Formation of Chinese Humanist Ethics(2)

(15) Ethical Individualism
In concluding this section on Confucian ethics, we shall focus on the philosophical identity of its ethical egoism or individualism, which is defined by operational practice rather than by a metaphysical principle.
1. The Individualist Identity of Confucian Ethics
If individualism involves more a social context and egoism mainly a psychological context, the basic feature of Confucian ethics is related to both individualism and egoism, covering both the individual stance in society and the subjective operation in the self. In addition, its social individualism is operatively reduced to its psychological egoism, which is the very mechanism of the ethical will. In Confucian discourse, in other words, the social can be reduced to the individual and the latter to the kernel of the ego.
Ethical individualism in operationalist terms does not involve the emphasis on the rights and interests of the individual in a social context; instead, it involves the domain of ethical operative strategy. It exhibits above all a double strategical direction: the individualist stance in the face of social morality and the egoist stance in the face of the formation of psychological strength. Both stances are based on the centrality of the individual will. Thus, Confucian operative individualism can be explained briefly with reference to such various oppositional relationships as the following:
a) Personal projects versus the social context (individual operation);
b) The individual will versus supernatural and metaphysical control (operative autonomy);
c) Ethical praxis grounded on the psychological rather than the socio-legal dimension (operative ground);
d) Personality as the object and objective of ethical praxis; the self as the object of its own operation (object of operation);
e) Individual strength versus collective power (operation through individual force);
f) The self as the judge in monological dialogue (supervisor of operation).
2. Individualist Freedom in Ethical Choice
The Analects is the first book (the first written and edited text) in Chinese history. The spiritual hero Confucius is also the first strong, self-conscious personality in Chinese textual history. During a period of political and social disorganization and deterioration, an individual separated from the social system designed ethical projects and composed a general spiritual guide for the people at this dark time. Politically speaking, Confucius always emphasizes the obedient attitude of the jen-man towards the dynasty and state rulers. (18:7; 15:37; 11:23) If this is so, however, can we say that the Confucian thought is spiritually defiant towards power? Our explanation is that the politico-ethical defiance of the Confucian spirit is expressed in a definite scope: holding one’s will and chosen path free from the absolute control of the feudal rulers. Confucian individualist freedom is first expressed in spontaneous choice between blind cooperation with and conscious withdrawal from the court. A basic choice is made between joining oneself to social power and reducing oneself to asocial isolation. Spiritual defiance is expressed within the space limited by institutional possibility. Defiance is more a spiritual than a political attitude. In the separate gesture in the restricted political space, we see an unlimited freedom in seeking ethical autonomy. The social space of choice is bounded, while the freedom of choice in spiritual autonomy is unlimited. This original freedom essentially symbolizes the separate emergence of the ethical dimension in Chinese history.
A careful reading of the text reveals the actual Confucian judgement of Chinese history that most state rulers for the past decades were bad. The absolutely ideal utopia of a “rosy old land” was used by Confucius merely to condemn the political reality. He involves himself in an unsolvable contradiction between his lofty ideal and the hopeless reality. Such a crucial decision can only be made with an absolutely individualist spontaneity. Politically, Confucius’ spiritual independence expresses ethical defiance over against political power. The defiance itself symbolizes a strong individualism resistant to collective pressure. In general, the uncooperative gestures of his politico-ethical pursuit foreshadow the subsequent lasting split in Chinese history between spiritual ethical freedom and actual political slavery.
3. Individuality as the Pre-Institutionalized Person
Confucius as a spiritual master only exists in the original text, which presents a pre-institutionalized space for the independent activities of the individual. Individuality is expressed not only in the political dimension, but also in the spiritual dimension. Physically, an intellectual does not belong to his rulers and can move here and there across borders in the historical narrative. Furthermore, he can decide how to arrange his life without being fixed by political constraints. Confucius lives in an historical interval between the earliest Chou kingdom and the later Ch’in-Han empires. The former consisted of many feudal powers in a small area; the latter provided totalitarian institutionalization in a much larger area. Therefore, the latter exercised much more power than the former. Confucius lived in an historically less institutionalized period, which provided him with more social freedom to explore ethical autonomy which could be realized in purely interpersonal relationships. Thus, we have an ideal, rather than actual, space for the purely ethical description of the conditions for excluding complicated sociological and political constraints in the text. A homogeneously ethical system can be then organized in a universal mode.
In a deeper sense, a lack of actual political practice can also be taken as part of the hermeneutic strategy of Confucian ethics. The political is the most important among the social institutions. Non-political social practice is equal to pre-institutional activity. In any organized society, however, ethical practice must be politically involved and determined to a certain degree. In the actual world, the pure ethical system cannot function independently. Consequently, pre-institutional and non-political contexts reduce the range and scope of the external ethical practice of Confucian doctrine, making subjectivity the main ground of ethical practice. This rhetorical feature turns out to be the theoretical possibility that a spiritual individualism capable of realizing its goals within the relevant area can be systematically formed.
4. Ethics with a Focus on the Evils of One’s Self: the Object and Objective of Ethical Practice
It is a traditional Chinese idea that morality is only related to humanity. As the modern Confucianist politician Kang Yu-wei says, “Good exists only inside humanity; outside mankind there is neither good nor evils.” (Kang 1990, v. 2, 387) Similarly, the distinguished modern Confucianist scholar Chang Tai-yan asserts, “there is talk of philosophy and morality but nothing about religion in the Chinese classics.” (Chang 1965, 5) The humanist tradition of morality led to an academic focus on politics and political ethics in ancient Chinese thought. It is generally recognized that the central theme of Confucian doctrine is the search for interpersonal justice (li) and mutual love in humanity (jen) which can be called a general conception of the ethical good. The general object of Confucian ethics is humanity and its objective is jen (the good), understood as universal love. Confucius designed a project for the objective of the good. His project consists of internal and external parts. There are in fact two kinds of Confucian thought concerning life and politics. Accordingly, there are two models of objectives: the Confucian sage and the idealized government of the original three dynasties. As we explained before, however, Confucian political philosophy is only an ethical dream which cannot be directly connected with actual politics. The essence of Confucian political doctrine is reduced to a doctrine of the establishment of the Confucian personality, whose true objective is the defence of personality against the evils of the self and others and not the realizing of good in society. More precisely, the good is equivalent to control over the evil. The overcoming of evil at the motivational level becomes the first step towards the good.
Despite obvious Confucian declarations, we have to ask, what are the true object and objective of Confucian ethical practice? Are they really love itself and its political realization? Empirical ethical practice is the immediate work of the Confucian operation. We can say that for Confucian ethics the empirical social phenomena of politics is the object of ethical rather than political practice, not their objective; and the empirical psychological state of the moral good is its objective but not its object, as we see in later Buddhist and Sung-Ming Confucianist philosophy. Furthermore, if we take the objective as a hierarchy consisting of several sub-classical levels, we will naturally distinguish between direct and indirect objectives. Thus, in most cases the good is only an indirect objective rather than a direct one in Confucian practice. What Confucian practice directly concerns and treats is not the good itself but varieties of its opposite: evil. By contrast, the Confucian good exists at an ideational level as the general value and norm: jen. In the field of ethical practice, a typical Confucian teaching is about how to correct the natural evil of one`s moral wrongs. Thereby, we can see that evil is the more direct object and the overcoming of evil the more direct objective of Confucian ethics. In addition, most Confucian teachings involve how to cope with one’s own wrongs and evil, that of others and that of historical and current politics. The correction of personal and social mistakes and the struggle against evil are central and substantial concerns. A motivational ethics is first an ethics about the correction of one’s own wrongs and evil.
In light of this, the process of searching for the good (jen) can reduced to that of overcoming the evil (non-jen) of oneself and other individuals. jen as a notion is a spiritual and ideal existence which can guide our practice, but its actual manifestations are negatively made through fighting its opposites, which become the true object of Confucian practice. Cherishing the jen ideal and principle, the Confucian has evil as his direct object, and his direct objective lies in fighting it in various ways. In this sense, a jen-philosophy is a individualist philosophy against evil. Evil itself becomes the direct or true object of the Confucian individual’s practice. The good belongs to the possible or ideal sphere, while evil belongs to the actual or real sphere.[1]
5. The Confrontation between the Ethical Individual and Social Power: The Ethical Will to Cope with Obstacles
The Confucian personality is a spiritual process towards the ideal of good called jen. The jen process is realized through fighting evil. Hence, Confucius is particularly critical of the speciously good man (hsiang yuan), who characteristically avoids conflict with evil and seeks to please everyone for his own sake. The genuine process of Confucian practice is that of fighting evil and defying powerful evil establishments. The Confucian ethical will is a will against evil or wickedness. The ethical pursuit of the jen-objective lies in the pursuit of the principle and ways for overcoming the opposites of jen. In this sense, Confucian philosophy displays an original negative character systematically strengthened by Mencius. It seeks the jen-goal along the jen-oppositional direction: it directs itself towards the opposite of jen. The “opposite” exists in both the inner and outer realms: the instinctive internal power and external political power. Confucian efforts at moral correction and struggle against evil are processes of action or practice covering both inner and outer aspects. There are two fields of application: the psychological and the social. These two fields also provide objects. The objective substantially functions in the former realm, despite the fact that pressures from both the inward and the outward realms are direct objects of ethical operation.
1) A Permanent Model of the Conflict Between the Free Individual and Dominant Power
It is natural that any society is first a political organization. Confucius as a historical role also lives in such a political organization. When saying that Confucian doctrine lacks a political dimension, we mean that it is relatively weak in true political rationality and practice. What Confucius does say about politics is only ethical in nature. In the same sense, we assert that kings and princes are the object of Confucian politico-ethical rather than ethico-political practices.[2] Owing to the basic historical split between the ruler as a person and the ruler as a functional role, the result of Confucian practice is distance from political power. While political power is the target of Mencius’ ethico-political attack, it is also the target of Confucius’ politico-ethical persuasion. The distance between Confucius’ practice and political power historically as well as theoretically signifies the unavoidable failure of Confucius’ political ethics. His negative relationship to power leads to a further subjectivization of his ethics. Confucian individualism is caused and strengthened by just this negative relationship. In other words, a contradictrary relationship is formed between ethical individuality and a political collective embodied in power.
2) Individualism Expressed through Physical Suffering
The confrontation between the ethical individual and political power in the Confucian narrative is mainly expressed by the individual’s spontaneously avoiding the power which is supposed to control people. Spiritual independence is vividly shown in images of suffering heroes who repudiate slavish dependence on power. Several dramatic pictures are strong metaphors of the moral heroes’ suffering due to their own ethical choice. Harsh situations of poverty and danger with no way out become the theoretically necessary background of justified spiritual devotion in defiance of unjustified power. This solidified into the basic pattern of the spiritual defiance of Chinese moralists in socio-political history. Historically and logically, ethical individualism is closely linked with unjust power. Ethical life then necessarily appears in an individualist mode. Poverty and pain are symbols of the isolation of the free individual, which is in turn a constitutional condition of the ethical mentality. The confrontation between the individual moralist and collective power is an innate trait of ethical existence.
3) Confucian Individual Subjectivity versus the Over-Determination of Objective Force: the Social, Supernatural and Metaphysical
Among the many distinctions between the Confucian and the Taoist, the more epistemological one involves individualist spontaneity in connection with personal ethical choices. The philosophical Taoist and the Legalist Taoist emphasize objective constraints and the determination of natural and interpersonal laws. For them, ethics is a wisdom for learning about and following the natural laws embodied in the cosmos and society and making the individual obey these objective laws or forces, rather than try to change or correct them. Therefore, ethical criteria exist in natural objectivity rather than in human subjectivity. Furthermore, even humanity is part of nature. Thus, social laws are part of a general law - Tao. By contrast, the Confucian maintains an absolutely independent individuality in ethical choice. Even if there is a universal Tao, it can only work through subjective determination. It is the jen-man who can broaden or enlarge Tao as an ethical principle; the Tao cannot change the direction of the jen-man. (15:28). Even Heaven as the utmost superpersonal force cannot replace the individual’s choice. The Confucian, however, makes a great distinction between the existence of the unknown determinative force and the potentiality of individual creativity. There is an absolute subjective autonomy containing its own separate process of choice. Heaven grants individual freedom; it provides a reasonable and safe framework for encouraging individuals’ spontaneity. It is this super-personal force which forms a logical support for the unlimited spontaneity of individuality. In fact, Heaven plays a role in forming the favorable conditions of the individual’s freedom of choice. It is a liberalizing force for increasing the momentum of individual valor and ambition. From the perspective of ethical pragmatics, Confucian individualism with its absolute spontaneity within a definite scope of choice is contrary to the passive reactionism of both Taoism and Legalism.
