Even a ruler who is morally deficient in his own personal life may, nevertheless, be a good ruler if he sets up the proper policies and administration by means of five tactics: the use of the power of position; the employment of administrative methods; the making of laws; taking hold of the two handles of government reward and punishment ; and the non-action wuwei of the ruler.
To put it succinctly, while previous classical Chinese political philosophies insisted on rule by the virtuous for example, a meritocracy and a close association between morality and politics, Hanfei sees no difficulty in considering both the ruler and politics as amoral. When Han Emperor Wu took control of the state, he consulted scholars and officials to gain advice on how to govern.
Dong recommended the establishment of a Grand Academy taixue to train those who would serve the government in the skills they would need. Dong continued the emphases of Confucius and Mencius calling for rule by the meritorious and for the establishment of a humane ren government. A principal difference between Dong and Confucius and Mencius is that he attached more significance to the role of Heaven in validating policy and social structure as a transcendent power. Violation of the principles of Heaven would bring disturbances in the natural, human, and spiritual worlds.
Dong built his philosophy on a much heavier reliance on the transcendent than can be seen in Confucius, Mencius, or Xunzi. Rulers must follow the principles of Heaven and fulfill its mandate, or else disaster will follow. And yet, following Confucius, Dong insisted that in order to carry out the will of Heaven, a ruler must rely on education and the rites rather than punishment and killing.
Applying the explanatory system of the five elemental phases, Dong wrote that rulers should practice, and the state should inculcate, the five virtues: humaneness ren , rightness yi , propriety li , wisdom zhi and loyalty xin. Dong believed strongly that all political activity should reflect the five phases. To be in accordance with these phases, he even called for a new calendar to be issued, colors of banners to be changed, monuments redesigned, and complete revision of other trappings of government.
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According to his biography in the Book of the Early Han Hanshu, The Masters of Huainan Huainanzi was a product of this interchange of ideas. It is a work focused on educating a ruler on the tasks before him. In the text we find a theory of the fall of humanity from an original harmony in the state of nature to human government and politics with its attendant disorder and violence. Instead of government resulting from agreement between persons for whom there is no law, where the powerful can enforce their will over the weak, the text takes the reverse approach.
The primal state is presented as a natural, spontaneous, and peaceful existence. The first, and certainly the most important technique, for a ruler is to act in wuwei. This does not mean the ruler should do absolutely nothing. It means that when he acts, nothing comes from him personally HZ 9. The best form of government, the text suggests, is one where the ruler devotes himself to wuwei. By following their spontaneous natures and aligning themselves with profound wuwei , the world naturally became harmonious HZ 8. He recognized that government and law were necessary, but considered them insufficient to bring about social order; virtue and ritual were still important.
Virtue, law, rites, and punishments should complement each other.
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In fact, Zhu Xi supported the use of law to assist in the moral education of the populace. The purpose of law was not merely to protect those in the society from harm or injury.
It was also to shape the character of the society and its people. Accordingly, government not only had the right but also the obligation to engineer the morality of society and control what the people could do morally. Nevertheless, Zhu Xi was aware of the long history of abuse of the power to make law, grant amnesties, and remit punishment practiced by Song dynastic rulers. He argued that laws must be clear and the enforcement of them must be just.
He challenged directly the practice of amnesty dashe as frequently degenerating into a form of favoritism and injustice.
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By insisting on the enforcement of law and punishment of offenders, Zhu is often misunderstood as being akin to the worst abusers of law as found in the Legalist tradition. However, he was not advocating severity of punishment as a value in itself, but rather recommending the just administration of law as the active enforcement of morals, using politics as a means of moral cultivation.
After the first Sino-Japanese War of , China entered into the period that one might call Modern Chinese Philosophy where there was an influx of texts and ideas from the Western world. Yan Fu became the most influential translator of Western works in China. Yan was a true cultural intermediary who, at a critical moment in history, sought to make European works of philosophy and social science accessible to a Chinese readership.
