Universalism and particularism in classical Chinese philosophy.

Read a couple of books does not make one an expert on anything, but somewhere there is that from. And the debate in chinese philosophy between the mozistas and the confucianists (in particular Mencius) purpose of the universal and the particular in moral can shed light on contemporary discussion. In the end, does not cease to be relevant in that discussion was the argument particularist who ended up ‘winning’ this discussion.

By the way, when examine the discussion in another tradition it is always necessary to take into account that, being another decision, the plot lines may not be simply a replica of the one known (id est, the mozistas are not universalist as it is in the western tradition). Thus, the difference between public and private in chinese thought is less central than in the western tradition: Chung-Tzu, and taoism, advocated the idea that governments should not intervene in society (their kings ideals are kings that don’t do anything very different from what makes any farmer, engaged in the planting and harvest directly from their land). This defense of non-action could get closer to the modern liberalism, if it were not for the taoism makes that recommendation to everyone-from peasants to kings-: no one should ‘act’. And this is because the step of what is permissible in what is public and what is permissible in the private (one of the axes of the discussion in the West) is not central. Or the fact that the defenses more clear division of labour and exchange are found in Mencius, it does so in a context of defense of the ‘interventionist’ state (defending the idea that, as all, the Emperor must do its specific task-to rule, Mencius, Book 3, A. 5).

When we examine the character of the discussion have to be taken into account that we are comparing, as a tradition distinct is a similar theme. But at the same time, I think that this type of comparison has its utility. The shape of the discussion and the line under which is made the arguments are different, but that difference on similar issues is instructive to understand the subject matter.

Leaving already with the preliminaries, what is it that we say these positions? The mozismo has a defense clearly an ideal of benevolence universal. One that is made against a vision-based, in particular that already had Confucius. Opposed to this defence of the universal, it appears the replica pro-particularist Mencius. We will focus in this entry in the position mozista and in the response of Mencius

Chapters 14 to 16 of the Mozi, are where it exposes the doctrine of universal love. The sequence of ideas in the three chapters is very similar (there are variations on the same theme). The disorder of the world arises from lack of love between people. Then what happens is the following:

They arise [the evils of the world] through lack of mutual love. Nowadays, feudal lords only know to love their own states but not to love the states of others; they have no qualms about mobilizing their own state to attack another’s state (Mozi, 15.2)

Not only this but insists that prefer the universal to the particular is the view that everyone prefers to operate:

The question then, is, to whom would I entrust the protection of his house and family, the support of his parents and the care of his wife and children? Do we not know wheter it would be to someone who hold universal to be right or someone who held partial to be right? I think that unde such circumstances, the men and women of the world would not be foolish. Although they might condemn [the views of] the universal person, they would certainly entrust these matters to someone who took universal to be right (Mozi, 16.6)

The texts respond multiple times to a criticism which, it seems, is the most relevant for the own mozistas: it is All very well, but how is that possible? The arguments that gives the Mozi are of two types (one more convincing today than the other): this has already happened -and it mentions the mythical emperors of ancient times. The second is one that, in fact, the mozistas share with the confucian tradition: the importance of The example and of what reward the lord: If the lord, the emperor in the last instance, rewards and guide for the universal, then the ‘feudal lords’ will follow -and this, in turn, is transferred to each level:

In former times, Duke Wen of Jiu liked his officials to wear clothing of poor quality, so they all wore garments of ewe’s wool, carried their swords in ox-hide belts and had caps of rough silk. On entering, theu attended the ruler. On leaving, they walked from the court. Why did they do these things? The ruler liked these things so his officials did tem (Mozi, 15.5)

She is the answer to the argument of possibility. Although it is not an actual argument, there is a feature of the way that it raises the position that makes it more plausible: In the Mozi is treated as an undifferentiated ‘universal mutual love’ and ‘exchange of mutual benefit’ (15.3) -this is then seen as part of what breaks the partial view (that looks at all external as enemy).

