The impact of Confucianism in East Asia continues to mold and shape individuals’ actions so they can lead better lives that will have a positive effect on society. This can be achieved once the individual reaches a better understanding about their mutual obligations – that a proper society is revolved around give and take. It is the individuals who keep the lasting legacies of Confucianism through their patterns of knowledge and belief by understanding how the world actually works. The lasting legacies of Asian political thought and practice are also seen through moral reasoning and moral values, political thought and action, the economy and the self.
Patterns of knowledge and belief are critical in explaining ontological independence, rationality as balance, sacred reasoning, and human nature. Ontological interdependence illustrates how events are linked with other events and people with other people. Everything that exists is interdependent and nothing is separate. In general, it means the theory of reality. The concept of yang and yin shows interdependence because they are forces in the cosmos that only gain reality through interdependence. Although there are misconceptions that yin and yang contradict each other, but instead, they are complimentary. Complementarity, then, implies mutuality and reciprocity, “therefore exerting some constraints on the degree of hierarchy” (Yee, 316). Anything that is real can only be understood through its interdependence. Nothing can develop or exist alone, such as the government and society. This idea can pose a challenge because it is dealt with accountability.
An example of this is accountability in governance and how it should act in order to properly lead a society knowing that their decisions will have an impact on their people because every event and action are linked to each other. In terms of institutions, accountability describes a relationship between accountable and accounting parties so that “accountable” parties are accountable to accounting parties (Mo, 57). Political theorists have thought that good government is one that is kept under control and that accountability indicates the degree to which power is domesticated or subject to the rule of law (Mo, 57). This idea remains as the basic framework of the lasting legacies of Asian political thought and action. Another contributing idea that contributes to how people understand how the world actually works is through rationality as balance. According to East Asian philosophy, human beings are rational and that rationality involves balance.
Being rational means having the ability to balance interests and time as well as finding balance between others and ourselves. Knowing how to balance between our own interests to the interests of others. Balance is a characteristic that is extremely important in a political leader. They need to know the balance in short term and long term needs of society. They also need to know how to balance the interests of self and others because they will fail if they don’t think of self and others. It is the key to have the ability to make public policy. Balancing of interest places high value on harmony and cooperation. Furthermore, sacred reasoning also helps to explain the patterns of knowledge and belief. It has been understood in East Asian terms of synergism and interpenetrating boundaries. This means that we combine different religious ideas to be powerful. Synergism means interaction, and the East Asian tradition has been a tradition trying to reconcile doctrines even if it may be illogical to do so.
Interpenetrating boundaries can also be observed in East Asia because one will find that people who are deeply religious tend to move from one religion to another and this would not be a violation of principles. The boundaries of different religions are fluid. An example of this would be combining ideas of Taoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism. The goal is not to reject one idea or another but to integrate the ideas together in order to get a better understanding of how others view the world. In East Asian tradition, one does not just simply reject an idea, but to tolerate it and incorporate into their tradition. This is simply the idea of interpenetrating boundaries because setting boundaries is to set one’s own limits. Human nature is also an aspect that helps humans to understand the patterns of knowledge and belief. According to East Asian traditions, they believe that human nature is not fixed at birth but a potential that could be developed. Our human nature is only a tendency, at best; we are improvable so it cannot be taken for granted. Humans are improvable through self-cultivation.
Self-cultivation consists of will and sincerity. Humans must have to have the will and sincerity to improve themselves. Without sincerity, one will simply fail. This poses a political debate that if humans are cultivated and rational, then what should the role of government be in unlocking human nature. Whether government should be strong in its role or weak in terms of allowing its citizens to control and organize their own lives. It is inarguable that only a government with proper order can facilitate the development of human beings into self-cultivation. To be human, one must start with the personal cultivation of one’s own character, and then be in harmony with others by extending one’s virtue to others (de Bary, 179). Lasting legacies of East Asian thought and action continue with moral reasoning and moral values. It is about mutual obligations, which is the idea of give and take.
