The Influence of Ontology on Philosophy of Politics in Ancient China

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The Influence of Ontology on Philosophy of Politics in Ancient China

The Ruling with the State

In Western philosophy of politics there are different kinds of ruling. Some of them, as perfect way of ruling emphasize monarchy, others democracy, etc. In ancient China, however, there are no divisions of such kind. What all the political teachings in China agree is that there is only one perfect way of ruling, and that’s monarchy. The purposes of the state according to the three teachings, already quoted at the beginning of the previous chapter, should be ruler’s task to introduce them among people. Thus, the Confucian ruler has a task to develop inter-human relations and reach proper applying of the ethical norms. The Taoist ruler mustn’t interfere in the life of people, but should only direct them in their independent development. The task of the Moist ruler is to extend the universal love to all people and make people happy as much as possible. What is our field of interest here is how ontology of these schools influenced on the teaching about the ruler.

a) Confucianism

Many centuries before Confucius and Lao Tzu, when religion played great role in society, it was believed that the ruler is appointed from God. Thus, in Book of History it is said: “Let the king be vice-regent of Shang Ti9F and let him deal with the duties of his”.10F In Book of Songs we read: “[Heaven] looks for someone to assign the power”.11F Because the ruler gets his mandate from Heaven, he is called Son of Heaven. We can find a lot of such similar statements in the pre-philosophical literature in China. Monarchy is authorized by Heaven, and Heaven orders who will be the ruler by choosing someone similar to it, wise and good. Confucius calls this decree of Heaven, a mandate. The ruler gets his mandate from Heaven and Heaven can take it back. Heaven gives the mandate to the one that considers is capable of ruling, and people should respect its decree. If the ruler doesn’t fulfil his task conscientiously Heaven warns him. But if the ruler doesn’t obey Heaven again, then Heaven takes back the mandate and appoints another ruler. Every ruler prepares his son to succeed him after his death, but that doesn’t mean that he makes the decision. It is only Heaven who can decide. If the ruler doesn’t prepare his son enough to succeed him, or tries to proclaim someone who is not appropriate for ruling, Heaven transfers the mandate to another ruler and thus a new dynasty becomes. Heaven does that by instigating people to a revolution, and if the revolution is successful, it means that Heaven took the mandate from one ruler and assigned it to another one.
The ruler knows the decrees of Heaven. Mencius says: “The one that fully developed his mind, knows his own nature. The one who knows his nature, knows Heaven.”12F Therefore, ruler can be only the one that knows Heaven.

b) Taoism

The basic idea of Taoism is that the ruler should model himself according to Tao. Because Tao acts spontaneously (wu wei) the ruler should follow its example and apply wu wei. One such spontaneous ruling or ruling according to wu wei means that there is no set of many laws, rules, prohibitions, ceremonies etc., but the tendency is towards ruling as simple as possible in concordance with the simplicity of Tao. The best expression of this is the Lao Tzu’s sentence: “The more restrictions and prohibitions are in the world, the poorer will people be. The more sharp weapons are produced, more problems will be in the state. The more skillful artisans are, more skillful deceits will appear. The more laws are established, more thieves and robbers will be.”13F As we can see, as Tao does not use force in the world, the ruler should not use force in the state. The ruler should not press the people, but let it develop by itself, and he should just direct it.

c) Moism

Moism, too, accepts the idea that the ruler is Son of Heaven. Good ruler is the one who takes himself according to the Will of Heaven, and bad the one who opposes it. The ruler must rule in the way Heaven orders. Mo Tzu says: “The ruler cannot create rules by himself. Heaven gives him the rules. The higher men understand that the ruler creates the rules of the world, but don’t understand that Heaven assigns the rules to the ruler.”14F Therefore, we mustn’t ever disagree with the ruler because his behaviour represents the Will of Heaven. To contradict the ruler means to contradict the Heaven and that is a serious offence. Therefore, Moism maintains the idea of absolute monarchy, because the ruler is appointed by Heaven, and as Heaven is absolute ruler of the world, so the ruler is absolute ruler of the state.

9. The term Shang Ti means Supreme Ruler and it was used to designate the supreme deity.
10. Compare: Yutang, Lin, The Wisdom of China and India, The Modern Library, New York, 1942, p. 739
11. Compare: Alexander, G. G., Confucius the Great Teacher, Kegan Paul, Trench, Truber & Co., London, 1980, p. 323
12. Compare: The Book of Mencius, 7A, 1, in A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy, p. 78
13. Compare: Lao Tzu, ch. 57, in A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy, p. 166
14. Compare: The Works of Motse, trans. Y. P. Mei, p. 152

AuthorAleksandar Stamatov
2018-08-21T17:23:34+00:00 November 1st, 2002|Categories: Literature, Essays, Blesok no. 29|0 Comments