He put forward a form of Social Darwinism according to which social organization is also a product of evolution and subject to its same laws and processes. He made his thought clear that in order for China to fare well in global competition with other nations it must alter its societal structure. Yan claimed that the reason why China was weaker and less able to compete compared to the Western nations was its lack of liberty for its people.
Accordingly, he extended the point to claim that liberty is essential in order to produce a strong nation. When people lack liberty, they will not be motivated to fight for the state or work hard in order to create a productive society. Prior to Yan Fu, the concept of liberty that he was drawing from Mill does not mean doing whatever one wants. Society has genuine interests that might be harmed by indiscriminate freedom of action. Moreover, society has a right to transmit a set of values and cultural practices that can limit freedom of the individual. To this point, there had not been any rigorous analysis of the nature and place of liberty in Chinese political philosophy.
Yan was forced to defend himself against conservative critics in China who felt the radicalism of a civil libertarian society represented danger and the possibility of chaos.
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His strategy was to claim that although society should not interfere with individual human liberty, neither should the individual do anything to harm society by his free expression. Rather, he insisted on gradual political reform.
He thought that improved education for the Chinese population was needed before the people would be ready to participate in government; the Chinese people at the turn of the 20 th century, Yan believed, were not yet ready for participatory government and responsible use of free expression. For Liang Qichao, the central task of philosophy is to perfect the principles and rules necessary for social affairs within a political system. He thought an authentic philosopher was not so much an ontologist or epistemologist as a jingshi ; that is, a statesman or scholar who practices statesmanship.
Liang built his early political philosophy from on the position that the myriad things of existence move continuously toward integration and grouping qun. This position led him to distinguish between the moral virtues that related to individual personal conduct side and civic or public virtues gongde , which were necessary for the creation of a healthy and ideal society. Liang took the Chinese term min people , which was used to mark the people that made up a population, and replaced it with the concept guomin citizens in an intentional effort to tie individual identity and nationalism together.
He believed a philosophically viable political body is not merely made up of a population. The people must be brought into being as citizens who express their powers and right to self-government, otherwise the nation itself ceases to exist and becomes something ultimately destructive to human flourishing. The first reference to Western socialism seems to be in an essay by Yan Fu.
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While many Chinese intellectuals wrote on Marxism in the early part of the 20 th century, no thinker is as important to the sinification of Marxism as Mao Zedong. His concerns were directed into a relatively narrow range of philosophical inquiry: social, political, and economic thought. Mao thought that Marxism must be made to engage with the specific and particular situation of the Chinese people and culture.
He held that Chinese Communists must learn how to apply the theories of Marxism-Leninism to concrete situations in China, enabling an application of Marxist philosophy that is uniquely Chinese in all circumstances. Several factors are important to note about how and why Marxism assumed its particular form in China in the ss.
Perhaps most important of these is that Chinese Marxism drew on the Chinese intellectual tradition in ways that minimized some of the difficulties that are found in Western Marxism. Long before the introduction of Marxist thought, Chinese philosophical history embraced the principles of the socio-economic significance to communal order, a humanistic non-religious worldview, dialectical social and intellectual processes, and authoritarian rule by an enlightened elite. In the story a dialectical tension emerges when a man offers to sell both an invincible sword and an impenetrable shield.
Mao uses this example to highlight the inevitability of the dynamic interaction of divergent views that contradict each other. For Mao, only actual political practice and societal change, not intellectual cognition or language, can fully overcome the tongbian dialectics of Chinese social and economic realities. Dialectics is not an academic exercise, but a revolutionary one. He spoke of this change as a dictatorship of the revolutionary leadership and a democratic centralism.
