So, in the Lao-Zhuang traditions there is a call to return to human inner nature that moves with the dao and away from the conventions of morality. In the Zhuangzi , making distinctions of these sorts is considered a disease that is condemned in several logia of the text ZZ chs. In the Lao-Zhuang traditions, struggling over these human-made distinctions represents the source of all strife in the world.
The key is not to begin this process at all or to empty oneself of it by forgetting such distinctions and returning to the unity with dao , expressing its power de. For both the Daodejing and Zhuangzi , the concept wuwei is used to report a kind of effortless, spontaneous conduct that invariably expresses moral efficacy without deliberation or calculating consequences.
This is not an ability that is available to persons without preparation. A person caught up in making moral distinctions should not expect to be able to wuwei as a verb without first entering into oneness with dao by forgetting those very distinctions. The holiness of wuwei conduct rests on the fact that moving in this manner accords in the situation with an efficacy that can only be attributed to the dao ; it could never have resulted from human wisdom, planning, or contrivance.
This is not to say that such action might not correspond to conventional human moral belief. Rather, the point is this: While moving in wuwei may look to the outside observer like moral conduct following human distinctions, its origin lies in empty stillness. It is a hopeless pursuit to invert this process and think that by following human morality one will come upon the dao or be able to wuwei. The Zhuangzi compares the spontaneous and effortless action of wuwei to the kind of prehension Cook Ding experiences when he cuts up an ox without ever hitting a bone or dulling his knife ZZ ch.
Another way of saying this is that humans moralize in a way analogous to how that a corn kernel yields corn and not tomatoes. Mencius means that humans do not start out as blank slates having to learn to moralize. For Mencius, humans are good by nature. This view marks the beginning of his philosophy of anthropology. When reading Mencius, the early Chinese ontology that he inherited must be kept in mind.
For him, there is no object that is a self or soul as found in Western philosophy. Nevertheless, there is a sort of five-phase correlation of qi that has produced a human rather than something else. The four propensities are part of this structure, and they may be stated as follows: One whose heart-mind xin is devoid of compassion, shame, courtesy and modesty, and moral discretion is not human Mencius 2A6. The fact that Mencius chooses agriculture metaphors when writing about human nature suggests he is being consistent with the early Chinese ontology that influenced him.
Chinese philosophy does not insist on a thick understanding of essentialism. Yet, this does not mean that people are born without generally defining propensities. There are inborn, transitive, generational patterns that create bodies. To be devoid of these or possess some other set might eventuate in some other creature, but not a human body. Likewise, for Mencius, anyone devoid of the four propensities of morality lacks a human nature xing and cannot become human. He does not mean that humans are innately programmed to be morally good, or that they will automatically grow into morally good beings.
The kernel will produce corn, but not if it is deprived of cultivation. Likewise, human nature is predisposed by means of inborn tendencies to act morally, but being morally good is not automatic. Evil and violent times can retard the youth, just as drought can harm the crops 6A7; 6A9. The great and luxuriant trees of Ox Mountain are beautiful, but if constantly lopped by axes, we cannot be surprised if the mountain appears bald and ugly. The same is true of a person who repeatedly cuts down the sprouts of his moral intuitions and follows a way of immorality 6A8.
On the other hand, Mencius thought that the incipient seeds of morality would grow, with cultivation by li , into the humane person ren. The cultivation of these seeds enables a person to increase in humaneness ren just as a fire that continually builds or a spring that has begun to vent will flow ever more strongly 6A6. In taking this approach, Mencius is making the difference between his position and that of Mozi very clear. Unlike Mencius, Xunzi believes that human nature is disposed to self-interest and that, left alone without moral guidance and the restrictions of law, self-interest will degenerate into selfishness and breed disorder and chaos.
Goodness will not grow from within like corn stalks from kernels because human inclinations are not the four propensities Mencius identified, but desires for beautiful sights and sounds, comfort and power. Unless controlled, these and other desires become violence, willful violation of others, and destruction. Xunzi says that the sage-kings established moral rites, such as discriminations of right and wrong, and li , to shape, guide, and control people.
For Xunzi, human beings invented morality; they did not discover it within Heaven Mencius or have it disclosed to them by Heaven Mozi. Accordingly, if the sage-kings had not invented the rites, there would have been no civilization and no order. Subsequent generations must be transformed by the influence of teachers and models, and follow especially the guidance of morality and rituals of human conduct li handed down to them. Humans depend on the rites of morality created over generations by exemplary humans to shape and carve individual being into something worthwhile. A way of extending the importance of this difference between Mencius and Xunzi is to notice the shift in metaphors that Xunzi makes.
Where Mencius used agricultural metaphors, Xunzi employed craft analogies: woodworking, jade carving, home construction, and so forth. For Xunzi, humans by nature are like warped pieces of wood that must be steamed, put into a press, and forced to bend into a straight shape. He holds that even children must be taught to love their parents and be filial, a position contrary to that of Mencius, who thinks this is a natural inclination. Xunzi believed that if Mencius was correct and human nature was such as to move persons toward the good like water flowing downhill, then there would be no necessity for the emergence of morality or li Xunzi ; Watson In Chapter 17 of the Xunzi , Xunzi makes the point that Heaven does not care about human behavior, or how the course of things affects humans.
In this, he takes a view much different than that of Mozi. Heaven cannot be appeased or persuaded to bring humans good fortune. If there is good fortune for humans, it is because persons make it happen through responsible government and well-ordered society. Neither does Heaven make people poor or bring calamities. Heaven has no will and no mind, and thus does not act to bring judgment or reward. The well being of persons and societies is squarely in the hands of humans acting morally.
In Chinese Buddhism, the moral life is understood in a way similar to the epistemological one. There are multiple levels. On the lowest level, that of the lay followers, Buddhist morality looks in many ways like a conventional moral system. Various Buddhist schools share the basic code of ethics called the Five Precepts for the guidance of life when a seeker is at this lowest level.
These entail abstinence from 1 killing, 2 stealing, 3 sexual misconduct, 4 lying, and 5 intoxication. Some Buddhist schools add three or five precepts to these. The so-called Ten Precepts form the conduct guides for monastic orders. The best-known companion concept to Buddhist morality at the level of precepts is the concept of karma.
Individuals living by moral precepts may stand out among others as good and ethical. They may receive awards and recognitions. We may seek them out in our relationships. In its highest forms, this is the Buddhism of compassion for the world, which seeks to remove evil and suffering by living a pure life and contributing to the welfare of others.
