Under the rule of the first emperor, a poor peasant, some 100,000 officials were executed. He asked the Ministry of Internal Affairs report to him all the families that owned more than100 acres of land, a total 14,341 households. He moved thousands of rich families to the capital areas under his surveillance. According to Huang Renyu, the tax rate was about one percent. (what is the force to penetrate into the rural life of
China and transform it? Capitalism.)
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When I asked them, “Do you feel happy?” They say, “How much more can you get from life? It’s better than before.” The question for us to ponder is: How much more do we get from life in comparison with that old Chinese couple? If not, we certainly can.

The End
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China VS Europe
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Population and area Various ethnic groups with different languages Long history and relatively independently developed
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Similar in history and in present

Three languages in the South of China, The south and the north of China are different +Mongolian, and other northern minority ethnic groups Europe, since ancient Greece
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Axial China vs Modern Europe
Both started with a feudal system, and ended with local administrative system.

Royal army defeated in –485, and conquered in –34

French revolution and social reform
Industrial revolution The split of philosophical thinking

Pope was challenged by Copernicus in –402, and Nietzche(-101&45) says God is dead Social reform
Agricultural revolution The split of philosophical thinking

Large scale of war to united China

Two world wars
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New Concepts: Spare time

Definition: time left over after our basic biological needs fulfilled: food, water, shelter, immediate safety. No law dictating how we spend our spare time Life is something between the two extremities: basic needs and spare time Primitive people idle more than civilized people

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Spare time and basic needs

1. Social world with enemy being other people, which is quite different from our remote ancestors and animals who are subjected to natural rule. We are now subjected to human rule. Our government is only a symbol or a tip of iceberg of such human rule 2. Basic needs are the control button sought out by both our authorities and our enemies or competitors. Our biological nature remains with our basic needs. 3. Spare time hard to control, but our mental human nature is remains with our spare time. Life is something between the two: basic needs and spare time;

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Basic needs vs Spare time

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This definition includes the whole world of Next Stepsbeings, not only biological for humans.
Summarize any actions required of  In spare time, plants stay there, your audience and animals relax and enjoy  Summarize any follow up action themselves items required of you  Early humans also relaxed and enjoyed their spare time.

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The Rural Life of China is Close to Taoist Ideal
With 475-221BC as the transition period, from 2100BC to 475BC Chinese society was close to the above six criteria, and since 221BC Chinese society has been transforming rapidly to a typical secondary society.  Due to the influence of Taoist philosophy, the village life was not much disturbed in comparison with the West except for time of political instability.  Even now, Chinese authority tends to leave minor offences to villages and clans to handle. 1/6/2013

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