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Globalized Ethics and the Confucian Core Model
 

 

Chung-ying Cheng


University of Hawaii at Manoa

                    

 



Global Ethics More Required In a Post-Information Age

 

       There is a deep message for fermenting and gestating a global ethics on a national basis. Although we have usually focused on social ethics on the individual person level, it is now necessary to rethink how the nations and societies may become the basis for the globalization of values and ideals, norms and rules in ethics. We may speak of a cultural ethics as well. But in my usage cultural ethics is simply the national ethics considered culturally just as national ethics is simply the cultural ethics considered national-ly. My use of the term "culture" needs not to coincide with the term "nation". But the globalization process is no doubt very much tied up with the process of indigenization or acculturation based on common history and common cultural traditions. Cultures are like natural persons and nations are like legal persons. They are the identities which modern men have to cope and reckon with. Any future world society or community must be founded on these new forms of natural persons and legal persons as it is both the case and the trend in today's world.

 

       There are two forms of utopia for the future of mankind which philosophers in the East and West have speculated on in the past: one form is that of a political state ruled by sage-king or philosopher-king. The other form is that of a natural state ruled by no ruler and therefore that of a stateless state. We know that Confucius and Confucians following him have spoken of government by virtue (te). [] But the achievement of such a government must be made possible by the cultivation of benevolence (ren) and other virtues in a sage-king (shengwang). For Confucius a ruler who rules must thus establish himself as a paragon and exemplar of virtue and this means he has to conduct himself and act with regard to others in concrete practice of concrete virtues. It is only when he achieves his virtuous character in all refinements he can be trusted as a ruler. He would be a sagely person who is worthy of being trusted the power to rule. He would embody standards of virtuous excellence and is capable of rectifying names and bring justice to people in accordance with a standard of truth and good.

 

       Mencius elaborates the Confucian notion of "virtuous government" into "benevolent government" (rencheng) and also speak of the "benevolent man" as having no antagonist against him in the world. []In the West we see that in his Republic Plato speaks of a well-ordered and well-disciplined state as governed by a philoso-pher-king in strict conformity with reason and dialectics of wisdom.

 

       There is another form of utopia, namely one in which no standard of virtues are posted and no teachings of justice are required because it is the original state of man in the state of the natural Way (dao). Hence, according to Laozi, in the high antiquity there is only dao which rules and no one knows who actually is charge of government as there is no need of govern-ment. [] Such an ideal of utopian state has nothing to do with human governorship. It is only when the original state of man was gradually lost that human beings started to design their models of government according to virtues and benevolence/justice.  In the West we see that during the 18th century scholars, philosophers and literary men such as Rousseau and Goethe dreamed of embracing truth of nature and would wish to go back to an original state of nature which is free from violent wars but which feature polluted cities and power-hungry politicians. 

 

       Now we may ask whether we could dream of something like an ideal state in either form? The answer is that even though international non-governmental organizations have become the fashion of the day, there is no reason to suspect that an ideal world community would come sooner. The reason for this is simple: states are still forces of protection and distribution of economic interests and human activities always need a regulator and a police bureau to enforce laws and protection of rights. Hence, government may not disappear or wither at any time sooner. Now that the human civilization has grown more complicated and more detailed, things required to do and more rules to follow. We have to remember that the ideal state of dao is possible only when we have simple desires and simple forms of life. Although simplicity is always a goal to pursue in modern life but modern life is not yet to be reduced to a simple action or an act of pushing the button. It is true now that many things have been reduced to the touch or push of a button, there is a whole machine-culture standing out and demanding maintenance and improvement. Regulation and deregulation, universalization and particularization, standardization and destandardization etc. all would demand an agency of maintenance, an agency to protection and replacement and an agency of tax or fee collection or checking accuracy of payments.

 

       It might be suggested that we could use machines and systems of computer communication to achieve what we might call self- automation of public affairs and going out of human life. It appears that with the invention of computers and robots a certain form of life could be automated. But still there is more spiritual life or mind which requires to be free from machines and computer and which would depend on the specific forms of regulation of behaviors of human persons. 

 

       Although contemporary life may not be totally free from regulation of persons we must admit that we have come to enjoy a certain stateless state of free action in the electronic world of internet or networking commerce, communication, play and work. In so far we do not interfere with other people's forms of life and liberty or freedom of the same (including not to hack a webstation or snuggle into privacies of others or governments) we could stay practically free from interference and even authoritarian super-vision. This may be regarded as a stateless state only on the condition we have to support it financially (despite free emails) and to obey fundamental rules of electronic ethics (or e-ethics). But this is not say that our life is totally free, because e-life is only part of life and the development of the e-world only a abstraction of our world. It is clear that we can not simply live, eat, and sleep in the internet. Our physical existence and many things which go with it whether at present or in the past or even in future could not be presented or realized in the internet. Internet world is still a tool and instrumental reason apart from being a means of achieving certain values of speed, synchronicity and exchange in immediacy and hence not just a means but an end in some sense.

