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The Basic Morality of Confucianists’ Ethics and Jung’s Moral Ideas

Author:Shaogang Yang       2014-04-11 Font:S M L

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The Basic Morality of Confucianists’ Ethics and Jung’s Moral Ideas

Shaogang Yang

 

The Chinese ancient Confucianschool was founded by Confucius in the pre-Qin Dynasty more than 2500 yearsago, whose moral and ethical thoughts have become a theoretical system of moralnorms centered on “the benevolence”. With its continuous development andcompletion in so many years, the Confucian moral ethics has become a kind ofmoral and cultural tradition with the Chinese characteristics, and has formed a“basic morality” or “mother morality” that is accepted by most Chinese people.Up to now, the Confucian thought has more and more important influences in thepresent world, because it embodies a kind of moral culture and spirit with athorough knowledge of human thoughts and theoretical integration, andtherefore, it is linked together to some extent with Jung’s moral ideas aboutgood and evil of humanity. We could also say that the Confucian ethics has akind of synchronicity with Jung moral ideas, which is reflected properly by ourconference held here.

 

The Confucian Morality ThatFlied Its Own Colors

in the Contention of aHundred Schools of Thought

 

The radical social changes in theSpring and Autumn Period (770-476BC) as well as the Period of Warring States(475-221 BC) caused the contention of all schools of ancient Chinese thoughtsin the pre-Qin period, during which there were many different schools such asConfucianism, Daoism, Mohism, Legalism, Military Strategism, Farmerism,Logicians and the Eclectics that elaborated abundant thoughts of morality intheir own right. The Confucianism, Mohism, Daoism and Legalism had the mostsignificant influence among them. People might ask, however, why thiscompetitive situation has not existed in Chinese society and become thetraditional characteristics of the Chinese culture for the social democracy,and why the Confucianism could become one of the most important moral pillarsthat has governed the Chinese society for more than 2000 years since the HanDynasty (206 BC- AD220). Through the historical analysis of the formation anddevelopment of the Confucianist moral ideas, it is not difficult to find thatan inner connection existed between Confucius ideology of morality and theessence of good and evil in human collective unconsciousness.

Confucius was the earliest to usethe concept of “Ru” (moral scholar) and made the scholars become Confucianists,for Confucius said to Zi Xia: “You should try to be a scholar of both greatability and moral integrity, not to be an egoistic and ignorant one.”[1] Looking backto his family devoted to literature for generations, Confucius’ ancestors fromShang Dynasty (16th-11th century BC) to Zhou Dynasty (11thcentury to 256 BC) were some kinds of scholars, and even Confucius said abouthimself, “I was born in an impoverished family and there fore I have learnedquite a number of practical skills belonging to the lower strata in thesociety.”[1]It is clear that Confucius was also a common scholar when he was young, but hewas not satisfied with his position and was determined to realize his greatideals of managing state affairs with his profound erudition and loftyaspirations. And thereupon, in the flower of his age he began to run a privateschool and go about selling his ideas and the Confucian school was formedgradually. Just as the Jungian scholar Erich Neumann said, “ One must first ofall solve his own basic problems of morality and then he could play aresponsible role in the collective.”[1] This was asignificant change which was realized by Confucius through his own cultivationof morality for many years. First, the change of its mission andidentification. It made the common skilled scholars become chivalrous scholarswho could “worship and follow the example of ancient sages Yao and Shun’stheory or conduct, and establish the rules to govern the officials and thenations.” And its mission was to “positively intervene the political affairs,and give guidance to the land under heaven”. Second, the change of its way ofaction and the forms of survival. It inherited and developed the ancient sixskills so that the scholars was no longer to do the ritual work when a familygives birth to a child or a family has someone died, but become a kind ofgentleman to establish themselves in society with their moral articles. And thethird, the change of its historical position. Confucius advocated a series ofsystematic social ideas and values that had become one of the most influentialmoral values during the pre-Qin period.

