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There are many different elements in history. What are they? Evidently again, the elements of human nature. History is therefore the development of humanity, and of humanity only; for nothing else but humanity develops itself, for nothing else than humanity is free.

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Moreover, when we have all the elements, I mean all the essential elements, their mutual relations do, as it were, discover themselves. We draw from the nature of these different elements, if not all their possible relations, at least their general and fundamental relations. Of the works of this mind history is the record. Man is explicable by nothing less than all his history. All the facts of history pre-exist as laws. Each law in turn is made by circumstances predominant. The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn, and Egypt, Greece, Rome, Gaul, Britain, America, lie folded already in the first man.

Cornel West (b. 1952)

Epoch after epoch, camp, kingdom, empire, republic, democracy, are merely the application of this manifold spirit to the manifold world. However obscure their causes, history, which is concerned with narrating these appearances, permits us to hope that if we attend to the play of freedom of the human will in the large, we may be able to discern a regular movement in it, and that what seems complex and chaotic in the single individual may be seen from the standpoint of the human race as a whole to be a steady and progressive though slow evolution of its original endowment.

That which is nearest is least observed. The Atman is the nearest of the near, therefore a careless and unsteady mind gets no clue to the Atman. But one who is alert, calm, self-restrained, and discriminating, ignores the external world and, diving more and more into the inner world, realizes the glory of the Atman and becomes great. Vivekananda Stand upon the Atman, then only can we truly love the world. Take a very, very high stand; knowing our universal nature, we must look with perfect calmness upon all the panorama of the world. Vivekananda This is the secret of spiritual life: to think that I am the Atman and not the body, and that the whole of this universe with all its relations, with all its good and all its evil, is but as a series of paintings - scenes on a canvas - of which I am the witness.

There exists nothing at all other than the Self. The enlightened person sees everything in the world as his own Self, just as one views earthenware jars and pots as nothing but clay". Why do we study History?

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The refusal to interfere with the judge is a way of acknowledging the necessity of impartially administering a social order. At the same time, fleeing with one's father is honoring the value of greater loyalty to family. Shun manages to honor both values at different moments in his dealing with the situation. Deduction from a principle could not yield such a balance.

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We are expected, however, to learn from stories such as Shun's, precisely because they function as concrete paradigms for judgment-making in the future. When we encounter situations that pose similar-looking conflicts between impartial concern and familial loyalties, we have Shun's judgment as a resource and a model. That model is not the same as a general principle that would deductively yield a judgment about what to do in the present situation.

We must exercise judgment in determining whether new situations are similar enough to the case of Shun, and we must exercise judgment as to what actions would be parallel to Shun's actions. In the Mencius 2A2 , such a person possesses a kind of equanimity or heart that is unperturbed by the prospects of fame and success. This unperturbed heart corresponds to the cultivation of one's qi vital energies by uprightness.

One might be able to see such passages as appealing to experiences the audience might have in its encounters with persons who do seem to possess special strength, substance, and tranquillity through identification with and commitment to a cause they perceive to be far greater than themselves.


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One need not interpret such sayings as attempting to persuade by the pure emotive effect of certain words, as in propaganda. Rather, they may correspond to a way of doing philosophy that attempts to say something about values in life that can be supported by experience, even if not all testimony will agree Kupperman, The Daoists recommend a way of life that they explicitly characterize as one that cannot be argued for, but their recommendation receives some support through commonly shared experience. Consider again the notion of wuwei and its illustrations in the Zhuangzi through stories of exemplary craft.

Most famously, Zhungzi's Cook Ding cuts up an oxen so smoothly and effortlessly that his knife never dulls, and it is if he is doing a dance with his knife as it zips through the spaces between the joints. His marvelous skill is knowledge of how to adjust his own movements to the spaces within oxen so that he and the oxen form seamless wholes. Similarly, Woodcarver Qing has learned to prepare for carving his marvelous bellstands in such a way that he clears his mind of all distraction and sees the stand within the timber he has selected.

Martha Nussbaum (b. 1947)

Suggested here is a portrait of acting in the world that consists of complete and full attention to present circumstances so that the agent can act with the grain of things the Cook Ding passage refers to tianli or heavenly patterns. Such a portrait does resonate with the actual experience of craftspeople, artists, athletes, musicians and dancers who have advanced beyond self-conscious technique and rule-following, who become fully absorbed in the experience of working with the material, the instruments or in the movement of their bodies, and who experience their actions as an effortless flow and in fact perform at very high levels.

