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Following

the Dao
Week 4: The Mohists

Overview
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.

Housekeeping
Recap
Background to the Mohists
Jian ai 兼愛 (inclusive care)
Against fatalism
Back to the Analects

Housekeeping
• First short paper due Friday, Oct 9
• Submit on Moodle, using the link for your tutor

3. 4. 6. 5. 2.Overview 1. Housekeeping Recap Background to the Mohists Jian ai 兼愛 (inclusive care) Against fatalism Back to the Analects .

g. just worry about what kind of person you are .Recap • • • • • Learning Tradition Self-cultivation Weakness Fate and fatalism o Ming 命— things that are out of our control o Luck? o Sometimes: just explaining why bad things happen to good people (e.. the death of Yan Hui) o Sometime: don’t worry about success.

3. Housekeeping Recap Background to the Mohists Jian ai 兼愛 (inclusive care) Against fatalism Back to the Analects . 4. 6. 5.Overview 1. 2.

practices. and privileges of “the officials and gentlemen of the world” • In fact were the first in China to develop sustained philosophical argument o And later Mohists started developing theories about argumentation. Mo Di 墨翟 . even logic .The Mohists 墨家 • Associated with. or Mozi • Seem to come from outside the elite culture that Confucians valued and identified with • Portrayed in early texts as social and political movement dedicated to changing things to benefit all the world’s people • Argued against the values. presumably founded by.

The core Mohist doctrines • Politics o Promoting the worthy ( 尚賢 ) o Conforming upwards ( 尚同 ) • Caring for others o Inclusive care ( 兼愛 ) o Against attack ( 非攻 ) • Moderation o Moderation in use ( 節用 ) o Moderation in burial ( 節葬 ) o Against music ( 非樂 ) • Religion o The will of heaven ( 天志 ) o Illuminating ghosts ( 明鬼 ) o Against fate ( 非命 ) .

and social (including family) virtue • This makes the Mohists similar to western utilitarians o In fact. the Mohists were probably the first in the world to develop a utilitarian moral philosophy • It’s essential to the Mohists that everyone’s benefit counts o Often they argue that the practices and privileges of the powerful waste resources that would be better used feeding and clothing the people .Mohist arguments • Most often the Mohists defend their doctrines by appealing to what benefits the world o Benefit (li 利 ) included material well-being (food. peace. clothes…).

and in fact had a tremendous influence on Confucian philosophy (including both Mencius 孟子 and Xunzi 荀子 ) . they were as important as the Confucians.The Mohists’ reputation • The Mohists have quite a bad reputation in traditional studies of Chinese philosophy—largely because that tradition is dominated by Confucians • In their time.

Overview 1. 3. 2. 6. Housekeeping Recap Background to the Mohists Jian ai 兼愛 (inclusive care) Against fatalism Back to the Analects . 4. 5.

they obviously didn’t mean that we shouldn’t care more for people in our families than for strangers—notice all the things they say about family .Jian ai 兼愛 • Literally: caring for everybody • Very often misinterpreted to mean caring for everybody equally—so that we feel about them and treat them all the same o In English. this misinterpretation is often signaled by the translation “universal love” o I use the translation “inclusive care” • This is obviously not what the Mohists meant • In particular.

g. notice in Book 37 (on fatalism) where they describe the achievements of ancient sages—one of the things those sages did was promote family virtues such as filial piety • So—whatever jian ai meant for them.Family • For example: one of their arguments in favour of caring more for other people is that it will promote filial piety • In fact the Mohists consistently assume that traditional family structures are fundamental to social order o E.. it didn’t mean we should care about or treat all other people equally .

but doesn’t really seem to involve caring for everybody equally • What they oppose is people who entirely discount the well-being of others—who hate ( 惡 ) them or exclude ( 別 ) them from their care .Jian ai • So what did they mean? Mostly the following o Do not harm others in order to benefit yourself or those close to you (your family. country…) o Perform your various social roles virtuously—as a daughter or son. subject or ruler… o Do your part to make sure that even the worst off have what they need • So: it does involve caring for everybody. friends. husband or wife.