The contents of Confucius’ideology is very rich and I could only simply explain the implications of hismoral ideas”

1. Benevolence and loyalty werethe highest principle of Confucianism. Confucianism started from advocating theidea that “deny self and return to propriety”, and thus it regarded theauthenticity and tolerance in the human relationship as the basic ritualrequirements and the norms of moral cultivation. For example, what Zengzi said:“Everyday I make several self-examinations on the following points: whether Ihave or not exerted my utmost in helping others; Whether I have or not beenhonest and sincere in intercourse with friends; whether I have or not practicedthe instructions of my teacher”[1] embodied themeaning of authenticity, and what Confucius said in the Doctrine of the Mean “One nears the doctrine of the mean whenhe is faithful to and considerate of others. What you would not have others dounto you should not be done unto them” [1]reflected theConfucian “tolerance”. The Alchemists in the Western country made suchdefinition to “meditation” as “the inner dialogue of the heart with one’s ownkindhearted angels”. It is evident that such inner dialogue is something likethe Confucian moral cultivation  “EverydayI make several self-examinations”, and the principles of honestly and sincerelytreating people and tolerance are similar to Jung’s individuation.

2. The distinction between justiceand benefit is Confucianists’ standards of moral assessment. Confucius regardedan individual’s pursuit for justice or benefit as the principle to distinguishrightness from wrongness, for his words “The superior man understands what ismoral; the inferior man understands only what is profitable” [1]distinctivelyreflected one’s lofty pursuit of the moral spirit. Of course, what Confuciusopposed was an unprincipled seek for the benefits without justice, but not thenecessary pursuit for the material benefit. He clearly pointed out: “Riches andhonor are what every man desires; but if they can be obtained only bytransgressing the right way, a virtuous man will disdain to hold them. Povertyand lowliness are what every man detests; but if they can be avoided only bytransgressing the right way, a virtuous man will not try to evade them.”[1]And thereforea gentleman should consider moral principles while facing profit. It isrevealed that Confucius admitted both the good and evil in human nature, whichhas the consensus with what Jung admitted that there are good and evilarchetypes (such as wise old man and shadow) in collective unconsciousness. Theonly difference is that when they confront a dilemma choice of good and evil,Jung wanted to realize his moral individuation by virtue of the integration ofhuman nature, while Confucius emphasized the benefit based on the justice.

3. Intelligence, benevolence andbraveness are Confucianists’ basic virtues. Just like the ancient Greek scholarAristotle, Confucius also defined three kinds of virtues a moral person shouldhave. He said that as a gentleman, “the wise man can hardly have perplexities,the humane can hardly be sorrowful, and the brave can hardly be fearful.”[1] Of course,it is not easy for an individual to have all three virtues at the same time inhis real life, but as the common moralities that all human beings have, thethree virtues are the most ideal personality traits abstracted from humanvirtues. They are both unified whole and has some interaction. What we shouldspecially noted is that such ideal personality that all human beings have incommon is consistent with Jung’s archetypes. As Jung said “Archetypes aretypical patterns of insights. Whenever we encounter the insight patterns whichare generally consistent and repeatedly evoked, we are dealing with thearchetypes.”[1]Since the three virtues are a gentleman’s morality, and gentlemen concentratedembody the human beings’ virtues “which are generally consistent and repeatedlyevoked”,then these virtues are thecollective unconscious archetypes of human beings to some extent. Confucius hadalso elaborated the relationship among the three virtues, and to him theintelligent is the prerequisite to the benevolence, and the benevolence is thecenter of the intelligence, and the brave is the outward behavior of bothintelligence and benevolence. What Confucius said “The humane feel relieved incarrying out humanity, while the wise find it beneficial to practice humanity”[1] expoundedthe different functions of intelligence and benevolence. His idea that “if aman does not insist on such an environment in selecting his residence, how canhe be counted as being wise” [1]clarifiedthat benevolence is the premise and the goal of cleverness. He also showed thatthe brave courage is the expression of benevolence and brightness with the wordthat “ Man of lofty ideals and moral integrity will under no circumstance seeklife at the expense of the principles of humanity. On occasion they will bebrave enough to sacrifice their lives to accomplish the cultivation of thequality of humanity.”[1]In fact Confucius further developed the idea of modest gentleman advocated by I Ching, and made the three virtues thenecessary requirements of Confucian moral cultivation.