It is no exaggeration to say that many later Confucianist trends digressed from the original direction through a Taoist or Buhddist metaphysical turn. One of the essential reasons for this deviation lies not in their metaphysical orientation, but rather in their irrelevant utilitarian directions, as they succumbed to the political power which Confucian ethics challenges. In distinction from the Confucian style of criticism and challenge of power, most Taoist and Legalist followers are parasitic on or collaborate with power. By contrast, with his critical criteria and irreconcilable action in relation to power, Confucius displays his identity through spiritually challenging the established power. To quote the words of a modern philosopher, Mou Tsong-sun: “first comply, then defy”(“shun-er-ni”). Confucius uses the existing li-symbolism in order to signify his ideal ethical objective. His outward behavior (serving the ruler) is determined by socio-historical conditions; his inward action (seeking ethical autonomy) is determined by his own freedom. Social constraints signify individual freedom. Similarly, the symbolic li-system cannot be used as a political apparatus to realize his ethical objective, but it can be used to signify that objective.
In completing our account of Confucian ethics, let us very briefly return to a pertinent question about its modern meaning. The anatomy of the original text can only be grasped in light of ethical modernity, its ethical intelligibility in the present intellectual world. There exist two completely different mechanisms of morality in the world: the formation of social moral conditions and the formation of ethical subjectivity. The former is a more synthetic and practical process which can be caused in various socially feasible ways. The latter is linked with a theoretical reasoning. In distinction from many other classical ethical theorizations, the empirical positivity of Confucian ethics makes it a possible combinator in the timeless dimension of the empirical world. At present, there is still a need for a new balance between the objective-moral and subjective-ethical rationality. The lack of political instrumentality in the Confucian doctrine therefore signifies two possibilities: intellectual complementarity and practical combination. The empirical identity of Confucian ethics provides it with a useful pragmatic positivity which can bring about a relevant and effective contemporary connection between the purely ethical and the politico-technical. It is precisely this ethical positivity, expressed in a reasonably limited domain, which makes Confucian thought surprisingly relevant in our current social, cultural and political context.

n of Chinese Hu
Part Four: Confucian Ethical Philosophy
(14) Operative Structural Strategy
In the concluding part of our analysis of Confucian ethics, we shall touch on a quasi-philosophical aspect comparable to other moral philosophies. The present chapter concerns the methodological tendency of Confucian pragmatics and the operational rationality of its ethical spirit. The final chapter concerns its identity as an ethical individualism.
1. Operative Rationality
Almost all moral philosophies share the same concern about problems of human justice and happiness. Many of them, especially the classical ones, present their own utopian designs for the improvement of human conditions. If so, we should also recognize that the shared utopian picture of worldly bliss is hardly an interesting feature of moral philosophy or ethics. Similarly, what Confucius or his followers imagined as the socio-political utopia of the “Three Dynasties” period cannot be epistemologically interesting to us, although we may name it an “X” which can play a functional role in the Confucian ethical system. Thus, when we talk about Confucian philosophy, we shall not refer to X, no matter how brilliant an ideal it contains, but rather to the attitude and reaction (Y) of the subject to X. A Confucian philosophy of the ethical will is therefore characterized by the special tendency of Y. We shall describe this ethical tendency as a psychological operationalism of the will.
1) The Operative Scheme
As described in chapter 6, there are three layers of the ego or subject as the operating agent; and Ego-3 is the source of the ethical will. This concept can present a separate internal scope for subjective practice or operation. The centralized or condensed subject as the agent of the will can perform its operation on objects belonging to various internal areas. For describing the performance of the agent of the will within the internal scope, there are two kinds of expressions: the immanent qualities of volitional dynamics and the structural technique of volitional operation.
Concerning the tendency of the ethical will in the external scope, we shall treat two basic poles: the directedness of the agent towards the self and the directedness of the agent towards the other. We first discover a strong individualism implied in Confucian thought or its ethical will. Its operation is directed towards self-control, insofar as one takes oneself as one’s own immediate other. Second, the social confrontation of the ethical subject with the holder of power shapes a basic model of challenge and suffering expressive of the social effect of the Confucian ethical will. We shall discuss related problems in the next chapter.
2) The Inward Delimitation of Ethical Operationality
Regarding ethical operation, there are two main problems: the epistemological and the strategical. The former is solved by the delimitation of the operative zone, which in Confucian discourse is essentially subjective. The latter concerns procedural features which will be treated in the next paragraph about structural tendencies.
Confucius’ operational ethical rationality appears in a reasonably consistent arrangement of values, criteria, norms, methods, sequences of steps, art and technique, relations of mind to action etc. This historically tested system of rational arrangement can still be accepted by a modern mind embedded in the same empirical interpersonal relations. The empiricism and humanism of Confucian ethics also exhibit themselves the essential situations of human morality, displaying an epistemological minimalism based on the subjective realm. This epistemological limitation itself should be regarded as an indication of its practical rationality. In human life, there is a special field innate to empirical existence which can and should be separated from other non-empirical fields. Confucian ethics has indeed logically and practically realized this reasonable separation required by a practical ethical reason.
Embodied in a network of ethical imperatives, Confucian ethics is effectively operational at many levels, especially that of ethical self-cultivation. Every advice and warning can bring about substantial effects on moral mentality through the internal and mutually supporting interaction of rhetorical devices. The ethical applicability, empirical confirmability and pragmatic systematization of Confucian ethical discourse prove that it is an effective apparatus for shaping the moral personality. Its feasibility for shaping personality is due to its empirical operationality for coherently choosing moral instructions.
When reading the Confucian discourse, people can feel a strong impulse to react, to choose and to fix their self-orientation. With a logical pole of external objectives in an ethical pragmatics the Confucian will is first essentially directed towards the self. Confucian ethical subjectivity consists of the central will, the mechanism of personality and the attitudinal structure. Pragmatic subjectivity itself becomes the object and objective of Confucian ethical practice. With this original orientation of ethical effort, Confucius first avoids the more complicated aspects of the realization of social idealism, making his pragmatics feasible for focusing on the internal sphere, which can be completely dominated by the ethical agent. The deciding will, the practice of choosing and the ultimate objectives then fall within the inner dimension of the ethical world. Confucius creates a workable field for an ethical agent to devote itself to attainable goals. This is the reason why Confucian thought has been a successful and relevant ethics as well as unsuccessful and irrelevant political thought.
Due to its ethical spirit, the Confucian ethical will expresses a spontaneously creative impulse and aspiration. It is an instinctive vigor for acting in a chosen direction. From the very beginning, this primitive vigor expresses itself in two aspects: in an impulse both to act and to attend to the directedness itself. The Confucian will to life is expressed and realized in spontaneity of action and strength for concentrating ethical attention. On the other hand, the Confucian ethical will is an orderly one realized in a logical pragmatic sequence. Without a rational framework, Confucian ethical practice could not function so effectively.
2. The Holistic-Structural Strategy
There is a special psychological sign of the degree of the completion of or satisfaction in the Confucian agent’s practice. It is the immediate feeling of the quality of honestly performing in an ethically rational manner. This quality is defined in a structural way, namely, by both the result of a concrete practice and its position in a structurally unfolding perspective. A Confucian agent always checks his own ethical achievements along the two lines, holding both a horizontal and a dynamic perspective. He is both a designer and an operator of the ethical engineering and development of his life. With his rationalist character, he is a holistic organizer of the course of his life, grasping its moments in terms of a planned schedule. In consideration of the pragmatic art of Confucian ethics, we can say that Confucian ethics is structurally directed.
1) The Structural Arrangement within a Limited Field.
The original choice of inward attention is structural in nature because it means that attention will be paid to the ways of arrangement themselves after the working field is circumscribed by the motivational domain. The original limitation of Confucian politics is even ethically functional. The choice of the hereditary system “Chou li” parenthesized or essentially excluded the political way of thinking. The original Confucian politico-ethical system was selectively restricted to the inwardly directed homogeneous field. The homogeneity of the field of objects is essential for structural operation. Homogeneity and limitation make possible the operational codes. The same principle can be also seen in the operation of traditional Chinese arts. Indeed, the structural tendency is rooted in the Chinese mentality itself. (Cf. You-zheng Li 1993, 101-110)
2) Binary Oppositions and Dichotomous Choices
We have already discussed dichotomous practices in detail in chapters 8 and 9. Generally speaking, there are two kinds of opposition: the formal and the substantial. Confucian oppositional ethical phrases are mostly substantial, involving the “content plane.” As we explained before, however, the substantial Confucian discourse is essentially employed to express formal imperatives through concrete patterns. It is evident that the Confucian text is organized through a series of oppositional units which form the elementary ethical situations. The oppositionality is formed along both procedural and axiological poles. Briefly, the basic axiological traits “good” and “bad” simultaneously appear in every oppositional group in combination with many other axiological traits belonging to lower axiological levels. Without any detailed explanation, Confucius presents the contrasting traits contained in the oppositional groups, persuasively urging in a performative rhetoric the choice of one and the refusal of the other. In other words, Confucius puts his listeners in a pragmatically minimalist situation of choice between two alternatives. The contrasting focus of a binary choice itself produces an urgent force compelling the choice between two oppositional or comparative items. The point lies in the possibility of choosing in elementary situations as well as in the implicitly systematic confrontation of various binary patterns. The relevance of the choice is determined by both the situation of binary contrast and an implicitly structural perspective. The ethical persuasiveness of Confucian reasoning lies in the horizontal systems of oppositional or contrasting dichotomies. Through internal and external practice, a Confucian can psychologically form a structural system of binary mental choices or a set of reactive patterns of dichotomous choices relevant to various practical situations.
Moreover, the structural procedure works at two levels. Besides the level of the elementary situation of choice represented by the contrasting instructions in the text, there is the higher level of the balance and combination of the related choices. At the first level, the elements in the choosing operation are the contrasted statements; while at the second level, the elements of the synthetically combinational operation are the chosen results of the former. In other words, the elementary situations of choice themselves become the objects of a further structural operation which is synthetic, including steps of comparing, choosing and combining. Thus, the elementary situation of choice does not exist separately. Any individual choice is already a result realized in a related context. The more complete process of structural operation then begins. In this sense, any moral maxim is relevant only to its variously related contexts.
3) The Holistic-Structural Prescription
In any ethical practice, the agent needs to assemble the suitable virtuous elements from the reservoir of virtues. Confucius is a great artist operating with these semantic elements in different situations. This means that for each situation or in the face of every problem he has to design a special recipe for choosing between two alternatives. A moral capability is defined in relation to a definite situation; it requires a special combination of virtues for shaping a moral strength and ethical design. The process resembles that of Chinese medicine, which is characterized by a structural art of combining medical elements according to a recipe. The Confucian doctrine of virtues involves first analyzing the ordinary moral forces into
their virtuous elements and then designing recipes for the concrete “cases,” the latter in turn requiring a synthetic operation. The analytic-classificatory as well as the synthetic-combinational operations with the virtuous elements in the holistic Confucian strategy manifest an intelligible structural tendency.
