Thursday, September 12, 2013

486: Confucius and the concept Ren continued

" And they come to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves;…" (Mark 11:15)
You may be surprised by this quote, which is not about Confucius but about Jesus. Yet they have something in common. 

Both preached a universal love for man and yet both also didn't like certain people at all, were even judgmental about them.
Someone said, “What do you say concerning the principle that injury should be recompensed with kindness?” The master said, “With what then will you recompense kindness? 
Recompense injury with justice, and recompense kindness with kindness.” (Analects 14:34)
-end quote-
This view was already a difference of opinion between Confucius and Lao-tze, as we have seen in a previous lecture.
What interests me here, is, that it seems inevitable that spiritual leaders who preach some kind of universal love for man, also seem to have an "…. except for……"
In the previous lecture I presented the fundamental concept of REN, humaneness. For Confucius the cultivation of REN begins with the development of family relationships with their correlative emotions and special obligations.
You could say, that the family provides in Confucius' opinion the first environment for moral development. Filial piety and brotherly respect are fundamental values.
The skills learnt in the family environment are vital for a person’s interactions with others in later life. They shape the person.
Here too it is interesting to note, that especially christian political parties (at least in my country) often emphasize that the Family is the cornerstone of society. There you get you primary moral  education.
Don't get me wrong. There may be some resemblance of ideas between our Western thought and Confucianism. 
However, Confucius kept himself far from any theological metaphysical overhead, which he rather regarded as counterproductive.
His ideas were practical. REN, humaneness shows itself in word and deed and manifests itself domestic, public and social.
It is associated with attitudes like deference, tolerance, making good on one's word, diligence, generosity, and to personal characteristics like wisdom, uprightness, courage and resoluteness.
Realizing REN in one’s life is an overwhelmingly difficult task. In taking up the challenge, one must have an ability to learn from others in order to reflect on one’s own situation, and to apply these insights to one’s actions.
I think, that this view on man doesn't differ much from the Aristotelian idea of the virtuous man. 
For Aristoteles (334 BC) the good life was achieved by mastering virtues, like Confucius mentions too.
Next lecture we'll pay attention the the other fundamental Confucian concept of Li: behavioral propriety.
Thank you….. ^_^

Main Sources:
MacMillan The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2nd edition
Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 1995
An Introduction to Chinese Philosophy - Karyn L. Lai, Oxford 2008
Chinese Philosophy, P. Carus, 1902
A Brief History of chinese Philosophy. D.T. Suzuki, 1914