6. 5. 2. 3. Housekeeping Recap Background to the Mohists Jian ai 兼愛 (inclusive care) Against fatalism Back to the Analects .Overview 1. 4.

” Master Mozi said.” • Zixia says something very much like what Gong Meng says here. in Analects 12. “Poverty or wealth. “To teach people to learn while holding that there is fate is like telling them to cover up while throwing away their hat.Gong Meng From Mozi. a long or short life— these are arranged by tian.5 (which we’ve seen and will see again) • The argument that if you believe in fate you’ll have no reason to work hard is very important for the Mohists . they cannot be reduced or increased.” He also said. “The gentleman must learn. Book 48: 公孟子曰:「貧富壽夭,齰然在天,不可損益。」又曰:「君子必 學。」子墨子曰:「教人學而執有命,是猶命人葆而去亓冠也。」 Gongmengzi said.

Book 39 (“Against Confucians”): 有強執有命以說議曰:「壽夭貧富,安危治亂,固有天命,不可損益。窮達賞罰 幸否有極,人之知力,不能為焉。」群吏信之,則怠於分職。庶人信之,則怠於 從事。不治則亂,農事緩則貧,貧且亂政之本。而儒者以為道教,是賊天下之人 者也。 They [Confucions] also insist that there is fate. And the Confucians take it to be the teaching of dao. Failure or success. arguing. safety or danger. good or bad fortune—these are fixed. If [the officials] do not govern. This is the root of a poor and disorderly government. If the common people trust this. This is to rob the world’s people. they cannot be reduced or increased. “A long or short life. If farmwork is lax. reward or punishment. poverty or wealth. .Confucians From Mozi.'' If the various officials trust this then they will be lazy with their responsibilities. people's wisdom and strength can do nothing about them. there will be poverty. order or disorder--these inherently have tian ming. there will be disorder. then they will be lazy with their work.

“Against fate” • The Mohists’ most extensive arguments about fate are in Books 35 to 37 of the Mozi • These are like three different revisions of the same basic line of argument • We’ll only look at Book 37. in which the argument is set out quite clearly • You should certainly notice how much more sophisticated the argumentation is here than it is in the Analects! .

models) • The Mohists present three fa: o Examination (in the other books. you must establish standards to assess what you say o Their word is fa 法 (standards. this is called finding the basis) o Finding the source o Application .The three standards • The books against fatalism are actually where the Mohists go to the most trouble to make it explicit how their argument is supposed to work • To begin with: before making a claim.

order prevailed o Under the wicked kings. above they changed how they governed and the people reformed their customs ( 當此之時,世 不渝而民不易,上變政而民改俗 )” • In other words: “The world was ordered because of the efforts of Tang and Wu. Wen. the outcomes depended on what the rulers did .The actions of the sages • The first standard (investigation): “examine the actions of former sages and great kings ( 考先聖大王之事 )” • Contrast what happened when sages such as Yu. The world was disordered because of the crimes of Jie and Zhou ( 天下之治也,湯武之力也。天下之亂也,桀紂之罪也 )” • In other words: it wasn’t fate. Tang. there was disorder • Why the difference? “At those times. and Wu ruled with what happened under wicked kings such as Jie and Zhou o Under the sages. a generation had not passed and the people had not been replaced.

the success of our efforts depends on getting other people to cooperate.The actions of the sages • This is a fairly straightforward factual argument: if you want to know whether fatalism is true. the ruler doesn’t have that problem . check whether people’s efforts really do affect outcomes • The Mohists focus on ancient rulers—maybe in part because those rulers had so much power • For most of us. if everybody obeys the ruler.