Confucian pragmatics unfolds along two lines: the process of correctly choosing in any project and the holistic adjustment of the direction of various projects. One rationality is connected with the practice of various projects, the other with harmonizing a set of related projects. Tactical arrangement and strategical arrangement in ethical practice are combined at each moment of ethical practice. Confucian thought is an ethical holism performed in practice, connecting everything at hand “logically” with everything else. In principle, a Confucian ethical agent is an artist playing with this holistic technique in private and social situations during his entire life, organically structuring his every step and move in both internal and external realms. This primitive pragmatic structuralism displays a pragmatic rationalism. We refer to it as a holistic rationalism for constructing a motivational structure and direction. It purports to arrange every factor in one’s inner and outward life into an effective, orderly and meaningful procedure.
A Confucian guiding will or personality structurally organizes and controls the movements of ethical practice, supervising, readjusting and correcting every step and their relations according to axiological and technical norms. All quantitative and qualitative doses of ethical prescriptions are structurally and holistically readjusted in order to attain the ideal combination. Therefore, all Confucian imperatives or maxims themselves embodied in directly or indirectly dichotomous choices are only constituent parts to be used in synthetically formed projects according to a dynamical holism and structuralism. Apart from a concrete situation as the whole of operation, the practice of a maxim cannot be precisely understood. Each maxim is implicitly connected with all others for its pertinent definition. Each imperative is related to all of its combinators. Technically speaking, Confucius, just like a traditional Chinese doctor, must first grasp the entire relational network and then arrange the required medicines with respective doses and preparations. A herbal medicine has its “vocabulary” value (property of medicine) in the pharmacopoeia. Its correct use, however, depends on the related total context and the technical wisdom of the user. Thus, from the operational point of view, there are two levels of structural strategy: the static and the dynamic. The latter plays a more creative and energetic role in manipulating the required elements. From the compositional point of view, there are three grades of dichotomous elements: the binary qualities at the plane of the “word or character”; the binary imperatives at the plane of the “sentence”; and the binary comparison at the plane of the “context.”
3. Methodological Conclusion
In order to grasp the operative Confucian rationalism, it is necessary to distinguish between substantial and functional description. The former involves the historical, natural and practical aspects of ethical discourse, while the latter refers to various relational connections. The relation appears at different constituent planes of normal phenomena, including the features chosen to refer to items in the motivational structure. Confucius’ intuitive narratives and practical maxims are two-fold items, half of which are always linked to dynamic operations in the psychological world guided by the ethical will. Consequently, the operational function of Confucian discourse leads to a commensurability with strategies in the modern world, such as structuralism and formalism. A more radical reason for the commensurability of ancient and modern ethical praxis lies in the shared scheme of pragmatic ethical reason innate in human nature. Pragmatic ethical logic is something inlaid in the empirical nature of mankind.

Section Two: The Development of Confucian Ethics: The Mencian Philosophy of the Politico-ethical Will

INTRODUCTION: The Political Turn of Mencian-Confucian Ethics against Taoist Nihilism and the Legalist Philosophy of Power
In both an historical and an intellectual sense, the topic of this second section is the continuity or development of the topic of the first section. The intellectual story of this section emerged in the Warring-States period (475-221 B.C.) which directly followed the Spring-Autumn period (770-476 B.C.) in which Confucius lived. The themes treated in this section are part of the Analects. On the other hand, however, their development is necessary for the complete formation of the original Confucian ethics.
In the broad sense of the term ethics, all pre-Ch’in thought belongs to the Chinese ethical archetype. Taoism is a philosophy of life and Legalism a political philosophy. There is also another way, however, to treat the definition of the Chinese ethical archetype which adopts Confucian doctrine as the standard. The ethical rivals of Confucius then become part of the ethical archetype in a negative way. They are dialogical partners as well as theoretical challengers. They help develop and readjust the original Confucian doctrine. We see the result of this in Mencian doctrine, which will be treated specifically in this section. In the narrow sense of the term ethics, Taoism can be called a non-ethics and Legalism an anti-ethics with reference to Confucian ethics.
The hermeneutic angle employed in our entire study has two important aspects. This study is a Chinese-Western dialogue, although the material is completely Chinese. It is a dialogue between Chinese material and a Western approach - the way open to the most criticism in our present-day hermeneutical world. Strategically speaking, however, its hermeneutic is supposed to foster a comparative dialogue. In fact, “comparative” only refers to the material aspect, while “hermeneutic” refers to the linkage between the historical material and the theoretical method. In essence, an operative hermeneutics is supposed to treat the connecting plane between history and theory. Thus, the hermeneutic treatment directly involves the ethical intelligibility of the historical texts.
On one hand, ethical intelligibility is formed within the textual dialogue; on the other, any text has a historical aspect. For understanding the semantic content of a text, we need a knowledge of the related history. Thus, the historical aspect serves our approach to the text, while the ethical dialogue in our context can only be carried out in the intertextual domain. Concretely, we have the problem of the dialogical situation between various kinds of ethical thought and the problem of the historical background of these texts. In distinction from a study of intellectual history, however, the historical part of our study is organized for the sake of promoting ethical inquiry.
1. The Intellectual Challenge to the Original Confucian Ethics: Taoism as the Main Challenger of Confucian Ethics.
Despite the generally accepted legend of the historical encounter of the two “schools” in the pre-Ch’in period, both their historical and their intellectual confrontation can only be confirmed through historical materials formed after the Ch’in period. Our study concentrates on the intellectual comparison between the two schools in order to examine the theoretically possible contacts of Confucian with Taoist philosophy. The confrontation of the Confucian and the Taoist in the Chinese cultural context also provides a universal example of the basic contrast between the ethical and the non-ethical.
The ethical relativism and nihilism of Taoist philosophy, with its plain style, present a typical example of ethical nihilism. We suggest that the relativist and nihilist perspective of such ethical argumentation is innate to the ethical situation. Every ethical position depends mainly on its own practical attitude rather than on a general philosophical logic. The Confucian and the Taoist adopt oppositional positions in this connection; their contradiction is therefore not logically but rather practically attitudinal. Accordingly, they cannot logically disprove each other. Instead, they can even co-exist in their respective theoretical and practical realms. They represent different attentional directions in the empirical world: the ethical and the non-ethical. Both of them either positively or negatively reflect the empirical dimension of ethical life. Theoretical and historical facts of Chinese intellectual history indicate the empiricity of the human ethical situation and spirit.
2. The Strategical Challenge to Confucian Ethical Politics
Another two-fold challenge to Confucian thought is Legalist thought. Contrary to the Confucian, the Legalist represents attitudinal choice in support of actual political power; and its practicable tendency is shown in its intelligent creativity in evolving political techniques, including socio-political institutions, practical measures of various kinds and arts of personal domination. In contrast to Confucian moral idealism, Legalism advocates and supports the existing power and social order without regard for political morality in the Confucian sense. Chinese history proves that it was the Legalist, rather than the Confucian, who became the true impulsive power in political evolution. There are three main Legalist traits which make it contrary to Confucian thought:
a) Advocating the authoritarian power of the current rulers regardless of humanitarian considerations;
b) Accepting causally more effective means for realizing political goals, including cruel and brutal measures;
c) Valuing the expansion of power of any kind through undermining cultural goals.
d) Successfully promoting various kinds of institutional construction. The historical success of Legalist politicians indicates that they are the true creators of Chinese socio-political development. This fact is indeed ironic in light of Confucian political philosophy. The Legalist victory proves that the Confucian political ideal is only a utopia: strength of power is always superior to that of justice. Its efficiency in political practices also proves the inefficiency of Confucian political wisdom. Practically speaking, the progress of Legalist policy means the defeat of Confucian thought. Therefore, while Taoist challenge exists at the intellectual level, the Legalist challenge involves the historically actual exclusion of Confucian ethics from Chinese political life. No doubt, the latter is more threatening to Confucian thought than the former.
Besides being a historical challenge, the Legalist is also an intellectual challenge to the Confucian, because it has the same individualist philosophy of life as Taoism, although it chooses a different way in serving power. In distinction from the explicitly critical and implicitly defiant Confucian attitude towards power, the Legalist slavishly collaborates with or serves the powerful rulers. Legalism represents a principle of life for the sake of  power on the part of the ruler and the ruled. The working principle of Legalism is based on material egoism. Therefore, in the theory and practice of this utilitarian strand, ethical elements are reduced to the minimal. Its philosophy is related to force rather than to love.
In our discussion of Legalism, the scope is drawn more widely than what we find in history. We shall refer more to the Legalist theoretical principle than to historical measures employed by Legalist politicians. Although Legalism indicates the opposite tendency of Confucian political ethics, there is a purely technical dimension in that tendency which has been the energetic source of historical development. This is the dimension  organizing power in socio-historical life. The Legalist was the best organizer of social and psychological projects in political life. We can even say that despotic Chinese history and all totalitarian Chinese traditions were created by a Legalist political spirit and technique. In this sense, Legalism evidences more instrumental reason than does Confucian ethics. When the two intellectual traditions were combined into Confucianism by the holders of power in the Han period, China obtained an unprecedentedly great and effective power for securing its internal and external conquests.
3. The Re-Focusing of Confucian Doctrine on the Strengthening of the Ethical Will
The above two main challenges to Confucian ethics put the latter into more complicated historical and intellectual contexts. Historically, these three mutually conflicting kinds of thought formed a special dialogical situation with the result that a new Confucian type of ethical thought emerged: Mencius’ ethics. As an intellectual follower of Confucius, Mencius was faced with more concretely historical pressure than was Confucius. Confucian ethics had to encounter actual political challenge to its principles; it had to enrich and rearrange its ethical composition. Consequently, the political philosophy of Confucian thought became more relevantly oriented towards the source of political evil. Mencian-Confucian political ethics focuses on this newly focused object: political evil or the evil power of the ruler. The subjective pole of Confucian ethics is accordingly formed around individual ethical strength against the political evil of the powerful other. Mencian ethics thus stresses the valorous ethical will.
In the Mencian text, we see a strengthened political ethics of the power of evil rulers. There is an ethical confrontation between immoral power and the moral individual. The Confucian situation of choice is posited within the space of political power. Mencius more clearly articulates the object and objective at the both social and individual poles. Therefore, the two ethical poles are pragmatically strengthened. In Mencian thought, Confucius’ ethics is condensed to a mode of political ethics. Both subject and object are centralized around the politico-ethical situation: political power and the individual conscience against political power. Compared to the Confucian period, political power had become more developed and complicated, a more determinative force influencing the ethical situation. Moral evil is first political and the initial object of the ethical subject. The representative of great evil is first of all the power-holder as the ethical other rather than the subject’s own self. The ethical object as both the ethically intended and its physical carrier undergoes an “epistemological” shift of operative focus within the Confucian tradition. We see a sharpened confrontation between the ethical will of the individual and institutional power. This type of ethical confrontation is so significant that it becomes an independent strain alongside the Confucian original. The double name Confucian-Mencian doctrine then becomes the more comprehensive title for the archetype of Chinese ethics.
There have been many comparative studies of Confucian-Mencian political philosophy. There are many reasons, however, for taking a semiotic-hermeneutic rather than a historically positive approach to the problem in order to avoid historiographical semantic misunderstanding. The modern political historian Hsiao Kung-ch’üan observes, “Confucius tended to recognize the established regime; he agreed with the government of the Chou dynasty but didn’t agree with its conquering the Shang, while Mencius talked about revolution, paying no respect to the Chou court and anticipating the new king.” (Hsiao 1965, 93) There are two different layers of historical discourse: the aim and the means. Two ethical thinkers can adopt the same aim, but at once have different means. The reason for the difference about the means is connected with historical circumstances. In general, Mencius’ time was politically more dynamic and changeable than that of Confucius; and the political aspect became more ethically relevant. In Confucius’ text the political aspect still belongs more to the background than to the operative object of the Confucius’ ethics. Therefore, there is no essential difference between them in connection with Confucian political philosophy.
