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Perhaps Xunzi’s greatest influence is that he continued Confucius’ emphasis on ritual practice as an instrument for socializing, it is a conventionalist rationalism.

With the emergence of a Confucian orthodoxy in the Han dynasty based on the Xunzi branch of Confucianism, scholarly dispute was tempered by a fundamental commitment to mutual accommodation. In the exercise of criticism the ritual basis of order comes into play, since rituals serve as patterns of deference which accommodate and harmonize differences in desires, attitudes and actions.

As noted above, Confucianism, fortified by precepts and concerns drawn from the ‘Hundred Schools’ of the pre-Qin period, emerges as the prevailing Han ideology. As the Han dynasty declines in the second century ad, religious Daoism and Buddhism move in from the periphery to recolor the intellectual ideology, transforming state-centred Confucianism into the more esoteric and reclusive ‘pure conversation’ (qingtan) and neo-Daoist (xuanxue) movements of the Northern and Southern dynasties. However, the influence is mutual. In due course, an erstwhile foreign doctrine of Buddhism is transmuted into a Chinese institution. Later contesting traditions shared in common the presumption that there is a direct line between personal cultivation and an understanding of natural and moral order. This led to extended reflections on the nature and order of all things, and heated discussions about the relationships that obtained among the most abstract distinctions which could be marshaled in explanation of cosmic regularities. The pragmatic concerns of most Chinese intellectuals militate against the exercise of philosophical speculations that move too far afield from the concrete problems of human beings, or which could conceivably serve to introduce contentiousness among intellectuals.

What is today? The single most distinctive change that Mao made to Marxism was a commitment to particularity and site-specificity. Dialectical materialism is revised to reflect a yinyang ad hoc relationship between economic principle and social superstructure. Although hierarchical, these forces are seen as interdependent and mutually determining. Human malleability in his thought goes far beyond the standard Marxian line. There is in Mao a basic suspicion of abstract, general claims, and a recurrent return to specific cases and historical examples. The contemporary Chinese view so historicizes the Marxist sensibility as to make room for an almost unlimited flexibility with regard to the shaping of individual personalities and the development of individual skills.

No significant elements of the syncretic Confucian orthodoxy was abandoned: the dynastic leadership; a governing communal ideology, the nation as a ‘family’, a constitution like a Bill of ‘Rites’, a filial respect for the ruler, to object to the policies of the existing order is to condemn the ruler’s person. The Chinese have no inalienable rights. In a society where individualism remains a symptom of selfishness and license, and not only saying but thinking involves a disposition to act against the Chinese philosophy of society. The intransigent sense of ‘Chineseness’ which coalesced in the Han dynasty continues to determine the shape of Chinese intellectual culture.



HALL, DAVID L. and ROGER T. AMES (1998). Chinese philosophy. In E. Craig (Ed.), Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. London: Routledge. Retrieved June 12, 2013, from http://www.rep.routledge.com/article/G001SECT10

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Date: 2014-12-21; view: 646


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