 

The Moral Ideas in the HanDynasty That Restrained

All the Other Schools ButOnly Respected Confucianism

 

When the First Emperor of Qin(259-210 BC) unified China in 221 BC, he implemented the cruel legal policy inorder to maintain and consolidate his dominant position. This had something todo with the tradition of the Qin Nation during the Warring State Period inwhich it advocated a national policy of running the country according to law soas to realize the purpose of making the country rich and its military forceefficient. For instance, before the First Emperor of Qin unified China, the Qinnation accepted Shang Yang’s idea to carry out the Constitutional Reform formore than 10 years, and as a result “the Qin people felt very pleased to findthat no one would pick up the things that others lost in the street into hisown pocket, there were no thieves and brigands, houses had adequate suppliesand people live in contentment, people were brave enough to fight for their owncountry but not for the private struggle and the country was run quite well.”[1]It had greatimpact on the society of the Qin nation. The Legalist thought of Han Fei, whowas a main representative of Legalists during the pre-Qin Period, and who hadlived in the Qin nation as a guest for a period of time, had also greatlyinfluenced the dominant ideas and policies of the Qin nation. Up to the time of34th and 35th year of the First Emperor of Qin, with theimplement of such policies as prohibiting the private schools, burning booksand burying Confucian scholars alive, and “treating the laws as the teachingcontents and the officials as the teachers”, the thought of rule by law in theQin Dynasty arrived its peak, and also meant that the feudalist and autocraticgovernment of the First Emperor would begin to go downwards. And finally theQin Dynasty was overthrown by the peasant uprising. Because, as we know, thelegal rules are only the outside heteronomy and repression that could only makethe evils in the human nature to hide into the unconsciousness temporarily.Only when the moral forces are made use of, can the long-standing function ofthe moral autonomy be displayed.

The failure of the policy thatruled the country by law in Qin dynasty caused the rulers’ sharp vigilance inHan Dynasty (206BC-AD220). In order to maintain its dominance of “ruling allthe land” more permanently, the rulers in the Han Dynasty adopted the policiesthat were relatively more open to every schools and thoughts, and therefore, atthe beginning of the Han Dynasty, a new situation that all schools of thoughtscontended for attention appeared. Through decades of restoration, up to theyear 140 BC when the emperor Han Wu Di ascended there appeared a prosperoussocial situation that the politics was stable and economics was developed. Theemperor Han Wu Di adopted the great Confucianist Dong Zhongshu’s suggestionthat “restrained all the other schools of thought” and “only worship theConfucianism”, and defined Confucianism that holds humanity, justice andmorality in esteem as the orthodox political guiding thought so that thedominant position of Confucianism was established in Chinese society.

Dong Zhongshu’s Confucianistthought raised a systematic ideology of rule by virtue through earnestteachings, which was composed mainly of Confucius and Mencius thoughts in thepre-Qin Dynasty, assimilated the theories from Daoism, Legalism and yin-yangand five elements, and also made use of the teleology thought of theology. Hesaid: “If a king wants to make great achievement, he’d better resort hisbeginning to the heaven. The most important of all for the manifestation of God’swill depends on yin and yang. The latter is morality, and the former is penalcode. The main function of the penal code is to rule the country throughkilling, and the main function of morality is to advocate a moral life…. And soit could be seen that the heaven attempts to rule by morality, but not by penalcode.”[1] Here DongZhongshu deduced the way of human life from the God’s will, and regarded thepolicy of benevolence and rule of virtue as the fundamental principles ofkingly way. The Three Cardinal Guides (ruler guides subject, father guides sonand husband guides wife) and Five Constant Virtues (benevolence, righteousness,propriety, knowledge and sincerity) that he produced had become the centralcontents of the traditional moral education in Chinese society since the HanDynasty, and many of his moral ideas such as “value justice above materialgains”, “appease public feeling with benevolence and straight oneself withjustice”, “one must be both benevolent and knowledgeable” had become the basicprinciples and methods of an individual’s moral cultivation. It is just becauseof the instructional function of Confucianism in maintaining the feudaldominance that the rulers in Han Dynasty and nearly all the latter dynastiesvigorously advertise Confucianist thoughts. Thus, in the feudalist ages, allthe emperors and officials as well as the common people had to learn andpractice the moral ideas of Confucianism so as to follow the moral obligationsand preaching through the understanding of the relation between “the Way ofHeaven” and “the way of human life”, in this way the purpose of ruling thecountry “by taking hold of the key link and strictly adhering the teachings”could be arrived.