They are also still subject to mental anguish and physical attunement. A higher level of morality than that of following precepts is possible, even as a result of following those precepts. However, a crucial difference occurs when the training eventuates in enlightenment. One who has climbed to the heights no longer needs the ladder. Since one is emptied of the attachments and desires moral precepts are meant to control and erase, there is no longer any need for them, nor any function for them once the job is done and desire is extinguished.
Such an enlightened one transcends ethics and precepts, and is set free from morality. Hua-yan Flower Garland Buddhism valorizes the form of existence known as Bodhisattva. To be a Bodhisattva is to dwell in the margins between experienced enlightenment and surrounding moral and karmic views. The Bodhisattva has already abandoned desires and the discriminations of the mundane world that are the cause of suffering.
Accordingly, such the Bodhisattva dwells in this world with a mind that transcends that which causes suffering and has no attachment to the self. Those still caught in this world are attached to the self and to the discriminations of existence, and they suffer because of the desires such attachment creates. When a Bodhisattva lives among such people, the difference is obvious and the other sentient beings see that the Bodhisattva does not suffer.
Thereby, the Bodhisattva becomes a savior. This state is empty of content such as rules and duties. Rather, one has set aside the need to speak of the ethical life as connected to moral knowledge.
In this state, persons have no need to draw their bearings from culture, community, or any sacred book. For such persons, meditation is the key. It is a sort of alternate consciousness that will enable one to act spontaneously, without calculation or feelings of resistance from the will. Similarities between Chan Buddhism and the concept of wuwei in Lao-Zhuang provide the backdrop for many historical instances of contact and exchange between the traditions.
Whereas Western philosophers often engage in a discussion of the ultimate meaning or goal of human life, frequently associating it with happiness, Zhu Xi identifies the fundamental purpose of human life and its moral objective as equilibrium and harmony zhonghe. For Zhu Xi, when humans realize equilibrium and harmony to the highest degree, heaven and earth will attain their proper order and all things will flourish. Accordingly, the purpose of morality is self-mastery by yielding to the Principle s li underlying reality. It is never merely self-realization.
Those who make a cleavage between objects and distinguish between the self and others are petty persons; that is, xiao ren. Rather than taking the view that human nature is good or evil, his position is that owing to the way the five phasal elements come together to shape humans, one will be enabled to express the principles and patterns of Heaven.
That is, one will be a sage or an evil person, mentally deranged, or a genius Conversations 4. Zhu thinks that he has thereby resolved the philosophical debate between Mencius and Xunzi. However, Zhu may well have taken the position that he harmony is necessary to both the Socratic and Aristotelian project. Yet, we may wonder whether harmony is a sufficiently robust and satisfying moral ultimate for human life. The question, then, is whether this calls us to the highest levels of achievement as humans. Wang adopted their vision that the great man can regard Heaven, earth, and the myriad things as one body, holding that one does so not because he rationally decides to, but because it is natural to his heart-mind xin.
There is a direct awareness of being one with those in need and acting on that awareness. This meaning of awareness gives the agent a unifying perspective for experiencing and dealing with all persons, things, and events. Wang thinks that the direct awareness of Heavenly Principle s tianli as a moral guide is discovered not by following a moral exemplar, obeying a divine command, or by utilitarian quantification of what action will yield the greatest happiness for the greatest number.
Neither does it come into view at the end of a rational process of solving a dilemma one might face. Rather, awareness of tianli is discovered by introspection. For Wang, the experience of moral enlightenment in liangzhi transforms desire and affections so that individuals freely act. By acting freely, the Way is known. This is the crucial point. Wang is not saying that people who know what is the right thing to do must use their will to redirect their desires and passions in acting upon this knowledge.
Rather, he is saying that the transformation of the will is knowledge of the good Instructions for Practical Living sec. Wang anticipates this criticism by insisting that, while liangzhi is inherent in all persons, it is the distinguishing characteristic of the mind of the sage. So, one who does not practice like a sage cannot hope to experience his or her own internal powers of liangzhi. He thus used the concept to focus on the transcendent sources of morality. Mou borrowed the philosophical framework of German philosopher Immanuel Kant , but offered his reading of the Neo-Confucians as a corrective to points he believed Kant had gotten wrong.
According to Mou, the Principle s of morality could be apprehended by a direct, immediate awareness of the heart-mind, not by the use of Practical Reason as Kant argued. Moreover, he held that creative free action is a manifest reality in the lives of the sages, not merely a postulate of pure practical moral reason as Kant held Mou ; Mou argued that the sages had also connected the finite what Kant called the phenomenal world with the infinite the Principle s or what Kant called the noumenal world. In Kant, the highest good is when happiness occurs in exact proportion to virtue.
But Kant said the confluence of optimal virtue and happiness does not and cannot occur in this world. So, morality requires that we postulate both an immortal soul and a God who is able to bring virtue and happiness together. Mou objected to this analysis in Kant, because he thought that personalizing the process that brings virtue and happiness together only pushed the problem to another level. Mou did not see how postulating God provides assurance that virtue and happiness would coincide.
How would we know that God would wish to bring virtue and happiness together? Mou preferred another resolution; he held that the concrete example of the sages proved that Heavenly Principle s can be manifested in human practice and need not require postulation of an afterlife. Additionally, he held that the sages had lived lives of happiness and virtue, eliminating the grounds used by Kant to postulate both immortality and God.
Were humans inevitably in conflict or did they live in innocent bliss? Does government arise from a contract between persons, the recognized superiority of some persons to lead, or the decree of a higher power? Do we arrive at human laws by participatory exchange of views, do they derive from the nature of reality, are they codifications of the lives of exemplary persons, or are they decrees of rulers or a divine being?
What is the best form of government? What is the purpose of government? Are there checks and balances on governments and rulers? Is revolt against the ruler or government ever justified? What is the proper balance between governmental authority and individual liberty of expression and thought? What is the role and responsibility of government to implement justice? In distributing goods, for example, are there rules of entitlement, fairness, equality of opportunity?
Rulership and governance is a principal theme of the Analects Books 2, 11, Rulers should ascend to power based on their merit, not their heredity or as a result of having won an election. Further, there is much in the Analects that suggests Confucius believed that common persons of his day were not prepared or able to participate in government.
