Confucianism Was Confucianism a Religion Research Paper

  • Length: 8 pages
  • Sources: 5
  • Subject: Mythology - Religion
  • Type: Research Paper
  • Paper: #94261475

Excerpt from Research Paper :

In the above quotation Tucker has clearly stated that the concept of imminence and transcendence, which are considered as essential aspects of the Western definition of religion, are not easily discernable in the philosophy of Confucianism. On the other hand Tucker makes a valid point, in that there can be many different views of what religion is and how it is experienced by different cultures may differ as well. It is in this sense that Tucker goes on to substantiate her claim for the religious nature of Confucianism by stating that, "Thus, I am proposing instead the notion of cosmology and cultivation as a mutually interacting dialectic at the heart of the Confucian tradition. This dialectic occurs within the threefold relationship of heaven, earth, and human beings."

4. Confucianism as a Pragmatic Philosophy

Far less convulsed and complex is the more accepted view that Confucianism is rather a form of ethical and pragmatic philosophy. Up to this point we have seen how many scholars have categorized Confucianism as a philosophy rather than a religion. The main reason for this is that it does not stress the ideals of supernatural imminence and transcendence that are integral to traditional Western views of religion.

Many scholars and pundits see a marked difference between religion and philosophy in that philosophy deals essentially with existential and human-centered questions, while religion deals with these questions but firstly focuses on the supernatural and non-humanistic reality. Confucianism therefore tends to fall into the category of rational and moral philosophy.

The view that Confucian is a pragmatic philosophy that is mainly concerned with social and individual morals and ethics can be seen in the views of pragmatic philosophers like Dewey. Stephens states in a study entitled CONFUCIANISM, PRAGMATISM, AND SOCIALLY BENEFICIAL PHILOSOPHY that there is a close similarity between philosophical pragmatism and Confucianism.

This leads to the first relevant similarity between Confucianism and pragmatism: The idea that philosophy and knowledge must be concerned with the practical conditions of human life. Much like Dewey, Confucius sees that philosophic pursuits must not be mere ends in themselves, but rather a means toward creating a more favorable world

This view in effect points to a very different view of Confucianism than that proposed by Tucker. This view links Confucianism with the idea of a philosophy that deals with the "practical conditions of human life."

Stephens goes on to state that; "According to Confucius, the purpose of philosophic thought and knowledge was the improvement of the human condition through the cultivation of the individual."

This is very much in line with the pragmatic, humanistic philosophy of Dewy and others.

In this regard we can refer to Dewey's understanding of religion. As Hall and Ames (2003) note, "Dewey's understanding of religion begins from social practices which, when they achieve a certain breadth and depth of meaning, reveal a religious sensibility that connects a cultured human community more profoundly to the natural world."

In other words, the view of religion that Dewy has, and which can be connected to Confucianism is that;

Dewey's sense of religion requires no belief in a supernatural supreme being: "Nature, as the object of knowledge, is capable of being the source of constant good and a rule of life, and thus has all the properties and the functions that the Jewish-Christian tradition attributed to God."

This is a telling reference and leads Hal, and Ames to suggest that, "The core of Confucianism is humanism…"

This would mean that Confucianism would be seen as a pragmatic philosophy or a form of secular religion, which would be out of line with more traditional conceptions of religion.

5. Conclusion

In conclusion, it is very difficult to determine to provide any definitive answer to this question. As has been shown in this discussion, the understanding of whether Confucianism is a philosophy or a religion is obscured and problematized by different perceptions and interpretations of the meaning and nature of religion that have to be taken into account; for example, Tuckers view that there has been a possible distortion of interpretation of Confucianism by Western critics. This is countered by others who state clearly and categorically that Confucianism is a pragmatic philosophy and not a religion per se. This also is linked by some scholars to the style of pragmatic secular religion that has been popularized by Dewey and others. In a more modern and postmodern context we have the view that critiques all modern humanistic religions as not being true to the view of religion as essentially transcendent.

Based on the literature one could make a case for Confucianism as both a philosophy and a religion -- but once again this would depend on the definition of terms.

