THE STRUCTURE AND STUDY OF CHINESE PHILOSOPHY
PROSPECTS FOR THE STUDY OF THE
HISTORY OF CHINESE PHILOSOPHY
AND THE ISSUE OF THE TRUE, THE GOOD AND
THE BEAUTIFUL IN CHINA'S TRADITIONAL PHILOSOPHY
Confronting us now is the problem of prospects for the study of Chinese philosophy, that is, the problem of how to evaluate the traditional philosophy of China.
China is a great country with a long history and cultural tradition. The traditional philosophy of China is rich in content and displays an originality. Because society has moved forward and China has been in a backward position for more than one hundred years, and also because we failed to adopt a scientific attitude toward the study of China's traditional thought and culture, we have been unable, over a long period of time, to acquire a true understanding of the value of China's traditional philosophy or to find out wherein its shortcomings and problems lie. However, things have been changing dramatically in this area in recent years.
In addressing the rally commemorating the one-hundredth anniversary of Marx's death, Comrade Hu Yaobang, General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, said: "The mistaken tendency to split Marxism from the cultural achievements of mankind and pit the one against the other must be opposed; we must acquire a standpoint of respecting the knowledge of science and culture." Note that in recent years a very important phenomenon has appeared in China's newspapers and periodicals, namely, large numbers of articles on problems in real life all quoting philosophical remarks made in ancient China.
For example, Guangming ribao [Bright Daily] carried two short articles on February 19 this year. One article was entitled "Remain Tenacious after a Thousand Whettings and Ten Thousand Thrashings." It was a line from Zheng Banqiao's poem "On Bamboo," which the article used to encourage an indomitable behavior among the people. Another article, entitled "King of Wei Killed Those Who Knew him and the Fake King of Wei," dwelt on the suspicious character of Cao. The article quoted from the Chronicle of the Reign of Zhengguan what Emperor Taizong of the Tang Dynasty said to Feng Deyi: "Whether a flowing water is clear or muddy hinges on its source. An emperor is the source of government and the common people are like the water. If the emperor plays tricks himself and expects his ministers to behave honestly, it is like a muddy source expecting its flow to be clear; it is unreasonable." The same goes for quite a few literary works. Take, for example, "A Wreath at the Foot of a High Mountain," a controversial short story, which describes how a PLA commander criticized a high-ranking cadre's wife. As an admonition, the commander quoted from Du Mu's "Epic of E-Pang Palace" by saying: "People of Qin had no time to lament and were lamented by people after Qin. If the people after Qin lamented but did not take warning, then they would be lamented by those after them."
There are many examples like this which can be found everywhere in newspapers and periodicals. All this has raised a question: Since so many ancient sayings in China still bear great significance for us today and serve as an indispensable guide to our behavior in real life, what value does the traditional philosophy of China have in its entirety? A re-evaluation of China's traditional philosophy seems called for.
If we say that philosophical ideas may embody the problems of the true, the good, and the beautiful, then does not the traditional Chinese philosophy have something valuable or unique in this regard? I think it does, and very remarkably so. We can approach this issue from two aspects, one is the contents of its thinking, another is its attitude toward life, both of which aspects are closely related.
CHINESE PHILOSOPHY AS A THREEFOLD INTEGRATION
Regarding the issue of the true, the good, and the beautiful, traditional Chinese philosophy has had three propositions exerting an extended influence over Chinese thinking: namely, the "integration of heaven with man," which inquires into the unity of the world; the "integration of knowledge with practice," the problem of an ethical norm; and the "integration of feeling with scenery," involving the creation and appreciation of artistic works.
Integration of Heaven with Man: the True
How to define the two concepts of "heaven" and "man" varies with different philosophers. Nevertheless, the "Way of Heaven" refers to the basics of the universe or the universe as a whole. The "way of man" often refers to the society of man or man himself. The relationship between heaven and man has always been the fundamental issue studied by Chinese thinkers.
