Question 1: Do you think which doctrine was really helpful for saving people from their destitute condition between Mohism and Mencius’ thought, and why? When we put the two philosopher’s thoughts together, we can see one striking commonality. Both of them were against aggressive way and emphasized the importance of caring for the welfare of the state’s people. Ideologies that run in opposite directions also exist between the two thoughts. Eventually, it came down to how their teachings were carried out and their applicability to the lives of the lower class people, which determined which one of them, truly was the more helpful one.
Mencius, compared to Mozi, was more influential in the ruling courts of the Warring States Period. His advice and ideas on how to run the country were much sought after by kings and rulers. He emphasized the significance of the commoners in the state and strongly believed that the destitute conditions of the people had to be cared for and he provided rulers with suggestions and policies on how to ensure livelihood of their people. In order to persuade the rulers into practicing benevolence in the government, he claimed definitively that human nature is good.
Mozi and his disciples adopt another approach; they travelled around the states to sell their ideas, help to end and prevent wars of aggression, eventually bringing peace and social order back to the society. Comparatively, both were targeted at reaching the same goal, through different channels and means. While Mencius’ thoughts followed those of Confucius’ – pro-music and pro-funeral – Mohism is strongly against both. In fact, Mozi dedicated an entire chapter in “?? Against Music” to display his repulsion towards any form of ritual music and arts.
Mozi spoke against long and lavish funerals and argued that the living would be subjected to more poverty if they do this. Given the destitute state of the people, the extravagance associated with both rituals did not appeal to them. Already lacking food, shelter and clothing – the most basic forms of livelihood – how was it possible for people to even seek enjoyment in music, or mourn the death of their loved ones for years long and perform burials using complex procedures that cost much money? Denouncing the great extravagance enjoyed by the upper class, Mozi argued that it was better to use the money to feed the common people.
In this aspect, Mohism’s advocacy of fair allocation of resources served more to help save people from their destitute conditions. Mencius’ thoughts suggest that there are different levels of love and that one cannot love everyone to the same degree – parents and close kin ought to be provided the greatest care and affection (Greenberg, 2007). Mozi, on the other hand, believed in universal love for all. It was also the premise for Mohism’s opposition to the use of warfare and the belief that a prosperous society can only be achieved through peace than through war.
The lost of soldiers from combat, sufferings and deaths of commoners from starvation and diseases, were undesirable consequences as a result of war. Mohism stressed that social turmoil could be prevented if people were able to love universally (Haiming, 2010). In a period marked by fierce rivalry between states and the deep hostility that arose, Mohism’s philosophy that centered on altruism inspired reconciliation and unity among the commoners. His teachings became a source of belief, though it was actually more important that the rulers agree with him and put an end to warring.
This did not happen however, as many rulers turned him away. Perhaps it was indeed within human to be power-hungry and kings often thought of themselves as being more superior and were able to do a better job than others, hence the desire to take over states. Mencius advocated the power of Fate and claimed that humans can do nothing about the decision of the force that drives Fate. This was more so in the case of individuals, rather than the society and dynasty as a whole (Chen, 1997). Even though the Warring States Period was dominated by such a school of thought, Mozi opposed it strongly.
He suggested that a person’s success or failure, wealth of poverty, high or low status is not predetermined. People ought to adopt a positive attitude towards life and strife for the pursuit of wealth, social order and large population. The Mohism thought in this sense was a source of inspiration. When those in destitute no longer believed that it was their destiny to live under such harsh conditions, they could take action and try to step out of poverty and do something about their lives. This was as opposed to resigning to fate and not taking control of their lives.
Unfortunately for Mozi, the unification of China was a period of great prosperity for aristocrats. Mozi’s arguments that everyone should share equally and do away with extravagance did not go well with the rising groups, who naturally wished to protect their wealth. This is a possible factor in the state rulers supporting Mencius and Confucianism, but not Mohism. While Mencius argued for similar benevolence and the caring of the people’s welfare, Mozi’s focus on anti-rituals and anti-entertainment did not win him much patronage.
It is interesting however, to note the regrettable fact that Mencius eventually grew disappointed at his inability to help establish an ideal government. It goes to show that even with lofty and beneficial philosophies, they are reduced to mere words if they cannot be applied. Mozi, with his more practical ideals, was able to reach out to the common people better. In retrospect, as subtle and incongruent as certain Mohism principles might seem to be, its core principles and teachings appealed more to the people of that time.
The practicality and applicability of Mohism served the people of that time better as they were aimed at changing their circumstances and improving their lives. His criticism of the excesses of the powerful made him a champion among the common people and became a “voice” for them. Question 2: Try to conjecture the reason that Confucianism has been so dominant for the ongoing two millennia of Chinese society and culture? The Analects, a record of the words, acts and discussions of Chinese philosopher Confucius and his disciples, has been said to be the “Bible” of the Chinese people.
2000 years on, it is still setting the standards for individual conducts, administration of governments and communities. How has his teachings inspired a way of life that has been so dominant until today? The growth and success of Chinese societies worldwide have bore testament to his teachings. Confucian culture has outperformed others in more ways than one. When people see a correlation between gaining positive results and outcomes, and the practice of his philosophy, the belief grows. As a result of this, people continue to believe and attempt to live by his philosophies, in the hope of attaining the same success.
