Neo-Confucianism Is a Philosophy Research Paper

Pages: 10 (3169 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 10  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Black Studies - Philosophy

SAMPLE EXCERPT:

[. . .] Knowing your own mind is the access to the truth and once the truth has been achieved the individual is free to apply that knowledge upon himself.

If one should compare Confucianism and neo- Confucianism it should be stated that for both currents of thought the family is a very important element. It is the starting point and the central point for the entire universe. In addition, the family is considered to be the source of all order ad harmony, therefore a good example regarding the organization of society. Filiality is probably the most important relationship and the individual demonstrates it through ritual veneration.

For example, a son will venerate his father, just like a scholar will venerate Confucius who is the master of knowledge and an emperor will venerate his ancestors. Since filiality could be extended at all the possible levels of society it is easy to understand how it became the element which united religion, culture and society.

Other factors from the Confucian philosophy which influenced the neo-Confucian thought are represented by the five constants and the five relations. The five relations or Wu Lun refer to the relations which are considered to be the most important within the society. T

hese relations are the ones between parent and child, ruler and subject, husband and wife, elder to younger, friend and friend. All the individuals can easily find their status in one of these categories and it is safe to say that from this point of view they can be universally applied.

The concept of stranger does not exist, everybody has a connection to the other people either through the relation of blood or through friendship. The importance of the social network supporting the strength of society is more than obvious. However, it is important to draw the attention to the fact that the first four relation types are hierarchical.

What one needs to understand is that the evolution of a person's status in the Confucian society is hierarchical as well. In other words, these relationships define the duties that the individuals must perform in order to make society function well and achieve happiness. therefore, one must be a good father, spouse, child, etc in order to be able to have a fulfilling life.

The five constants, Wu chang are another concept which can be helpful for further understanding Confucianism and neo-Confucianism as well. the purpose of both doctrines was to find meaning and what creates it. Although the behaviour of the individual was considered of major importance it was not the sole element under discussion. Human living was regarded in all the possible contexts and these were the familial one, the social one and the cosmological one. These are the layers in which the universe can be divided and in which it is organized. The five elements which are constant in time and through which man can contribute to having a happy family, a happy society to live in and therefore a good world to exist in are represented by humanness, ren, propriety, li, appropriateness, yi, wisdom in thought and action and xin, keeping one's word. The schools which contributed to the development of neo-Confucianism claimed that self cultivation of the five constants is a must besides the achievement of knowledge. The differences resided in the importance paid to one element or another.

The purpose was always the same, the one of achieving the fullness of human Being., human nature. The ideal of the Confucians is to be human in the most complex manner, in respect to themselves but more importantly to the others. The quest was for the fundamental values within the human being. Not trying to discover the essence of ren, humanness meant denying your own nature. While the neo-Confucians reffered to concepts such as li or the principle, their quest remained basically the same as Confucius'.

Other influences upon the neo-Confucian school of thought are to be found in the Buddhist and the Daoist philosophies. The most important elements are to be found in the previous writings. Ren for example is the virtue par excellence and the thing which contributes to the achievement of other virtues. The most important virtues deriving from it are justice, ritual action (such as veneration as an act of demonstration of filiality), wisdom, discernment and faithfulness. They are the main axes of neo-Confucianism. The similarity between them and other values promoted by Confucianism is pretty obvious. The importance of li, the ritual action is fundamental, since, just as we have already mentioned its role is to keep society mended in unity while helping the individual to fulfil his humanity. Heaven, tian and the mandate of heaven, tianming are other important elements. The human, earth and heaven are the basic triad for neo-Confucianism. Li is the principle pattern and xin is the mind-heart while xing is the individual human disposition. These are some of the main neo-Confucian themes. All of the are in some way related to the idea of self cultivation. This idea must have been influenced by a concept which is central in Buddhism, the one of sagehood and the need for its development.

It has been argued that neo-Confucianism was a reaction to some of the challenges which Buddhism presented, such as the concept of emptiness. However, its influence should be deeper and found in the above mentioned concept. Taking into consideration the social and cultural circumstances in which neo-Confucianism arose and the strong conception between belief and practice, it is safe to assume that the new philosophy aimed at finding a better principle to support a better practice which would have allowed the monk to form himself at his best. Sagehood at that point must have become an ideal which man and society could actually achieve beyond the metaphysical goals which were less attainable. Self cultivation was the means to reach it. And here there are other Buddhist influences to be found such as the conception regarding feeling and emotions.

According to the Buddhist credo, the source of a man's sageness is to be found in his nature. It is the emotions which make a man forget about his nature and betray it. This does not mean that a man needs to escape any kind of emotion in order to be wise the key is to control the emotions and this is what self cultivation is for. It is interesting to take into consideration the fact that the emotions are not a strange element, but something that the individual needs to acknowledge, accept and control. From this point of view one may find a further similarity between the neo-Confucian concept if nature and the Buddhist one regarding natures.

Other concepts, such as the one of pure heart, the peaceful heart and the supreme ultimate are also to be connected with Buddhist elements such as the clear heart, mind which is needed in order to see the truth or the conception according to which the mind is nothing but Buddha that we can connect directly to the teachings of the school of the mind which has already been discussed.

As far as the Daoist influence is concerned, it is to be found in the idea according to which harmony can be achieved and maintained through a relationship of justice which is reciprocal within the social interactions system. However, there are numerous influences of Daoism which can be found within the Buddhist paradigm, so the passage from the former one to the neo-Confucian philosophy is a complicated one.

All in all it can be stated that neo-Confucianism occurred under the circumstances in which Buddhism and Daoism were no longer considered as providing a satisfactory response to the spiritual and material needs of the Chinese society. The fact that all the schools which contributed to its creation and development failed to be united in a coherent and complex system of ideas characterized by unity demonstrates the complexity and difficulty of the task of the neo-Confucians.

The core of neo-Confucianism is naturally the Confucian doctrine. The prefix "neo...? must not mislead us into thinking that the old ideas were taken and interpreted in a revolutionary manner. They were taken and maintained according to their importance (judged based on their efficacy) and enriched with ideas and concepts coming from other philosophies such as Buddhism and Daoism.

All these paradigms were trying to discover what is the way to achieve humanity at its fullest, what is the best path towards the truth and happiness, what is human nature and how can it be manifested at its best. Where does evil come from and how can it be controlled.

The fact that there was a spiritual need for a new philosophy demonstrates that the previous ones failed either being too abstract and focusing too much on metaphysics or they failed because the principles which regulated day to day behaviour were not supported by a sufficiently solid… [END OF PREVIEW]

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