 

       All in all, our invention of net has cut our life into a duality and separate our world into a dualism, one virtual and one actual, one abstract and one concrete. But this duality and dualism are not such that one could be converted into the other. They are both required and neither one is to be reduced to the other. What is reduced is that area of life and world which is reducible but which cannot be fully exhausted, namely the world of information or the world of mental representation which is not the same as the world of mind[]The net world has left our actual world to be ordered and developed and it also leaves the relation between the actual and virtual, the local and the universal to be taken account of. It requires a globalized global-local understanding (or episte-mology and hermeneutics) and global-local ethics which would enable us to relate the local to the global and the global to the local. In essence, it requires an ethics of relating between the external and the internal of a person, a community, an organization and a state.  We can see that the universal net represents the external and the local individual mind of a person represents the internal relative to the net. But we can also say that the net is the internal externalized (information encoded and displayed) and the local mind the external internalized (information absorbed and decoded by mind). But this internal-external relationship, just like the relationship between local and global, does not replace the most important local-global and internal-external relations of an actual society of individuals, communities or even states.

 

       In fact, the distinction between the internal and the external has brought to bear an important observation relative to the net, namely that the external means an external reference to the actual world in which there are things and persons and the internal means an internal reference to the activities of the human mind and human will which form a world of ideas and desires. The net is a means which makes these two worlds transparent but which does not cause these worlds to disappear. Hence it is still necessary to order things externally and to sort out things internally so that we have a better representation or presentation of the two worlds and their relations. This again suggests that we cannot give up the notion of global ethics which should govern not only the correct rules for the net model, but more fundamentally, the order and productivity of the external world and the life-spirit of the internal world.

 

       It is clear that if the external world does not get ordered, the net would not be able to deliver the goods and provide an end-point satisfaction of values.  Similarly, if the internal world does not develop discipline of rectitude and righteousness, there is no way to prevent devious electronic crimes and harms at large. Abuse of electronic freedom is like the abuse of any freedom which would lead to distrust, confusion and irresponsible harm. 

 

 

Relevance of  National and Cultural Ethics

 

       Taking these into consideration, we cannot but conclude that a globalized and emancipated world is a world in which ethics as a discipline is still required. This no doubt speaks strongly for the formulation of a global ethics. But why do we need a national or cultural ethics in the first place? Science and technology has broken down many natural and historical barriers of time, space, motion and speed. Now humans are forced to communicate in new media and transact in new forms. History of wars and strifes have taught us lessons of the need for tolerance and mutual understanding. Hence we could create a framework and perhaps a basic code for institutional and personal actions and interactions which would assure us of peace, harmony and prosperity of the world. As the moving force, economy has started as the globalizing force and politics and law must follow suit. But it is still up to the national and cultural ethics to provide insights and strategies for resolving conflicts and strifes which are created by the globali-zation of economy, law and politics, within a cultural tradition or within a national boundary. Hence we must mimic Alasdair MacIntyre in asking: whose money? which rule? and what power? in dealing with any ethical issue which is not a matter of global economy but must be also a matter of regional or national interest and reflects a deviation or a confrontation with a cultural tradition[]

 

       As justice belongs to all peoples, not just a minority or a few powerful groups or persons, we also need to see how the conflict of the individual and society, the inner life and the outer rule, the internal spirit and the external substance, are resolved on the level of national levels, or to put in a different way, how does a national ethics is formed and performed for a given society, would become an important resource for the forthcoming age of global ethics in the making.

 

       We may cite the example of financial crisis in Southeast Asia in 1977 as an illustration of the dimensions of the issue. It has been pointed out that it is the trick and greed of global capital-ism (as represented by speculations of George Soros) which are responsible for the crisis and hence are to bear the blame. Hence if global capitalists are more considerate and more caring toward developing countries, or more responsible for the world financial order, they would withhold from causing unnecessary economic damages which they could see forthcoming from their selfish activities. But on the other hand, it has been argued with equal force if the developing countries such as Thailand and South Korea are more self-disciplined in their financial credit system and if they have a more rational infrastructure, then the crisis would occur or may not occur with such a magnitude even though the global capitalists have made their moves. []

 

       As we see it, both sides have good reasons and the responsi-bilities, for the crisis should be said to lie with both sides. Hence the moral is that what we need in a globalized world of economy is both a global ethical perspective and a natural or local-cultural ethical perspective. It is interesting to see that the global ethical perspective is fundamentally an individual or a corporate ethical perspective. For after all, when the national or cultural ethical perspective is removed or the individual or corporate interests of economy is liberated from the state or a local cultural tradition, what remains is his own ethics or the ethics of the transnational corporation if such ethics is to count at all. As we shall see, the individual or the corporate has also to reside or be rooted in a local state or a local culture and thus must reflect a local base which must be derived from the values of a cultural tradition. In this regard, each culture provides a model for the development of an ethical perspective or ethical practice for the individual or corporation to adopt or emulate in a globa-lized world. For practical purpose it is important that we stress the importance of the exemplar effect and the justificatory desira-bility of this national or cultural model.  

 

       There is another aspect of globalization which would lead to the consideration of a national or cultural ethics. For the present, many influential globalizing organizations in economy such as WTO and IMF are not founded on the consensus of all those countries which become members of it. In effect, it is being controlled by a small, unelected, self-serving number of countries dominated by the United States. This has led to complaints of many countries and unions or NGOs about being deprived of their rights to make policies and set agendas in recent meetings of WTO and IMF[] These complaints reflect legitimate interests of a state or a tradition as being ripped off by the dominating countries and hence represent a gap and double or conflicting standards between the internal interests of unions against states and states against globalizing organizations on the one hand and the external interests of the respective states and globalizing organizations on the other. The internal interests are often democratically controlled whereas the external interests are not, but rather administratively controlled. But we do need a democratic approach to globalization just as we need a democratic approach to governance of states so that it would yield a more comprehensive world body.