In distinction from the Confucian text, the ethical worth of the Mencian text has been much less understood by modern scholars. Its literary rhetoric overshadows its ethical eloquence in many ways. The present study attempts to point out its significant complementary role in the Confucian ethical system as a whole: it exhibits a subject-centered ethical pragmatic along the Confucian direction, that is, an ethical energetics. It tries to solve both theoretically and practically the pragmatic problem of the source of ethical practice in its historical context. Mencian ethical rhetoric tries to combine Confucian ethical reason with a more operative practice. The related theoretical meaning, however, can be obtained only in a negative way: there is no logical tie between theory and practice in human ethical life.[3]
Mencian ethics formed in a time when Legalist power became ever-increasingly prevalent in Chinese history until its absolute victory in 221 A.D. It is interesting to note that both Confucian and Mencian thought reached their zenith during the lasting period of Legalist despotism. We can even say that in a sense Legalism made historically possible the formation of its opposite. There is a constant tension between defiance and obedience in the mentality of the Chinese literati in their attitude towards despotic power. The power-challenging Mencian ethics then co-existed with an anti-ethical power and dominance. A multiply consistent and inconsistent relationship  came about- the object of a Chinese intellectual history which we will not elaborate here.
Three additional developments subsequent to Confucian ethics made it well established in Chinese history. Surrounded by two (intellectual and historical) challengers, Confucian ethics has stood firmly in Chinese socio-cultural history. Even when being used by the Legalist power of the more centralized despotism of the Han dynasty, Confucian ethics persisted separately in the cultural domain. Following  the Mencian readjustment, Confucian ethics was enriched through the following developments: an ethics of political good became one of political evil; the object of Confucian ethical operation was redefined; and the confrontation between the ethical individual and institutional power was sharpened. The more precise object of Confucian ethics is the Legalist complex of power, institutionalization and collectivity which became the impulsive force of Chinese history.
The three-fold relations between the three strains of thought have both an ethical and a philosophical significance. Their mutually contrasting aspects are multiply formed. The shared aspect of Confucian and Legalist thought is the political field, the common object of their respective practices. The shared aspect of Confucian and Taoist thought is the insistence on individual choice. The shared aspect of Taoist and Legalist thought is the acknowledgement of objective force and law. While the Confucian school is more coherently constituted, the Taoist and Legalist schools are more synthetically composed. The texts of the latter two schools contain more historical, intellectual and practical elements and the shaping of their texts had been more practically involved. In our discussion, the confirmation of the related intellectual history will be separately treated in order precisely to precise describe the historical material, which is noted for the confusion in its formulative process.

Part One: The Epistemological Challenge to Confucian Ethics: Taoism And Legalism

(1) The Original Dialogical Situation of Confucian Ethics
The aim of our study is to explore the intellectual structure and theoretical significance of Confucian ethical thought. The critical reading of the Confucian text is linked to different aspects of the intellectual and historical dimensions. There are two different problems in connection with our reading of the Analects. One is its theoretical significance for the modern perspective; the other is its historical influence. Our theoretical task is focused on the first, but for a methodological reason it is also related to the second. The theoretical value of the ethical thought of the Confucian text will be examined with respect to its historical impact and interaction with other intellectual sources. Its dialogue with other theoretical intellectual sources further discloses the nature and function of its own intellectual system.
Historically, the original Confucian thought or text is unique before the Ch’in-Han period. Thus, our theoretical analysis of the text conforms with historical study. Similarly, our research into the interaction of Confucian and other thought arising in the subsequent Warring-States period handles our subject in a two-fold manner, for it addresses the intellectual and historical dimensions alike. The following points belong to our study:
A: historical thought itself;
B: an historical text about thought which is said to be “A”;
C: the historical production of “B”;
D: the pre-Ch’in historical interrelation of “A” and other thought;
E: the theoretical interrelation of “B” and other texts;
F: the post-Ch’in historical interrelation of “B” and other thought and texts.
The direct objects of our study are “B” and “E,” but other aspects compose indirect objects to different degrees of interest. As a matter of fact, “A” and “D” can hardly be handled and “F” can be well treated in other types of studies. Meanwhile, we should also distinguish between two historical involvements in our reading of the historical text: the historical subject matter expressed in the text and the historical interaction surrounding the text. In our present structure-oriented study, only the former is to be considered. Because many written legends of pre-Ch’in intellectual history remain unreliable, we have to be careful in using historical material as part of the theoretical foundation of our arguments.
1. The Formation of the Post-Confucian Dialogical Situation
In discussion of the confrontation of an historical text with other texts and thought, there are two classes of interaction. One is the dialogical relationship between different texts on the purely textual plane. The arguments of different texts can be logically confronted with each other by the reader. Textual dialogue of this type can be realized in one’s mind or in a real dialogue between partners. We call the dialogical relationship a dialogical situation, stressing the intellectual exchange of different roles in the related texts. In view of the historical connections, there is indeed interaction between the author of the text and other historical thought or forces. We shall then consider the interactional relationship or mutual influence between a text and its historical circumstances. The first relationship is formed on the homogeneous plane of texts. The second is formed on the two heterogeneous planes: the textual and the socio-historical. The form of the first dialogue is verbal argument. The form of the second is the multiple connection between texts and extra-textual factors.
Confucian thought, as a well-collected text, is involved in two types of situations. In our next volume about the Confucianism of the Han Dynasty, we shall address the interactional situation of Confucian thought and its historical circumstances. In the present volume, we shall discuss the first type: the dialogical situation of Confucian thought with regard to other thought and its intellectual result. The interactional network of the Confucian text and other positively and negatively related texts covers the entirety of Chinese intellectual history. We shall limit our discussion to the pre-Ch’in texts in order to consider the original dialogical network from two perspectives. The texts chosen are historically ascribed to the pre-Ch’in period. Although we are not involved in examining the historiographical authenticity of the related texts, it is widely recognized that most so-called pre-Ch’in texts were actually formed in post-Ch’in periods. The Confucian and the alleged Pre-Ch’in texts, however, are both historically and stylistically comparable. They can form meaningful dialogical contexts with respect to their substantial, historical and stylistic aspects. On the other hand, however, the historical materials are only the source from which we form our special dialogical situations for a hermeneutic reading. Therefore, we shall only choose part of the Pre-Ch’in materials as our logically required object. In any case, there is no interest or need compelling us to discuss the entire intellectual history of the Pre-Ch’in period. Concretely, we shall pay attention only to those parts which have serious theoretical contacts with the Confucian text, neglecting the rest. Not all of pre-Ch’in intellectual history is intellectually important for us, let alone the historiographical unfoundedness of many related texts of the period. After all, our main purpose is to elucidate the theoretical and historical value of Confucian thought itself by way of a relevant dialogue in the historical and intellectual contexts especially fixed by us . Thus, we shall first pay heed to the purely theoretical result of the intertextual contacts in our ethical discussion. Second, the result is also a part of the entire historical context which is sociologically and culturally more complex. Hence, we shall also employ a mixed style in organizing our discussions, interweaving the historical and the theoretical according to a coherent strategy of reading.
2. The Principle of the Composition of Confucian Dialogical Space
The notion of dialogical space may be used to further examine the intellectual result of Confucian doctrine on two levels: first, the original debating situations contained in the Analects can be elaborated with a view to similarly oppositional and concurrent thought of other texts; second, the historical debating situations of Confucian thought can be treated with a view to the concurrent and oppositional thought of later historical stages. The dialogical space consists of both logical and historical dimensions, for the debated subject involves political problems. Historically, we shall limit our object to the end of the Chou Dynasty (221 B.C.) in order to maintain a more workable context for intellectual comparison in which social and political institutions are less actively involved. After the establishment of the Ch’in-Han despotic empires, we meet a new type of dialogical space which is historically and intellectually more complicated as well as more realistic.
In light of this principle, it is clear why we have to avoid the intellectual legends of debates during the same historical period. It is not only because we do not need these stories for our examination, but also because commonly accepted legends about “pre-Ch’in schools” are confusing and misleading. They cannot be used as reliable accounts of historical and intellectual facts. The present discussion has nothing to do with a historical or sociological study of the actual historical process of pre-Ch’in social and intellectual activities, although the thought chosen has been historically recognized as to belonging to this period and the content of the topic to be discussed is more involved in the historical dimension than our last topic. The more substantial reason for our selection also lies in the hermeneutic validity of the reading of the text for the entire Chinese historical process. The texts to be compared have historically maintained dialogical relations. The historiographical foundations of these dialogical relations appear to be due more to post-Ch’in history than to pre-Ch’in history, although historically they originated in the latter period. The involvement of the historical dimension in dialogical situations in our entire essay gradually increases following the order of the three periods of the Spring-Autumn, the Warring-States and the Ch’in-Han.
3. Reactions to Confucian Thought in the Warring-States Period
There are two kinds of relation of the Confucian to other “trends of thought” in ancient times: the historical and the logical. The two relations overlap and therefore are combined in our classification of discourse. First, there is Chinese intellectual history in connection with Confucian thought. We can generally divide this field into three periods: the original Confucian doctrine in confrontation with the contemporary thought of the Spring-Autumn period; the thought of the Confucian followers and their opponents in the Warring-States period; and that established in the centralized kingdom of the Han. The three related intellectual periods existed in historical sequence. In view of their logical relations, we shall emphasize the purely intellectual contacts of the texts without considering their historical or social involvements. In any historical stage of the 2000 years since the Han period, the above-listed three kinds of Confucian-centered dialogical situations can co-exist and interact with each other. Consequently, we can consider the problem of the comparative interpretation and mutual understanding of the three kinds of Confucian-related scholarship from the angle of readers or interpreters who organize a dialogue around the Confucian doctrine. There is an “historical encounter” of different textual and social elements, namely, those occurring in intellectual history forming different textual and interactional situations; and there is an individual dialogue between any reader or interpreter and both kinds of situation. There is also a distinction between textual situations (concerning purely the logic of textual argument and relations between texts and social elements) and a distinction between the historical stages of the related texts. All involved dialogical elements come from two heterogeneously constituted sources. In other words, the dialogical elements of Confucian ethics come from both textual and historical sources. The latter is partly derived from our understanding of the related historical processes.
In our present essay, we shall treat the dialogical situation of Confucian ethics in confrontation with its ethical rival: Taoist philosophy, its political rival: Legalist tactics, and its politico-ethical successor: Mencian political ethics. This multiply dialogical situation was first historically formed in the Warring-State period (475-221 B.C.) and intellectually continued in the subsequent periods of Chinese history. Essentially speaking, the dialogical situation of this period involves the continuity or development of the internal dialogical situation of the original Confucian text. Taoism is the theoretical development of the practical recluses portrayed in the Analects; Legalism is that of the evil government of the legendary wicked kings of the current period and remote antiquity (in reference to the political goal) and the hegemoneous political tendency of Kuan Ch’ung, the premier of the Ch’i state. Mencian thought is the development of politico-ethical practice in Confucian ethics. Concretely, we shall use four kinds of pre-Ch’in texts as representatives of Confucian thought in the dialogical situation in combination with other related historical materials.
4. The Historical Background
During this period, the feudal Chou dynasty or kingdom became more disorganized and further deteriorated. The major feudal states expanded and became independent. The Chou-emperors lost all substantial control over the states, which became almost independent countries engaged in fighting each other. In the earlier central feudal kingdom, the central state had only a limited power and the feudal states enjoyed to a large extent autonomy. During the Warring-States period, the earlier feudal autonomies expanded to almost true sovereignty with a merely nominal feudal status. In fact, the major feudal states became substantially independent regimes. The relationship between the states was more important than that of the states to the central court. The stronger states attempted to be more powerful than other states and therefore to find more effective ways to improve or reform social, political and technical conditions. In order to strengthen their power, they began to welcome the literati as officials, advisors or guests. Consequently, the social position and function of the literati were enhanced. The factor of intelligence began to play a more important role in the society and politics of the period. The older system of aristocracy based on blood heritage was extensively weakened. The emphasis on functional efficiency led to attention to the practicable capabilities of the literati. This consequence was also due to the general political and economic tendencies of the period. More complicated systems and state affairs required more capable statesmen who had to have higher education and learning. Thus, the literati had the chance to become more freely and more closely involved in governing affairs compared with the earlier Spring-Autumn period.[4] This period saw a new political field of diplomacy among the quasi-independent states, and the finance and economy of feudal states was largely strengthened as well. Each large state strove to be more hegemoneous and autocratic. The period offered more favorable conditions for designing and carrying out political projects. Much political thought was developed because of social requirements. The intellectual requirements were due to the needs of the rulers’ expansionism. As Fu Ssu-nian also points out, the appearance of the literati of the pre-Ch’in schools was due to special intellectual occupations. (Fu 1980, v. 2, 90-95) These so-called “occupations,” however, cannot be understood as economically regulated by social conditions. Instead, the social requirement financially supported by the state rulers. The richly divergent Pre-Ch’in schools of thought emerged under these special historical conditions.