The Discussion

[13:14] herman Bergson: If you have any remarks or questions..feel free
[13:14] herman Bergson: The floor is yours
[13:15] Nectanebus: seemed rather concise.
[13:15] herman Bergson: It always is Nectanebus:-)
[13:15] Mathilde Vhargon: Does the class session mostly consist of discussion?
[13:16] herman Bergson: To elaborate on it is up to everyone himself by further study of literature etc.
[13:16] herman Bergson: This is primarily a class where you can learn about a specific subject
[13:16] Nectanebus: I've read the literature mentioned, actually, it's just that it's more of a statement made than a question asked, if that makes sense. THere's naught to debate with a statement.
[13:17] herman Bergson: In this case we are dealing with NOn Western Philosophy...
[13:17] herman Bergson: Indeed Nectanebus....
[13:18] Teleo Aeon: i missed it
[13:18] herman Bergson: It is not my main goal to start a discussion on whether Confucius was right or mistaken c
[13:18] herman Bergson: Primary goal is to let you know there existed a person named Confucius who had certain interesting ideas
[13:19] herman Bergson: And of course you can question his ideas here
[13:19] Nectanebus: Oh, ok, so it's for resources. That makes sense as to the concise nature of the thing
[13:20] Nectanebus: I still think he ripped it from earlier HIndu teachings. The statement about "The elephant in the forest" is pretty much the same argument.
[13:20] herman Bergson: One thing that is characteristic for Confucius for instance is that he used the family as a metaphor for social organization....
[13:20] herman Bergson: The wheel has been invented several times Nectanebus :-)
[13:21] Mathilde Vhargon: I hoped for insight from a person who has studied all of these philosophers... perhaps some connections or things that others might not gather from the reading
[13:21] herman Bergson: What interesting in that is, is that independently of each other the human brain came to the same conclusions and ideas
[13:21] herman Bergson: Well I pointed at some connections with christian and  ancient greek thinking...
[13:22] Mathilde Vhargon: Yes. That is useful
[13:22] herman Bergson: Again....what you do with what you learn here is up to you....
[13:23] Nectanebus: I'm not sure if it *was* independently in the Confucius case, but I understand the awe at the phenomenon in general, and the similarities between Jesus' and Buddha's teachings as a whole can be very interesting.
[13:23] herman Bergson: INdeed Nectanebus
[13:23] Nectanebus: I find it interesting how people often ascribe words to Buddha and Jesus that neither of them said, but was instead written by John or such-and-such terms
[13:24] Nectanebus: (terma="revealed treasure", which is kind of like a vision in Christian literature)
[13:24] Nectanebus: kind*
[13:24] herman Bergson: What I mentioned in a previous lecture......
[13:25] herman Bergson: it is interesting to realize how cultures rely on ancient books, thousands of years old do derive from them anno 2013 moral ideas and values and rules of life
[13:26] herman Bergson: In the light of previous lectures on evolution of the brain this is in fact a bit weird situation
[13:26] Teleo Aeon: how so
[13:26] Corronach: cultures rely on them, but i wonder sometimes if they are as applicable now as they were then.
[13:27] herman Bergson: because all those texts were written in times that you even hardly had a candle or print or the scientific knowledge we now have
[13:27] Corronach: i don't know much about Confucius, admittedly, but to look to the family as a metaphor for social organisation can be problematic.
[13:28] herman Bergson: Take the rule that one should not eat pork....
[13:28] herman Bergson: today complete nonsense....
[13:29] herman Bergson: But 2500 years ago a good idea for pork deteriorates very vast in a tropical environment
[13:29] herman Bergson: The position of the woman  in certain cultures....
[13:30] herman Bergson: motivated by such ancient books
[13:30] Mathilde Vhargon: It
[13:30] herman Bergson: YEs it can indeed Corronach....
[13:31] Teleo Aeon: a recopying of a book is not a flexible system
[13:31] Mathilde Vhargon: seems that the problem with applying ancient texts' rules for living is that people often ascribe meaning and significance to the teaching s that are inaccurate and serve the purpose of the individual teaching it in the present day
[13:31] herman Bergson: Like I addressed the  problem in my previous lecture of members of a family covering up for a criminal act of one of them
[13:33] Mathilde Vhargon: when family ties are considered sacred then any family in which there is improper behaviour becomes a hideously twisted conflict for the impressionable child
[13:33] Mathilde Vhargon: trying to follow the teachings and being told to honor the family
[13:33] herman Bergson: yes that is a problem.....
[13:34] herman Bergson: But I guess Confucius looks mainly at the good aspects of interaction with the family...
