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Chinese Philosophy

Dao Daoism Zen Buddhism Legalism Confucius Maoist

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I have been thinking of starting a thread like this for a while, and it seems more and more relevant as I read news coming out of China and Hong Kong.


Basically, there are three schools of philosophical thought that have come out of China:

  1. Zen Buddhism - with roots in Daoism (also sometimes spelled as Taoism).
  2. The teachings of Confucius.
  3. Legalism.


If you go into the history of China, you might very well discover that different rulers favored different schools of thought.  So China does not have a consistent political history of following one school at the total exclusion of the other.


Much has been written concerning Zen, the Dao, and Confucius.  So I will focus for the moment upon Legalism.


The closest analog in the west to Legalism is what I would call the Law and Order mentality.  This holds that the state should be obeyed as a very high value.  This obedience should be absolute, or at least near absolute.  Meaning there is no obligation for the state to act in a responsible manner.  The devotion to the state must be unconditional.  At least at the extreme of this school's thought.


This is in contrast to Confucius.  In this school of thought, the need for ethical conduct by government agents is stressed.  


So, different rulers had their preference between these two schools.


Other rulers favored Buddhism.  Now Buddhism had more to do with inner peace and acceptance of things as they are.  It originated in India, but blended together with Taoism in Chinese thought as there were many similarities between the teachings of Buddha and Taoism.  Many rulers came to power through quite brutal means, and then converted to Buddhism.  Much like rulers in the West who converted to Christianity.


An important thing to remember about Mao was that he was influenced by Marxist-Leninist thought, but that he was also a student of Chinese philosophical traditions.  Many Marxist-Leninists stress his debt to their favored thinkers, but lose sight of his peculiar Chinese character. A character that was capable of embracing Legalism.


I will let you all chew on that for awhile.


Questions or comments?

The principles of justice define an appropriate path between dogmatism and intolerance on the one side, and a reductionism which regards religion and morality as mere preferences on the other.   - John Rawls

Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: Dao, Daoism, Zen, Buddhism, Legalism, Confucius, Maoist

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