Rulers should be exemplary persons, and those who possess virtue de will have no difficulty with their people or their kingdom. In an exchange with Ji Kangzi, Confucius says that the ruler who is an exemplary person can affect the entire kingdom with appropriateness yi and moral excellence de , like the wind that blows over the grass Confucius recognizes the need for civil law to extend beyond the rites of propriety and morality li.
However, he also believes that leading the people by political measures and keeping them in place by civil law cannot ensure that the people will develop a sense of shame. Therefore, the measures and law are not sufficient to guarantee order. In contrast to such a style of rulership, a lord who can lead the people by means of his own virtuous power de will create a citizenry of honor and virtue.
The exemplary ruler will treat the people as though they are his children. Such filial conduct coming from the ruler will create among the people a sense of trust in the king and ministers. Rather, he held that the ruler that shows evidence of proper conduct——namely, self-cultivation and implementing corrections to real or potential harms to the people——would earn him the right to rule. But if not able to be proper in their own conduct, how can they demand such conduct from others? In contrast with minimal intrusion and maximal liberty that characterize Western civil libertarian models, a properly governed state is a value-laden one that produces an environment in which each person may achieve self-cultivation.
When listing the tasks of government in order of importance, Confucius names cultivating the trust of the people first, then provision of food, and lastly security and defense Western civil libertarian systems, for all their strengths and values, are not necessarily committed to the goal of creating an environment for self-cultivation. They may maximize liberty, but increased freedom does not equate to self-cultivation. For Confucius, politics is rectification or correction zheng zhe, zheng ye The purpose of politics is to correct deficiencies or mistakes that impede the self-cultivation of each person.
While taking a vote may resolve a policy question in participatory governments, it does not actually guarantee that the result is right and correct, which is one reason why Confucius looks to the exemplary leader rather than other models such as democracy or parliamentary debate. Both Confucius and Mencius state that showing remonstrance with rulers is the responsibility of all who want a truly humane society. The basic project of the Mohists was to establish a morally founded social order based on the will of Heaven.
To do this, Mozi advocates a system of political hierarchy with the ruler at the top. According to Mozi, the function of this principle is to care for the people universally jian ai and benefit the people according to their needs. Mozi holds that in that state, there existed a multiplicity of moralities and values. Such pluralism and relativism did not lead to a social contract ; rather, it turned people against each other. Only a true and absolute moral system given by Heaven can overcome such relativism and its resulting conflict.
Mozi states that the one who is the most worthy and understands the Way of Heaven tiandao is selected by Heaven and established as the Son of Heaven Mozi Wheelwrights and carpenters use their compasses and squares to evaluate circles and squares in the world, claiming that what conforms is right, what does not conform is wrong.
The ruler governs by the standards of Heaven. The result is that unity of the people under a set of laws or principles does not come by mutual agreement but by the silencing of divergent points of view under a ruler who enacts the will of Heaven. He argues for a strong version of political authoritarianism; a centralized state with a hierarchical, tightly organized bureaucracy. This structure, properly conceived of, will lead to the benefit of the people.
Mencius was well-placed to write such a theory. These traveling advisors often had a significant influence on the ruler, and some of them even became powerful high-ranking officials. For Mencius, a ruler who practices benevolent governance should do at least the following things: reduce punishment and taxation 1A5 , rejoice with his people 1B1 , make sure that the masses are neither cold nor hungry 1A7 , take no pleasure in executions or war 1A6 , let no one starve to death 1A4 , and take care of four types of people who are the most needy; widows, widowers, old people without children, and young children without fathers 1B5.
In giving advice to King Xuan, Mencius makes clear that he is following Confucius in holding that the state should be ruled by the virtuous, not by those who are elected by the people or inherit rulership by family lineage. Mencius thinks it is the obligation of government to ensure that the basic needs of the people are met. Today this would be called the provision of social goods or secondary goods, in contrast to the primary goods of liberty and freedom.
He is not intent on teaching that the role of government is to maximize civil liberty. He provides specific advice about how the state should help secure the livelihood of the people, including recommendations about everything from tax rates, to farm management, to the pay scale for government employees 3A3. Mencius also agrees with Confucius that self-cultivation is crucial both for the individual and for society.
So he advocates an educational system in the ideal state that would instruct people how to be responsible in their relationships as parent, child, ruler, minister, spouse, and friend 3A4. According to the Mengzi text, Mencius touches upon the removal of the ruler on several occasions. He says that ministers, but not the common people, should not hesitate to depose a ruler who repeatedly refuses to listen to admonitions against serious mistakes 5B9.
Speaking of historical instances in which rulers were removed, Mencius says that a sovereign who mutilates benevolence ren or cripples rightness yi is an outcast, even if he is an emperor 1B8. If the king is not humane, and if he abuses the people instead of taking care of their welfare, he can be legitimately deposed. The logia of the Daodejing make it clear that reality left alone moves as it should, and that it is human tampering with relationships and attempts to guide and orchestrate things that make a mess of life. Morality and law are evidences of such tampering.
Ideally, the follower of the dao will not engage in rulership or political machination at all because there will be no need to do so. In fact, human efforts to manage life through law, morality, and governmental policy only make matters worse DDJ In this connection, the text is famous for its aphorism that ruling a state is like cooking a small fish DDJ 60 , the point of which is that the least amount of tampering is best, as though the ruler should allow the Dao to take its course without manipulation by government. There is no question that the Lao-Zhuang philosophical tradition wanted to reduce governmental control.
Rulers should be well within the background and not seek a name for themselves. These chapters make it clear that Daoist masters did not seek, and even actively avoided, positions as officials or rulers. Chapter 28 contains a long series of text logia all dealing with rulership, designed to show that when they were approached with the offer of political employment, famous Daoist masters refused it, fled into far regions, or even attempted suicide.
These sections do not recommend turning away from political involvement. Instead, they say that in the early period of his rule the Yellow Emperor used the Confucian virtues of benevolence ren and righteousness yi to meddle with the minds of men. What followed was a history of consternation and confusion, all the way down to the Confucians and Mohists who are mentioned by name. When he returned to rule and followed wuwei, his kingdom became peaceful, and he became an immortal transcendent xian ZZ Ch. Traditionally, Guan Zhong d. A number of philosophers associated with this approach were active in government as ministers, officials, and imperial consultants.