But who ever thought that fate was the sort of thing you could see or hear? • This is actually kind of a tricky problem of interpretation . the way the Mohists said to find the source of a doctrine • One of the other books (Book 36) does do this—it argues that no one has ever “seen a thing of fate or heard the sound of fate ( 見命之物,聞命之聲 )” • This sounds like it’s supposed to be another factual argument.The eyes and ears of the people • Nothing in the text explicitly appeals to the eyes and ears of the people.

or were they the brutal and unworthy people of the former Three Dynasties? o That does sound like it’s about the source of the doctrine! .Eyes and ears • The first part of Book 37 is about the actions of the sage kings (examination). were they the sages and good people of the former Three Dynasties. the last part is about what happens when you make policy on the basis of fatalism (application) • Maybe the part in the middle is supposed to be somehow about the eyes and ears of the people (finding the source) • This part of the text starts like this: 然今夫有命者,不識昔也三代之聖善人與,意亡昔三代之暴不肖人與? But now the fatalists.

They also said: It is certainly my fate to be impoverished.Eyes and ears The subsequent argument comes in two parts: 1. It was the brutal and unworthy people who were fatalists o Wicked rulers blamed fate when they lost their states o Greedy and lazy people blamed fate for their failures 其言不曰「吾罷不肖,吾從事不強。」又曰「吾命固將窮。」 What they said was not: I am weary and unworthy. 2. The sage kings criticised people who believed in fate o The Mohists defend this view by quoting a series of texts which they claim record the words of the sage kings . I do not undertake my work diligently.

Eyes and ears How does this appeal to what people see and hear? • Maybe the idea is that we all know from everyday experience that people mostly appeal to fate in order to find excuses for their own failings How does this contribute to the argument against fatalism? • One possibility: we don’t want people to think we are greedy or lazy. so we won’t advocate fate • But does this really show that fatalism is false? Is it really relevant who advocates a doctrine? .

and for weaving • “They think being diligent must bring wealth and not being diligent must bring poverty ( 彼以為強必 富,不強必貧 )” • So: you won’t do your work effectively if you’re a fatalist . for farming.Application • The rest of the argument focuses on the question of what happens if rulers make fatalism the basis of their policy • They start by emphasising the hard work that is required for good government.

are you likely to do your best? .Application Why won’t you work hard if you believe in fate? • Basic idea: if you don’t think working hard will improve the outcome. not on how well you do your job • Example: you are born poor in a society in which it is very hard for poor people to get ahead • In cases such as these. to the point where you don’t think working hard will get you a better grade • Example: you have a job where bonuses and promotions depend on favouritism. you won’t have the motivation to work hard • Example: you’re in a class where the grading seems completely arbitrary.

it is also dangerous. since it assumes that hard work really will lead to better outcomes • So what does the argument establish? That fatalism is not only false. that is not a small or unimportant error . if people are fatalists.Application • Suppose the Mohists are right about this: people who believe in fatalism are unlikely to do their best • That does not really give us a reason to think that fatalism is false • In fact the argument presupposes that fatalism is false.

2. Housekeeping Recap Background to the Mohists Jian ai 兼愛 (inclusive care) Against fatalism Back to the Analects . 3. 5. 6. 4.Overview 1.

on the grounds that Confucians were not really fatalists • We’ve seen that there are some fatalist passages in the Analects—but very few .Back to the Analects • The Mohists argue against all fatalists. but as we’ve seen they identify Confucians in particular as fatalists • They are often criticised for this.

how motivated will you be to try to be effective? .21) in which Confucius says that just by being a good person you will exert an influence on government.What to worry about • However—even though there is not much explicit fatalism. we do find the attitude that you should not worry how things work out for you. you should just concentrate on your own character • We even saw one passage (2. even if you have no official position • Does it follow that you can be totally satisfied with yourself even if you are completely ineffective? If you believe this.

Frank Perkins ends with an interesting suggestion • A lot of what the Analects has to say about success and failure and fate makes a lot of sense on a personal level—a lot of things really are out of our control. it does start sounding like you’re saying that people shouldn’t worry about contributing to society. and often we’re better off focusing on things that we can directly affect • And you can imagine Confucius counseling his followers this way • But: once you raise these ideas to the status of a general doctrine. they should just worry about themselves • So: maybe the Mohist arguments that Confucians were fatalists weren’t so far off after all .Perkins reading (again) In the assigned secondary reading.