The excessive admiration forConfucianism, however, caused the unified centralization of state power andtherefore the apposed ideas could not be expressed properly. Just as Neumannsaid, “The monism tried to abolish the opposite principle of moral problems amonggroups and raised one pole of the two onto the absolutely high position.”[1]Similar tothe emphasis on rule by law, this monism also locked the dark and shadow out ofthe door and would still fall into the conscious crisis of avoiding evils. Thesevere turbulence of the Chinese society since the end of the Han Dynasty forseveral hundred years was the reflection of the crisis.

 

The Moral Culture ofIncorporating Things

of Diverse Nature with Unityof Opposites

 

From the end of the Han Dynastythrough the Three Kingdoms, Wei, Jin, the Northern and Southern Dynasties, theChinese society was in troubled times that the country was split and thesociety was in turmoil, and the dominant position of Confucianism wascriticized seriously. With the economic transformation, national amalgamation,cultural exchange and educational reform, there appeared a metaphysical sectthat adapted to the ruling need of the family of power and influence, thatmaintained to use Daoism with I Ching, Lao Zi and Zhuang Zi to reconstruct and explain Confucianism, and therefore acultural trend in moral ideas which went from opposition to confluence made itsway out.

The main representatives of the metaphysicalthought at that time were Liu Shao, He Yan, Wang Bi, Ji Kang, Xiang Xiu, GuoXiang and so on, who proposed their own ideas of moral psychology separatelyaccording to the moral requirements for various kinds of qualified personnel atthe time. For example, Liu Shao was not only aware of the individualdifferences existing among people’s minds in temperament and characters, butalso explained the personality psychology of an individual in forming hismorality. He said: “A talented person treats morality as his goal. A moralperson has more valuable qualities. And thus a person with morality would goalong the way of mean. The so-called doctrine of the mean is the goal of thesages.”[1] The doctrineof the mean here referred to the harmonious development of the moral contentswith the Confucian tradition such as “humanity, justice, propriety, wisdom andsincerity”. He also said: “ The moral person is usually wise and ordinary, whocan share all the talents of others but not sing his own praise.”[1] It is clearthat Liu Shao’s metaphysics both held the sages’ moral intelligence in esteem andshared the ideological color of Daoism that governs by doing nothing that goesagainst nature.

Wang Bi analyzed the consistenceand difference of natural instincts of human beings, and he pointed out that ifhuman nature “is completely the same, the so-called similarity would not exist;if it is completely different, the so-called similarity would not exist, too.What I say the similarity means that people have something in common and havesomething different. The common point is that human nature is not good andevil, and the different point is that people have thick or thin inheritednature. Although they have some differences but they are not far from eachother, they have what I say the similarity.”[1] Wang Bi sawthe difference between the thick and thin in the inborn factors of humaninheritance, and realized the difference of good and evil in human nature, andthis is quite valuable psychological thought of morality. He also used Daoismto explain the acquirement of morality and thus he thought, “Morality issomething gained….How could one acquire morality? It is just through the way oflife (Daoism)”, because “If one shares the morality with the Heaven and theEarth, his way of life can run in both directions and even arrive at the poleof nothingness.” This sort of universe ontology based on nothingnessconstitutes the foundation of moral psychology in the metaphysical thought,with which many of Jung’s archetypes of collective unconscious are consistentto some extent.