In such ways, Chinese thinkers draw a picture of the world that must in the end be evaluated by explanatory power in some very broad sense. So then, is it right to say that Chinese philosophy is invitational while Western philosophy is argumentative?

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One answer is that there is a difference but that it is more a matter of degree than an absolute contrast. It was Aristotle, after all, who said that discussions about the good in human life cannot be properly assimilated by the young because they do not have enough experience of life Nichomachean Ethics I. And Plato despite his insistence on the centrality of argumentation to philosophy, dispatches the short analytical arguments presented in Book I of the Republic in favor of lengthy expository portraits of the ideal city-state and the harmonious soul for the rest of that work.

Those portraits sometimes present only the thinnest of arguments for crucial premises, and at other times no argument at all.

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Some of his claims, about the divisive effects of family loyalties and the ill-effects of democracy, obviously appeal to experience, even if not all testimony will agree. In fact, it is hard work to find an acknowledged great in the Western tradition to whom such characterizations do not apply, at least to some degree. Sometimes, as in Spinoza The Ethics , the contrast is glaring between the aspiration to prove points by way of deductive argument from self-evident axioms and the obvious source of those points from experience of life.

It is true that much Western philosophy, especially of the late modern variety, and most especially emanating from the United Kingdom and North America, attempts to establish its claims through argumentation that is more rigorous than appeals to experience and explanatory power in the broad sense. But it must also be noted that there is argument in Chinese philosophy.

Chad Hansen has pointed out the pivotal role of the philosopher Mozi, who criticized the Confucians for an uncritical acceptance of tradition and who explicitly introduced standards for the evaluations of belief. This introduction of argumentation required response in kind. Mencius gives a Confucian response to to the Mohists and argues on behalf of his theory of human nature as containing the germs or sprouts of the ethical virtues, in the form of natural dispositions to have certain kinds of feeling and judging reactions to situations, such as compassion for a child about to fall into a well 2A6, and see Shun, for an extensive analysis of argumentation in the Mencius text.

He defends himself against the arguments of rival theorists who hold that human nature has no innate ethical predispositions but is neutral 6A. Xunzi, a later Confucian thinker, attempts to give a refutation of Mencius's theory in favor of his own theory that human nature has dispositions that get us into trouble and that ethical norms are an invention designed to avoid that trouble Xunzi , chapter Methods of argumentation reach their most sophisticated state of development in Xunzi See Cua, Differences in the way philosophy is conceived may reflect differences in the interests philosophy is meant to satisfy.

Chad Hansen points to another possible difference in interests — this time in interests that language is meant to satisfy, arguing that the classical Chinese thinkers did not conceive of the primary function of language to be descriptive and as attempting to match propositions with states of affairs, but rather as a pragmatic instrument for guiding behavior. In fact, Hansen sees the Chinese tradition as centrally concerned with the conflict of daos , which he defines as sets of behavior-guiding practices, including discourses.


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Western interpreters have been unable to see this, argues Hansen, because they have imposed their own concerns with correspondence truth and metaphysics on the Chinese tradition. They have as a result imposed upon Daoism an irrational mysticism focused on a metaphysically absolute Dao. Michael LaFargue also argues that the Daodejing is not to be interpreted as as concerning some metaphysical entity called the Dao , but is rather concerned with self cultivation that allows one to have a transforming experience of deep and peaceful stillness within one's personal center.

Wuwei is the style of action that is rooted in such an experience. David Hall and Roger Ames give a related interpretation of Confucius, in part reacting against Herbert Fingarette's influential interpretation of Confucius' Dao as an ideal normative order transcending the contingencies of time, place, history, and culture. Hall and Ames argue Confucius's Dao was not conceived as a tradition and language-independent reality against which linguistically formulated beliefs were to be measured as reliable or unreliable, but in fact a cumulative creation of individuals working from within a context provided by a society's tradition, consisting of customs, conventions, conceptions of proper behavior and good manners, conceptions of right conduct and of what is of ultimate value and of what lives are worth living.

These interpretations perform valuable functions in questioning what is sometimes an unreflective imposition of Western philosophical agendas on Chinese thinkers. The debate will go on, however. Concerning Confucius, it is true that the Analects often displays an attitude of tolerance and flexibility in judging where the Dao lies.

On the other side, it can be pointed out that in sayings such as 1. One way to understand it is to take it as saying that human beings have to learn to respond to a kind of authority that is not based on force and coercion, but respect and care.


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