For example, Shang Yang d. Hanfei ? It is generally acknowledged that Qinshihuang birth name, Ying Zheng, B. Possibly, they followed a version of the text called Hanfeizi. Hanfei shared a view of human nature somewhat similar to that of Xunzi. He thought the natural aspirations of the people are such that they all move toward security and benefit. Xunzi held that public-spirited people are few while private-minded individuals are numerous. Still, Hanfei does not mean that human nature is evil. He simply means that humans give primacy to their own self-interest. The carriage maker hopes that men will grow rich and eminent so that he can sell carriages.
The coffin maker wants persons to continue to pass away, so that he can stay in business, but not because he is evil or wishing others bad fortune. Hanfei has a deep appreciation for the power of socio-economic forces on the life of humans and any society they create. He is not a complete economic determinist, but he feels that resources and scarcity play a role in the extent to which one will adhere to social order.
In taking this position, Hanfei anchors his political theory on the belief that human action is a by-product of the socio-economic environment in which persons live. So, creating a state in which the resources are sufficient, available to all, and fairly distributed is the single best way to encourage moral goodness, peace, and societal harmony. This means that if a ruler wants and needs his people to work diligently, he must motivate them by an appeal to their self-interests.
Unlike Confucian, Mohist, Mencian, and Lao-Zhuang traditions, an ideal for Hanfei state does not depend on having a virtuous ruler. 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. 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.
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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. 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.
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.
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. 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.
David Loy also quotes Nietzsche's views on the subject as "something added and invented and projected behind what there is" Will to Power and on substance "The properties of a thing are effects on other 'things' Loy however sees Nietzsche as failing to understand that his promotion of heroic aristocratic values and affirmation of will to power is just as much of a reaction to the 'sense of lack' which arises from the impermanence of the subject as what he calls slave morality. In his "A History of Western Philosophy", Bertrand Russell pitted Nietzsche against the Buddha, ultimately criticizing Nietzsche for his promotion of violence, elitism and hatred of compassionate love.
The German Buddhist monk Nyanaponika Thera wrote that the Buddhist Abhidhamma philosophy "doubtlessly belongs" to Phenomenology and that the Buddhist term dhamma could be rendered as "phenomenon". According to Dan Lusthaus , Buddhism "is a type of phenomenology; Yogacara even moreso. Eugen Fink , who was Husserl's chief assistant and whom Husserl considered to be his most trusted interpreter said that: "the various phases of Buddhistic self-discipline were essentially phases of phenomenological reduction. Complete linguistic analysis of the Buddhist canonical writings provides us with a perfect opportunity of becoming acquainted with this means of seeing the world which is completely opposite of our European manner of observation, of setting ourselves in its perspective, and of making its dynamic results truly comprehensive through experience and understanding.
For us, for anyone, who lives in this time of the collapse of our own exploited, decadent culture and has had a look around to see where spiritual purity and truth, where joyous mastery of the world manifests itself, this manner of seeing means a great adventure.
- The Free Farm: A Novel (Appalachian Writing Series, Working Lives Fiction Series).
- Fall 12222 Bulletin?
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That Buddhism - insofar as it speaks to us from pure original sources - is a religio-ethical discipline for spiritual purification and fulfillment of the highest stature - conceived of and dedicated to an inner result of a vigorous and unparalleled, elevated frame of mind, will soon become clear to every reader who devotes themselves to the work.
Buddhism is comparable only with the highest form of the philosophy and religious spirit of our European culture. It is now our task to utilize this to us completely new Indian spiritual discipline which has been revitalized and strengthened by the contrast. Fred J Hanna and Lau Kwok Ying both note that when Husserl calls Buddhism "transcendental" he is placing it on the same level as his own transcendental phenomenology. Husserl saw a similarity between the Socratic good life lived under the maxim "Know yourself" and the Buddhist philosophy, he argues that they both have the same attitude, which is a combination of the pure theoretical attitude of the sciences and the pragmatic attitudes of everyday life.
This third attitude is based on "a praxis whose aim is to elevate humankind through universal scientific reason. Husserl also saw a similarity between Buddhist analysis of experience and his own method of epoche which is a suspension of judgment about metaphysical assumptions and presuppositions about the 'external' world assumptions he termed 'the naturalistic attitude. However Husserl also thought that Buddhism has not developed into a unifying science which can unite all knowledge since it remains a religious-ethical system and hence it is not able to qualify as a full transcendental phenomenology.
According to Aaron Prosser, "The phenomenological investigations of Siddhartha Gautama and Edmund Husserl arrive at the exact same conclusion concerning a fundamental and invariant structure of consciousness. Namely, that object-directed consciousness has a transcendental correlational intentional structure, and that this is fundamental -- in the sense of basic and necessary--to all object-directed experiences.
Jean-Paul Sartre believed that consciousness lacks an essence or any fixed characteristics and that insight into this caused a strong sense of Existential angst or Nausea. Sartre saw consciousness as defined by its ability of negation, this happens because whenever consciousness becomes conscious of something it is aware of itself not being that intentional object. Consciousness is nothingness because all being-in-itself - the entire world of objects - is outside of it.
Merleau-Ponty 's phenomenology has been said to be similar to Zen Buddhism and Madhyamaka in that they all hold to the interconnection of the self, body and the world the " lifeworld ". They both hold that the conscious mind is inherently connected to the body and the external world and that the lifeworld is experienced dynamically through the body, denying any independent Cartesian Cogito. He recommended that Western Christians could learn from the Buddha, praised his cosmopolitanism and the flexibility and relatively non-dogmatic worldview of Buddhism. The Kyoto School was a Japanese philosophical movement centered around Kyoto University that assimilated western philosophical influences such as Kant and Heidegger and Mahayana Buddhist ideas to create a new original philosophical synthesis.
The process philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead has several convergent points with Buddhist philosophy. This is similar to the Buddhist concepts of the impermanence and emptiness. Likewise, Whitehead held that the world is "haunted by terror" at this process of change. In this sense, Whitehead's concept of "evil" is similar to the Buddhist viparinama-dukkha , suffering caused by change. Panpsychism is the view that mind or soul is a universal feature of all things; this has been a common view in western philosophy going back to the Presocratics and Plato.