Sima Qian called his Historical Records a book that "probes into the relations between heaven and man." Dong Zhongshu described what he said as a branch of learning that "studies how man is related to heaven." He Yan, one of the founders of the metaphysics of the Wei and Jin dynasties, called another founder, Wang Bi, a philosopher "qualified to discuss the relations between heaven and man." Tao Hongjing, the true founder of the Maoshan sect of China's Daoism (Taoism), said only Yan Huan, another Daoist leader, understood that "what he had in mind." was the problem "between heaven and man." The "relationship between heaven and man" has been explained by different theories in traditional Chinese philosophy. For example, Zhuangzi required that a "distinction be made between heaven and man," and Zhuangzi theorized that "those who are ignorant of heaven know nothing about man." Furthermore, the question of "relations between heaven and man" often has found expression in the discussion about the relation between "nature" and the "Confucian ethical code." Nevertheless, the mainstream of traditional Chinese philosophy has taken as its main task the demonstration or explanation of how "heaven is integrated with man."
Confucius said more about "human affairs" and less about "the Mandate of Heaven." Nonetheless, he also believed that "what the saint says" is in keeping with "the Mandate of Heaven." Mencius, it can be said, is the philosopher who first proposed the idea of "integration of heaven with man" in a complete sense. For example, he said: "Do with all your heart, know your lot, and understand heaven"; "keep up with heaven and earth above and below." Even though Xunzi advocated that a "distinction be made between heaven and man," his fundamental goal was to "bend the will of Heaven to our use" so that "Heaven" would be integrated with man. Laozi (Lao Tzu) of the Daoist school urged: "Man follows earth, earth follows Heaven, Heaven follows the Way, and the Way follows nature."
Even Zhuangzi who was "ignorant of heaven and knows nothing about man" had this to say: "Heaven and earth live side by side with me, and all things on earth are identified with me." He also said that the superior man can "communicate with heaven, earth, and spirit." Dong Zhongshu preached the idea that "heaven and man respond to each other" and his argument was that the two were integrated. The metaphysics of the Wei and Jin dynasties focused its discussion on the relationship between "nature" and "the Confucian ethical code." Even though Ji Kang (Chi Kang) and Yuan Ji advocated that the "ethical code be overstepped and nature followed," the mainstream of the metaphysics school stressed that the "ethical code" be reconciled with "nature." As Wang Bi embraced the idea that "the intrinsic and the extrinsic are like one," he urged that "the essentials (Nature and the Way of Heaven) be upheld to rule the non-essentials (ethical code and mundane affairs)." In stressing "the intrinsic and the extrinsic are like one," Guo Xiang believed "there is no intrinsic beyond the extrinsic" and therefore concluded that "heaven is the general term for all things on earth."
By the time of the Song Dynasty, the Confucian philosopher Zhou Dunyi noted in more explicit terms: "A saint shares virtue with heaven and earth," and "a saint aspires to heaven." Zhang Zai stated in his West Inscription: "That which blocks heaven and earth is my intrinsic; that which commands heaven and earth is my character." The two Cheng theorized that "the intrinsic and the extrinsic come from the same source" and stated: "In heaven it is destiny, in man it is character, and it is the heart that commands the body. They are actually one and the same." Zhu Xi stated that: "Heaven is man, and man is heaven. The beginning of man is derived from heaven. Since this man is born, heaven rests in him." And he added: "A saint ... is integrated with heaven." Wang Yangming said: "The heart is heaven. Stressing the importance of the heart upholds heaven, earth, and all things." "Man is actually one with heaven, earth and all things." "The heart has no intrinsic but takes the response of heaven, earth, and all things as the intrinsic." Later Wang Fuzhi advanced the idea that man moves along with the vaporization of heaven to explain why heaven is integrated with man. Said he: "Destiny is realized by days and character is formed by days." "There is not a day that heaven stops thinking of destiny, and there is not a day that man does not submit his destiny to heaven."
