When reading the classical Chinese philosophical schools of thought, the ideas and teaching of Mo Di stood out. Mo Di, the founder of Mohism and the man who later became known as Mozi, taught a very methodical and logical school of thought. The concepts that Mozi taught had an overall goal of improving society as a whole. Mozi taught about utilitarianism, merit, universality and efficiency. Mozi’s school of thought began during a period when there many new Chinese philosophers surfacing. During the Warring States period in China, there were a lot of changes in the dynamic of the country.
New leaders started to emerge from different households in China during this period. Government wasn’t the only thing that changed. Technologies, culture, customs and the hardships associated with everyday life are examples of some of the adjustments that people had to deal with. As a response to the changes that were presently facing the Chinese people, philosophers started to emerge. Mozi was no different than the other bright Chinese people during the Warring States period in Chinese history.
Mozi looked at what was currently going on and emerged from all the turmoil with some very good responses. After assessing all the social changes that he saw happening to China, Mozi came up with a school of thought that was and still is very influential. Mohism actually became one of the highest rival schools of thought to Confucianism. Mohism is a very logical, systematic school of thought. At times it can be so systematic that readings from the Mohist school can very dry. The vocabulary used in the writings of Mozi is typically easy.
The word choices Mozi uses are a stark contrast to the elaborate stories and word choice found in the teachings of Confucius. The positive about a simple dialectic is that there is very little ambiguity in Mozi’s teachings. When there was so much chaos in China, Mozi laid out very specifically theoretical answers to solving the chaos. In response to the turmoil that surrounded the people of China during Mozi’s time, Mozi philosophized ways to bring peace and justice through logical thinking. According to Mozi, this meant unification of the Chinese people.
The Mohist believe that the way to bring peace is through the unification of beliefs. Once everyone has the same beliefs, then unification is obtained. To reach this state of unification, everyone had to believe in the hierarchy of the time. At the top of the hierarchy was Heaven, next was the Sons of Heaven, then three high ministers and the feudal lords, followed by ministers and officials, still lower was the gentlemen and at the bottom was the common people. After belief in the hierarchy is achieved, then all the people had to believe that the people above them knew the correct thing to do.
The idea that the Heavens are always right is a very crucial aspect of Chinese thinking during Mozi’s time. With the Heavens at the top of the hierarchy and all of the orders go from the top to the bottom of the hierarchy, thus the following logic implies that the unification of everyone’s beliefs will lead to peace and doing what is right. The hierarchy isn’t the only thing that brings unity to the people according to Mozi. A reward system must also be implemented in order for the unity to continue. The level where a person would stand in the hierarchy should be based on merit.
Positions in the government should not be based on any heredity, kinship or ritual order but should be comprised of a fully functional group of people from the society based on the merit of their work. Once the society is set up into a proper hierarchy based on merit, unity of the people must come next. According to Mozi’s logic, society will be unified by the knowledge that the person who gives you commands is doing what is best for society and belongs above you because of merit. The rewarding of people based on merit instead of other factors like heredity leads to efficiency.
The Mohist school of thought laid out all of the groundwork need for a more efficient society by restructuring the government. Mozi’s solution for an efficient government lead to a systematic and logical approach to other aspects of Chinese society. Traditions, burial ceremonies and other customs that the Chinese have been practicing for years came under scrutiny of Mozi. The wastefulness of some of these practices didn’t seem logical to Mozi. Many people were starving and yet huge amounts of resources get wasted during rituals, when instead they should be redirected toward the poor.
Universality is another piece to the Mohist theory. It serves as a very powerful tool that Mozi used when he addresses both efficiency and peace. Treating everyone equal would be an example of universality. Mozi used the concept of universal love to argued against ceremonies and rituals that were a big part of Confucian thought. Basically, Mozi stated that being partial toward one person or group of people lead to inefficiency through resource dedication. Universal love would lead everyone to treat the parents and family members others the same as you would your own.
Thus, peace would ensue because logical people could never kill their family. There are some flaws associated with the Mohist school of thought. In practice, it will never be the case that everyone in society will have unitary thoughts about their government. Mozi laid out a very logical way to achieve Unitarianism, but people don’t generally behave logically. Its part of human nature to trust oneself first, humans won’t give up all their innate feelings and thoughts even for the betterment of society.
Humans in general are a very selfish in nature. Instinctually humans look out for themselves first then think about others. Also, things like universality are not going to be a part of the human society anytime soon. It is very hard to treating others exactly the same way you would your own family. Through biological and psychological studies, it has been shown to be the case that the more genetic makeup shared between two people, the more likely someone would be to go into an adverse situation and try to save that person.
Even when you abstract away from the adverse situation but yet still have no genetic investment, people still treat others differently than they would someone in their own family. In theory, everything that Mozi taught could work in an ideal society. Once we apply concepts of the theory into modern life, that’s when Mohist school of thought is the weakest. Human nature existing trumps large aspects of the underlying Mohist theory. Under certain circumstances this theory would be very practical.
The time in which Mozi lived would have been close to the right conditions for his theory to thrive. The Mohist theory would do very well in earlier periods of time. It is definitely a theory that would be easy to aim toward an undereducated, isolated and mystical society. Around Mozi’s time if there wasn’t so much chaos he had close to the correct conditions. Of course, he was trying to come up with an answer to solve the chaos and I feel like he was close. An interesting aspect Mozi philosophy in general is how it has lasting effects.
Some of the social aspects of communism and socialism seem to be very similar to Mozi’s teachings. Overall, Mozi had some very interesting ideas. What is left of his writings is very logical and easy to understand. When a person reads Mozi, there is no doubt to how Mozi wants the message of his teaching to be interpreted. Mozi takes a long time carefully mapping out his theory step by step. The reader can then systematically look at each piece of Mozi’s teaching and draw conclusions of how Mozi wanted to solved all of his societies woes.
Courtney from Study Moose
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