According to D. Clarke, panpsychist and panexperientialist aspects can be found in the Huayan and Tiantai Jpn. Tendai Buddhist doctrines of Buddha nature , which was often attributed to inanimate objects such as lotus flowers and mountains. Ludwig Wittgenstein held a therapeutic view of philosophy which according to K. Fann has "striking resemblances" to the Zen Buddhist conception of the dharma as a medicine for abstract linguistic and philosophical confusion. Gudmunsen in his Wittgenstein and Buddhism argues that "much of what the later Wittgenstein had to say was anticipated about 1, years ago in India.
Having no logical links criteria to anything outside their defining situation, its words must be empty of significance or use. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Part of a series on Philosophy Plato Kant Nietzsche. Buddha Confucius Averroes. Dharma Concepts. Buddhist texts. Buddhism by country.
Buddhist Philosophy and Its European Parallels. Philosophy East and West 13, p. University press of Hawaii. An electron is not composed of smaller particles, it just exists all by itself as just what it is, an electron. The real true description of the world is that it is some evolving arrangement of elementary particles. Of course this arrangement involves a mind-boggling mass of details, so inevitably we have to talk about it with conventional shorthand terms, but those terms don't refer to actually existing objects, merely to loosely defined arrangements of elementary particles.
This is the reductionist view of modern science. This reductionist view actually started to fall apart just as it appear to finally have matured. Of Albert Einstein's famous three papers of , the paper on Brownian motion established the actual existence of atoms, while the paper on the photoelectric effect gave a powerful boost to the nascent quantum mechanics that undermined the foundations of that existence.
But the reductionist view runs into problems even before we run into quantum mechanics. Suppose the classical mechanical reductionist view were somehow correct. Suppose we somehow managed to construct a perfect description of the world. This description, according to the classical reductionist view, would consist of a list of particles and their coordinates. Perhaps the description would even have the complete history of each particle, the sequence of values of the coordinates as they evolved and will evolve over time.
This description being quite vast, we store it in a sophisticated high-powered computer database. But there are some tough design problems in the way of constructing this database. The database will just contain a set of records, something like particle identification number time x location y location z location If I wanted to see where that Ford Expedition drove off to, I could just find the coordinate for where your sunglasses where when they got smashed, find what particle was just above that point a few inches, then jump ahead a couple of hours and look up where that particle is now.
But how can I find the coordinate where your sunglasses got smashed? If I knew the label for one of the particles of your sunglasses, maybe I could look up its location when they got smashed. Of course, that particle has a very long history, perhaps billions of years, so there is still the problem of knowing what time they got smashed. So there is the first problem with the reductionist view of the world.
A description that consisted merely of particles and coordinates would be quite useless. The only reality we know is the conventional reality, including especially our own self. If one searched our perfect reductionist database for any configuration of particles fitting the description of "Ford Expedition smashing sunglasses", there might be hundreds of matches.
Some of these matches might even be on different planets, on different galaxies, millions of years in the future. I want to know about the events that are related to me, not to some similar arrangement of particles very distant. To be useful, the database will have to somehow include the relationship of the particles or coordinates to the user's experience in conventional terms. Thus a perfect description must include conventional terms.
These conventional terms are essential to the description. The reductionist view of the world is incomplete in an essential way. The reductionist view proposes the ultimate absolute existence of elementary particles and the nonexistence of composite objects. We have seen that composite objects are essentially required in any adequate description of the world, so one plank in the reductionist platform is flawed.
Mind in eastern philosophy - Wikipedia
The classical Mahayana Buddhist philosopher Nagarjuna had already pointed out the flaw in the other plank, the existence of elementary particles. The flowering of quantum mechanics in this century has revealed much more complex phenomena underlying the appearance of elementary particles. Nagarjuna simply pointed out that if such particles existed they would have to have occupy some non-zero extent of space if things weren't to just collapse in on itself, and any such non-zero extent is necessarily composite, being divisible into smaller non-zero extents.
With quantum mechanics, things not collapsing on themselves is explained by Fermi-Dirac particle interchange anti-symmetry. But such anti-symmetry undermines the existence of elementary particles every bit as much as a non-zero extent would have. What really exists from a quantum theory perspective is something like a collection of elementary particle fields. The fields are what exist, the particles are just the appearance of the field.
But actually things are quite a bit thicker that this. The various particle fields are interacting. The particles we observe are actually bundles of interacting particles. If we try to peel apart these bundles, we find that the peeling apart process never ends. This rude discovery was called the ultraviolet catastrophe. Renormalization group theory was invented by Feynman, Schwinger, and Tomonaga to compute appearances despite the nonexistence of the bare particles.
So quantum mechanics has really given up on the existence of elementary particles. The particles we observe can be analysed as excitations of coupled fields, but those fields only exist as those appearances. The various modes of excitations of these fields change depending on the situation. The elementary particles that exist inside crystals are quite different from those that exist in a vaccuum. For example, sound waves do not exist in a vaccuum, but do exist in crystals.
Sound waves are excitations of the crystals, and these excitations are quantized, which is to say appear as collections of elementary particles, known as phonons. Solid state physicists measure properties of phonons and use them to predict the behavior of crystals. Thus these particles are quite real in the sense of having clearly observable impact on human experience.
Yet they exist only in the context of a cystal, not in a vaccuum. Even more curiously, phonons and electrons interact. Thus, in a crystal, any excitation is really a combination of phonon field and electron field in coupled oscillation. Generally the phonon or the electron aspect dominates, so the excitation can be labelled "phonon" or "electron".
But at some frequencies there is a sort of mutual resonance, where the phonon and electron field are working tightly together. In this case the excitation is called an "exciton". As the frequency shifts, the modes of excitation of the fields that compose the crystal shift smoothly from being phonon dominated to a balance and then to electron dominated.
The particles that appear vary smoothly from phonons through excitons to electrons.
Philosophy and Science: What Can I Know?
I certainly don't mean to hold up any particular physics theory as being correct or incorrect. I bring up the complexities of quantum mechanics merely to point out that, just as the reductionist view understates the existence of composite objects, it also overstates the existence of elementary particles. The conventional view, that objects like automobiles just simply exist as they appear, very quickly runs into trouble as their behavior reveals their composite nature.
But as we try to pin down just what objects really do exist, we find the project to be quite difficult. The closer we look, the more complex the underlying phenomena appear. Varieties of Experience There is a sense in which ordinary everyday reality is like a dream or an illusion. The world discovered by science is also like a dream or an illusion. At first glance these statements seem absurd. There is a world of difference between dreaming that one falls off a tall building and actually falling off a tall building!
