Sunday, May 24, 2009

Simple thoughts on Duty, Loyalty, and Justice

When Western or English educated students reached a deeper level of understanding in ancient Chinese philosophy, they tend to think they know much about Chinese culture and their civilization. They may fail to take heed of what the great Carl Jung had indicated about the minor difference between Western and Eastern minds because of their respective upbringing.

Some of these students, possibly thinking it is fun or chic, tend to play around with terms long established by renowned translators like James Legge and Richard Wilhelm under the guidance of their Chinese mentors versed in ancient Chinese philosophy.

Of course, students can fool around with their Confucian studies, which student does not like to have fun? But can teachers join in the fun too? Probably Confucius and/or Mencius would have frowned upon that event happening? Since teachers have a duty or an obligation to teach the correct things to their students. And Confucians are known to be strict, if not stern.

There is currently an ongoing discussion between Western thinkers or teachers of ancient Chinese philosophy on the cardinal virtues. Some argue that Duty is internal, while some say otherwise. But what has the term, duty, to do with cardinal virtues? They imply that duty can take the place of the established term, justice or righteousness (yi).

Therefore let us look at what this student of ancient Chinese philosophy would say to remonstrate with an online friend.

Probably the best example to depict the respective terms of duty (qin wu / yi wu), loyalty (zhong xin), and justice (yi) would be that of a soldier. A ruler or a country employs and trains soldiers in case of a war, an emergency, or an external threat.

It is therefore the duty or obligation of a soldier to protect the ruler or the country in times of need. Now whether the soldier feels obligated to serve the ruler or nation dutifully is up to him or her. Therefore duty can be internal or not. (Think of soldiers going AWOL or dissent in times of war.)

Loyalty is considered internal because it is related to the heart/mind (xin). People expect their kin and/or friends to be loyal to them. So would expectations of rulers or nations of their soldiers. But then we know that loyalty can be bought, at a price. However, some cannot be bought over at any price.

According to the ancients, the cardinal virtue of justice or righteousness is internal and forms part of human nature. Since it is inborn, everyone possesses this virtue. Even under the threat or fear of death does not steer righteous or just persons from their rightful course of action. The Chinese can quote various stories on that. (Perhaps you realize the subtle differences in our upbringing?) Do we not agree that for justice, there is no fear or favor?

Therefore how the term duty (qin wu / yi wu) can ever take the established place of justice (yi) is beyond comprehension.

To be continued.


ngchuanling said...

Every civilisation thought theirs the best.The English thought theirs the greatest.the French thought theirs the finest. The Indian says theirs the better, the Arabs, theirs second to none, the American...most wonderful..
The point is what their contribution to the developement and "betterment" of society and ways of life.
There no use to chestbeating and drumming but the contribution is [alas...]simply "ineffective"......I think there is somthing wrong in the ways of the "Chinese-Thinking"
THE debates of morality and justice will go on until the sun rises in the morning, but what the contribution to the developement?

Enmedio de la Terra said...

What is the contribution to the "betterment of society" of the "development" without justice that we see in the modern world?

ngchuanling said...


Enmedio de la Tierra said...

Of course. Even so, my question remains.

Refrased: what is the contribution to the "betterment of society" of the "development" with millions of people dying in hunger or colonialist wars like in Africa?

Justices us Political. Of course. That's why Confucius wasn't a philosopher but a political reformer. ;)

ngchuanling said...

Why the people of Africa cannot developes....?
Why they lag behind others...?
Why they give the whites opportunities to colonised them...?
Why They cant change...?
Why when some nation have explore space, but the African still in "ancient world"...?
Anybody cares to answer?
It got something to do with "intelligent and intelligence"
That why while some civilisation thrives, at he same time some civilisation still in infancy while some civilisation stil admire their 5000 years of talking nonsense!

Enmedio de la Tierra said...

Of course, africans are the ones to be blamed. How can't i get it?

I see now what you mean when you talk about "justice". Or "develpoment". Or "betterment of society"

I think the Book of Changes have more wisdom than you.

ngchuanling said...

My Dear Enmedio, hard, very hard to accept and bear.., when your at the losing end...[Winston Churcill once said that Araxxx peoples are shit-eater!]