 

       It is thus observed by Paul Krugman, an MIT economist, that "...the forward thrust  of globalization will not be sustained unless those who control the play of global market forces find ways to engage a far larger part of the public through-out the world in the belief that the world economic system is not only economically beneficial, but that it is also working in a manner that is consis-tent with their political beliefs and values." [] This means that every state or every individual or organization or community which joins globalized society or organization has to have an equal footing with any other members and should be given equal effective rights to make commonly abiding laws and policies.  Democracy prevails to make laws and policies, but democracy should also prevail not to let one ethics dominate over other ethics by power politics nor to exclude any ethics from equal access in the world body. It is by natural persuasion and natural choice that one ethics would become globally selected and adopted in the world body of individuals, unions, NGOs and states.

 

How Relevant is European and American National/ Cultural Ethics?

 

       Now throughout the world we may suggest that there are three centers of national ethics/ cultural ethics which may emerge as powerful resources and guiding principles for the formation of the global ethics. There is in the first place the European center, then there is the American center and finally there is the Chinese center. We shall discuss each of them briefly.

 

       Europe, being rich in religions and ideologies, has long been the center and source of values and visions of life. But it has also suffered a long history of religious, territorial, racial and ideological wars. Now Europe seems to learn its lessons and started the reform for a union known as the European Community.  An Euro-pean person has to learn to adapt to this new identity and this will give him a new strength in both a individual sense and a national sense. But how much the European spirit of cooperation-competition, mutual support and mutual restraint would extend and act as a moral force in the world rather than just as an economic and political force remains to be seen.  

 

       We may take the Kantian ethics as a model for Europe. Kantian ethics demands universality and necessity of moral laws which he considers founded on the categorical imperative. But how is this moral categorical imperative derived?  Who has the authority to provide such a command for moral legislation? The ultimate model for such legislation is God and it is as a matter of justification that the moral categorical imperative has to be given by a God as we become conscious of him in ourselves. Without God there could not be any categorical imperative nor is there any authority be given to moral laws as Kant conceives. But there need not be universal consensus concerning our consciousness of God or how God works. The same or similar God-consciousness holds often among people who share the same historicity of religion. But even there are many variations and divergence of opinions among different churches such as the Catholic, the Oriental Orthodox and the Protestant, not to mention differences from the Jewish and the Islam. Even among Protestant Christians there are different denominations. Hence there can not be the same moral laws governing daily lives of these different religious groups. All these groups and based on them all the individuals have to learn the art of harmonization and the virtue of tolerance if they are to avoid wars and conflicts. This means that ethics in the broadest sense arise from experience and self-knowledge of the individual peoples, communities, traditions and even religions and states.

 

       We might mention how in recent European philosophy Juengen Habermas makes an important contribution in developing and advocating what he calls "discourse ethics" and "communicative rationality". Again, the important assumption for both is common rationality among people. It is on the basis of common rationality among people that we could establish a common understanding and a common sharing of moral rules and moral expectations. But Habermas could conceive his communicative rationality as too "weak" or too "narrow" a base for morality. Morality requires both reason and feelings, both reflection and intuition, both theory and experience, both argument and trust. For it could not work with one side alone. In this sense discourse ethics of Habermas, like imperative ethics of Kant, must be modified for meeting the demands of globalization and demands of localized adjustments as well. The European model have made its contribution in terms of Kant and Habermas, but it has to learn to go beyond its narrow and often transcendent rationalism. []

 

       There is another aspect of the European model: the Hegelian super-rational dialectics and the Nietschean anti-dialectical will to power. While the Hegelian dialectics reduces history (and world history for that) to certain dialectical laws of the absolute spirit (like the Christian God), Nietschean anti-dialectical will to power treats cultures and values as mere forms of subjectivities and modes of self-gratification of group or individual wills. Both fail to do justice to the intrinsic values of whole lives of individuals and independent traditions.    

 

       There is also in the second place the American center. As a young country America enjoys the better benefit of moving forward without historical burdens, yet it suffers the worst kind of vulnerability in lacking restraint and introspection which only a long history can endow. Hence while America has posed the strongest economic and military power in the world and thus politically dominated the whole world outside the national borders of the American country, inside its borders however there is an acute rational sense of civic disharmony and a serious crisis of moral breakdown from the topmost level to the man in the street. It is an irony to see this odd contrast of a economically powerful American on the exterior and a morally week American in the interior: a political buildup and a moral breakdown. Besides, nobody can deny that America is ruled by democracy and law. It is founded on the basis of a democratic government which is supposed to protect rights of all the people under it.

 

       But the fact is that there are two major weaknesses of the American political culture apart from the conflicts of its moral values. The first weakness is that the rights of people under the same government are not fully protected on an equal basis. It takes the Great March of Martin Luther King in the 60's and King's own assassination to win civil liberties for the black Americans. Many forms of social injustice take place as a result of abuses of individual freedom and as a result of indifference and neglect due to political influences of interest groups and privileged classes in the status quo. The American succumbing to reality of economy and politics is a blockade to the implementation of the spirit of democratization and noble values of the American Constitution.