But the claim is that ordinary experience is like a dream, not that it actually is a dream. Our various ordinary experiences are all similar in that they consist of various objects appearing to us. They are further similar in that if we investigate the nature of these objects with sufficient diligence, we will realize that the objects do not exist as solid entities, but actually arise from the coming together of various causes. They are further similar in that the objects that appear will withstand some limited modes of investigation.
It is only when we look carefully enough that we will see the limitations. It's like the Wizard of Oz. At first the great face and voice very definitely appeared, created fear, and inspired obedience. Later, upon further investigation, it became clear that the face and voice were merely appearing as the result of various circus tricks and there was no substance to the appearance. Ordinary experience, scientific experience, and dream experience are all similar in that they consist of various objects appearing that will withstand some investigation but not all investigation.
These various types of experience differ in just what modes of investigation they can withstand and what modes reveal their limitations. That's why what we experience is called relative or conventional. In various situations we describe the world relative to some conventional modes of investigation. Oftentimes confusion arises when in a discussion two people are working with different conventions. Experience has far more varieties than just the three of ordinary, scientific, and dream. These three themselves are just very coarse groupings.
Consider rainbows. Do rainbows really exist? In some ways yes, in some ways no. Unlike dreams, many people can see the same rainbow at the same time. You can even take a photograph of a rainbow. One doesn't wake up from seeing a rainbow to the sound of the alarm clock buzzing, unless of course it was a dream rainbow! But if you try to grab a rainbow, you can never find anything to hold on to. Rainbows actually have no definite location; they have a direction, but no distance. Lightning is another classical object of experience whose mode of existence can be contemplated. What is amazing about lightning is the contrast between the intense presence of its existence with its miniscule duration.
By the time one can even formulate the idea of the existence of the flash of lightning, the lightning is already gone. Consider the phenomenon of seeing stars when one is struck in the head. The stars most certainly do appear. Yet no one else in the room can see them, at least not right then. But others will likely have seen similar stars at other times, when they themselves had been struck in the head.
Here is a curious variation on the theme of intersubjective experience! Many other people saw the same or similar images. The next day I can talk with my coworkers about the phenomena that appeared, and we will all have had very similar experiences. Yet if I shout out a question or an objection or try to tweak the president's nose, I will certainly discover that there is no person actually present.
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- Zen and Science.
Some experiences we just stumble upon, other experiences we have to work to achieve. To watch TV, we might have to go out and buy a TV and then plug it in and turn in on and find a channel that works. Or maybe we have to get a cable hookup activated. I am always amazed to reflect that of the three famous papers Einstein published in , it was the paper on Brownian motion that won him the Nobel prize. The other papers were on the photoelectric effect and on special relativity. Still in it was controversial as to whether or not atoms and molecules actually existed or were just a convenient fiction for explaining the regularities of chemical combinations.
Einstein used Brownian motion to measure the size of molecules, thus settling the controversy in favor of their actual existence. Nowadays we have scanning tunneling electron microscopes that can generate clear images of arrangements of individual atoms! We generally take the existence of atoms for granted, but it took the work of many genius scientists to build up the equipment required to make atoms clearly appear as existing objects.
Geiger and Rutherford exposed the internal structure of the atom, revealing electrons and nuclei and the vast empty spaces that constitute atoms. The history of microphysics in the twentieth century is a continuing sequence of ever new modes of investigation revealing the limited nature of the existence of one class of objects by making apparent how those objects are built up from arrangements and interactions of yet finer objects.
Each scientific discipline has its own conventional methods of investigation and its own objects that appear through the application of those methods. What appears for a zoologist to be a horse looks for a chemist to be a system of interlocked chemical reaction processes and for a physicist to be a configuration of particles coursing along trajectories determined by fundemental force field equations. An economist might see an investment with certain anticipated risk and return!
If we investigate a phenomenon closely enough, then we will discover that the objects that appeared are really just limited rough approximations to the real facts, facts that incorporate a whole range of deeper phenomena that came into focus as the investigation unfolded and that together explained how the phenomenon came into appearance. Yet at the same time that we can understand and reflect upon the limited nature of the existence of whatever objects might appear to us, still when phenomena appear, they do truly appear.
In one sense a rainbow does not really exist but is merely an appearance generated by light and mist. In another sense, a rainbow most certainly exists as a circular pattern of brightly colored stripes. All phenomena have this twofold nature. Ultimately one can always investigate deeply enough to reveal what is behind an appearance and the limitations of that appearance.
But apart from those investigations and within those limitations, phenomena do arise and appear. Breaking and Fixing We have examined a variety of ways to describe the world and discussed the problems that prevent a precise fit between world and description.
Given the boundless ingenuity and passion of humanity, one can reasonably anticipate that every problem that arises will eventually be repaired. The difficulty seems to be that every repair introduces additional complexity and abstraction into the description, introducing new and even more difficult problems. It's like the mythological hydra, where seven new heads grow in place of every head one chops off. Must new problems always arise, or might there be an end to the process, at which point a perfect description will have been reached?
It appears impossible, even absurd, to construct a proof that problems must always arise for any description. Any such proof would rely on some description for its terms, axioms, and inferences. The ultimate validity of the proof would depend on the ultimate validity of the underlying description. But the proposition to be proved is that no such ultimately valid description is possible! This is remarkably close to Goedel's proposition, which he constructed to demonstrate that there are true propositions of arithmetic that cannot be proved.
To the extent that any correct description of the world must inevitably incorporate arithmetic, and to the extent that Goedel's incompleteness theorem indicates an inevitable flaw in any theory of arithmetic, we can construct an argument that any description of the world can fit only imprecisely. But the dynamics of problems and patches continues in the contemporary debates on the philosophy of mathematics and competing interpretations of Goedel's theorem. It is enough for our purposes to note that in the realm of mathematics, the debates continue: the descriptions proposed in the last round had their problems discovered; it seems overly optimistic to suppose that the current round of patches will finally resolve all problems.
This dynamic structure of problems and patches seems to be fundamental. One party insists that truth exists and advocates law and order to respect that truth. The other party points out the contrived nature of the proposed law and order and proposes free and creative improvisation in its place.
These are the extreme positions of eternalism and nihilism, of objectivism and relativism. The objectivist holds that when you push an investigation far enough, in the end you get down to solid fixed reality, the ultimate cold hard facts of the matter. The relativist holds that when you push an investigation far enough, in the end you get to a set of arbitrary free choices which could just as well have been chosen otherwise. Buddhism resolves the dispute with a Middle Way.