As far as traditional Chinese philosophy is concerned, the major philosophers, either materialist or idealist, all talked about the problem of "integration of heaven with man." By analyzing their theories, we can roughly arrive at the following conclusions: First, in traditional Chinese philosophy, the concept of "integration of heaven with man" gives expression to the idea of observing things in their entirety. It is a direct description rather than a detailed analysis; we can call it a directly perceived "overall concept." Second, in traditional Chinese philosophy, the basic argument for the idea of "integration of heaven with man" is, "The intrinsic and the extrinsic are like one": unity of the ways of Heaven and man is "both the intrinsic and the extrinsic," the Way of Heaven serving as the intrinsic and the way of man the extrinsic. This can be termed as an "'absolute' concept of unity." Third, traditional Chinese philosophy does not see the "way of man" as something rigid; what is more, it also sees in the "Way of Heaven" liveliness and unending vitality. "Heaven moves along a healthy track, and a gentleman should make unremitting efforts to improve himself." That human society should move forward and man should improve himself is due to the necessity of keeping up with the development of the "Way of Heaven." This can be called the unlimited "concept of development." Fourth, in traditional Chinese philosophy, "Heaven" is object and the "way of man" must be brought in line with the "Way of Heaven." However, "man" is the heart of heaven and earth; he should install a heart for heaven and earth. Without "man," heaven and earth would have no vitality, rationality or morality. This can be called the "humanistic concept" of ethics. The above-mentioned four concepts comprise the total implication of the idea of "integration of heaven with man" in traditional Chinese philosophy.
Integration of Knowledge with Practice: the Good
The problem of "knowledge and practice" is an issue of the theory of knowledge; in traditional Chinese philosophy, however, it poses even more a problem of ethics and morality. If, in traditional Chinese philosophy, a question of the theory of knowledge had not been linked to the question of ethics, it would have been difficult for it to be passed down as a part of traditional philosophy. Therefore the problem of a theory of knowledge is often also the problem of ethics. This is why the philosophers advocated that man not only should seek "knowledge" but must also pay special attention to "conduct" (practice).
What is the "good"? The criterion for the "good" can vary, but, according to traditional Chinese philosophy, unity of "knowledge" and "practice" must be regarded as a prerequisite. From the history of Chinese philosophy we can come across many different explanations about the relationship between knowledge and conduct. In History Classic [Chapter 1, "On Destiny"] it was said long ago that "it is not difficult to know but difficult to put it in practice." Later the two Cheng advocated: "Knowledge precedes practice." Zhu Xi was of the opinion that "knowledge and practice each give rise to the other." Wang Fuzhi theorized that "practice precedes knowledge," and Sun Zhongshan advanced the idea that "to know about a thing is more difficult than to do it," and so forth. Taking things as a whole, however, the concept of an "integration of knowledge with practice" actually has run through traditional Chinese philosophy from beginning to end.
Starting from the time of Confucius, the "agreement of one's words with one's deeds" has always been used as an ethical criterion to differentiate a gentleman from a villain. Confucius said: "A gentleman feels it a shame not to be able to match his words with actions." Mencius stressed "intuitive knowledge" and "intuitive ability." Even though he regarded the four factors including the "sense of pity" as inherent, he thought it necessary to "foster and enhance" benevolence, righteousness, rite, and wisdom, which had already become moral codes. As they could be acquired only through moral practice, he advocated that "a noble spirit be cultivated." Zhuangzi stressed "practice" as the purpose of seeking "knowledge"; at the same time, he also admitted the guidance "knowledge" provided for "practice." He said: "One who practices it knows it. One who knows it is a saint." As a saint, therefore, one must "integrate knowledge with practice."