5. The Period of Debate among the “Hundred Schools”
It is understandable that the dialogical situation in our discussion occurred in the Warring-State period with its remarkable political and intellectual developments. In distinction from Confucius’ era, many different strains of thought appeared and contended with each other over 200-300 years. We know of the records of these intellectual debates from several written sources such as Ssu-ma’s Records of History, Pan Ku’s the History of the Han, the Chuang-tzu and the Hsüen-tzu. The records of the alleged schools from the different sources are not very consistent, each covering different sets of school names. When we treat Han-Confucianism, we will discuss the constitution of the pre-Ch’in schools in more detail; at this point, we only need to point out that the thought of most pre-Ch’in schools concerns practical matters of political and social attitudes and tactics. There were indeed some theoretical discussions about logic, language and metaphysics, such as those described in the Mo-tzu, the Lao-tzu, the Chuang-tzu and the Mencius, but they remain fragmentary. Of the legendary schools, there are only four or five important to our ethical discussion: the Confucian, the Taoist, the Mohist and the Legalist; the last includes a special strain: the Military. As we explained before, the historical relationship of the different schools will not be explored directly by us because of the shortage of related material. Our main concern is limited to the intellectual or “logical” contact between the texts of different schools around Confucian thought. Our focus lies on the dialogue between Confucian thought and its main challengers and advocates.
There is also the problem of confirming the historical authenticity of the basic texts of the various pre-Ch’in schools. The currently available texts consist of the results of several operations in the historical production of the texts such as the following:
a) the original words of the originators of the schools transmitted through oral or written records;
b) the parts (inventions, interpretations and notes) added to the above texts by the followers of the schools during the same historical period in the name of the originators;
c) the results of rearranging the original texts of a) by the followers of the schools in the same period;
d) the inventions, interpretations and notes added to the texts of a), b) and c) by scholars during the Han period;
e) the results of the rearranging or re-editing of the texts by scholars in the Han and subsequent dynasties.
In examining the transmitted texts, we can feel the degree of their “genuineness” or “originality,” but we can hardly make a clear distinction between original and the subsequent additions. There are, however, both historiographical and academic reasons for modern scholars to differentiate between the pre-Ch’in and the post-Ch’in parts. For the same reason, we wish to keep to a minimal coherence of ideas in a textual totality called the work of one writer. Traditional historiographical examinations can help us more easily find the parts “distorted” and fabricated by subsequent scholars and separate them from the valid part of the text. Then we can make available some essential or original parts of the transmitted literature for our reading.
In light of the above, modern scholarship allow us to understand more about the constitution of the Hundred Schools, including the following.
a) The written story of the hundred Schools appeared only in the former Han in the historians Ssu-ma and Liu Hsin. The earliest record of the pre-Ch’in schools is said to be in chapter 33 of the Chuang Tzu, which has always been rumored to have appeared prior to the Ch’in-Han period. It is considered by some modern scholars, however, probably to have appeared in the Han period. (See the next chapter.) Therefore, the legendary details of intellectual history could have been only something fixed by Han scholars.
b) There are three necessary elements of the term “school”: the thought, the collective activity of a cultural heritage in a lineage of transmission and the founder of the scholarly group. In the written material of the Han, however, very few topics can be said to form a school. In fact, only historiographical records of the existence of the Confucian and Mo-tzu schools actually contain the above-named three elements. All other “schools” mentioned are either merely separate ideas or non-scholarly social groups. The Taoist school never appeared in a social form before the Han, even if the main parts of the two Taoist texts were produced before the Han period. The so-called Legalist school was only a set of traditional attitudes and methods connected with ancient political practice. There were no systematic expressions of political thought until the late Chou or early Han dynasty.
Moreover, the relation of the name of the legendary founder of a school to the activities of a group carrying his name is complicated. There can be highly heterogeneous contents linked to the name. For example, Confucius as a role in the Analects is quite different from his followers in respect to their thought and practice. In general, the professional Confucian literati and the scholarly Confucian agents are separate. The former refers to those professional people organizing social ceremonies and teachers of cultural traditions. The so-called scholarly conflicts between the Confucian school and the Mo-tzu school were mostly about practical ways and opinions connected with similar moral-political practices caused by various motives and stimulated by different situations. Such kind of debates evidently lack a theoretical or scholarly meaning. As M. Loewe holds, “...the terms ’Confucian’, ’Taoist’, or ’Legalist’...are used with reference to a changing situation and to attitudes to life that were evolving. They do not refer to defined philosophical schools. “. (D. Twirchett & M. Loewe, 1986, 653)
6. The Confucian-Centered Dialogical Situations Organized in the Present Essay
Scholarly speaking, the most serious theoretical challenge to Confucian thought comes from Taoism, which questioned the basic epistemological presuppositions and foundations of Confucian ethical practice. By contrast, Mencius continued the same line of Confucian ethical pursuit and developed it in the field of political ethics. The Mohist school was different from the Confucian mainly in its practical methods concerning socio-political matters. The dialogue or debate between it and the Confucian are epistemologically less important because socio-political practice does not play an important role in the original Confucian system. On the other hand, we shall compare the politico-philosophical problems of the Confucian and the Legalist schools in order to make explicit the politico-ethical aspect of original Confucian ethics. The Legalist challenge involves not only methodological but also axiological issues. It practically rejects the first principle “jen,” instead adopting the non-ethical Tao as the socio-political order itself.
This discussion of the dialogical situation centered around original Confucian thought in this section is only partly historiographically constructed, as explained above. First, it is almost impossible to truly reconstruct the original situation of pre-Ch’in intellectual life. Second, the probable original situation is not really related to our present requirements. We only want to inquire into the academically valid or relevant interaction of the discursive lines in the texts belonging to various schools rather than to a picture of their historical interaction. The reliability of the pre-Ch’in texts compiled in the Han will be determined by two main parameters: the historiographical coherence and basic consistency of the content. The validity of those texts in our dialogical situation is determined by their relevant parts which have actually joined in meaningful intertextual dialogue. Briefly, for our present purposes we shall only pay attention to those parts of the texts which are, both historically and theoretically and in a positive or negative way, related to important Confucian ideas. The intellectual interaction and debates between them have survived in the Chinese mentality, cultural life and academia. Even from a modern point of view, those debates and dialogues about politico-ethical ideas remain meaningful because they are interwoven with a true historical context.
The three dialogical partners chosen are also empirical and rational in nature, in a broad sense, despite the primitive metaphysical poetics of Taoism. Whether their content was fabricated by the Han scholars or organized on the basis of the pre-Han heritage, the subject matter is relevant to the pre-Ch’in-Han context. The original rational trait common to the three dialogical partners was not yet influenced by later social and intellectual developments with their religious, metaphysical and politically centralizing character. The commonly shared rational and empirical tendencies can be suitable for the effective examination of the Confucian-Mencian texts and also to make the dialogues logically intelligible today.
The intellectual and social interactions between the related thoughts or texts of the post-Ch’in historical periods were rather different from those of the pre-Ch’in period, which exists for us only at the theoretical level. The historically changeable situations of the interactional relations of thoughts are not only connected with different attitudes in the different historical periods, but also with different pragmatic combinations of the constituent elements of those texts. As a result, the same elements can have either mutually consistent or mutually contrary combinations. There were different types of the combination of “Taoist-Legalist,” “Taoist-Confucian” and “Confucian-Legalist” elements. Because the historical manifestations of the Chinese “schools” are miscellaneously constituted, their various elements can play different roles under different historical conditions. The synthetic compositions of the historical elements and the socio-academic organizational elements present a variety of possible combinations. This fact once again makes clear that our present discussion is arranged at the theoretical level, using the historical texts more logically than historically. In conclusion, as regards our textual hermeneutics concerning the historical dimension, there are three different parameters involved in our analysis:
a) the historical authenticity of the texts;
b) the socio-historical content of the texts;
c) the historical contacts and impact of the texts.
As we pointed out above, c) can hardly be confirmed; a) can be used to treat problems about the historical contacts of different thought, and b) can be used to treat the theoretical contacts of different thought. We accept the b) line with only relative attention to the a)–line. The historical dimension is mainly used as the narrative background for our theoretical reading.

(2) Taoist Ethical Nihilism
We cannot define Taoism through the central term “Tao,” which can be applied to every philosophical doctrine to represent the idea of “the general correct way” itself, for then the term becomes a verbal carrier conveying any ascribed meaning. Fung Yu-lan gives six possible meaning of the term “Tao” appearing in Chinese philosophical history: the essence of morality; truth; the genuine origin; the dynamic cosmos; the link between the implicitly ultimate (tai chi) and the explicitly illimitable (wu chi); and Heaven’s way. (Fung 1986, v. 4, 72) The possible uses of the term in Chinese culture can in fact be extended to many more intellectual contexts. The unlimited possible interpretations of the term make it function like the term “truth.” In his multi-volume history of Chinese philosophical traditions, the contemporary Neo-Confucianist philosopher T’ang Chüen-i even uses the term to represent all strains of Chinese philosophy, exposing his own radical confusion about the proper meaning and function of the term. (Cf. T’ang 1976) In fact, for him Tao is a Chinese name for truth with various metaphorical overtones. Evidently, however, we cannot use this “truth-equivalent” to describe a national philosophical tendency. Nonetheless, Tao, because of its original metaphor of “road,” can be used as a convenient semantic and poetic carrier to represent a spiritual goal in an ambiguous and freely imagined fashion. For a particular context, the term can be used in a relatively certain way, in order to maintain semantic coherence. In this regard, Taoist philosophy has its own special rhetoric, using the term to refer to transcendental or metaphysical truth in contrast to empirical ethical truth.
1. The Taoist School or Taoism
Taoism is the second largest stream of thought beside the Confucian in Chinese intellectual history. It is widely known that these two largest intellectual streams stand in a both theoretically conflicting and practically complementary relationship. The historical source of the school has remained unknown until now, despite several stories about the two legendary founders of Taoist thought. Since the Han period, it has been a spiritual or philosophical tendency appreciated by a countless number of Chinese literati. In a certain sense, we can use the term “Taoism,” instead of “the Taoist school,” to refer to related thought rather than to related people. In the first place, we should point out the historical difference between philosophical Taoism and the Taoist religion, which was established only at the end of the Han dynasty. The latter had been a long-standing native religion partly sharing a similar terminology with Taoist philosophy. Before discussing original Taoism, however, we should enumerate several phenomena related to Taoism in order to understand the entire spectrum relating to this term “tao-chia” (Tao-family).
There is a great heterogeneity of the historical term “Taoist-sect” or “Taoist Family” in Chinese history with respect to its scholarly, intellectual, social and political compositions. First, the word or character “Tao” can be taken as a general concept of the principle, law, objective or way adopted by any thought. Even in the different sects of Taoist philosophy and Taoist religion, the word “Taoism” can have different semantic focuses and associative implications linked with the different status of the items referred to such as the text, the person, the school, the group, the philosophy and the religion. In general, it can be related to a variety of phenomena:
a) Its relations to the two main Taoist philosophers, Lao-tzu and Chuang-tzu.
b) Its relations to the Taoist religion in general.
c) Its relations to alchemical religious practice.
d) Its relation to the texts of the Book of Changes and other Yin-Yang doctrines.
e) Many relations to political affairs: political and military tactics; and rebellious peasant uprisings.
f) contribution to Neo-Confucianist metaphysics.
g) its profound influence on a philosophy of life involving the tradition of Chinese literature and arts.