No matter how far you push an investigation, you can always push it further. At each stage of investigation one is confronted with some set of phenomena that are discovered to underlie more superficial appearances. But these phenomena themselves can be investigated in turn, uncovering yet deeper structures, patterns, and interconnections. Aristotle traced the causal chain back to a starting point, back to the prime mover. The Christian tradition mapped the prime mover onto God. Buddhism is atheistic, in contrast. There is no prime mover.
The causal chain can be traced back ever more deeply in beginningless time. This is the deep truth of Buddhism, emptiness and interdependence as two ways to say the same thing. Phenomena are never ultimate, neither in the eternalist objectivist version of fixed absolute forms, nor in the nihilist relativist version of freely chosen forms. Whatever phenomena arise, those phenomena are always subject to further investigation which would reveal those phenomena to be emergent patterns dependent on a network of relationships with various other supporting or underlying phenomena.
This is the endless dynamic of the problems and patches of descriptions. A description records uninvestigated arising phenomena. Further investigation reveals problems that inevitably plague any such description. Patches fix the problems by rewriting the description in terms of deeper, underlying phenomena.
The Seventeenth Century founders of the modern scientific tradition were deeply religious Christian thinkers. They viewed their study of nature as a reading of a second Bible revealed by God, the Book of Nature. Their faith in the existence of an ultimately valid description was a part of their faith in God. Modern science, to the extent that it retains this faith in ultimately valid description, is thus a Christian science, or at least adheres to the family of the monotheistic Religions of the Book, of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
Given such a religious foundation for science, the possibility of an alternative science, a science with a different metaphysical foundation, becomes more clear. Methods and Results The blossoming of science in the 's was rooted in the reawakening of a skeptical outlook in the 's with Agrippa, Rabelais, and Montaigne, leading to Descartes. This philosophical questioning was mirrored in the social, religious, and political instabilities of the time.
This skeptical outlook was not new - Pyrrho, Aristotle's nephew, had promulgated similar views, inspired by his meetings with thinkers in India during his travels with Alexander's armies. One could even consider science to be a product of Buddhist influence in Europe! The heart of skepticism, which is also cental to Buddhist philosophy, is that things are not what they seem. We build our lives up based on our beliefs, what we take to be true. We are often then confronted with unpleasant surprises. What we took to be true turns out to be false. Our world collapses when the foundations we have relied upon reveal their instability.
Uncertainty in our convictions can also arise when we discover that other people have different beliefs than we do. Before we discover that our own beliefs are unreliable, we tend to quickly conclude that other people's conflicting beliefs must simply be wrong. It often seems justified to apply any means necessary to eliminate such error so truth may prevail. Heretics are burned, religious wars mounted. With sufficient maturity a more skeptical attitude may develop. One learns through experience that one's own beliefs are not reliable, that just because one believes a thing does not imply the truth of that belief.
Even if one has tested a belief, further experience may shake that belief, may reveal some deeper truth, may awaken one to one's illusions. When one confronts a conflicting belief, one realizes that one's own belief could actually be the one in error. Instead of just assuming that one's own beliefs must be the true ones, instead one initiates a process of investigation, gathering and weighing evidence, engaging in debate and negotiation.
One suspends commitment to one's own beliefs at least temporarily, attempting to judge impartially between conflicting beliefs based on the facts rather than the vagaries of historically entrenched opinion. With such an approach one has shifted the ground of one's faith from a particular set of beliefs to a method of deciding among beliefs. The scientific method is just this, a commitment to deciding belief though a process of gathering evidence and weighing it through public discourse.
As science developed in European culture, so did parallel notions of deciding political issues by democratic processes and economic issues by market processes. This commitment to investigate beliefs we can call "first-order skepticism". The facts about the way the world works, or the value of a commodity, or the social behavior should be regulated, are to be decided by processes of negotiation and debate rather than by any fixed rule eternally etched in the stone of traditional authority. To question the results of such processes of public negotiation and debate, to propose an alternative science, might seem like a proposal to return to some such fixed authority.
Indeed such authoritarian alternatives have not only been proposed but enacted in fundamentalist and totalitarian regimes where debate and negotiation are ruthlessly suppressed. But in fact there are many possible methods of gathering and weighing evidence, many possible decision procedures. To consider alternatives to one method is not to reject all methods but to start opening up to this space of possibility. The traditional forms of debate and negotiation are not the only forms. Alternative forms can be considered.
The advantages and disadvantages of the various forms can be investigated. We can learn to apply more effective methods to decide between conflicting beliefs. This questioning of method we can call "second-order skepticism". With first-order skepticism we realized the possible truth of alternative beliefs. With second-order skepticism we realize the potential value of alternative methods of investigation, of gathering and weighing evidence, of debate and negotiation.
The traditional methods may not lead to the best decisions. We recognize the need to investigate the methods themselves. This investigation of alternative methods is already bearing fruit in politics and economics. The superiority in some political situations of various voting methods such as approval voting have been demonstrated. Various forms of bidding have been explored and their improved efficiency demonstrated in some market situations.
But how to investigate methods of investigation? Doesn't the circularity, the paradoxicality of such a project doom it, render it fruitless or impossible or meaningless? This obstacle seems to be rooted in Cartesian dualism, the adherence to a clean division between the knowing subject and the known object. From such a dualistic perspective, it cannot be impossible for the process of knowing to itself be an object of knowing. Second-order skepticism lets go of this dualism.
However we go about investigating methods of investigation, the way we go about it may become itself an object of investigation. Here again we may call on our faith in Buddhism to give us courage to devote ourselves to compassionate action within a vast space without fixed reference points.
It is the clinging to beliefs and institutions as if they were eternal and absolute, the refusal to recognize their conventionality, the refusal to investigate their interdependence, that creates suffering. Chaos and Friction in Theory Evolution Our theories about the world are a part of the world. The dynamic evolution of the world includes the dynamic evolution of our theories about the world. The "standard modern" picture of the pattern of the evolution of theories is that, at least once the world-system has crossed over into the scientific attractor basin, that theories gradually and steadily approach some fixed point.
This fixed point can serve as an effective notion of truth. Perhaps my main theme in this essay is that this picture of the dynamic evolution of theories is an inadequate picture. As an analogy, in the past the standard model for thermodynamic systems was an isolated system gradually approaching equilibrium.