 

       The second weakness of the American politics is to do with its foreign policies and their resulting international imperialism. The principles and practice of foreign policies always stress only the best interests of American state and make no cognition of the common and equal interests of other peoples. This is because American government and its leaders in general tend to adhere to the mentality of 19th Century British Empire in seeking wealth, power and domination in the world. Since WW2 America has stationed military forces in many key locations in the world and dominates the world militarily since the end of cold war. It also dominates in the world of trade by way of unelected IMF and WTO. It manages to keep its powerful dominance by even willfully interfering domestic politics of other countries. In all these regards America is imperialistic and refuses to apply the same standard of principles of equality, justice, freedom, and democracy to the international world, which it has established and safeguarded and  maintained domestically.      

 

       Given these facts, can the American culture provide a good and convincing model for global ethics?  The evidence of its inherent moral conflict and its double-standard political philosophy suggests that it cannot be a basis for globalized cultural ethics, for it is precisely in the arena of moral culture and international political thinking that the America is lacking in strength. There is no substitution of a globalized economy or globalized politics under domination for a global ethics or a global ethics of cultures and nations.

 

       We may mention pragmatism as the key philosophy underlying American culture. Pragmatism in the original form of Charles Peirce is a scientific methodology which merges with the scientific philosophy and logical positivism of 20th Century. In its developed form scientific pragmatism leads to scientific objectivism or some form of "technical realism" which would look at all things from a natural science point of view. This gives rise to good science but it also undermines moral values by either reducing explanation of human existence to mechanics of things and animal behaviors or by reinforcing the subjectivation and relativization of human values and human existence.

 

       On the other hand, pragmatism as developed by William James opens the way to cultural and religious pluralism but leaves open the question as to how to harmonize and integrate varieties of experiences and doing justice to each and all. In the contemporary development of this subjective form of pragmatism we sees the Neo-Pragmatism of Richard Rorty, according to whom one needs pays tribute and loyalty to one's own tribes or nations without having to worry about the "thin ethics" of the whole world. By stressing the non-essentialism of human existence and human values one would construct one's own world of actions in which only consequences in success and winning counts. This approach to human existence and values coincides with Samuel Huntington's views on conflict of cultures and his arguments for the uniqueness of Western culture. It would inevitably leads to a confrontation of the East and West, a clash of civilizations and a world in which only military and economic powers would dominate. There cannot be any global ethics.

 

       We could also mention the instrumentalism of John Dewey as a third form of American pragmatism. By stressing openness of thinking and participatory experiences Dewey argues that we might be able to solve our social and political problems on an explora-tive and experimental basis without deviating into the overly subjective or the overly objectively. Dewey's approach seems to suggest a more balanced and more humanistically warranted way of problem-solution and conflict-resolution. But with the exception of liberal arts education the Deweyan method has not been practiced in any area of ethics or politics or international politics in United States.

 

       In recent times John Rawls proposes his theory of justice which is intended to resolve the conflict of personal liberty and social justice in a modern democratic society. But it can be also seen as an effort to justify the practice of democracy in politics and practice of free and open  market in economy in US. The combi-nation of the two is shown to lead to a fair society. But if we use the American reality as an empirical base to check the Rawlsian theory of justice, it could be said that it disconfirms the theory as much as the theory is intended to justify the American reality. It is because in the real life world liberty and equality, good economy and good government are often at odds and the real-life American culture is often against both.

 

 

Understand Chinese Cultural Ethics and the Confucian Core Model

 

      We come to look into the model of Chinese nation and Chinese culture. In the long history of China one sees the materialization of a political Confucianism from the dawn of civilization of Fuxi, Shennong, Yellow King, Yao, Shun and Yu in the third millennium BCE to the founding of the Republic of the 20th Century. It might be objected that as Confucianism started with Confucius in 6th Century BCE, it can not be extended to a pre-Confucian era nor should be recognized after the May Fourth 1919 in which Confucianism was ideologically and institutionally rejected. But here I speak of a system of values which consists in the belief in cultivation of moral virtues in a ruler and rule of virtues as justified by mandate of heaven. This system of values also appeal to a vision of harmony among peoples in the world as the end-goal of political rule which is to be achieved by human relationship founded on virtues. We glimpse this system of values described in the Book of Documents (Shangshu) in projected records of Yao, Shun and Yu. These texts in a sense represents a vision of political rule to be desired and pursued by the latter day Confucianists as well as an implicit interpretation and understanding of the ancient Chinese history in consistency with an aspiration toward a future socio-political world of humankind. This is what I refer to as the political Confucianism in distinction from what we may refer as the Moral Confucianism as formulated in the Confucius and Mencius and others.

 

       The central tenet of Political Confucianism is that we can reach harmony of peoples, communities and states with our cultivation of virtues and cultures of values so that we will benefit others with our virtues and cultures of values. It is in this sense that we are able to relate to others and harmonize with them to create a common lifeworld of coordinated action and expectation in which our common good resides. In a later Confucian work Liji this political harmony among peoples is called the Grand Unity (datong) in which care for each other among peoples prevails to the benefit of each and every person. 