Mutual obligation is the root for moral life. In terms of moral values, it can be seen through justice, harmony, ecological family, and a good life. Justice as reciprocity is the belief that justice is about proper share, which results in equality. Justice doesn’t emphasize equality first. It concentrates on proper shares, which means giving people what they out to get, and reciprocity, which is not just doing something for somebody else, but also about paying of proper shares. There is the idea of shared costs and benefits and it is something that people use in judging government to judge whether it is just or unjust. In terms of harmony, East Asia argues that conflict should be minimized. They believe that optimizing differences should be a moral root in everyday life and that conflict is unproductive.
Harmony is the balancing of differences and it also comes from abiding by natural laws. Scholars have emphasized that Heaven did not create harmony but only provided the conditions for humans to be in harmony “and that a harmonious relationship between humans and their environment is conducive to their well-being” (de Bary, 177). The ecological family is emphasized as the ecology and it is which all civilization value. Family is the core foundation of any institution and it is also where values and morality develop. It is well known that Confucianism places a “great deal of importance on the institution of the family” (Chaibong 341). Family is a source of happiness and the formation of human being from education to politics. It is the basis of everything. The ecological family is the root of humanization and education. It is not fixed at birth but a tendency. It means the basis of education is in the family itself as they learn how to deal with other people. It has a role that is unusual because if the family is where human beings are shaped first, it is more than a unit of happiness and marriage.
The role of mothers is extremely vital in shaping humanization because the teachings start with them. The ecological family also helps to shape humans through self-cultivation because people depend on their capabilities that begin first in the family. They discover what they can or cannot do. Self-cultivation is involved in the family because it teaches humans how to be respectful and follow obligations. The ecological family also teaches self-fulfillment that leads to happiness. It is happiness that humans get their whole lives because they have a sense that they have contributed to something bigger and better than themselves. It is happiness that is genuine and not counterfeit. Leadership also starts in the family. People who become leaders outside of the family are people who know how to lead in the family themselves.
Families cannot survive without leadership. From the Confucian point of view, it is not authoritative to have a family leader. The family is always talked as the root of leadership. If an individual is a good leader within the family, they are likely to be a good leader outside of the family. Aside from the ecological family, living a good and flourishing life is an illustration of moral values. Human beings must know the separation of right and wrong, and understand the differences between material and moral in order to lead a flourishing life. Material and moral aspects can be achieved when there is proper order. The more proper order a government has, the more conducive it has to helping its citizens to build their lives. A flourishing order balances material and moral life. Human beings often lose sight of this and often emphasize on material.
Political thought and action also helps to understand the lasting of legacies of East Asia in terms of proper order, politics as methodology and management, leadership and hierarchy, and ritual. Proper order is striking a balance between government and civil action. The role of government is to create a certain conditions so that the popular people can live without constant insecurity. Confucian scholars say that politics and government is an extension of the family and personal ethics, and political conflicts must be dealt with according to the same principles used in a family context. Scholars also say that a state is nothing other than an “enlarged form of family and the relations between the ruler and the subjects, and those between those who govern and those who are governed are equivalent to the relations between parents and children” (de Bary, 184).
Given that government should play the role of the family, they should act in ways to provide proper order even though ordinary people are seen as rational beings. East Asians will respond that good politics should be primary. Politics is also about methodology and management. This aspect is about creating a good life. The essentials of managing affairs is a principle for Confucian learning that requires one to “stand square on what is right, do not scheme for what is profitable; clarify the way, do not calculate the honours” (de Bary, 212). In this context, politics is necessary and it is there for the benefit of the citizens. It is there to overlook and organize society so that citizens can live a good life. Politics is about methodology because it helps to understand how politics is a reflection of Confucian learning and it explains the complicated relation between the Confucian Way and Chinese practices. In terms of leadership and hierarchy, it is said that hierarchy is reciprocal, just, and beneficent.
