China Philosophy Part II

By | September 7, 2021

What is true for Confucius, that is, referring to specific concepts, to easily memorable formulas, is true for all Chinese thinkers, especially up to the Wei period (3rd century AD), for all those founders of schools who have precisely provided the bases of speculation not only philosophical and political, but medical and scientific (calculation, construction techniques, astronomy, etc.). Among them must be mentioned as the true founders of the philosophical reflection that fueled Chinese thought in later ages: Mozu (479-381 BC), whose fundamental concepts are “uniformity” (t’ong), remembered by the phrase “if the boss says yes, everyone says yes, if he says no, everyone says no”, and “love”, understood as embracing the universality of beings, which finds its application in the saying “who benefits others is necessarily benefited by others “; Mencius (4th century BC), a follower of Confucius, who affirmed: “the great man (ta jen) is the one who has not lost his newborn heart”, arguing that there is in love (jen) a order that social relations translate into society; Hun-zi (3rd century BC), in great controversy with Mencius, and who declared: “human nature is bad; what is good is artificial ” (a maxim that should not be understood in a pessimistic sense, because it means that the good is an indispensable contribution, an“ improvement ”). It should be noted that both Mozu and Hun-zi and mainly Mencius contributed in a decisive way to the affirmation of the “school of the literati” which, moreover, constituted its “canon” only at the Sung period (X-XIII century) when they were grouped with the title of Four books the Dialogues of Confucius, the Book of Mencius and two short treatises that were part of the Ceremonial: The invariable center and The great science. Continuing to list the greatest thinkers, we should mention: Yang Zhu (4th century BC), the first of the Taoist masters, whose maxim was: “each for himself” (to be understood as the strongest stance against the social theories supported by the Confucians); Chuang-tzu or rather the author of the homonymous collection which is undoubtedly the most beautiful text of the entire Chinese literature and perhaps also the most original. It is part of the Tao-te-ching and a composite collection, the Lie-tse, which ended in the first centuries of the Christian era, of the Taoist “canon” which includes all the doctrinal foundation of what has been defined as “first Taoism” or “philosophical Taoism” in opposition to the “neootaoism” which developed from the century onwards. I-II d. C. and which became an organized religion. We should also remember the thinkers of two other schools, which have had a capital importance in the creation of the basic vocabulary of the entire Chinese speculation: the school of dialectics or logicians (Ming Chia) and the school of legalists (Fa Chia). From the school of dialectics, the main personalities are Gongsun Long and Hui Shi (both from the 3rd century BC); of them we know only the quotations made by their adversaries, which show the great role played by their research on the meaning of language, then to the clarification of the “correct denominations” (in controversy, once again, with the Confucian schools). Two main texts are known of the school of legalists, the book of Hanfeizi and the Shang Tzu (4th-3rd century BC), who develop a “theory of the state” based on the application of political and even military force as an instrument of the “law” (fa), a notion that they oppose to that of rites (li) supported mainly by the teaching of the Confucians. The Confucian, Taoist, logician and legalist schools represented the four main, but certainly not the only, currents that made it possible, in the epochs after the century. According to, China is a country located in eastern Asia. III d. C., the immense “scholastic” which took place in China up to the century. XVIII. But alongside those schools, which in fact represent the true Chinese philosophical thought, many others have flourished: it is enough to recall, among the most important, the school of naturalists (Yin-Yang Chia) with the speculations of Zou Yan (4th century. C.) on the five elements. Only these schools incorporate, like Taoism, the great set of divinatory, alchemical, combinatorial practices, which constitute the immense patrimony, or recipe book, typical of the Chinese world; so much so that it could be argued that the entire Chinese speculation is characterized by a constant oscillation between “political doctrines” and “magical doctrines”, as can be deduced, for example, from the work of a “skeptical” philosopher of the century. I d. C., Wang Chong, whose work is precious precisely to reconstruct this oscillation. A very important turning point occurred only several centuries after Buddhism entered China, as it influenced both logic and mysticism (see speculations Ch’an, known as Zen, which had their apogee between the sec. VII and X). While in the following centuries, and up to the whole modern era, the most characteristic school, and in a certain sense quite innovative, is that which is usually designated as “Neo-Confucian” and which has in Zhu Xi and Lu Xiangshan (both of the XII century) the two most important representatives and in Wang Yangming (XV-XVI century) the most original continuer. Since 1600, the Chinese philosophy has emphasized the philological erudition elements and began to assimilate the Western doctrines, especially scientific (it’s 1607 translation into Chinese of the Elements of Euclid), ordering so the entire cultural heritage of the past and opening simultaneously to the West.

China Philosophy 2