By the Song Dynasty, the Confucian philosopher Cheng Yi, regardless of his opinion that "knowledge precedes practice," argued in terms of morality and self-cultivation that "one who knows but cannot practice is one who does not truly know." Therefore Huang Zongxi noted: "Mr. Cheng already had the idea of integrating knowledge with practice" (Academic Files of the Song and Yuan dynasties, Volume 75). Zhu Xi inherited Cheng Yi's theory that "knowledge precedes practice," but he stressed in particular that "knowledge and practice are mutually dependent" and "efforts on knowledge and practice should be pushed forward side by side." He reasoned: "ln terms of sequence, knowledge precedes; in terms of importance, practice is more important." Therefore some people described Cheng and Zhu's as "a theory of integration of knowledge with practice with emphasis on the latter." Even though "knowledge" is the foundation of "practice," "knowledge is shallow when knowledge has just been acquired and yet to be put into practice." "When one personally experiences it, his knowledge will be deeper, different from what he knew before." That Zhu Xi stressed "practice" resulted because he basically regarded "knowledge" and "practice" as an issue of morality. This is why he remarked: "Wherever the good is, one must practice it. Having practiced it for a long time, it will become identified with oneself. Having identified with it, it will become a part of oneself. Failing to practice it, the good remains the good, and oneself remains oneself; they have nothing to do with each other."
Traditional Chinese philosophy often advocated "practicing the Way (Dao)." This idea perhaps had a twofold implication: One was to "take the Way as the intrinsic," another to practice the "intrinsic way," namely, to earnestly practice the "intrinsic way" one advocated. Therefore this is not merely an issue of understanding. As for Wang Yangming's theory of "integration of knowledge with practice," naturally we all know about it; however, our understanding about it seems not to be totally correct. By quoting his remark, "practice begins once an idea is struck upon," people often describe him as "ascribing practice to knowledge" and "taking knowledge to be practice." In fact, Wang Yangming did not equate "knowledge" with "practice" completely. The remark that "practice begins once an idea is struck upon" was made in the context of morality and self-cultivation. Immediately after that, he added: "If the idea is no good, we have to overcome it. We have to overcome it thoroughly and thoroughly so that the no-good idea will not lay hidden in our hearts." He also said: "A close and solid knowledge is where practice lies, and a conscious and precise practice is where knowledge lies. Efforts on knowledge and practice were originally inseparable. Only scholars in later ages split them into two and lost the essence of knowledge and practice."
In regard to the relations between knowledge and practice, Wang explained clearly: "Knowledge gives the idea to practice, and practice is the efforts made of knowledge. Knowledge is the beginning of practice and practice is the end result of knowledge." From the angle of the theory of knowledge, Wang Yangming could be suspected of "including practice in knowledge." In the perspective of morality and self-cultivation, however, emphasis on "integration of knowledge with practice" had a positive significance.
By the time between the Ming and Qing dynasties, Wang Fuzhi advanced the idea that "practice precedes knowledge" and "practice can also gain knowledge." However, he still stressed "integration of knowledge with practice" when addressing the issue of ethics. He opined that "knowledge and practice complementing each other is use and the two progressing alongside is achievement." He criticized Wang Yangming's idea of "integration of knowledge with practice" and called Wang "ignorant of the fact that they each have their own use and complement each other." Nevertheless, Wang Fuzhi, too, was an advocator of "integration of knowledge with practice." He said:
In calling someone engaged in pursuing knowledge and practice we mean he devotes himself to the pursuit of knowledge and makes every effort to practice. Because of his devotion and efforts, achievements can be made and divided. Since achievements can be made and divided, an order of succession can be established. Since an order of succession can be established, the antecedent and the subsequent can complement each other. From knowledge one knows what is being practiced, and from practice one practices what is being known. Thus it can be said the two progress alongside and therefore make achievements."
That knowledge and practice can progress alongside arises because the two, in the final analysis, are a moral issue. According to Wang Fuzhi's opinion: "A wise man is one who knows the rites. A man of ritual is one who practices knowledge. In practicing knowledge, all rituals will be properly performed; in knowing the rites all essentials will go to the mind. Thus one will improve oneself with each passing day and there will be no end to it." A saint "combines his intelligence with sincerity. He practices what he knows and what he practices becomes his knowledge." This is how traditional Chinese philosophy envisages that a man should behave himself.