A proper order society requires some level of leadership and hierarchy. Hierarchy exists in all institutions and it is the government’s job to make it good. Hierarchy is not something that can be destroyed or be escaped. To create a beneficent hierarchy, the government bases the rules on reciprocity. A ruler benefits his citizens through a policy and the citizen pays respects to the ruler. Reciprocity is dimed negatively in East Asia. What a ruler should do is not calculate what he does for others so that they can do for him. Instead, he shouldn’t do to others what he doesn’t want others to do to him. Confucius emphasizes do not do to others what you do not want done to you. Another characteristic of political thought and action is ritual. The Confucian traditions recognize that human emotions need to be directed into life-sustaining channels and life ornamenting expression (de Bary, 344). Whoever controls ritual has the real political key towards political power.
An attempt to destroy ritual is unacceptable and is extremely frowned down upon. According to the Confucian root, ritual is a part of life and it is intrinsic. Ritual isn’t something that is hardwired but it is something that can be learned. It is part of culture and tradition. Ritual is something that displays both sameness and differences. It shows how differences fit together. Some characteristics that show the conceptions of ritual are seen through collective action and it is rule bound. It is rule bound because rituals have rules, it is not simply just made up. It has a beginning, middle, and an end. A good ritual shows what we share as human beings. An example of ritual is seen through marriage and that there must be mutual respect in order for the marriage to be held together. Some components of ritual are seen through the text, which is either written or oral. It can also be seen through institution context like in the family or religious groups.
Another component of ritual is performance, and the audiences are the performers. The types of ritual are symbolic, causal, and cognitive. A symbolic ritual symbolizes something beyond the ritual act such as flag ceremonies or religious ceremonies. Causal rituals are rituals that cause outcomes and trial jury. Cognitive rituals according to the East Asian tradition is the learning by doing and by doing, changes are made. There are different life rituals that relate to the cognitive rituals. These life cycle rituals involve birth, marriage, death, ancestral sacrifice, politic rituals, and social season rituals such as New Years. Encompassing all these ideas, ritual is then see as the “complex term detonating the basic principles of the universe which underlie all the laws, codes and rules of the natural and human world” (de Bary, 191). The lasting legacies of East Asian thought and action are seen in the economy. The economy ties in virtuous achievement, ethic of savings and investment, education ethic, team-production ethic.
For virtuous achievement, one must choose to achieve for self and others and they choose to achieve because it’s an obligation. Hard work goes beyond the satisfaction of ends. In terms of education ethic, it is seen both inside and outside the family. It opens up opportunity and self-cultivation. It inspires people to succeed and do service or help families and be fully good human beings. In team-production ethic, people work together to achieve a goal. Ethic is seen as norms and as values in action. These four ethics have a profound effect such as trade leisure for work, and solve problems through teamwork. The economy is extremely important and it is vital that there are ethics involved in order for the economy to prosper. It is said that economic considerations play an important part in political conflict because poverty leads to discontent and discontent leads to contention and conflict (de Bary, 185). Therefore, there are approaches to ways to prevent economic backwardness.
The self and the lasting legacies of Confucian thought lies within individuality and self-cultivation, and service ethic. These aspects show the limits of globalization. It continues to be limited because it makes humans aware of how they differ, which is an attempt to reassert tradition. Individualism is a Confucian idea that humans are “individuated” as a complex of constitutive roles and functions associated with their obligations to the various groupings to which they belong (Ames and Hall, 135). Individuality is inarguably the consequence of the transactions that determine eon’s personal focus. An individual is defined as being not a thing, “but an event, describable in the language of uniqueness, integrity, social activity, relationally, and qualitative achievement” (Ames and Hall, 141).
These characteristics of individuality and self-cultivation as well as service are the lasting legacies of Confucian thought. The lasting legacies of East Asian thought and action continues to have a huge impact not only in East Asia, but around the world. These lasting legacies are seen through the patterns of knowledge and self, moral reasoning and moral values, political thought and action, the economy, and the self. These legacies help humans to have a better understanding of how the world actually works. It explains that our actions are linked with each other and that we have mutual obligations. It explains that proper order is balance between government and civil action and that good politics should be primary. Confucianism and East Asian traditions continue to have a huge impact in modern civilization.
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