[13:34] Mathilde Vhargon: It seems to me that out of this grows more distortion of ideas and belief systems
[13:34] herman Bergson: mutual care, reciprocity, filial piety, mutual respect....
[13:35] Mathilde Vhargon: Another example is when a belief system honors suffering and pain as contributing to growth and holiness
[13:35] herman Bergson: oh my.....
[13:35] Mathilde Vhargon: It is not a large step from there to very gross mistreatment of weaker members of the society
[13:35] NectanebusNectanebus winces at the sound of the axe grinding swelling within the room
[13:36] herman Bergson: The problem you refer to Mathilde, is the justification of suffering and evil....
[13:37] Mathilde Vhargon: yes
[13:37] Nectanebus: There's also the idea of morality being the duty of a family unit, and the lack of responsibility given making an immature person, and how these two might link to break apart a "decent" family to a "post0nuclear" mess of empty shells and neuroses.
[13:37] herman Bergson: When there is such an all mighty and loving god, how can there be evil in the world...
[13:37] Nectanebus: post-nuclear*
[13:37] Mathilde Vhargon: much of philosophy as I have understood it is trying to make sense of why there is evil and suffering in life
[13:37] Nectanebus: like if a government babysits its populace into docility.
[13:37] Teleo Aeon: more axe grinding ?
[13:37] Mathilde Vhargon: some seek to eradicate it
[13:37] Mathilde Vhargon: others try to justify it by giving it a purpose that is redeeming
[13:38] Mathilde Vhargon: Is that an accurate statement I have made?
[13:38] Nectanebus: Buddhists seek to integrate suffering to an extent.
[13:38] Mathilde Vhargon: and some try to say that it is a figment of the mind and does not exist... that only goodness is real or something like that
[13:38] Mathilde Vhargon: I believe
[13:39] herman Bergson: There are several kinds of evil.....
[13:39] herman Bergson: in the first place evil caused by nature....tsunamis, earthquakes , fires etc.
[13:39] Teleo Aeon: do you have a transcript of what you said herman ? I missed it sorry to say
[13:40] herman Bergson: Some call then a punishment by some god(s)
[13:40] Mathilde Vhargon: yes
[13:40] Teleo Aeon: good show.. thanks
[13:40] herman Bergson: Then there is evil, caused by illness....the death of a child....for instance
[13:41] herman Bergson: Then there is evil inflicted by individual action....
[13:41] Mathilde Vhargon: I assume that is also divided into unintentional and intentional
[13:42] herman Bergson: On my list I have the plan to do a project on ( the philosophy of ) Evil
[13:42] Nectanebus: I@d recommend "Political Ponerology" if you want to read up on the nature of evil
[13:42] Nectanebus: amazing work
[13:42] herman Bergson: Yes Mathilde but here we are far away from the present subject :-)
[13:43] herman Bergson: thnx Nectanebus
[13:43] herman Bergson: Well...tho a concise lecture.....
[13:43] herman Bergson: at least this discussion shows that is can leave you with a lot of things to think about...:-)
[13:44] herman Bergson: And that is the main goal if this class...
[13:44] herman Bergson: to leave the thinking to you :-)
[13:45] Mathilde Vhargon: Although things tend to get far from the subject at hand, for me almost everything seems to be linked to a chain of other things
[13:45] Mathilde Vhargon: I will try not to wander off the topic
[13:45] Nectanebus: tangents tied in, haha
[13:45] herman Bergson: It is often inevitable to wonder off the subject problem...
[13:46] Mathilde Vhargon: thank you
[13:46] herman Bergson: every answer brings up a new question...
[13:46] Mathilde Vhargon: yes
[13:46] Mathilde Vhargon: that is true
[13:46] Nectanebus: The only knowledge lies in knowing we know nothing
[13:46] Oceane: I would call this a classical understatement
[13:46] herman Bergson: Which is a socratic paradox in fact :-)
[13:46] Oceane: grins
[13:46] Mathilde Vhargon: There is always far more to learn than we have time to learn it or intelligence to comprehend it
[13:46] Nectanebus: yup
[13:47] herman Bergson: for refers this statement to something we know?
[13:47] Nectanebus: emptiness, perhaps
[13:47] Nectanebus: haha
[13:47] herman Bergson smiles
[13:48] herman Bergson: Well..then I thank you all for your participation
[13:48] Oceane: thank you for a nice discussion, herman
[13:48] herman Bergson: Maybe you leave with some thoughts to ponder about :-)
[13:48] Oceane: :-)
[13:48] Nectanebus: Yeah, cheers for the invite
[13:49] herman Bergson: See you all on Thursday again :-)
[13:49] Teleo Aeon: waves
[13:49] Mathilde Vhargon: Thank you, Professor Bergson
[13:49] Oceane waves and vanishes
[13:49] herman Bergson: Bye Oceane
[13:49] Mathilde Vhargon: Goodbye
[13:49] Corronach: Thank you
[13:49] .: Beertje :.: thank you Herman
[13:49] Nectanebus: fare thee well
[13:49] herman Bergson: My pleasure Beertje

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