Now prevailing in the study of traditional Chinese philosophy now is a viewpoint which asserts that "since the Song and Ming dynasties the neo-Confucianists, when discussing knowledge and practice, often mixed up this issue of theory of knowledge with the issue of ethics." It insists that this is where the limitations and mistakes of Chinese ancient philosophers lay. In this regard two questions deserve to be discussed.
First, neo-Confucianists since the Song and Ming dynasties, as a matter of fact, did not regard knowledge and practice merely as an issue of the theory of knowledge. They thought the issue important precisely because it was related to morality and self-cultivation. The final purpose of their discussion of relations between knowledge and practice was to improve moral cultivation. Therefore it is out of the question to assert that the neo-Confucians confused the issue of the theory of knowledge with that of morality. Second, as an issue of morality and self-cultivation, the theory of integration of knowledge with practice and the viewpoint of unity between knowledge and practice cannot be said to be without positive significance. Ethically, knowledge and practice cannot be separated into two ends; what is necessary is that "knowledge be integrated with practice." The remark made by Wang Yangming that "knowledge is the purpose of practice and practice is the work of knowledge; knowledge is the beginning of practice and practice is the end result of knowledge" can be seen as the best summary the Chinese ancient philosophers ever made about this issue.
Integration of Feeling with Scenery: the Beautiful
This is an aesthetic issue which Wang Guowei made a thorough discussion in his Random Talks about Poetry. He said: "Realm is the top quality in poetry writing. Having realm, a poem is naturally of a high quality and carries famous lines."
What does "realm" mean? Wang explained that "realm does not refer to scenery alone. Delight, anger, sorrow, and joy are also a realm in man's heart. Therefore a poem that can depict true scenery and true feelings can be said to have realm. Otherwise it should be said to have no realm." Obviously the term "realm" refers not only to scenery but to "sentiments" as well. In Jialing Manuscripts Discussing Poetry Ye Jiaying made a very perceptive explanation about Wang Guowei's "realm theory." According to Ye:
The generation of realm depends entirely on our sense of perception. The existence of realm depends entirely on what our sense of perception can reach. Therefore the outside world cannot be called realm before we can reproduce it through the function of our perception sense. Judging by such a conclusion, the theory of realm as advocated by Wang, as a matter of fact, can be traced to the same origin as the theory of interest by Canglang and the theory of romantic charm by Yuan Tingzhi.
Bu Yentu, after Wang Guowei, also said in his Questions and Answers on the Methods of Painting: "Landscape painting is no more than portraying feeling and scenery, and feeling and scenery is realm." This is why Wang Guowei remarked: "When people in the past discussed poetry, they divided the verses into those describing scenery and those depicting feeling. They did not know all verses describing scenery depict feeling." Obviously, Wang Guowei regarded as top-grade creative writings literary pieces that "integrate feeling with scenery." However, this aesthetic viewpoint of "integration of feeling with scenery" did not start with Wang Guowei.
Generally speaking, it was in the period of the Wei and Jin dynasties that the theory of China's literature and art truly became independent as a branch of learning, and by that time the idea of "integrating feeling with theory" already emerged. In Introduction to the Grades of Poetry Zhong Rong states:
The four-characters-to-a-line poems, they can be useful if they imply more in fewer words and model on works of literary excellence. However, the problem is they often involve a lot of words but connote little contents. Therefore few people learn to write them. The five-characters-to-a-line poems occupy the primary position in writing and stand out as the most savory among a variety of genres, thus winning the praise of being popular. Isn't it because they are the most detailed and truthful in narrating events, conjuring images, expressing feelings, and portraying things? Therefore there are three approaches to writing poetry: First, implication; second, comparison; third, narration. The idea that there is more to the poem than the words state is what we call implication. Citing things to indicate one's intention is comparison. A direct account of the happening, thus embodying the idea, is narration. Take the three approaches into consideration and choose the most appropriate, enhancing it with charm and force and polishing it with color so that those who read it will find unlimited savor and those who listen to it will be stirred. This will be a poem of the top grade.