 

       We may also introduce a notion of Ontocosmological Confucian-ism in which the possibility of human and political harmony of the world is rooted in a still deeper sense of harmony, the harmony of heaven and earth in the creative ontocosmology of the Taiji and the Dao. We see this Ontocosmological Confucianism developed in the latter part of the life of Confucius and which is expressed in his study of the Book of the Changes (Yijing). In a retrospective hindsight we see clearly how the harmony of the heaven and earth pervades world and reality from the very beginning of time and space and how this harmony produces the human person as being inherently capable of harmonization because of his origins. This is also the reason why we can trace the political Confucianism to the very dawn of Chinese civilization in so far it is part of the worldview of the full-fledged Confucianism.

 

       In the modern period even though Political Confucianism was rejected and Moral Confucianism questioned since the May Fourth 1919, the ontocosmological Confucian worldview on the unity and harmony of heaven, earth and man still persists. It is even held and seen as being strengthened by the very modernist point of view as developed by modern science. In this sense both Political Confucianism and Moral Confucianism could be given a new interpre-tation and a new form for its modern and contemporary relevance and hence cannot be said to be totally outdated after the May Fourth.  In fact, it is our argument that in the face of globalized world of pursuit for wealth and power the Confucian system of values as rooted in its ontocosmology and articulated in its visions of a universal accord and harmony among peoples as well as in the virtuous development and cultivation of the human person and human community could provide the very essence for a global ethics for the humankind as a whole in both short and long terms.  

 

       Now the question is how do we understand the moral and ontocosmological Confucian principles so that we can see how a global ethics could be formed.  In order to answer this question we shall explain Moral Confucianism in terms of three main axes of unity and harmony and explain Ontocosmological Confucianism in terms of two main axes of harmony and creativity.

 

       The three axes of unity and harmony in Moral Confucianism are the unity of heaven and man, the unity of knowledge and action, and the unity of the inner and the outer. We shall elaborate on these three axes as follows.

 

       1. Axis of unity of heaven and man: the importance of this axis is that the existence of man is rooted in the ultimate reality of heaven and earth not only in a temporal sense but in an existential sense. Hence there is potentiality in man to embody the values of heaven and fulfil a sense of destiny. This means that a human person has the creative ability to develop himself and others so that he can bring about a better state and hence a more harmonious state of the world-reality. In a sense the unity of heaven and man has enabled the human person to act as the power to realize heavenly power whereas the source of the human power is the heavenly power. Because of the intimate link between man and heaven, moral self-cultivation of the human person and virtuous interrelating of the human community are not only possible but necessary for the attainment of harmony and well-being of the human world.

 

       2. Axis of unity of knowledge and action:  In this axis it is not only important to see that knowing leads and requires action but that action leads and requires knowledge where knowledge refers to understanding and thinking of reality and action refers to efforts to pursue values according to the human will. The Confucian ethics is not just a matter of acting in a human situation but a matter of transformation reflecting knowledge of situation and truth.  It is also a matter of reflection and cultivation of the human self which goes beyond given rules of behavior. 

 

       3. Axis of unity of the inner and the outer: When the Zhongyong speaks of this unity, it refers to the completion of things and completion of self as unfolding from one's sincere self. This unity is intrinsic to the nature of the human person and should be realized in a time befitting a situation. In fact, we could identify the inner and the outer on three planes: self and others, mind and body, human person and world. The human person has to cultivate himself and know others so that he can relate himself in virtuous accord.  He also has to know himself and reflect on his own nature (inclinations and motivations) and control his bodily action so that he would act in a unison of mind and body. Finally he should relate himself as a person to his tradition and environ-ment so that he can establish a full identity of himself and be able to create a new world for his own growth. We can speak of the relation of the immanent and the transcendent which are relatively defined and hence can be integrated as an organic experience of life.

 

       When we have these three axes well maintained and established we are able to act ethically in both a universal and necessary sense. But questions can be still raised as to how these axes are merely necessary but not universal nor fundamentally rooted in reality. With regard to the three axes we have to come to see how life and human mind and nature in the world are all rooted in the ontocosmological reality of creativity.  Hence we have the following axes of a Ontocosmological Confucianism.

 

       4. Axis of the bright (yang) and the shady (yin) : the distinction and relation between the bright and the shady goes together with the distinction and relation between the firm (kang) and the soft (rou) and that between the moving (dong) and the rest (qing). This distinction and relation is one of opposition and complementation and hence one of creative tension as well as creative harmonization from which new things arise. From this one may even speak of the distinction and relation between the being and the non-being or between being and becoming, and between a positive quality and the absence and negation of a given quality. This suggests that all things in the world have two aspects of being (being and nonbeing/becoming) which not only arise from a prior relation between being and nonbeing but will give rise to future development and growth. This should explain how life originates and how it sustains and develops into new life.

 

       5. Axis of the order and structure (li) and the vital force (qi): here we have the Neo-Confucian distinction and relation of more advanced world-forming forces: the li provides order and structure in all things including the human mind and nature, whereas the qi gives rise to motion and creative formation and transformation of all things. The interdependence and interpene-tration between the two are such that each gives rise to the other and completes and promotes the other. This should explain how there is consciousness of principle and reason in human mind, how human reason can develop and expand and how human culture and arts could be created. It is also to be noted that this relation represents one of the yang in the yin and yin in the yang, for both li and qi have both yin and yang aspects.                                                                           

       Given the above it is clear that Confucianism not only forms a system of values of the world but a fundamental way of thinking and knowing of the world in which values are naturally embedded and both harmonization and order are natural consequences of creative generation of being and life. They are also productive of being and life in a creative circle of formation and transformation. It is because of this deep understanding of man and reality revealed in the Confucian thinking that a global ethics based on Confucian thinking along the above lines would not only be plausible but necessary.