The multiple connections of Taoism with different cultural and social phenomena indicate its compositional heterogeneity. The unity and diversity of the generic name can be used in organizing many different activities in history; it is only a verbal operator employed in various contexts which are more practically than theoretically associated with each other. Concerning the compositional heterogeneity of the Taoist texts, we should make a distinction between two things. First, there is an intellectual heterogeneity expressed in the texts. For example, the text of the Lao-tzu consists of metaphysical and tactical parts. There is also the heterogeneity owing to the compilation of the text as a book. For example, the Chuang-tzu, compared with the more self-consistent text of the Lao-tzu, consists of two parts; the first part, namely, the first seven chapters, is identifiable by its stylistic coherence; and the second part has evidently been added by followers. Due to the compiling process the disorderly text is liable to cause irrational and inconsistent effects in reading. The ancients did not need to be cautious about the textually constitutive matter. The compositional heterogeneity of the two Taoist texts partly explains their different combinations with other intellectual trends such as Taoist religion, Legalist tactics and Confucianist philosophy.
In our discussion of Taoist texts, we shall select those more relevantly and effectively related to the dialogical situations of Taoist philosophy and Confucian ethics. This arrangement is not only for the sake of organizing our present discussion, but also for making our discussion more pertinent for the general human ethical situation. On the other hand, however, historical considerations in organizing our dialogical situation still play an active role: the dialogue realized in history can exhibit the historical utility of classical Chinese ethics. The suitable historical reference is particularly important for our empirical-positivist ethical strategy.
2. Philosophical Taoism
It has been widely presupposed that Taoist philosophy arose during the Warring-State period, with Lao-tzu and Chuang-tzu being the two legendary authors. The other secondary Taoist figures were legendary figures such as Lie-tzu, Shen-tzu and others. The establishment of Taoism was first due to the fact that there are two major Taoist classical texts by Lao-tzu and Chuang-thu. Concerning the authenticity and identity of the two texts, we meet similar questions as with the Analects. The Tao-Te-King (the Tao-Classic) or the Lao-tzu, consisting of about 5000 sentences by Lao-tzu, has been acknowledged to be a genuine pre-Ch’in ancient text. In addition to its historiographical support, it maintains an obviously coherent content with respect to its basic idea, format and style.[5] Its topics range from the metaphysical and life-philosophical to socio-political tactics.
In brief, it is a book about primitive metaphysics and socio-political tactics expressed in the form of poetical aphorisms. By contrast, the Chuang-tzu is a miscellaneous selection of articles evidently written by various people in different times under the name of this legendary philosophical poet. Its topics range from the life-philosophical to the ethico-epistemological. This famous classic has been historiographically shown to be an anthology or a series of “books” by many different authors living in a span of over several hundred years ranging from the late Warring-States to the late Han. [6]
Concerning the identity of the two authors, it is absolutely impossible to ascertain whether Lao-tzu and Chuang-tzu were two individuals or merely several authors with two pen-names. All historical legends about them are either untrustworthy or mere fabrications. In our discussion, problems of authorship can be safely excluded. The earliest possible completion of the editing of the essential part of the Chuang-tzu and of the Tao-te-king is the late Warring-State Period (i.e., immediately before 221 B. C.). It is important to note, however, that the two texts became popular only after the Han period. In the Warring-State and earlier Han periods, the major influence of the Tao-Te-King was manifested mainly in Yang-chu’s egoist philosophy of life and in that part of Legalism which is connected with tactical political wisdom. Chuang-tzu is even more rarely mentioned in other pre-Ch’in texts. The text certainly became influential only in the post-Han age, despite its possible pre-Ch’in origin. Furthermore, as representing a metaphysical and life-philosophical school, both texts truly exercised their profound influence only in the Sixth Dynasty (220-550 A. D.) after the Han, when a nihilist spirit, under the influence of the initial intrusion of Indian Buddhism, had become widely fashionable. Only following upon the metaphysical annotations and interpretations of the two classics made by the Taoist philosopher Wang Pi was the thought of Lao-tzu and Chuang-tzu combined in the same philosophical school.
Although we will not focus on the historical development of the Confucian-Taoist dialogue, it can help explain the theoretical interaction of the two strains of thought. Therefore, our treatment of the historical interaction of Taoist and Confucian thought is related more to the facts emerging after than those preceding the Ch’in age. The Taoist theoretical challenge to Confucian thought could only be raised when the theoretical interest first arose in China in the Wei-Chin period (220-420 A.D.). Over the subsequent 2000 years, the interaction of these two major trends of thought commonly dominated the development of Chinese intellectual history.
Concerning the dialogical relation of Taoist philosophy to Confucian thought, there are several different aspects to be distinguished: the historical origins of the two schools; the historical periods of the active dialogue between the two schools; the theoretical confrontation of the texts of the two schools of thought: the theoretically and socially different relations of the Lao-tzu and the Chuang-tzu to the Confucian. In general, the theoretical and the historical connections of the two strains of thought should be separately treated. Concerning Taoism, we are limited to the theoretical field determined by the effective parts of the two main Taoist texts. This means a historically formed book can be divided into several parts, each of which can be taken in different historical or intellectual combinations. Despite the compositional heterogeneity of the two Taoist books, we can still identify the general traits of the “Taoist philosophical school.” We shall first present the basic viewpoints on the related parts of the two Taoist philosophical texts.
3. The Content of the General Term “Tao”
In the Analects , we find that the use of term “Tao” implies an ethically pragmatic and political meaning rather than a philosophical meaning. Semantically, it contains a more concrete sense such as, literally, the physical road or path towards the correct destination or, metaphorically, the right way towards the correct political objective. In the Taoist texts, the term is used cosmologically and ontologically. The Tao is taken as a cosmological-metaphysical concept (the Lao-tzu, 1, 21, 27) or as an ontologico-poetical concept (the Chung-Tzu, 2 / 25, 2 / 37, 3 / 5).[7]
The degree of generalization and abstraction of the term evidently increased in pre-Ch’in literature, but these meanings still mostly involve empirical content. In general, Tao means the essence, objective, rule or path of the cosmological, ontological and mythical changes or evolution, but always maintaining its basic concrete imagery: road. In this context, the imaginary character functions as a first-rank generic term in connection with nature and the cosmos, in contrast to the Confucian general term “jen,” which concerns community and humanity. “Tao” has the following main senses originally given by the Lao-tzu:.
– The highest truth as the origin, course and way of the cosmos, nature, the world and things.
”All prevailing is the Great Tao....All things depend on it for their production,...not one refusing obedience to it.”(Legge, 1959, 124) “...having no name, it is the originator of heaven and earth;....having a name, it is the Mother of all things.” (ibid., 95)
”There was something undefined and complete, coming into existence before Heaven and Earth....I do not know its name, and I give it the designation of the Tao.”(ibid., 115)
”All things are produced by the Tao, and nourished by its outflowing operation.” (141)
“The Tao produced One; One produced Two; Two produced Three; Three produced All things.” (133)
– The correct way of human beings and society.
“When the Great Tao ceased to be observed, benevolence and righteousness came into vogue.” (109)
“Scholars of the highest class, when they hear about the Tao, earnestly carry it out into practice.” (132)
”Let the kingdom be governed according to the Tao....” (152)
– The principle and way of the wisdom of Taoist choice.
”The Tao in its regular course does nothing, and so there is nothing which it does not do.” (127)
”The highest excellence is like water. The excellence of water appears in its benefiting all things, and in its occupying...the low place which all men dislike. Hence its way is near to the Tao.” (100)
From an epistemological viewpoint, the general concept “Tao” of Taoism is objective or nature-objective, while the general concept “jen” of the Confucian as a Confucian Tao is humanist or interpersonal. In other words, the naturalist Tao is more fundamental than the humanitarian jen; or the Taoist cosmological term “virtue of Tao” (Tao-te) is truer or higher than Jen morality.
4. Philosophical Inclinations of Taoism
Generally speaking, the Taoist theoretical attacks on the Confucian either present opposite statements or point out mistakes or unfounded sayings in the Confucian text. On the whole, the Confucian affirmations and the Taoist negations with reference to morality are both intuitive and direct presentations of basic ethical principles. Therefore, the access to the positive Confucian statements is the same as the access to the negative Taoist statements. The obvious direct confrontation between the two systems of moral statements can lead us to original conflicts rooted in human ethical practice. We call these conflicts epistemological because they are about the basic reasons of making ethical choices. In fact, there is a systematic confrontation of the Confucian and Taoist ethical positions.
We shall first summarize the main positions of Taoism in its negation of Confucian ethics and then enumerate the basic Taoist challenges to Confucian ethics.
a) It is said that nature is prior to and more important than society. We see here the confusion of the principles of the two fields or the replacement of the one with the other. Concerning the basic life-choice, the natural principle and the ethical principle are put on the same level for balancing, with the presupposition that society is included in nature or that humanity is part of the cosmos;
b) There is a negation of the existence of ethical values and a replacement of the ethical with the natural as well as with utilitarian principles of choice;
c) Personal attention is directed to a natural “mechanism” rather than to the ethical ideal so that there is a replacement of ethical effort with that of following the tendencies of both natural and human power;
d) There is a replacement of active, spontaneous choice directed towards the ideal with passive, reactive choice directed towards the real, so that objectivity is more determinative than subjectivity.
e) There is a belief in human intelligence as a power for improving human morality.
1) Nature vs. Society
In both Taoist texts, nature, Heaven and the cosmos outside the human world are separately and independently considered the more important existential spheres. The human world is part of the natural world. The law of the former is also part of the law of the latter. Consequently, the significance of human community is decreased and politico-ethical problems lose their earlier importance as in the Confucian text. Human life is supposed to be arranged in wise conformity with the regularly changing ways of nature. The same attitude is also expressed in daily and political affairs. In contrast to artificially conscious Confucian efforts, the Taoist takes a “natural” manner in handling political matters, thinking that there also exists a “natural way” of human affairs. People should follow this way or rule in order that human affairs might develop “naturally.” Both natural and human matters are under the sway of the general Tao. There are two different meaning of “natural attitude.” One involves the direction of life, the other the way to deal with human affairs. While Lau-tzu addresses more the latter, Chuang-Tzu takes up more the former. In general, a human being is supposed to adopt a natural attitude towards the goal and means in his philosophy of life.
2) The Ontological Principle: Non-Being
The philosophical center of Taoism is the ontology which is completely lacking in Confucian thought, so that the ethics of the latter contrasts with the philosophy of the former. If jen as an ethical concept was first invented by Confucius, wu (non-being) as a philosophical concept was first invented by Lao-tzu and Chuang-tzu. For Lao-tzu, “wu” (nothing) is a cosmological notion, the origin of being. “All things under heaven sprang from It as existing; that existence sprang from It as non-existent.” (132) Not an ontological term, “wu” for him is a substantial item conceived as the unnamed source of existence or as the functional unit of daily life. “Clay is fashioned into vessels; but it is on their empty hollowness that their use depends.” (103) For Chuang-tzu, “wu” (non-being) and “hsü” (empty) are ontological notions grasped as a mode of existence in contrast with being or substance. Its images are air, spirit, freedom, valley, quiet, non-action and sky, which are “soft” rather than “hard” forms of existence. Chuang-tzu uses the images “empty” and “air” much more than “non-being” or “nothing.” More relatively than causally used, “hsü” means the pair “empty-full.” “When the stream is dried, the valley is empty; when the mound is levelled, the deep pool is filled up.” (332) In a metaphorical sense, what is “empty” can be described as spirit and freedom. “Where is the Tao, there is freedom from all pre-occupation; such a freedom is the fasting of the mind.” (257) Emptiness or vacancy can be described ontologically as the highest mode of existence. “The perfect men of old...rambled in the vacancy of Untroubled Ease, found their food in the fields of Indifference....” (404)
Despite a lack of systematic elaboration of the theory of being and non-being, this principle amounts to an ontological deconstruction of the Confucian ethical foundation. The Taoist uses nature in place of society and Tao in place of jen in order to relativize and belittle the latter. As a result, many ethical concepts are weakened, as indicated above. When Lao-tzu further uses non-being to confront being, he makes an important initial ontological division in his genealogical reasoning. Non-being is the origin of being and therefore closer to the Tao than is being. The Tao as the utmost truth and non-being as the opposite of being belong to another ontological sphere.