A "masterpiece," a "superb work," should "express feelings and portray things." This was the forerunner of the idea of "integration of feeling with scenery." Xie Zhen, one of the later seven scholars of the Ming Dynasty, said in Four Seas Poetic Discussions: "Writing poetry rests on feeling and scenery. Neither can work without the other or conflict with the other." He also said: "poetry is the tool for the portrayal of feeling and scenery. Feeling melts inside, running deep and long; scenery shines on the outside, stretching far and wide." In Poetic Discussions from the Ginger Studio, Wang Fuzhi put it in an even clearer way: "In name feeling and scenery are two things, but in fact they are inseparable."
Those skillful in writing poems have unlimited chances to hit upon good ones. In an ingenious piece there is "scenery in feeling and feeling in scenery." "Feeling is generated from amid scenery and scenery is generated from amid feeling. This is why we say scenery is the scenery of feeling, and feeling is the feeling of scenery." "Once feeling is integrated with scenery, witty expressions are readily available." This last sentence perhaps constitutes the basic proposition for China's traditional theory of art and literature, manifesting its basic view on "beauty." In the traditional thinking in China, what is beautiful has always been linked to what is good. "The substantial is called the beautiful" refers to a spiritual realm in which one has a noble enjoyment. Having listened to the music of "Wu" (nothing, e.g. the silence that follows sound), Confucius commented: "It has all the beautiful but not all the good," and after listening to the music of "Shao" (few), he remarked: "It has all the good and also all the beautiful." Only music that "has all the good and also all the beautiful" can be regarded as the highest and most ideal music. This applies to music and should apply to other arts as well. An art that "has all the good and also all the beautiful" is designed to elevate man's spiritual realm and help him derive therefrom the highest enjoyment of beauty. Because of this, the creator of artistic and literary works must be one who has "realm" and his works must "integrate feeling with scenery."
THE STUDY OF CHINESE PHILOSOPHY AND
THE REASON FOR BEING HUMAN
With regard to the true, the good, and the beautiful, why does traditional Chinese philosophy consistently pursue the three "integrations"? In my opinion, it is because the basic spirit of Chinese philosophy is to teach how one should behave like a man. To be a "man" one must have set for oneself a demand, must have an ideal realm of the true, the good, and the beautiful. One who has attained such an ideal realm in which "heaven is integrated with man," "knowledge is integrated with practice" and "feeling is integrated with scenery" is a saint. Therefore the prospects for traditional Chinese philosophy lie in bringing this demand to be a "man" in line with the need of the modernization program and thus realizing it. One's ideal may find expression in an immense variety of ways; nevertheless, one must have an ideal and noble spiritual realm. The three integrations advocated by traditional Chinese philosophy are in fact a unified realm for one to be a "man." They cannot be separated, at least theoretically.
The proposition of "integration of heaven with man," though designed to illustrate the relations between man and the entire universe, was made in view of man as center of the universe. The Golden Mean states: "Honesty is the Way of Heaven; to be honest is the way of man." "An honest man who hits the target without difficulty, arrives at the right idea without brain-racking, and conforms to the Way without hurry is a saint." The role of a saint is to "foster a heart for heaven and earth, create a life for living creatures, carry forward peak learnings for posterity, and open up peace for thousands of generations to come." Therefore a "man" (mainly, the saint) must behave in accord with the requirements of the Way of Heaven and should assume it his responsibility to fulfill them. Being alive in the world, one must not take a passive attitude; rather, one should "make unremitting efforts to improve oneself" so as to embody the evolution of the immense universe. In this way, one will set oneself a demand, find a reason for one's being, and foster a noble spiritual realm. Since one has set a demand for oneself and has a reason for one's being, the most important thing is for one to "integrate his knowledge with his practice." One must have an ethical standpoint unifying the two. The three programs and the eight items listed in the Great Learnings tell us the exact reason for this. It says:
The Way of the great learning lies in shedding light on the bright principles, being close to the people, and stopping at nothing but the utmost good. Those in ancient times who wanted to shed light on the bright principles for the world had to first bring order to their own kingdoms. To bring order to their kingdoms they had to first bring their own houses to order. To bring their houses to order they had to first cultivate their own moral character. To cultivate their own moral character they had to first set their minds straight. To set their minds straight they had to first foster a sincere desire. To foster a sincere desire they had to first carry knowledge to the utmost degree. To carry knowledge to the utmost degree they had to first inquire into the properties of things. Having inquired into the properties of things, they were able to carry knowledge to the utmost degree. Having carried knowledge to the utmost degree, they were able to foster a sincere desire. Having fostered a sincere desire, they were able to set their minds straight. Having set their minds straight, they were able to cultivate their own moral character. Having cultivated their own moral character, they were able to bring their houses to order. Having brought their houses to order, they were able to bring order to their kingdoms. Having brought order to their kingdoms, the whole world would be at peace.