In the final analysis one should take heed of critics like Liu Shu-hsien, John Berthrong and Leonard Swidler (2003). They refer to the positive aspects of this debate in that they see it as opening up a much needed dialogue between Western and Eastern points-of-view. "…there would not be new dialogues without new controversies joining the list of older debating between Confucians and Western philosophers and theologians."

In other word, the debate about whether Confucianism is a religion or a philosophy open up areas of potentially fruitful discussion and forces us to reexamine and question our preconceptions and interpretations about religion and philosophy.

Works Cited

"Confucianism." Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th Edition, 2009

Hall, David L., and Roger T. Ames. "Chapter 5 A Pragmatist Understanding of Confucian Democracy." Confucianism for the Modern World. Ed. Daniel A. Bell and Hahm Chaibong.( Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 2003):124-160.

McMurrin, Sterling M. Religion, Reason, and Truth: Historical Essays in the Philosophy of Religion. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1982. Questia. Web. 12 Apr. 2010.

Shu-hsien Liu, Berthrong John and Leonard Swidler. CONTEMPORARY

CONFUCIANISM AND WESTERN CULTURE. Leonard, Journal of Ecumenical Studies, 40. 1. ( 2003)

Stephens D. "CONFUCIANISM, PRAGMATISM, AND SOCIALLY BENEFICIAL

PHILOSOPHY, "Journal of Chinese Philosophy 34.3 (2009): 53-67.

Tucker, Mary Evelyn. "Religious Dimensions of Confucianism: Cosmology and Cultivation." Philosophy East & West 48.1 (1998): 5-45.

"World Religion: Diversity of Faith." The New Crisis Nov.-Dec. 1999: 33.

Yu, Bingyi, and Zhaolu Lu. "Confucianism and Modernity-Insights from an Interview with Tu Wei-Ming." China Review International 7.2 (2000): 377..

"World Religion: Diversity of Faith." The New Crisis Nov.-Dec. 1999: 33.

Confucianism. Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th Edition, 2009

Confucianism. Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th Edition, 2009

Bingyi Yu, Bingyi, and Zhaolu Lu. "Confucianism and Modernity-Insights from an Interview with Tu Wei-Ming." China Review International 7.2 (2000): 377.

Bingyi Yu, Bingyi, and Zhaolu Lu. "Confucianism and Modernity-Insights from an Interview with Tu Wei-Ming." China Review International 7.2 (2000): 377.

Mary Evelyn Tucker. "Religious Dimensions of Confucianism: Cosmology and Cultivation." Philosophy East & West 48.1 (1998): 5.

Mary Evelyn Tucker. "Religious Dimensions of Confucianism: Cosmology and Cultivation." Philosophy East & West 48.1 (1998): 13.

Sterling M. McMurrin, Religion, Reason, and Truth: Historical Essays in the Philosophy of Religion ( Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1982) 23.

Sterling M. McMurrin, Religion, Reason, and Truth: Historical Essays in the Philosophy of Religion ( Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1982) 23.

Mary Evelyn Tucker. "Religious Dimensions of Confucianism: Cosmology and Cultivation." Philosophy East & West 48.1 (1998): 13.

Mary Evelyn Tucker. "Religious Dimensions of Confucianism: Cosmology and Cultivation." Philosophy East & West 48.1 (1998): 5.

Mary Evelyn Tucker. "Religious Dimensions of Confucianism: Cosmology and Cultivation." Philosophy East & West 48.1 (1998): 5.

Daniel Stephens, "CONFUCIANISM, PRAGMATISM, AND SOCIALLY BENEFICIAL PHILOSOPHY, "Journal of Chinese Philosophy 34.3 (2009): 55.

Daniel Stephens, "CONFUCIANISM, PRAGMATISM, AND SOCIALLY BENEFICIAL PHILOSOPHY, "Journal of Chinese Philosophy 34.3 (2009): 55.

Daniel Stephens, "CONFUCIANISM, PRAGMATISM, AND SOCIALLY BENEFICIAL PHILOSOPHY, "Journal of Chinese Philosophy 34.3 (2009): 56.

David L. Hall,, and Roger T. Ames. "Chapter 5 A Pragmatist Understanding of Confucian Democracy." Confucianism for the Modern World. Ed. Daniel A. Bell and Hahm Chaibong.( Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 2003):146.

David L. Hall,, and Roger…

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