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Chinese Philosophy Introduction Outline

I.The Chinese Philosophers*

China has a very rich history; a history that can be traced for three thousand years.
Tradition and culture in China is successfully passed from generations to
generations as same cultural traditions are present today from the ancient period.
Mastery in art is also present in china during the ancient period.
On 16th century, Christian missionaries arrived at China and were shocked to found
out that China already has Philosophical and scientific traditions.
Christianity was a result of Greek philosophy and Roman law. It is a challenge to
express the gospel in china because of their established cultural traditions that was
influential to every Chinese.
Ricci and his fellowmen have to study Chinese tradition to effectively preach the
gospel at the same time to study their gospel in the eyes of an Asian.
Contrary to chinas tradition, Philippines have said to be the most westernized
among its south-east Asian neighbors. This is due to the 3 periods of colonization
of the country.
Filipinos glorify western art, economics, politics and social. Anything that is
western is hailed as superior that any other cultures.
Most of Filipinos lack the opportunity to understand Asian cultures as they were
preoccupied to study western tradition; that even studying Asian culture would be
better if studied in a western set-up.
This ignorance about China might lead us to dispel its cultural tradition, and
Philosophy has no excuse. Most of us would think that philosophy is derived
from the Greeks but the fact is as Greece flourished in their Philosophies, China has
also been to its Golden age of Philosophy.
Confucius is the most familiar Chinese philosopher to us Filipinos.
Confucius lived in a period where China was at constant conflict between its
divided states. The difference between western conflicts and chinas internal wars
was at that early period, China had already developed arrangements and treaties to
solve conflicts.
As an agrarian region, China is more organized and systematic than western
industrial countries. Confucius still sought for better ways to govern China. He
arrived in a consensus that improving the moral quality of those who governed. He
persuaded them to look at government not as power but as a responsibility.
He became a teacher that traveled from state to state to develop those who
governed. He teaches them to be chun-tzu and taught them not just to be a
nobleman (direct equivalent of chun-tzu) but to be man of nobility.
There are qualities or social virtues that a chun-tzu should posses: chin (integrity),
I (righteousness), chung (loyalty), shu (altruism) and jen (love or human
heartedness), this will make him a man for others.
Confucius also believes in the mandate of Heaven, that to govern is a
responsibility to be fulfilled as it is a divine rule that is given to a human ruler.
Confucius also emphasizes harmony as through it the divine is being visible and
this harmony (now we call social order) enables society to be what it ought to be.
Just Social order is a responsibility that a government should establish or maintain.
A chun-tzu should disregard injustice, greed and ambition for it will defeat the
purpose of power to be an obligation and not a privilege and thus would disrupting
the mandated harmony.
Confucius arrived at a theory of revolution independently but doesnt affirm the
popular participation in government (democracy today) as an alternative to violent
revolution, for him let the ruler be the ruler and the subjects be the subject
In a story in Analects, Confucius had a conversation with Jen Yu, Confucius said the
population should be enriched and educated and by that he meant of giving them
an ability to govern themselves not just for the privileged but even peasants
included should be chun-tzu.
Another conversation happened was between Confucius and Tzu Kung, and
Confucius enumerated food, sufficient troops and confidence/faith as the essential
things for human survival.
The less essential among the three is the troop then food and the most essential is
faith. For him a person cannot survive without faith.
Mencius (372-289 BC) reflected on Confucius confidence as the most essential
thing for survival. His insight was a government cannot be a good and successful
government without seeking for the common good and not the self-interest of the
Mencius came to see King Hui of Liang and said to the not to seek for profit but to
speak only of humanity and righteousness.
Mencius has some interesting insights about economics that was two thousand years
before Marx, he emphasized the value of livelihood to every person. A persons
livelihood must be able to support his parents, wife and children that in good years
they will eat their fill but in bad years they will not die in starvation. For only then
people will not be anxious of trying to stay alive but they could have the leisure for
cultivating decorum and righteousness.
Mencius also emphasizes the importance of people and placed it on the highest
hierarchy then followed by the spirit of the land then the grain and the rulers come
Mo-Tzu who came after Confucius criticized his master, that it is not enough to be
chun-tzu. A government demands not just virtues but hard work.
For Mo-Tzu, a ruler must start the day early and retires late so that the government
is governed well.
Government then is not just being good but doing good. Mo-tzu also criticized his
masters concept of Jen (love) as too narrow in scope as it includes only 5
relationships: father-son, ruler-subject, husband-wife, elder brother younger
brother and friend-friend. He doesnt think that human love is just limited to these
five relationships. He referred these as partial-love.
Mo-tzu replaced Confucius partial-love to universal love as the ground of social
order. The in order to maintain this harmony, one man must not just refer to himself
as his standard or rule, but he must submit himself to the rules and standards of the
Mo-tzu enumerated several calamities of the world: attacking of small states by
large states, plundering of the weak by the strong, oppression of the few by the
many... disdain of the noble to the humble.
The cause of these calamities according to Mo-tzu is not peoples loving others and
benefiting others but hating others and injuring others.
When one thinks of his state as his own, he would attack other state. If one doesnt
think of the world as shared then there would be constant attacking and conquering.
Universal love is the love that could bring benefit to the world.
The Tao, or Taoist who practices Taoism believes that harmony is embodied in the
natural universe and the best way for man is to let nature take its course; let things
be. They believe in wu wei do nothing and nothing will be done; everything will
be spontaneously achieved.
Hsun-Tzu the fore-runner of the Legalist School, disagrees Mencius concept of
man as naturally good and believes that man is by nature evil. The thing that can
make a chun-tzu is education and discipline.
Right for the legalist is what the rulers desire, and this must be realized. Rulers
objectives can push its people to work hard in a martial spirit and that all aspect will
be regulated.
Legalist were the technocrats of Chin Dynasty that put end to warring and
centralized monarchy.
Today the tension between the legalist discipline and Confucian human heartedness
is still present.