One thinker who is contributing to a renewal and revision of political theory by constructing a New Confucian social theory is Tu Weiming. Tu considers Confucianism to be an all-embracing humanism that merges the secular and sacred. He also believes that the Confucian moral ideal of the exemplary person can be realized more fully in a liberal democratic society than in either the traditional imperial monarchies or modern authoritarian regimes. Moreover, he argues that Confucianism adapted for the contemporary period is an antidote to the deficiencies of Western philosophy that gives insufficient importance to the idea of community and privileges the political ideals which tend to degenerate into injustice and disorder.
Tu suggest that in the Confucian community divergent interests and plural desires are dealt with differently than in social contract and civil libertarian adversarial systems where the tyranny of the majority may be expressed in the ballot. In the fiduciary community, no decision by ruling authority can be regarded as appropriate if it destroys the ethos of trustworthiness among the people or between the people and the government. While he recognizes the immense value of Western enlightenment rationality, Tu insists that its tools and values must be supplemented by three requirements that can move humanity toward a global ethic: 1 converting from an anthropocentric to an anthropocosmic vision that appreciates the vibrancy of spirituality and removes man from being the measure of all things; 2 revising instrumental rational empiricism to include sympathy and empathy necessary for a full phenomenology of experience; and 3 instantiating the universalizable values of liberty, rationality, law, human rights , and the dignity of the individual.
Jiang Qing is a contemporary Chinese Confucian who is best known for his criticism of New Confucianism as expressed by Tu Weiming and others. According to him, New Confucianism deviated from original Confucian principles and is overly influenced by Western liberal democracy. He also feels there is a drift in the Chinese Communist Party that seems unfocused and without direction. He has been an advocate for new Confucian academies throughout the country, especially his own retreat called Yangming Spiritual House.
His new model is expressed through a trilateral parliamentary framework made up of a House of Exemplary Persons that represents the sacred, a House of the Nation that represents historical and cultural legitimacy, and a House of the People that represents popular sentiment. An summary of his views in English is by David Ownby Kang calls for the Chinese Community Party to be Confucianized. He thinks Marxism should be replaced with a reconstituted and adapted philosophical system of Confucius and Mencius.
He holds that while the educational system will keep the party schools, their syllabi should be changed, listing the Four Books and Five Classics as required texts.
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Kang desires a return to the examination system for all promotions in the Chinese bureaucracy and he wants Confucian philosophical teachings to be added to each examination. Moreover, he also maintains that the Chinese society as a whole should be Confucianized. Here the key is to introduce Confucianism into the national education system, adding courses in Chinese culture that Kang claims will impart a value system, a faith, and soul for the culture.
In this work, he calls for reclaiming and articulating resources from the Confucian tradition to address contemporary moral and public policy challenges. He sets his effort against both Western civil libertarian democracies and the New Confucianism of Tu Weiming and others.
He holds that while Western social philosophy is founded on abstract and general principles, Confucianism is defined by specific rules that identify particular practices leading to a virtuous mode of life developed in the forge of a properly harmonious Confucian family. Fan argues that in such families persons learn how to treat others as unequals and gain mastery of the push and pull of graded love, creating a virtuous familism that is transferable to the society at large.
Instead of Western language about rights, Fan holds that the goal in political policy is to treat persons as relatives and the nation and global community as a household drawing on the archetype of a traditional Chinese family that brought many persons into its circle of influence. The history of Chinese philosophy may be approached in many ways. In this article, an overview of many important thinkers has been provided, and their contributions to world philosophy on the topics of ontology, epistemology, moral theory, and political philosophy were discussed.
Another viable approach to the history of the tradition would be to demarcate the moves made in Chinese philosophical thought within the flow of Chinese history itself, giving attention also to the interactions between Chinese thinkers and internal dialogues of significance. Both of these approaches can contribute to an appreciation of the significance and value of philosophy and the important place Chinese philosophers play within it. Ronnie Littlejohn Email: ronnie. Lao-Zhuang Daoist Ontology c. Political Thought in the Han Dynasty B.
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