Confucianism Describe the Unique Characteristics of Chinese Term Paper

  • Length: 15 pages
  • Subject: Black Studies - Philosophy
  • Type: Term Paper
  • Paper: #12465748

Excerpt from Term Paper :


Describe the unique characteristics of Chinese worldviews and discuss the significance or the implications of these characteristics in relation to the worldviews of other traditions such as the Jewish, the Christian or the modern scientific worldviews.

In order to provide an explanation to worldview several authors define worldview in different terms. According to Fritj of Capra, a social Paradigm is a particular vision of a community and where values, perceptions, concepts and practices are being shared among the members of that particular community. The vision of the community is the foundation upon which the community would organize itself. (Capra, p.34). According to Bowers worldview was that which brought about a sense of legitimacy and coherence to society, the norms present in society, its institutions, and legitimacy to individual experience and the moral and concepts of individuals. (Bowers, p.52). He gives three examples: namely, sin which is original, thought which is rational and which would lead to empowerment, and finally, intellectual authority to be determined on the basis of data. This way, a worldview can be considered as a pair of glasses through which we can see our experiences. While looking through it we get some issues focused, some which would become blurred, and some, which would disappear totally. But there are certain issues, which we cannot see even through these glasses, something even beyond them. It helps the individual to decide about the environment around him, and to judge what is right and wrong and thus by way of this the society is organized by the judgments made by the individuals.

By making a distinction between nature and man, between mind and matter and between subject and object, western philosophy, which had its origins from Hebrew, and Greek philosophy made a dual approach towards reality. The Christian philosophy rooted in Hebrew tradition believed in a complete separation of God from this Universe. The Chinese philosophy on the other hand believed in the unity of God and the universe. Thus while Western dualistic tendencies emphasized opposition of man with his nature, Chinese monism emphasized a unity of man with his nature. The Western division led to considering nature as an object and its study as science; whereas the study of the human subject or spirit led to logic, to epistemology, and to the study of human psychology and freedom. Western dualism considering nature as an object studied it as science while the study of human being or spirit led to psychology, logic, epistemology and human freedom. The Chinese giving emphasis on monism and harmony studied aesthetics more than logic, searching for deeper meanings and not on falsification or verification of propositions. This resulted in lesser tension in Chinese philosophy, compared to that in Western philosophy.

Explanation would require on how and why Greek and Hebraic traditions were successful even outside the region of their origin and as to why they were accepted and flourished in Europe, Great Britain and the New World. These Western societies having a totally different environment and other conditions than the places of its origin accepting and getting influenced by the Greek and Hebraic thought is also worth considering. The condition in the Western Europe was similar to the one in China, and both had agriculture as its backbone. Yet the West took Greco-Hebraic way of thinking and not the Chinese one, why? Dynamism developed from the contrasts in West, while a static worldview resulted from the harmony of the Chinese view, its respect for traditional values and customs and the search for knowledge. It is true to say there is some connection between the physical characteristics of a country and the thinking developed in that particular environment, but if one tries to demonstrate that link, the way how the thinking developed from the environment also will become clear. Taking our knowledge on the Greek, Israeli and Chinese environmental and historical conditions superficially, we cannot say these are the determining factors for their thought. Cause and effect links have to be found and demonstrated.

Environment and conditions in the Roman Empire was entirely different, yet Christianity flourished there. This is something beyond the environmental theory can explain. Chinese thought developing in later China, can be traced to the original roots and the influence of tradition. This theory of growth from original root and tradition could explain Greek philosophy in later Greece. But the reason behind other countries adopting it, losing ground for some time and then flourishing again in those countries to which it was transported is something beyond this explanation of this theory. We see both rationalism of Plato, and empiricism of his student Aristotle in Greece. They had difference of opinion on the relation of man and nature, even though the society and the geographical environment in which they grew were the same. The fact that natural environmental condition alone is not the factor that determines the way of thought. Origin and validity are different and one is not fully dependent or the other, nor can one give full explanation for the other. Were it not so, different philosophies should have developed in the present France, Germany, Great Britain and America than the one found in Greece. It is possible that the Romans accepted it and that the Greek thought in it influenced them give an explanation for it developing in these regions.

Thoughts of both of them had their influence on the western thought. Their logical consistency, coherence, comprehensiveness, and their strength in considering human experience while comparing it to other worldviews available may perhaps give a fitting explanation for the reason for their domination in the Western European countries. Domination of specific views or their continuing power cannot be explained by environmental or historical conditions by themselves. But worldviews as a whole can explain this, if they are true or false, their adequacy to experience will be more or less, and similarly more or less fruitful they will be. As is demonstrated by the history of the western thought, these views can be and in fact they are evaluated, changed, discarded or exchanged for other views. Environment and socio-cultural conditions alone cannot explain the development and power of Christianity and the Judeo-Christian traditions. Christianity, which initially was a slave religion in the Roman Empire, subsequently grew in to the Religion of the Empire, and it is far beyond the explanation of geographical or cultural reasons. The notion of transcendence held high by the Judeo-Christian traditions and its connection to ethics had, and is having, strong human appeal, logically and emotionally.

The rise of modern science and of modern economics went hand in hand requiring a degree of political freedom for their growth. The development of science requires the necessity to view nature as an object, and also a degree of human freedom, which in turn requires the view of man as a subject. Human freedom, in turn developed with the notion of human beings as moral persons with human rights. Now, arises the question whether Western and Chinese views of nature and man can be combined, and if possible, then how. It is for logic and experience to answer them. Marxism was brought into China in an effort to integrate Western and Chinese thoughts, also remains a puzzle. Attempt is made in the East to learn the science of the West, leaving out all the pitfalls of the Western development. Chinese worldview promotes an ever-evolving nature, which is ever changing, without any set beginning or end, but goes on evolving; and the Chinese analogical and correlative thinking accepts change or process having priority over rest and permanence, and there is no any ultimate agency which is responsible for the order of things in general. The approach of this philosophy sees history more as dialectical or cyclical than as compared to being linear or process. This philosophy of the Chinese has its implications on international relations, and affect understandings of relationships, time, and agreements.

Is Confucianism a form of Humanism? Explain the unique aspects of "Confucian humanism" and how this form of humanism is different from "secular humanism." Discuss also whether Confucianism is a form of religion. Provide the reasons for your arguments for pro-or con on this issue.

A philosophy, which is concerned with human beings, their interests and achievements but not with conceptual things and issues of religion, is termed as Confucianism. The center of the universe, according to Confucianism, is man and man should live with other human beings as man cannot live alone. The eventual aspiration of human beings is individual satisfaction. Peace is the essential requirement to realize individual satisfaction. Based on love and duties, Confucius discovered five human relationships through which peace can be obtained. To develop the Great World Unity, war has to be eliminated. Confucius and his followers viewed jen (pronounced ren) or humanity as the most important virtue that we have to identify ourselves with. Confucius did not define jen, even though it is the essence of his teaching. (Huang, p.30)

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