Although the metaphysics had veryimportant social influences at that time, and there appeared the phenomenonwith multiple cultures and various ideas co existing, the Confucian theory wasstill the dominant thought as a mainstream. Of course it had to makeself-regulation continuously with the development of the ages. TheConfucianists such as Fu Xuan, Liu Xie, Liu Zhou and Yan Zhitui were the mainrepresentatives of the time. For instance, Fu Xuan raised the point of view ofideal moral education with morality and orthodox gathering together, and hethought: “A man with an upright heart must have an upright morality. Using theupright morality to teach people is like setting up good examples, the commonpeople will follow it without being ordered.” The so-called “upright morality”is actually the moral norms of “humanity, justice, propriety, wisdom andsincerity” that Confucianism always advocated, in which “justice” is the mostimportant content of the Confucian ideal morality. According to thecharacteristics of the tome, Liu Zhou elaborated the methods and principles ofindividual moral cultivation such as “cultivate one’s moral character along themoral course”, “guard against the fullest extent and be cautious in wording”and “check erroneous ideas at the outset”. Yan Zhitui carried forward the moralthought of Confucianism and raised the moral opinion centered on “the filialpiety”. He definitely pointed out: “The filial piety is the first of everythingand is specially necessary to be learned and cultivated. There is nothing moreimportant than this!” his well-known works TheFamily Advice has become one of the classic books of the traditionalChinese family moral education.

Besides the moral psychology ofConfucianism and Daoism, the moral values of Buddhism gradually became an importanttradition of the Chinese moral culture. From the Wei Dynasty (386-532) to theSui and Tang Dynasty (618-907), the translation levels of Buddhist Scripturesin China raised very quickly, more and more Buddhist theorists headed by theChinese scholars began to play their roles. Especially during the time of SuiDynasty and Tang Dynasty, Buddhism became a state religion foe a time. Itsmoral values had also transformed gradually from the outward striving forBuddhism of the traditional religious doctrine to seeking the release of mind throughthe inner self-regulation. Jung’s opinions about the psychological crisis inmiddle ages are the Western expression of Buddhism from outward to inwardexploration. In China, from the well-known Buddhist Hui Yuan in the East JinDynasty to the religious sect of Tiantai and Zen in Sui and Tang Dynasties,they all embodied the inheritance and transformation of the Buddhist values. Insum, during the development of the feudal society in this period of nearly1,000 years, the Chinese moral psychology had been evolved and changedsignificantly, and the contention of thought mainly among Confucianism, Daoismand Buddhism, and the situation of both opposite and confluence had beenformed. They assimilated each other and drew lessons from one another, theyabsorbed everything and anything and compromised each other, so that thetraditional Chinese ancient moral ideas became more and more complete.

 

The Moral Rationality ofSurviving the Heavenly Principle

and Abolishing Human Desire

 

With the development of the feudalsociety, the confluence of Confucianism, Daoism and Buddhism caused theappearance of the Confucian school of idealist philosophy of the Song (960-1279) and Ming (1368-1644) Dynasties, and therefore in moral thought arose thecharacteristic of mixing all those values together. The early representativesof the school in the early Song Dynasty were Hu Yuan, Sun Fu and Shi Jie. Forinstance, the moral education advocated by Hu Yuan emphasized the personalitychange by practicing what one preaches as he said: “A teacher who initiatesright knowledge should practice it first”. The suggestions proposed by Shi Jiesuch as “Writings are for conveying truth” and “The purpose of teaching is topropagate doctrines of the ancient sages” provided moral education with theteleology and established the foundation of getting on in life for moralcultivation. Sima Guang further developed such philosophy proposed in the earlySong Dynasty and made a systematic elaboration of the three basic processes ofmoral cultivation that included strict enforcement, moral cultivation andbecoming a moral person. He maintained that such ideas as “resisting outsideinfluence” and “not just do good things consciously” could be used to explainthe study of the phenomenon of nature, and he also advocated that one’sgoodness should be a kind of moral state with high self-discipline. These ideashad great impact on the restraining of human desire proposed by the lateridealist philosophers.