 

       In connection with this understanding we have to ask how Confucianism could be actually formulated into a global ethics in the spirit of the five axes of the above discussion. First we have to note that unless the five axes within each and with each other are well preserved and maintained, a global ethics would be lop-sided and incomplete. This is because the very process of globalization is itself a matter of realizing and exhibiting a balance and harmonization of the two forces: the global and universal on the one hand and the regional and the particular on the other.

 

Two Wings of Confucian Global Ethics

 

       For a balanced development and understanding of Moral Confucianism we need to recognize that there are two wings of classical Confucianism: the Mencian and the Xunzian. The former stresses the common ground of human nature for reaching a humanized world of harmonious interactions, whereas the latter argues for a ritual-ethical and lawlike regulation of the social order. The historical progress of Chinese society and politics may be seen as composed of the parallel developments of these two wings, which however had the special distinction or character of not achieving sufficient interaction and coordination with each other. The modern fate of Confucianism in China is spelt specifically with this failure or lack of interaction and coordination.

 

       The need for reform in institutions and policies is a constant outer need just as the need for self-cultivation of the inner self is a constant inner need. Unfortunately, there has been polariza-tion between the two wings (positions) which leads to handicap and paralysis of the social life as a ever-renewing and up-lifting process of creative harmonization and peaceful transformation. Take a historical example, consider the reform effort made by Wang Anshi (1021-1086) in the Song Period. Wang wishes to restore the institutional program of the Zhou Li (Zhou Guan) and advocates a new reading for major Confucian classics in order to reconstruct a system of rituals and institutions like the sage-kings in Xunzi. His purpose is renovation of institutions and introduction of new reform policies. Furthermore, Wang argues for the origin of five basic virtues in the cosmic taiji in which he sees a transcendence and hence an integration of the Mencian and the Xunzian philosophy of human nature, namely that all people share the same nature from which comes empirically the feelings and habits of good and bad.

 

       Based on his theory Wang wishes to draw support for his well-designed reform program, but he was quickly opposed by a right-wing Confucian literati who did not have sympathy with his Xunzi-oriented institutionization of reforms and who were more interested in the cultivation of mind and nature than changing status qua. Without such support Wang's reform program was doomed to failure. This resultant failure is like a situation where there is the necessary li but there is very slim common will or qi to go with it for its practical implementation. Hence this failure is manifold: Wang failed to convince his Confucian colleagues of the importance of institutional reform as a necessary and constant feature of Confucian social and political ethics. On the other hand, the Confucian colleagues of Wang were mentally pre-set in concern with issues of mind and nature along the philosophy of Mencius, failing to appreciate the relevance of Xunzi (and hence Zhou Guan) or even not paying attention to the social welfare state program of Mencius himself in a constructive perspective. The ideological conserva-tism of the latter eventually contributes to the decline of Confu-cian values as an open system of knowledge and action in society and government and thus destined Confucian China to its self-enclosure and its modern decline and fall.  

 

       By bringing in this classical reform case and the analogy in terms of li and qi, we can further see how the two wings of Confucianism stands. We must first recognize that both Mencius and Xunzi share the same starting point and the same goal within the framework of Confucian philosophy as taught by Confucius. The common starting point of the two is transformation of the human person and the human community. The starting point suggests that human person and human community are the twin centers and foci of all the human concerns with the world, other people and ourselves. It is a mistake to consider Confucius as only concentrating on the human person alone. His discussion on ren and other virtues clearly indicates that a human person is not only a being-in-the-world but a person-among-persons. The human person must be a being directed toward other beings, especially his fellow beings as human persons. Hence he has the potentiality to develop and invoke the care for others, the constraint of oneself, the practice of doing the right thing and cultivation of rites and arts. In all these he finds and defines himself as a human person of virtues (de) devoted to the way (dao) of realizing a good life and well-being for both himself and others. His being and virtue is hence a matter of co-humanity and co-humaneness because he is always a co-being and a being-toward.

 

       With this understanding of Confucius the fundamental link between self-transformation of the human person and the transforma-tion of the community and society of men becomes the very key to understanding the unity penetrating the Confucian way and under-standing how this unity was divided into two wings or two special-ties of the Confucian onto-ethics (as we see the ability of man to transform himself and others as residing in the ontocosmological reality of heaven and earth or the source of all beings) which are represented by Mencius and Xunzi. Whereas we should recognize the crucial difference between Mencius and Xunzi in their specialties, we should also see the close connection and coordination and equal importance between the two in the framework of the common purpose and common motivation of the Confucian philosophy.

 

       Confucius even have suggested how different properties and virtues could be developed simultaneously to satisfy the needs of people and the whole community of human persons. He often contrasts "a person of benevolence (ren)" with a "person of wisdom (zhi)" and suggests that the person of ren is still, lives a long life and enjoys mountain whereas the person of zhi is active, lives a happy life and enjoys the river[]This contrast does not mean that we should select one among the two. Based on common sense it is clear that the best life of a person is one which combines both at the same time especially when we comes to live a long life and have a happy life. A long life without happiness or a happy life which is short are both less desirable than a life having both aspects. Besides it is not impossible to have both if we make our simulta-neous efforts to preserve life and make it happy. It would turn out that the two efforts would support each other too.

