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2 The Efficacy of Human Action and the Mohist Opposition to Fate

Franklin Perkins Indiana University Press ePub

THE VIEW OF heaven associated with the rationalization of the Zhōu conquest—that the Mandate of Heaven (tiānmìng ) protects the people and ensures good rulers—began to break down in the turmoil that followed the disintegration of the Zhōu political order. Some questioned the goodness or reliability of heaven, blaming the current injustices of the world on the divine. Others elevated an altered conception of mìng as something like blind fate to label events that were beyond human control and occurred without regard for right or wrong. The Mohists are the first philosophers we know of to explicitly react against these trends, to argue that good people are rewarded and the bad suffer. More specifically, the “Will of Heaven” (“Tiān zhì” ) chapters of the Mòzǐ can be seen as responding to charges of heaven’s indifference, whereas the “Against Fate” (“Fēi mìng” ) chapters respond to the trend toward fatalism.

The Mohist position on heaven and ghosts tends to be dismissed as a legacy of popular religion. On this view, their arguments reflect a conservative reaction to religious skepticism, a reaction rooted in older religious views still widespread among common people. This reaction, in turn, is often explained by appeal to Mòzǐ’s own class background.1 This view has some support. The Mohists themselves claim that their views were shared by past sages, and in arguing for the power of ghosts and spirits, they appeal to the testimony of ordinary people. But this kind of explanation misses how Mohist views of heaven form an integral part of their philosophical system. Even if they align with traditional and popular views, we must still ask this: Why did the Mohists incorporate those views into their thought? Surely the Mohists display enough critical thinking and radicalism to make an appeal to Mòzǐ’s personal background insufficient as an answer. The promotion of a heaven that cares inclusively for human beings plays a crucial role in justifying the efficacy of human action, which underlies the Mohist commitment to activism. The loss of this anthropomorphic and anthropocentric divinity threatened not only the early Zhōu “humanist” view that human beings are ultimately responsible for their conditions, but also the very possibility of defending a humanistic ethics. While the Mohists react against what were probably general trends among the educated elite, their one explicit target is the Ru (Confucians). Thus, to grasp the stakes of the debate, we can begin with early Ru discussions of heaven and fate.

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Chapter Two • Obedience and Disobedience: When Is Which Right?

Chaleff, Ira Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Obedience and Disobedience: When Is Which Right?

“If a man can only obey and not disobey, he is a slave; if he can only disobey and not obey, he is a rebel; he acts out of anger, disappointment, resentment, yet not in the name of a conviction or a principle.”


TO UNDERSTAND APPROPRIATE OBEDIENCE and disobedience, let’s reconsider the scenario in the previous chapter.

We saw the nurse resist what she thought to be a destructive order. Her skillful resistance caused the physician to reflect on his own reasoning and to take a different, presumably safer course. The patient recovered and the story had a happy ending. We know, however, that it could have played out differently.

Was it the success of the patient outcome that made this an act of Intelligent Disobedience as opposed to outright insubordination? Or were there intrinsic factors that made it Intelligent Disobedience, regardless of the outcome? To answer this we need to examine our concepts of obedience and disobedience.

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Chapter 2: Time: A New Question

Needleman, Jacob Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub


Do we have the courage to approach the question of time from the depths of our heart? Before we try to face the question of time as a problem, the problem of how to manage our lives, can we stay with it long enough to hear it calling to us purely and simply as a question, the question of who we are and why we are alive at all? It takes courage to stay with it as a question when all around us, with ever more insistence, our culture treats it as a problem, and makes it into a problem. A problem is something we are supposed to deal with; a problem demands that we do something, change something. A problem is something we are suppose to solve.

But time is more than a problem; it is a question, perhaps the greatest question that a man or woman can face and perhaps the most important one. Such great questions cannot be answered with the part of the mind that solves problems. They need to be deeply felt and experienced long, long before they can begin to be answered. We need to feel the question of time much more deeply and simply than we do. We agitate about the problem of time, but we seldom feel what it means.

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11 Concluding Thoughts, Criticism, and Evaluation

John W. M. Krummel Indiana University Press ePub

Now THAT we have discussed in detail Nishida’s dialectic, in this final chapter I would like to conclude this work with some evaluation and assessment of Nishida’s dialectical philosophy. I ask two challenging questions: (1) To what extent is the language (or terminology) Nishida employed adequate for expressing the matter of his thinking? (2) What does Nishida’s thinking have to offer us today? I will discuss the first question in relation to the issues of logic and dialectics in Nishida and the second question in relation to modernity and the contemporary situation of globalization.

Nishida’s theory of place seeks to provide a philosophical glimpse of the concrete standpoint we all live and experience as always already, the ever-implicit wherein of our implacement. Yet this is also the wherein from which we inevitably “fall from grace”—or at least distance ourselves—in the act of reflecting on it. Perhaps this attempt to philosophically formulate the inexpressably concrete is one of the attractions of Nishida’s thought. The attempt makes us aware of our finitude and contingency. This brings up the issue of Nishida’s mode of presenting that concrete. To what extent is it viable? One might say that one point of Mahāyāna Buddhist practice, such as Zen, is to experience concrete reality in its non-dual or contradictory nature, unmediated by conceptual thought. Paradoxically, Nishida strives to articulate the un-articulable, to speak about what cannot be spoken, to discursively bring the concrete to expression. While telling us to look for it in the direction of the predicate since it cannot be made into a subject of judgment, Nishida cannot help but speak of it himself, treating it as the subject of discussion. Does his mode of locution succeed in portraying that ineffable sphere? This question may be raised more succinctly in regard to the metaphysical and epistemological terminologies he appropriates, especially from nineteenth-century German philosophy—most notably, that of the Neo-Kantians and of Hegel. This includes the conceptual schemata of the universal-individual relationship or of the concrete universal, the logic of contradiction, and the language of a dialectic. Do these terms and phrases do justice to the matter of Nishida’s thinking? My concern here is not whether Nishida adequately understood those German philosophers. The point is whether his appropriation of their terms and concepts—Hegelian dialectics, the epistemological hylo-morphism of the Neo-Kantians, or even the noesis-noema scheme of Husserl from the early twentieth century—fits what he wanted to express.

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8 Monetized Philosophy and Theological Money: Uneasy Linkages and the Future of a Discourse

CLAYTON SCOTT CROCKETT Indiana University Press ePub

Devin Singh

CLAIMS ABOUT THE future involve perceptions of the present and discourses about the past. This is especially so in the case of money. As a peculiar social technology that indexes value and regulates relations of credit and debt, it reflects and shapes expectations and, hence, projects a future. In consideration of the course this monetary future might take in the West, theology and the philosophy of religion are necessary resources with which to engage. As genealogies of modernity and capitalism have laid bare, theological and religiously inflected philosophical discourses have been determinative for the Western sociopolitical imaginary.1 Money has likewise been determinative. It follows that the relationship of these codeterminants of modernity must be elaborated, that this past be unearthed. As we will see, the relevance of theology/philosophy stems not (or not only) from the need to render ethical judgments about the nature and consequences of monetary economy. The necessity emerges from a co-implication of money with these discourses, such that their pasts, presents, and futures are intimately connected.

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