Later on Zhou Dunyi and Zhang Zaicarried forward and further developed the early idealist philosophy and builtan important ground for the construction of the latter system of morality。 For example, Zhou Dunyi emphasized thatmoral education was the pursuit of “the sages” personality and aimed at “makinga moral person”. The foundation of such personality was “the sincere”, however,that had transcended the sincere proposed by Confucian tradition in The Doctrine of the Mean. He said: “Theorigin of the universe and everything comes from the sincere. No matter how theheaven and earth changes, if it goes along the right way, the sincere would beestablished.” It is evident that “the sincere” here is a requirement of moral metaphysicsthat demands a person to be selfless and let things to take their own course.To arrive at such sincere state, one had to use the methods of moralcultivation such as “mainly be quiet and be cautious of action”, “resist desire”and “be good at learning” to form his own moral character. This kind of moralidea became one of the origins of thoughts that were stressed by the idealistphilosophy such as “honest and sincere”, “be quiet” and “restrain one’sselfishness”. It is something like what Jung pointed out, “Good and evil arethe principles that we rely on to make ethical judgments, but if they arereduced to the origin of the ontology, they are just “the beginnings”, anddifferent aspect and names of the God.”[1] Only when aperson trusts the significance of the holy sincerity and “lets he himselfoverwhelmed by it”, could he be a truly moral person.

Of the four schools of theidealist philosophy, the position of Cheng Yi and Cheng Hao is a little bitlower than that of Zhou Dunyi and Zhang Zai, but their moral ideas furtherenriched the content of the idealist philosophy. They accepted the theory oforiginal goodness of human nature, but according to them, the “goodness” isactually the combination of “nature” and “Dao”, that is, “Dao is the nature. Ifone wants to seek the nature outside the Dao, or seek the Dao outside thenature, it can never be done.”[1] Theunification of “human nature” and the “Dao” provided the traditional theorywith the logically theoretical bases, and also provided the individual moraldevelopment with the basis of idealist philosophy. The two Chengs thought thatalthough all the human nature is originally good, the moral values expressedthrough one’s behavior are quite different because people may have differentmoral judgment of their own conducts, and thus “When the vital energy is clear,one’s ability appears good; when the vital energy is chaotic, his ability looksevil. The man who is born with the clear vital energy is a sage, and the manwho is born with the chaotic vital energy is a fool.”[1] In otherwords, a sage is a person who is born with knowledge; a person of virtue is aperson who has knowledge through learning; an ordinary person is one who isdifficult to acquire knowledge, and a fool person is one who is backward andhas no urge to make progress. And then, what moral education aims at is not tochange one’s human nature, but change the ability that makes human nature playits role. Based on this idealist philosophy, the two Chengs proposed theprinciples of moral education that demand to “survive the heavenly principleand to abolish the human desire”, so as to make moral psychology be connectedwith ontology and epistemology. They defined the standards of moral values asthe one that conform to the “heavenly principle”, but not originated from “humandesire”. In the real life, however, there always exists the opposite andconflict between “the heavenly principle” and “the human desire”, moraleducation must regard the personality of a “sage” as a standard to make moraljudgment. When such personality embodies in one’s inner mind, it is a situationof moral completion, the main characteristics of which are “restraining one’sselfishness”, “be respectful” and “be honest and sincere”. Jung evidentlyagreed with the moral attitude of the Orient, for he said, “Anyone who couldsimultaneously be aware of his own dark and bright aspects, would be looking athimself from the double aspects at the same time and then could grasp thedoctrine of the mean.”[1]With this moral philosophy in one’s mind, all of his conducts would acquiremoral values.