Since at least the 's, scientists have been exploring the behavior of open systems and systems far from equilibrium. It looks now like the isolated system gradually approaching equilibrium is very much a special case. What is the actual pattern of the dynamic evolution of scientific theories? The question is not exactly historical. It is not a matter of the path that science actually takes, but of all the various paths it might take.
If in fact all paths eventually settle within some small neighborhood of a single fixed point, then this fixed point could well serve as truth. But if the various possible trajectories of theory evolution actually wander into very diverse regions, then the question of truth gets more complicated. Perhaps one trajectory indeed settles for a very long time in one neighborhood, and a different trajectory also settles in a neighborhood, but the two neighborhoods are very different.
The modern theories of chaotic dynamics have charted out an amazing menagerie of patterns of trajectories. What I propose is that the actual dynamics of theory evolution is chaotic. Proving this to be true may be very difficult, impossible, or paradoxical. Wouldn't any purported proof need to hold itself up as some sort of universal fixed point in a dynamic space of theories about theories, which as part of the actual evolution of the entire world is coupled into the dynamics of the first order theory evolution and therefore subject to the chaos that it intends merely to be about rather than itself subjected to?
Here we have two competing theories. The standard modern philosophy of science holds that the dynamic system of theory evolution is non-chaotic, that essentially the entire space of theories constitutes one big basin of attraction with a simple fixed point. The alternative proposed here and by many others is that the dynamic system of theory evolution is chaotic, with the full panorama of attractor types etc. How can we decide which of these theories is better? In my discussions on this subject, one friend proposed that since the standard modern philosophy of science is the established dominant view, the burden of proof is on the newcomer chaotic theory.
It occurs to me that this argument puts a very nice wrinkle into the problem. This wrinkle relies on a feature of general system dynamics. Static friction leads to chaos! When a system wants to stay where it is and resists movement, that tendency leads to multiple basins of attraction. This observation doesn't prove that theory evolution is indeed chaotic, but it does encourage an examination of the issue based on the merits of the different positions rather than the history of the power of their various advocates.
Arguing for the standard view on the basis of its standardness undermines that very view itself! A Middle Way for Science The alternative science I am proposing is not a replacement of the current scientific description of the world with some new description. Scientists are constantly proposing new alternative descriptions, weighing and debating the merits of the various competing proposals, inventing and performing experiments to gather evidence to help tilt the balance. That's what science is about. I am proposing a new understanding of what science is, which should lead to a new way of doing science.
Buddhism has cultivated the seed of the basic truth of emptiness and interdependence, and harvested a rich tradition of years of international culture. How can the wisdom of Buddhism transform science? There is not likely to be an absolute universal ultimate answer at this level either, but rather an ongoing process of reflective practise. Some starting principles could be: " How we do science matters. There is no inevitable progress to some unique final result. Every description has limitations, distortions, and blind spots. These form a sort of hidden historical record of the unresolved conflicts accumulated in the process of constructing the description.
For example, a scientist might consciously or unconsciouly imagine himself or herself as a knight crusader in shining armor fighting valiantly to protect truth from the onslaught of the heretics. Acknowledging and working with this mythological dimension may be a wiser way to manage its powerful energies than trying to suppress and deny it.
Science fiction was born together with science, in works such as Francis Bacon's New Atlantis. The direction of evolution of science and technology seem inevitable largely because of the lack of consciousness and acknowledgement of this mythological narrative. Acting and Accepting In conceptualizing our experience we generally classify things in terms of polar opposites, such as hot versus cold, light versus dark, good versus bad, etc. Often we line up these opposites in rows under the two master column headings of good and bad, perhaps something like: good bad pleasure pain rich poor sweet bitter As we mature and reflect on our broadening experience, we may begin to question how we have lined up one or more of these opposites.
Perhaps our taste changes, and instead of savoring sweet desserts, we start to search out the hottest chilis and curries. Changing food preferences rarely represent profound life changes - though perhaps if our perspective on thick juicy steaks changes it might seem relatively profound.
A more significant pair of opposites for living life is the choice between accepting things as they are versus acting to change them. We might grow up holding one approach to be superior, then perhaps in mid-life re-evaluate the options and decide that the other alternative is actually superior, and so we work to change our habitual approach.
With more experience and reflection, our attitude about pairs of opposites can continue to evolve. We can start to see that perhaps neither extreme is optimal, that in fact some third middle way is the best. We might come to realize that no fixed approach will always be the best, rather we must examine each situation and apply the approach that is appropriate to the particular circumstances.
When we reach this stage with the poles of acting and accepting, we understand Reinhold Niebuhr's famous prayer for serenity, courage, and wisdom. Eventually, by looking carefully at the nature of opposites, we might realize that each pole actually incorporates its opposite, one way or another, as an essential component. Effective action is only possible when we accept the way the world is so that we can work with it. Airplanes free us from the speed limits imposed by older modes of transportation, and in that sense represent a refusal to accept such limitation.
On the other hand, airplanes only became possible when the Wright brothers built a wind tunnel to study aerodynamics and understand how the shape of its wings affect the behavior of an airplane. Without accepting the laws of aerodynamics, airplanes would be impossible. Similarly, acceptance is not possible without action. For example, genuine acceptance of new neighbors into a community might require some action, such as offering a concrete token of welcome. The cartoon images of traditional Buddhism and modern Science seem to line up with the polar opposites of accepting and acting.
Modern European-American culture has certainly used science and technology to take action on grand scales in many arenas. My own life is thoroughly enveloped in this culture, so I don't really have enough first hand experience on which to base any characterization of traditional Buddhist culture. Certainly the grand temples of Buddhist Asia give evidence of significant activity. But still, in traditional cultures around the world, including pre-modern Europe, it seems there is a greater acceptance of circumstance.
The modern notion of progress seems to generate a boundless optimism which can support and motivate grand activity, while the traditional notion of degeneration from an earlier golden age seems to lead to a more pessimistic and less active approach. Thinking about this further, maybe the situation is a bit more complex. Presented with some unpleasant circumstance, a Buddhist might reflect that it is really a bit over-optimistic to think that any amount of activity could actually eliminate unpleasant circumstances from the world. But this doesn't mean that there is nothing to be done.
Instead of avoiding the pain of stepping on thorns and pebbles by paving the entire planet with a smooth and soft surface, one can instead put on shoes. The space of activity can be internal instead of external.