"Knowledge" must be integrated with "practice." From "inquiring into the properties of things to carry knowledge to the utmost degree" to "bringing order to their kingdoms and peace to the world" is a process of cognition and, more important, a process of moral practice. Man must have an ideal. The highest ideal is to "achieve peace" and thus enable human society to attain a realm of "Great Harmony." The basic demand of a society of "great harmony" is that everyone should set on himself a demand, find a reason for his "being," and "not do to others what he does not wish done to himself." Said Confucius: "My way is consistent; it is nothing more than honesty and forbearance." Leading a life in this world, one should behave like a "man" and must enjoy the pleasure of "being a man" and appreciate the creation of the universe.
In order to have a genuine appreciation of the creation of the universe, one should have the ability to display man's creativity through the reproduction of "the creation of the universe." One should display the spiritual realm of man, the why and how for a man to exist as a man: this makes it possible to render a writing into a "masterpiece," a painting into a "superb work," and music into the "sound of nature." Therefore art requires "integration of feeling with scenery" so that "feeling is generated amid scenery and scenery is generated amid feeling." In the realm of creation one reaches a situation in which the true, the good, and the beautiful are integrated; there lies the meaning of life and the man's highest ideal. Confucius professed: "At the age of seventy, I can do everything as my heart pleases without violating the rule." What he described was probably such a realm in which all one did and said was in harmony with the universe, human society, others, and oneself--both body and mind, inside and without. This realm of life is, of course, that of the saint.
Traditional Chinese philosophy still bears existential value precisely because it tells us the reason for being a man. To be a man is by no means easy,and it is even more difficult to have harmony with nature, society, other people, and oneself in both body and mind, inside and outside. But is this not necessary for today's world? Therefore we cannot underestimate traditional Chinese philosophy and ignore its proper value. Precisely because traditional Chinese philosophy tells us only the reason for being a man, it is inappropriate to set undue demands upon it in other regards, and it should come as no surprise to us that it is inadequate in certain areas. For example, it does not emphasize issues of logic and the theory of knowledge, nor provide a well-conceived demonstration of the structure of its own theory; we should not be overcritical of this. Under such circumstances, can we further develop traditional Chinese philosophy while engaged in studying its value? We should and we can. Note that, aside from the Book of Change, the pre-Qin Dynasty Confucians, seldom touched upon problems of ontology. Under the impact of Buddhism, however, neo-Confucians of the Song and Ming dynasties founded a very significant theory of ontology which made great progress and became neo-Confucianism. As the mainstream of China's traditional philosophy, thinking and culture, the Confucian philosophy has sustained today an even heavier impact than in the past. Having made a profound criticism of it, we are now reexamining its value. Is it inconceivable that we can develop it again, or impossible under the new impact to establish a new logic and theory of knowledge proper to it? Traditional Chinese philosophy should have a third phase development because "one must have a reason for being a man." Whether or not it can be developed depends on whether or not it can establish for itself a new system of logic and theory of knowledge. "Man can enhance the Way, not the Way can enhance man." The outcome depends upon our efforts.
Chinese Philosophy 1
- Written by: doc