The great Confucianist Zhu Xi inthe Southern Song period made the idealist philosophy reach the highest peak inthe history. He regarded “the understanding of human relations” as the goal ofmoral education, that is, only through recognizing and practicing the feudalmorality centered on “the Three Cardinal Guides and Five Constant Virtues”, cana man be cultivated into a person who could obey the feudal ethics of his ownfree will. “The understanding of human relations”, however, could not belimited in this, its final purpose is to raise the personality of sages and menof virtue like Confucius and Yan Hui who took delight in doing something moral,and the sages’ spirit that is the expression which conforms to human beings’inner cultivation and spiritual state. To realize such personality, two formsof moral cultivation were needed, that is, moral cognition and moral practice.An intimate relationship exists between the two. Zhu Xi clearly pointed out: “Cognitionand practice are always accompanied. It is something like the relation betweeneyes and feet, without feet, eyes cannot walk, and without eyes, feet cannotlook. As for the time order, knowledge is the first, and as for the importance,behavior is more valuable.” [1] It is clearthat on the sequence of moral development, Zhu Xi maintained that “Cognition isearlier than practice”, and then according to this characteristic, he definedthe basic sequence of moral cultivation, that is: “knowledge, examination,cautious consideration, clear distinction and practice persistently”, and hefurther proposed the principles of moral cultivation: “having both extensivelearning and intensive knowledge, accumulating and making progress step bystep,; daily expenses should be geared to oneself, and reviewing the past helpsone to understand the present.” And therefore a speculative theoretical systemof Confucian moral philosophy of idealism was formed.

Up to the beginning of the MingDynasty, the dominant position of the two Chengs and Zhu Xi’s idealistphilosophy had been established, because its function in maintaining the feudalgovernment was much greater than the traditional Confucianism, even though itstemmed from the theory. The great philosopher like Zhu Xi appeared in theSouthern Song Dynasty, but the rulers then did not pay much attention to histhought, and sometimes even called it “pseudo learning”. It was only up to theperiod of Yuan Dynasty, when Zhu Xi’s works Noteson the Four Books became one of the standard textbooks of the imperialcompetitive examination. And it was only during the Ming Dynasty when the bookssuch as The Collected works of the FourBooks, The Collected Works of theFive Classics and The Collected worksof the Principles of Human Nature were revised, that the dominant positionof the idealist philosophy had been established. During this period of time,the idealist philosopher Xue Xuan further developed Zhu Xi’s thought, andproposed the principles of ,oral cultivation “The true acquirement of moralitydepends on the real practice” and “On one hand one must know the ways of theworld, on the other hand one should know the course of nature”, and so as toemphasize the role of moral practice. Another idealist philosopher Wu Yubicombined Zhu Xi’s idealism and Lu Jiuyuan’s philosophy of the mind, and summedup all the Confucianism from the pre-Qin period to the Song Dynasty as thegreat learning of sages and men of virtue that “survive the Heavenly principleand abolish the human desire” in order to “become sages and men of virtuethrough learning”. He thought: “There is no other way of learning from thesages and men of virtue, it only relies on oneself”, and therefore, “If youwant to acquire the learning of sages and men of virtue, you should study hard,by deeply exploring the articles and turning morality over in your mind.” It isclear that such ways of moral cultivation is a special combination of theidealist philosophy and the philosophy of mind.

 

The Moral Criticism Fightingagainst the Feudal Code of Ethics

and Pursuing Justice andHuman Nature

 

During the end of Ming Dynasty andthe beginning of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), the social and classcontradictions became more and more sharp. With the cultural and economic infiltrationof the Western societies, the Western social and natural sciences also cameinto China. Under such complicated historical condition, the traditional moralideas of ancient China began to be challenged seriously. A number ofprogressive thinkers such as Li Zhi, Huang Zongxi, Gu Yanwu and Yan Yuan,accepted some of the Western learning to some extent, and criticized theConfucianism headed by the idealist philosophy of the two Chengs’ and Zhu Xi’s,and strongly pounded at the dominant position of the classic Confucianism thathad governed Chinese society for 2000 years.