 

       There is also another passage from the Analects which bears on the requirements of simultaneous and parallel efforts at ren and zhi. "If a person reaches a matter by knowledge, but if his benevo-lence cannot keep it, he would lose it. If a person has reached a matter by knowledge and he can also keep it by benevolence, but he would not approach it with respect, then people would not show respect. If a person has reached a matter by knowledge, and can keep it by benevolence and approach it with respect, but if he does not follow it with propriety, it is still not perfect.[11] Here we see that to develop ren and zhi at the same time is essential for maintaining a basic relationship, even though that is not yet quite perfect and needs further refinements which certainly can be cultivated at the same time.

 

       This message suggests an important methodological insight of Confucius: We should always develop our virtues at the same time in the sense that each virtue requires equal attention and has a bearing on our growth and development as a moral person. If we apply this to the situation of Mencius and Xunzi, it is obvious that we can see Mencius as most relevant for the development of ren whereas we can see Xunzi as most relevant for the development of zhi. Based on cultivation of ren we may reach the root of our being in heaven, whereas based on the learning of zhi we can come to an knowledge of the dao. Both heaven and dao are referring to the same reality of our life in the world and cannot be separated. Besides, Mencius links and develops the virtue of ren into yi (righteous-ness), whereas Xunzi links and develops the virtue of zhi into the li. It is clear that both yi and li have shared a common core of generating and sustaining the social order and harmony of a human society as originating from the feeling and experience of ren and zhi in human persons. Hence there is no reason why Mencius and Xunzi may not be integrated on the interactive parallel methodology of Confucius in the common framework of moral virtues in Confucius.

 

Integrating Mencius and Xunzi as Parallel Thinking

 

       Given the above explanation we may claim we have good reasons to consider Mencius and Xunzi as two wings of a bird or as two wheels of a carriage so that both are needed for the flying of a bird or the moving of a carriage.  We may indeed consider Mencius and Xunzi as belonging to each axis of the five axes of unity and harmony we have discussed.  Thus they form a set of two polarities in each axis and co-determine how a good society of human persons and how human persons in a good society would depend on each other and support each other. The transformation of individual person and the transformation co-advance on the basis of co-determination and interdependence of both the two. Any failure on this transformation must be sought in the lack of such co-determination and mutual support between the two. We may describe this co-determination and mutual support on each axis as follows.

 

       1. For the axis of heaven and man, it is clear that Mencian view concentrates on the side of heaven and relies on the cultiva-tion and flow of goodness of human nature for the transformation of the human person and human society; on the other side, it is also clear that the Xunzian view concentrates on the side of man and relies on the initiative and positive works of human society and human reason for the transformation of the human person and the human society. It is the power of human wisdom and human creativity that brings out the ability to realize humanity in his conformity to rules of reason and institutionalization for a harmonious society.

 

       2. For the axis of knowledge and action, it is interesting to note that Mencius would start with action which would lead to knowledge. His famous argument for goodness of human nature from immediate response of a unprepared person to jump to save a child from falling is a good point. We act because we have the moral potential to do the right thing once that potential is aroused under right circumstances. But we shall eventually achieve knowledge of our nature (zhixing) and even knowledge of heaven (zhitian) by reflection on our deep experience of our moral nature and its ontocosmological source and foundation. What is important for Mencius is our deep experience of our moral nature and its source because it is the source of moral values and moral choice of a person.

 

       For Xunzi, on the other hand, would take knowledge of things in the world and knowledge of our desires and interests as the starting point of our construction of moral life-world, a world which not only exhibits our moral values but provides institu-tionization of rules of proper behavior (ritual behavior of li). This implies that a sagely mind must come to a clear understanding of the world and the human condition and must resolve to establish a design of ways of living and a system of ways of behaving which would constitute the basic infrastructure of our culture. One can clearly see that Xunzi has devoted himself to the various construc-tivist arguments for the institution of li based on rational understanding of our experience of the world and ourselves as the human persons.  It is clear that once we have a framework of cultural constructions we are enabled and entitled to act correctly and acceptably. We would then have a moral community and a legitimate government as a consequence. 

 

       It is important to point out that whereas Zhong Yong speaks of sincerity (cheng) leading to illumination (ming) and illumination leading to sincerity, which is still essentially mind-heart-cultivation-oriented, Da Xue speaks of investigation of things (kewu) and extension of knowledge (zhizhi) as prior to making sincere one's intentions (chengyi) and rectifying one's mind (zhengyi). One cannot but see Zhong Yong as a work in the Zisi-Mencian spirit and the Da Xue as a work in the spirit of Ziyou and Zixia. But this is not to say that either school denies the unity of knowledge and action, it is to show how the two chooses their focus and starting point differently which should not make a difference in a framework of unity.