3). Natural Non-Ethics vs. Social Ethics: Death and Life
It is Confucius who limits the rational scope of human concerns about the human world. This implies a double opposition: society against nature and this life against that after death. Mundane existence becomes the only valid scope of human meditation and practice. Thus, for Confucius the priority of life before death is established once and for all from the start. Only the living world of human affairs is the valid scope of human activity; and death is only the end or the limit of the valid operational scope or process. Death is not an object of Confucian meditation. For the Taoist, however, despite the same irreligious tendency, death has the same importance or meaning as does life. Consequently death, or the confrontation of life and death, becomes the object of the Taoist meditation. In a sense, death looks more like a part of nature which cannot be treated by the human mind. The Confucian reflective scope is expanded and thus weakened by the Taoist. Consequently, the meaning implied in mundane objects becomes ambiguous and uncertain. The ethical imperatives related to this life are weakened by this naturalist position.
    In ancient times, the theme of life after death was meaningful because of prevalent religious beliefs. Confucius dispelled or parenthesized the concepts of life after death. Without referring to the religious traditions, the skeptical relativist position of Chuang-tzu’s philosophy of life put humans once more on the borderline of life and death. The demarcation between the exterior and the interior ranges from “the human world - the natural world” to “the living world – the world after death,” although the Chuang-tzu does not imagine the possible world after death but meaning of the end of life. An immediate Taoist conclusion is of the meaninglessness of life because of its transient status. Chuang-tzu says, “The mushroom of a morning does not know what takes place between the beginning and end of a month; the short-lived cicada does not know what takes place between the spring and autumn.” (Legge 1959, 214) The limitedness and transience of human life lead to the logical unrealibility of rational choice within the world. The empirical grounds of Confucian ethical reasoning seem to be seriously challenged. This challenge, like the last one, however, only indicates the relativity and the conditional character of Confucian rhetoric, proving that the efficacy of Confucian ethics is based on the original presupposition of the firm ground of this life. Confucian ethics is based on an operational rationality within the chosen scope rather than on any scope beyond life. Despite the serious challenge to the genuineness of life, the atheist Taoist does not elaborate any theory about the world after death, but only uses the natural concept of death to relativize the meaning of life. The choice of the Taoist direction logically destroys the ethical significance attached to this life. A natural result of this outlook could be a decadent, hedonist or hermetic way of life, such as many ancient Chinese artists and poets pursued. Because of their shared empiricism, these different attitudes towards death, which itself remains within this world, reflect different attitudes towards life. Therefore, for Chuang-tzu, death is a concept which marks not the crossing between the worldly and supernatural realms, but rather that between the social and natural world.

(3) The Taoist Challenge to the Epistemology of Confucian Ethics
Intellectually speaking, the first important rival Confucian thought met was Taoism, for the latter purposely tried, in an intuitive way, to challenge, deconstruct and destroy the theoretical foundations and presuppositions of Confucian ethical reasoning. Theoretically, the two strains of thought are in contradiction and opposition, while, ironically enough, they are practically complementary to each other in several aspects of Chinese life. Therefore, either positively or negatively the two greatest trends of thought have been most closely tied and in interaction with each other throughout Chinese history. Being a typical philosophy of life, however, most topics of the Chuang-tzu are directly or indirectly organized around Confucian topics. The Taoist texts, especially the Chuang-tzu, were originally designed in terms of an epistemological challenge to Confucian ethics and practice, or to the traditional ethical dogmas advocated by the Confucian school. The debates between these two original strains of thought with regard to ethical problems is intuitively and metaphorically presented. The debate is indirectly (as in the Lao-tzu) or directly (as in the Chung-Tzu) represented by the one-sided attacks of the Taoist on the Confucian, which historically preceded the it.
In a strict sense, we hold that Taoism is a non-ethics; in a broad sense, We distinguish between Taoist higher and Confucian lower “ethics.” Let us first quote several of Chuang-tzu’s sentences in order to indicate this tendency. In contrast to Confucius’ jen-man, Chuang-tzu speaks of “the true-man” who follows the way of Heaven. He has no mind to resist the Tao and makes no attempt to assist the Heavenly. (Legge, 286) The Tao of Heaven or nature is the highest principle in existence, higher even than that of society. Lao-tzu frequently contrasts the Heavenly Tao with the social jen, hinting that there is no causal link between the two. “Heaven and earth do not act from any wish to be benevolent; they deal with all things as the dogs of grass are dealt with.” (98)
1. Axiological Negation: Anti-Confucian Value (Jen)
The first principle of the Confucian system is jen, an ethical notion based on humanity. Human and ethical affairs become the rationally chosen scope of human existence, as the earlier superhuman religious forces of either personalized gods or pan-religious entities like “Heaven” are left behind. The function of Confucian humanist ethics is based on the inner spiritual mechanism of humanity. Through both the cosmological and ontological senses of Tao, the Taoist attempts to expand the rational horizon of mankind to a non-human scope in order to deconstruct the reliability or foundation of the basic ethical principles of mankind. As we explained in the first section, the theoretical foundation of Confucian ethical principles, especially jen, is first due to the artificial limitation of reasoning to the human world. The Taoist design in the ethical debate is directed to this presupposition of Confucian ethical reasoning. Philosophically speaking, the naturalist Taoist strategy is more relevant and effective in comparison with the humanist Confucian doctrine. Practically speaking, the Taoist philosophy of life became a permanent questioning or a pragmatic balance to Confucian ethical praxis in Chinese social and intellectual history. The point is that man naturally can or has a right to choose any realm of existence as the working field of his meditation and practice.
1) Negation of the Binary Differentiation between Good and Evil or between Right and Wrong
Ethically speaking, this is the most important and relevant principle of Taoism with respect to ethics. It makes both Lao-tzu and Chuang-tzu stand on the opposite side of Confucian ethics. While Lao-tzu is more concerned with problems of utilitarian speculation, Chuang-tzu is more theoretical in challenging the meaning and reason of various kinds of ethical distinction. The epistemological negation of ethical differentiation constitutes the most serious challenge to the theoretical foundation of Confucian ethics. For the naturalist position, no axiological selection can be reasonably or solidly founded. The negation of moral axiological distinctions leads to the negation of moral judgement about right and wrong. This amounts to the radical destruction of human ethical consciousness and designs.
For both figures, the objective Tao or the utmost laws dominate nature and society alike. Therefore, Taoism is a naturalism opposed to Confucian humanist voluntarianism. Both Taoist masters share an ethical relativism. The Tao can reject the mistake of moral distinction. Chuang Tzu asserts, “Why then should benevolence and righteousness be employed as connecting, or as glue and varnish, strings and bands, is a deception practised upon the world.” (320) Frequently he makes the Taoist or Heavenly virtues contrast with human virtue so as to deny the justification of any morality.
The Taoist deconstruction of the Confucian or any ethical dogma lies in its complete negation of the differentiation between good and evil or right and wrong in general. First, it is another relativization of ethical values; second, it is a denial of the necessity of moral judgements. All ethical practice lies in moral valuation and establishing ethical criteria. The Taoist rejection of the basic binary differentiation amounts to the denial of ethical values as such. Of course, this is the natural result of its negation of the first Confucian principle of jen. It should be pointed out, however, that the Taoist negation is more practical than theoretical in its anti-ethical discourse. The reasoning which it employs is not logical but rather metaphorical, merely stating the position without appealing to argumentation, as we read in the Chuang-tzu. The apparent disagreements are based on the simplistic principle that opposites are essentially the same or united by Tao; similarly, the dyadic right and wrong are levelled or united. Consequently, the opposition of Confucian right and wrong can also be deconstructed. If the ethical principle can be rejected in this way, the negation of many oppositions of concrete rights and wrongs is made through disclosing the false and hypocritical behavior of the contemporary Confucian moral agents. For example, the Confucian Jen-man attains moral achievement through depreciating others (4/63-64). The jen-man was called by the Taoist the person merely searching for his own fame (8/146). This kind of criticism, however, refers to the practical shortcomings of the historical Confucian agents rather than to Confucian theory itself.
In addition to the relativist principle of the Chuang-tzu, and on the basis of the Lao-tzu, Lao-tzu’s naturalism bluntly points out the naturalist fact that there has never existed in the cosmos anything called jen; all beings are treated cruelly by and in nature (the Lao-tzu, chapter 5). Lao-tzu’s exposition confirms that the Confucian ethical term jen does not exist at the natural level. In modern terms, it belongs to the axiological plane alone. Therefore, the Taoist in fact helps to limit the valid scope of the Confucian discourse rather than disprove it. On the other hand, after destroying the absolute foundation of the Confucian ethical principle, Lao-tzu does not give up his own moral concerns. What he theoretically denies with respect to Confucian ethics, he treats in other “quasi-ethical” ways. “When the Great Tao ceased to be observed, benevolence and righteousness came into vogue....” (Legge, 109) Essentially, he only indicates the inefficiency and hypocrisy of conventional ethics. Of course, the ethical aspect of the Lao-tzu is secondary to the grand Tao, which is said to be super-ethical.
Chuang Tzu’s criticism of Confucian thought has a different focus. Despite his mere metaphorical argumentation, Chuang Tzu effectively undermines the trustworthiness of Confucian ethical criteria and the reliability and sincerity of Confucian moral agents. The effect of the Taoist criticism does not lie in its own logical force, but instead in the inner weakness of Confucian ethics itself. It only uses rhetoric to highlight its built-in ethical vulnerability. The Taoist universal relativism easily includes Confucian ethical statements in the same relativist scope and thus makes them less applicable.
2) The Object of Practice: Self-Love vs. Love of Others
In contrast to the Confucian altruist, the Taoist maintains the same naturalist self-interest in his philosophy of life. The natural Tao or objective rules will arrange everything, including human life, fairly and justly without any necessity of artificial arrangement. The most substantial and meaningful concerns in life are interpreted as one’s self-interest instead of altruism. A self-loving person is said to be a “genuine” man clinging to the true nature of the Tao. A genuine Taoist first searches for his own benefit rather than for benefiting others. This expresses a basic conceptual confusion between selfish balance and morally fair consideration. Even in their language, “good” still semantically covers the meaning of “the morally more desirable.” Hence, we read: “If we could renounce our benevolence and discard our righteousness, the people would again become filial and kindly.” (110) “...the sage is always skilful at saving men, and so he does not cast away any man” (118) Such ambiguous attitudes could be morally negative, however, for they hint at a deep concern with human morality in a non-ethical way. Without attacking the Confucian objective of benefiting others, the Taoist seems to be more opposed to the Confucian way of attaining the objective: the standards of benevolence and righteousness. In any case, the Taoist principle of the philosophy of life lies mainly in excluding the Confucian insistence with its imperative of self-devotion for super-individual morality. By contrast, Taoism invents a philosophically more radical term, “Tao-virtue,” to replace Confucian human virtue in order to realize a “deconstruction” of the categorical quality of human morality itself. Taoist moral egoism excludes the efficiency of Confucian moral altruism. While Lao-tzu speaks in an a personal tone, as the Tao itself speaks, Chuang-tzu is intellectually and emotionally more individualist and therefore more involved in the ethical problem of individual choice. Hence, we read: “The sagely man does not put himself with worldly affairs. He does not put himself in the way of what is profitable, nor try to avoid what is hurtful; he has no pleasure in seeking....” (241) “Quiet acquiescence in what happens at its proper time, and quietly submitting to its ceasing afford no occasion for grief or for joy.”(249)
Both literally and substantially, Confucian jen is a principle of love of others, without which Confucian ethics cannot exist. For Confucius, morality is a problem of mutual love. To the contrary, the Taoist stresses both substantially and rhetorically the original significance of self-love. More precisely, one should first concern with oneself instead of with others. This principle, however, is based more on amoral rather than anti-moral conditions. The Taoist is more interested in finding a reason to get rid of moral commitment than to enjoy himself at the expense of others. First, a Taoist who believes in the great change in nature should not be overconfident of his capacity to take care of others. While for Chuang-tzu this is more problem of the philosophy of life, for Lao-tzu this is also a cosmological problem. According to Lao-tzu, ethical life is obviously part of the cosmos. The cosmological Tao dominates everything, including the ethical. If this is so, an individual has no reason to worry about others. The Taoist principle of self-love and selfishness involves both life-philosophical and socio-political aspects. Pragmatically speaking, renouncing an active love for others follows from renouncing the active ethical choice. On the other hand, however, a practical result of this theory is the truly selfish political philosophy of the Yang-Chu type of Taoism, especially in connection with interpersonal problems. In distinction from the radical egoism of the Yang-Chu school, the Taoist’s challenge to Confucian ethics is more directed towards the epistemological and methodological justification of the latter.