On moral ethics, they unifiedmorality and utility, and combined the heavenly principle and human desire.According to Li Zhi, “If a man wants to acquire justice, he had to get somematerial gains. If it is not for this purpose, that is not the real justice”,because “having one’s meals and clothes is the innate laws of human relations,without which there will be no ethical things.” On the question of habitualnature, Wang Fuzhi didn’t agree with the opinion of “habitual nature is borngood”, and thought that the habits and characteristics “could be formed if theyhaven’t been built, and could be abolished if they have been formed”. On therelationship between the heavenly principle and human nature, Wang Fuzhiemphasized the role of the principle in restraining the desire whilemaintaining that “the desire could produce the heavenly principles”, becausethe desire would be spread unchecked without the principles, and there will beuseless without desire”. Therefore it should be “let nature take its course” sothat the principles and desire will not “contrary to each other, the two willbe combined and as the system mutually”. In this way the purpose of arriving atthe great harmony of human nature and heavenly principle could be realized. Inthe later period Dai Zhen directed the spearhead of criticism to the inbornmoral theory of the idealist philosophy, and thus emphasized that “Dao is thecommon practice of human relationships”. Here there is the distinction betweenthe heavenly principle and humanity, the former is the reason of everything inthe world and the latter is the reason of human beings. As for the reason ofhumanity, there is nothing but let human relations and daily function taketheir own courses.”

It is evident that all these ideasheavily stroke the traditional Confucianism, especially the moral “authority”in the idealist philosophy that upheld “the sages” and “the heavenly principles”,through which moral education transformed from the learning of sages to thelearning of human relations and daily functions, and there appeared a tendencyof thought that restores its historical truth. This is just something like whatJung said, “Only through my meditation of the two sides, I could liberatemyself from them and could control their extremes, arriving at a mean course.It is only in that place where I will no longer be controlled by the opposeddouble aspects”.[1]The two sides here refers to the contradiction of the dark and bright, and itcould also be understood as the opposition between the learning of sages andthe learning of human relations. They are in fact the two aspects of one unity.The true moral education should be the right explanation of the opposed double aspectsbecause moral personality is enhanced in the right differentiation and analysisof these opposed two aspects.

 

 

 

 

Notes and References

 

[1] Confucius (1998): TheAnalects of Confucius. Jinan: Shandong Friendship Press, p.77.

[1] Confucius (1998): The Analectsof Confucius. Jinan: Shandong Friendship Press, p.119.

[1] Neumann, E. (1998): DepthPsychology and a New Ethic. Chinese translation, the preface of thisedition, p.11.

[1] Confucius (1998): TheAnalects of Confucius. Jinan: Shandong Friendship Press, p.3.

[1] Confucius (1998): The Doctrine of the Mean. Jinan: ShandongFriendship Press, p.13.

[1] Confucius (1998): TheAnalects of Confucius. Jinan: Shandong Friendship Press, p.49.

[1] Confucius (1998): TheAnalects of Confucius. Jinan: Shandong Friendship Press, pp.43-45.

[1] Confucius (1998): TheAnalects of Confucius. Jinan: Shandong Friendship Press, p.131.

[1] C. G. Jung: Instinct and Unconsciousness. CW8.

[1] Confucius (1998): TheAnalects of Confucius. Jinan: Shandong Friendship Press, p.43.

[1] Confucius (1998): TheAnalects of Confucius. Jinan: Shandong Friendship Press, p.43.

[1] Confucius (1998): TheAnalects of Confucius. Jinan: Shandong Friendship Press, p.239.

[1] Sun Peiqing, Li Guojun (Eds.) (1997): The Chinese History of Educational Thought. Shanghai: East ChinaNormal University Press, p.198.

[1] Books of Han Dynasty: TheBiography of Dong Zhongshu.

[1] Neumann, E. (1998): DepthPsychology and a New Ethic. Chinese translation, p.67.

[1] Liu Shao: Biographical Notesand Data: Jiu Zheng.

[1] Liu Shao: Biographical Notesand Data :Liu Ye.

[1] Wang Bi: Clear up Doubts inthe Analects of Confucius: Yang Huo.

[1] C. G. Jung, The good and evil in analytical psychology. CW. 10.

[1] The Posthumous Papers, Vol. 1. Works of Cheng Yi and Cheng Hao, TheChinese Books Press, 1981, p.1.