Friday, May 06, 2005

What I learned about philosophy today

1) "Li" means "organic pattern" in Taoism, but I just discovered that there is a completely different concept in Confucianism meaning "civility" or "rules of etiquette" which is also called "Li". When I make reference to the Li/Logos/Complexity material, I need to point out that I'm not talking about the Confucian "Li". (Li as organic pattern) (Li as ettiquette).

2) In a Marvelous example of east/west overlap of philosophy, I have recently learned about the compatibility and overlap between Aristotle's "Golden Mean" and the Confucian concept of the "Chung Yung". (see link)

3) In Confucianism, a person is encouraged to actively cultivate character according to principles. This is an emphasis on the active (Yang) portion of the balance. However, in Taoism, a person is encouraged to unconsciously (effortlessly) allow character to grow and flow naturally. This is an emphasis on the passive (Yin).

But it seems to me that these two approaches need not be at odds, but rather are two different stages of moral development. What should happen, it seems to me, is that Confucian "active/virtues/principles" eventually can flourish into the Taoist "passive/character based/effortless" behavior. But both are essential in their proper times and stages of development.

In a Christian context, this evolution is the "law" moving from "stone tablet" (old testament) to the "human heart" (new testament), and is what Paul describes as the "holy spirit" entering one and transforming character so that obedience to rules is supplanted by character transformation. Although Paul meant a literal holy spirit, I believe he was witnessing a transformation of the character which practitioners of ethical teaching may undergo, in which they no longer have to base their actions on "commandments" because their character has developed such that ethical action is effortless and unconscious.

The overlap of these eastern and western concepts are so striking that I'm beginning to see the entire world as one scripture, with each philosophy, culture, and period but a chapter.

This isn't to say that they are all accurate or completely compatible, but the universals strewn throughout are fascinating. There should be a compilation of these concepts into one coherent system.


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