To understand how Confucius could make such a change in China we have to review Chinese history. Constant warring and social issues plagued China. Men were searching for something to hold the society together and prevent the destruction of what they possess. They needed some form of tradition or social custom that could be counted on to keep life intact. Confucius developed this tradition that stressed the relationships between individuals, their families, and society based on ? ren (benevolence), ? li (rituals and social norms) and ? xue (learning). The principle of?
ren is closely tied to the concepts of ? li. They emphasized the importance of relationships between people and filial submission. ? li also carries religious and social connotations – men and women ought to respect their elders and superiors; proper rituals and ceremonies ought to be performed (Hopfe & Woodward, 1998). Over the hundreds of centuries, children have been taught to respect their parents deeply, perform admirably and bring esteem to the family. Parents in return, devote much of their time and monetary expenses on them to support their growth.
This collective and united front put up by the Chinese family allow them to find success as a unit and continue to dominate their way of life. The recent “Tiger Mom and Wolf Dads” phenomenon sparked debate on how the Chinese parenting is better than the Western way of parenting (Yu Ge, 2011). The methods of upbringing mentioned might seem extreme, but believers of this statement do see a correlation between a Confucianism-influenced style of family upbringing and future generation’s success. Concept of?
Learning purports that “Learning is the very concrete method for oneself to reach the realm of ?ren”. To put it in simpler terms, Confucius means to say that learning is the one and only way to gain new knowledge and advance oneself. From young, the Chinese children are nearly permanently-enrolled throughout a year, while children from the Western world attend school for much lesser periods.
Spring and summer breaks are always longer for the Western kids than the Chinese kids. The exam culture created by Confucianism to provide sensible statesmen for the Emperor’s court has been passed on to modern day and it certainly means much more to the Chinese students than to their Western friends.
The reverence for learning and love for learning instilled in the Chinese has propelled many into prestigious colleges around the world and professional positions. The more successful they are and the better they do in life, the more they appreciate what “learning” has done for them. They will then try to inculcate this to their offspring, as well as continue learning throughout their life to gain greater success. This cycle repeats and the values of Confucianism are passed through the generations.
Confucian culture has also been said to have played a part in helping a country receive economical success, through its focus on family values and civics as well as personal virtues (Ramirez & Rubio, 2010). The success of Japan and the “Four Tigers” (Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore) has been said to be owed to fundamental and essential Confucian precepts such as those mentioned above, as well as social justice and good governments. Presumably, it is largely responsible for the widely known fact that Chinese businessmen of today work by the principles of ??
guanxi, which means “relationship” when translated. The very core values of Confucius’ philosophy still carry the most important influence on daily behavior and conduct of the Chinese, albeit in varying forms. Another separate, but key reason as to why Confucianism has been so dominant lies in the fact that Confucius is a “live” person that used to live among us. In fact, The Analects contains so many accounts of Confucius’ behaviors and sayings in daily activities, which go to show how much Confucius was just as human as anyone of us.
Rather than teaching belief and worship in a deity what religions do, Confucius was teaching ethical behaviors among men. This made his teachings more authentic and believable, compared to religions, which seemed all too supernatural and to some extent, impractical. Of course, Confucianism has its detractors and opponents. Then again, for every opponent of Confucianism, there will be many other defenders of the philosophy. This constant and ongoing debate has served to raise the awareness of the Philosopher’s works, especially in the Western world.
It has certainly raised the curiosity of many Western academics and researchers and prompted them to make sense of Confucius’ works and join in the philosophical realm of discussions. The example of how Singapore’s former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew acknowledged Confucian ethic to be the central philosophy that provided them with their economic and social policies (Khan, 2001) serve to remind us how sometimes ancient philosophies still work to bring economic success and peace to a society. Throughout history, Confucianism has helped Chinese (and East Asian) societies provide their nations with a much-needed ethical anchor.
It has served them well so far and if Confucian nations could succeed in adapting this time-tested heritage to contemporary challenges, Confucius’ teachings may blossom beyond the Chinese World to enrich all mankind in time to come. References Chen, N. (1997, October). The Concept of Fate in Mencius. Philosophy East and West, Vol. 47, No. 4 , pp. 495-520. Greenberg, Y. K. (2007). Encyclopedia of Love in World Religions . Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO . Haiming, W. (2010, December 12). China Today. Retrieved November 23, 2011, from http://www. chinatoday. com.
cn/ctenglish/se/txt/2011-08/04/content_381521. htm Hopfe, M. L. , & Woodward, R. M. (1998). Religions of the World. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education Inc. Khan, H. (2001). Social Policy in Singapore: A Confucian Model? Washington, D. C. , U. S. A. : World Bank Institute. Ramirez, L. F. , & Rubio, J. E. (2010). Culture, Government and Development in South Korea. Asian Culture & History , 71-81. Yu Ge. (2011, November 18). Retrieved November 21, 2011, from Worldcrunch: http://www. worldcrunch. com/chinese-parenting-gets-even-tougher-after-tiger-mother-meet-wolf-father/4126.
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Topic: Mohism and Mencius’ Thought
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