 

       3. For the axis of the unity of the inner and outer, we can again see the contrast and linking between Mencius and Xunzi. There is no doubt that Mencius stresses the approach from the inner cultivation or the cultivation of the inner self and Xunzi stresses the approach from the outer normalization or normalization of the outer behavior of a person. Mencius stresses the reflection of the individual self-feelings of self for the purpose of establishing a benevolent government, whereas Xunzi stresses the learning from ancient sages and formation of a ritual community for moral betterment of an individual person. If we identify the inner and the outer with immanence and transcendence, it is clear that we may view Mencius as thinking from immanence of one's nature to transcendence of the heaven and destiny, whereas we may view Xunzi as thinking from transcendence of objective and rational understanding to immanence of applying knowledge to individual action and construction.

 

       4. For the axis of the unity of yin and yang, we come to the ontocosmological basis for the two wings of Confucianism. Whereas Mencius speaks of ren and yi as open road and wide house and encourage people to actively cultivate their nature, he is no doubt on the creative side of the taiji source, Xunzi, on the other hand, speaks of li and fa as necessary constraints and norms for action and social ordering, he is no doubt on the receptive side of the taiji source, namely he lays down the necessary social requirements for a person to act correctly. As we need to transform the human persons as individuals and as a community, it is important to see how the creative-participant side of Mencius forms a dynamical union of mutual support and mutual complementation with the receptive-institutional side of Xunzi.

 

       5. Finally, for the axis of the unity of li and qi, it is obvious that Mencius gives his focus on development of qi (vital force). He talked of nourishing the great flood of qi in oneself as source and basis for insights into values and one's own identity. On the other hand, Xunzi stresses the importance of learning and knowing from nature and even promotes "ordering things" (liwu) and "controlling the mandate of heaven" (zhitianming) for the utilization of heaven. It is clear that Xunzi has taken nature as an object of knowledge and to know is to find the principles of things by investigation and observation. In this regard he has paved the way for the development of lixue of the Song Ming Period, just as Mencius has paved the way for the xinxue of the Song Ming Period.

 

       In the above we have tried to demonstrate how Mencius and Xunzi are like two wings of Confucianism whether moral and political. As two wings they can form a union and a beneficial circle of mutual development and mutual enhancement. They are needed to be developed on parallel basis and when they are both well developed in this interactive and parallel fashion, they would produce a concrete universal of ethical theory and an ethical practice which would not only apply to the Chinese nation and Chinese society in this millennium, but would be highly applicable to the globalized world of 21st century.

 

       China is now at a new critical juncture of historic momentous and overall economic, social, cultural and political transforma-tions. What is needed most is a national ethics which can balance the economic force of liberation and expansion and which at the same time can also harmonize this economic freedom with the political interest toward solidarity and stability.

 

       In fact China needs a national ethics which will provide both society with economic vitality and political stability, and which will uplift the nation to a higher level of cultural development and flourish. This national ethics is not possible if we only concentrate on the Xunzian platform of law and order in an ethics of rituals and forms nor is it possible if we only restore the Mencian doctrine of preserving the heart-mind and fulfilling our nature as a human being.  We need both because we need both the internal restraint and the external constraint. We need also both to interact and coordinate to move to a new state of changing, renewing, reforming our institutions and policies so that we may create better and larger harmony and create better efficiency and quality of cultural life as well.

 

       We need to look to a program of qian-kun bingjian/ qian-kun huyong (The creative and the receptive are equally established; they are interactive and mutual complementary) in order to succeed the good heritage of Confucianism as a holistic teaching of two interactive and coordinating wings, and thus accomplish the great potential of the a humane society and the human person in great unity and great diversity. Of course we wish to remind ourselves that the contemporary platform of Neo-Confucian values would not succeed either without paying attention to the needs of scientific-technological and political-social forces.

 

       With this understanding of Confucianism, it can be seen that it could become a model for the globalization of ethical values for the whole world as well as become a forum for the development of global ethics.

 

 

 

Endnotes

 



       

[] See the Confucian Analects, 2:1 "Weicheng yi te".

 

 

[] See the Mencius, 7B-3.

    

[] See Daodejing, sections 17, 18.

 

    

[] We can easily see how the world of mind cannot be reduced to the net, because what is reduced in the net is what is represented in the web or what is objectified in the net. But mind is not that which can be fully objectified.

 

 

[] MacIntyre has argued for the overcoming of conflicts of traditions on justice and rationality by first understanding individual traditions. Specifically he argues for the Aristotelian tradition as a base for practical rationality. He does not deny competition and contesting of traditions but he seems to believe that it is through competition and contest that the rationality of a tradition would be borne out in time. His main arguments would apply to the case of national and cultural ethics. Confer his book Whose Justice? Which Rationality? Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1988.

[] See George Soros's own book which defends his action, The Crisis of Global Capitalism: Open Society Endangered, Scranton: Harper Collin Publishing, 1998.

[] Respectively WTO in December, 1999 in Seattle and IMF in April, 2000 in Washington D.C..

       

[] See what is quoted by Richard Falk in his paper "Meeting the political challenge to Globalization", in Commentary (Interna-tional Movement for a Just World, Number 34, March 2999.)

    

[] For Habermas's work confer his Legitimation Crisis, translated by Thomas McCarthy, Boston: Beacon Press, 1973; Justification and Application, translated by Ciaran P. Cronin, Cambridge: MIT Press, 1995; The Theory of Communicative Action, 2 vols. translated by Thomas McCarthy, Boston: Beacon Press, 1984, 1987.

       

[] See the Analects, 6-23.

      

[11] See the Analects, 15-33.

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