Before moving on to the response of Mencius, I want to emphasize that this defense of universalism is characterized because it has as an immediate consequence of the lack of benevolence universal is the attack and enmity -there is no possibility for neutrality.

The counter-argument of Mencius is well-bounded, and appears in a section of the book.

‘The Confucians’, said Yi Tzu, (a mozista) ‘praised the ancient rulers for acting ‘ as if they were tending a newborn babe”. What does this saying means? In my opinion, it means that there should be no gradations in love, though the practice of it begins with one’s parents’

Hzu Tzu reported this to Mencius.

‘Does Yi Tzu truly believes’, said Mencius, ‘that a man loves his brother’s are no more than his neighbour”s newborn babe? He is singling out a special feature in a certain case; when the newborn babe creeps towards a well it is not sti fault. Moreover, when Heaven produces things, it gives them a single basis, yet Yi Tzu tries to give them a dual one. This accounts for his belief (Mencius, Book 3, 5)

The response to the mozismo is very simple and clear: it is Not natural to love everyone equally, it is natural to have more leniency with the nearby with the distant. The argument is stronger when used against mozistas that, as Yi-Tzu, recognize that the source of the feeling of benevolence is close, but raise the point that from there it expands.

What underlies the argument is, moreover, a vision under which the options are not benevolence / enemistas (as in the mozismo) but grading: you will Have a greater kindness with your nearby and from there gradually will be less; but in no case happens to enmity. The argument of Mencius is, finally, that the benevolence general has its basis in that greater benevolence towards the particular: No one, finally, you can’t get the other.

The inside of the thought of Mencius the theme of the natural is crucial -and it is for this reason that in the text appears to be so decisive that answer that the issue is not continuous. The core of the thought of Mencius is that benevolence is a natural feature. The paradigmatic example (which is the one that mentions Yi-Tzu) is that when one sees a baby about to fall into a pit, one has the initial inclination to go to help. Mencius is well strict in what happens in the example: it is only an initial inclination, does not imply that one acts (multiple considerations can avoid it), but the fact that the initial inclination there is shown, in the opinion of Mencius, that the impulse of benevolence exists and is natural.

An impulse that can be strengthened in multiple ways, however the basis is that there really is such an impulse, the natural way. Then, every doctrine that you do not know the nature of that impulse is necessarily wrong.

Until here the discussion. For various reasons, confucianism became the teaching base for the subsequent development of the chinese civilization, and the Mencius as a text was part of the classic books, while the Mozi came to be almost unknown (the oldest texts known of the Ming dynasty). More than to discuss the reasons for the very different fate, we are interested in returning to the debate as such.

One thing that is striking is that, in contradistinción with what is usual in the interior of western thought (and in particular of the last few centuries), none of the positions think in terms of rules. The trend legaliforme thought western morality is clearly absent. Of what this debate is about feelings and impulses -the benevolence is not a standard kantian.

Finally, we return to the prominent point at the beginning: In this debate, was the position particularist, which was established as the dominant. A difference in ways of thinking may be useful to examine this topic. Let us remember the response of the Mencius: it is very clear and direct -and basically just says ‘it is obvious that it is not natural’. Under what conditions that response may not be as strong? Only under conditions in which right (good) and the natural may be different. When it is suggested that the natural impulses are negative and that what is right is to deny them, then is that the response of Mencius loses strength.

And one can see, then, that western thought has been the trend since the establishment of christianity (under which, I think, that Arendt among others has noted) it is possible to see as only negative (sinful) the natural orientation. It is not the only trend to the interior of christianity (let’s say, to think that the true natural tendencies of human beings are good, desired by God, but that in the current state of the world are sinful, for example). In general, the idea of a transcendent God who creates the world allows that difference (even if the world is declared to be good).

The interior of chinese thought, on the contrary, the trend is most relevant has always been to align the natural and the right thing. The wise man is the one who detected that requires the Tao (the Way) and what follows-and the discussions are around the nature of that journey and of that recognition. Then, there is the argument of Mencius -the idea that it is natural to prefer the close – has a very difficult to counteract.

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