2. Pragmatic Negation: No-Action or Anti-Valor (yung)
Epistemologically, the first challenge of Taoist philosophy to Confucian doctrine is expressed in its advocacy of the idea of the immutability and irreversibility of the natural and human world, which exists or moves by itself according to its objective origin and laws and the Tao. In the original confrontation between the objective Tao and the subjective self, the former dominates the latter. The individual can only recognize and obey the Tao without being able to change it through his own mind or will. Lao-tzu says, “All things alike go through their processes of activity, and then we see them return to their original state.” (chapter 16) “To know that unchanging rule is to be intelligent” (ibid.) “Even Heaven-and-Earth cannot make such violent things last long; How much truer is it of the rash endeavors of men? Hence, he who cultivates the Tao is one with the Tao.” (chapter 23). Whether natural or human, all things are controlled by the same force called Tao. “Man follows the ways of the Earth, The Earth follows the ways of Heaven, Heaven follows the ways of Tao, Tao follows its own ways.” (chapter 26) The quite universal argumentation of Taoism is logically based on the absolute objectivity of the world over against man as a whole and as an individual. Human beings are part of the cosmos; the individual is also an element of the natural world. The wisdom of human being lies in knowing these relations and spontaneously following the natural laws called Tao. “Silent and boundless, standing alone without change, yet pervading all without fail, it may be regarded as the Mother of the world.” (chapter 25) The destruction of the mechanism of the individual will itself is the most basic attack on the epistemological foundation of the potentiality of the ethical practices of the self.
1) Objective Nature vs. Subjective Ego
Individual spontaneity and conscious effort in the social activities are entirely denied. Humans cannot and should not change their fortune only by themselves; instead, they should follow the objective natural rules. Both Taoist thinkers maintain a systematically disengaged, noncommittal and distanced policy towards the human world, holding a non-calculating and non-premeditated attitude towards human affairs. The principle of non-action does not mean ceasing all activity in life, but rather acting passively according to objective natural rules and needs. The apparent passivity implies an essential activity: a deeper understanding and treatment of the conditions of human life.
2) No-Action and Non-Action
The initial Confucian attitude towards human life is one of active engagement in behavioral choice in both the private and the social spheres. This attitude contains two related ethical judgements on different levels: the axiological and the pragmatic. There is a first judgement about the ethically directed attention and second one about the directed behavioral reaction. With this remarkable attitude, the Confucian differs from the genuine hermits who are criticized by Confucius as weak-hearted people choosing to “live with the birds and animals in the mountains,” that is, choosing a life void of social obligation. The Taoist advocates the primitive attitude of the latter through the elaborate philosophy of Tao. The epistemological border or limiting concepts of Confucian ethics are the objects of Taoist argumentation. Both Lao-tzu and Chuang-tzu raise the unprecedented general principle of non-action or no-action (wu-wei) for guiding personal, social and political life. Accordingly, political initiative, social rites and personal efforts are systematically criticized. The intelligent capability of the Confucian is also rejected because of its usefulness as a tool for voluntary action (you-wei). All such positions are due to the general Taoist principle of getting rid of social obligations of all kinds. These are contrary to the essence of Tao, which is embodied in the changing law of nature or cosmos. As part of nature, man should obey the same rules as all other parts of nature. Man and nature are unified in the whole. If this is so, man has no right to create a separate way of existence with the nature. Therefore, what man should do in the world is to follow the one way of natural change in the cosmos. The following of the Tao is interpreted as passive reaction or “non-action.” In the term “non-action,” the seme “action” means voluntary, artificial, intelligent and actively chosen movement. The point of Wu-wei lies in a basic contradiction of behavioral aesthetics between the passive reaction to unconscious objective rules and voluntary action according to conscious subjective criteria.
It is obvious that the point of the principle of non-action lies more in the directedness of life and general strategy than in concrete practice. The Confucian and the Taoist contradict each other at the level of general attitude and style. The principle of non-action can in concrete cases be interpreted and carried out in various ways. Chuang-tzu and Lao-tzu have different focuses for using this principle. Chuang employs it more as an attitude and style of life, but Lao-tzu employs it more in the fields of political and social tactic. It is Chuang-Tzu who expanded non-action from the concrete field to the general and therefore struck a strong blow against the epistemological foundation of Confucian ethical pragmatics. What Chuang-Tzu really did to Confucian thought is, however, to point out the intuitive status of the basic Confucian presuppositions. This returns us to the original problematic ambiguity of human ethical practice. Once again, they disprove nothing, merely repeating the basic dilemma of Confucian ethics as well as human life as such. Considering the fact that Confucian ethics is an aesthetic pragmatics and Taoist philosophy is an aesthetic poetics, both strains of thought are contradictory at the same level of either realm. The contradiction disappears, however, when they work at the respective levels.
For Lao-tzu, “non-action” is a term directed against both moral principles and conscious effort. “The Tao in its regular course does nothing and so there is nothing which it does not do.” (127) Non-action, however, is a special action which can be more effective. “I know thereby what advantage belongs to doing nothing.”
Similarly, Chuang-tzu says, “...the superior man, who feels himself constrained to engage in the administration of the world, will find it his best way to do nothing.” (341) In distinction from the main thought of Chuang-tzu expressed in the former seven chapters, this discussion of the link of the principle of non-action with the art of governing further indicates that non-action or doing-nothing is primarily the art of acting or doing everything rather than really doing nothing.
Second, “non-action” is about doing nothing which is socially or politically moral. The only reasonable desire is to follow the natural rather than to create the social. Chuang-tzu says, “There is nothing so level as the surface of a pool of still water. It may serve as an example of what I mean. All within its circuit is preserved in peace, and there comes to it no agitation from without. Virtuous efficacy is the perfect cultivation of the harmony of the nature.” (280) Moral matters are also arranged by Heaven rather than by human being. “The sagely man lays no plans....Since he receives his heavenly food from Heaven, what need has he for anything of man’s devising?” (282); “he does not by his likings and dislikings do any inward harm to his body; he always pursues his course without effort, and does not try to increase his store of life....The Tao gives him his personal appearance; Heaven gives him his bodily form.” (283) “Death and life are ordained, just as we have the constant succession of night and day; in both cases from Heaven. Men have no power to do anything in reference to them.” (289) “And that creatures cannot overcome Heaven is a long-acknowledged fact: why should I hate my condition?” (296-7) This is a philosophical principle for giving up any action in human affairs.
3) The Suppression of the Spontaneity of the Ethical Will
As a philosophy of life, Confucian thought stresses strength, boldness, energy, steadfastness, ambition, self-confidence and a strong will to choose. Both Taoist masters adopt opposite attitudes and style, stressing self-deprecating, humble, tactical cowardliness and the lack of ambition. Chuang-tzu’s rationale lies mainly in his ontological belief in the great change and in the circle of nature, including life and death; Lao-tzu’s rationale lies additionally in interpersonal and political tactics. The Taoist principle of self-deprecation works at two levels: the life-philosophical and the political. The former leads to a non-ethical or non-political way of life; the latter leads to the choice of strategy, advising patience. At both levels it opposes the Confucian principle, which emphasizes wilful activity at both levels. Of course, the result is logically due to the above-named principles. Thus, Taoist ethical nihilism substantially and stylistically contrasts with the Confucian ethical psychology of will.
3. Intellectual Negation: Anti-Wisdom (chih)
Following the natural rules and giving up artificial efforts lead to the notion of the uselessness of intelligence. The traditional model of the complete man - the ethical sage - fully capable of knowledge of human affairs is rejected. The image of the wise scholar seeking knowledge is negated. Knowledge belongs to human effort, hinting at the human possibility of managing something without relying on the natural arrangement of Tao. There is a difference between knowledge and wisdom. The Taoist must maintain a transcendental wisdom about the world and life. Concerning knowledge as instrumental intelligence, Chuang-tzu always neglects it, but Lao-tzu, despite his apparent negation of it, adopts a more effective knowledge of human competition and struggle.
Chuang-tzu first denies the possibility of knowing human morality. “As I look at the matter, the first principles of benevolence and righteousness and the paths of approval and disapproval are inextricably mixed and confused together; how is it possible that I should know how to discriminate among them?” (240) “How do I know that the love of life is not a delusion? and that the dislike of death is not like a young person’s losing his way, and not knowing that he is really going home?” (242) “Do you not know the fate of the praying mantis? It angrily stretches out its arms to arrest the progress of the carriage, unconscious of its inability for such a task, but showing how much it thinks of its own power....Be on your guard; be careful: If you cherish a boastful confidence in your own excellence, and place yourself in collision with him, you are likely to incur the fate of the mantis.” (264)
As the founder of tactical wisdom in China, Lao-Tzu promotes an indirect, non-moral knowledge for fighting others. We shall talk about this further in the chapter about Legalism. Lao-tzu says, “If we could renounce our sageness and discard our wisdom, it would be better for the people a hundredfold....When we renounce learning we have no troubles.” (110) Of course, this is not true for him. The same Lao-tzu says, “Ordinary men look bright and intelligent, while I alone seem to be benighted. They look full of discrimination, while I alone am dull and confused.” (111) “When one is about to take an inspiration, he is sure to make a previous expiration; when he is going to weaken another, he will first strengthen him; when he is going to overthrow another, he will first have raised him up....” (126) This is all about playing tricks for the sake of benefiting oneself. Therefore, he is frequently called by the Confucian the source of deception and trickery.
It is a logical result of the above-quoted Taoist principles that the genuine man should get rid of social restraints of all kinds and flee to Nature, following a naturalist way and style of life and manners in relation to both the natural and social world as well as human nature itself. With different motives but with the same intellectual tendency against human efforts towards social moral reform, both Taoist masters do not believe in the efficacy of conscious human moral construction. The social order is maintained naturally and cannot be destroyed or improved by conscious human efforts. The social order itself is part of the general Tao.
The Taoist’s rejection of intelligence is also contrary to the Confucian way of life, which characteristically stresses human wisdom or rationality. For Confucius, ethical practice is based on knowledge which can only be gained through study. Therefore, Confucian ethical practice is first a process of self-conscious study. What Confucius taught to his students is the intelligence of ethical practice. What the Taoist opposes in the human sphere is the educational system established by Confucius. The negation of the Confucian system of learning, especially the Confucian doctrine of the li-system, is the negation of the Confucian ethical principle. Because of this basic tendency to suppress intelligence in Taoist thought, we can in no way say that the original Taoist masters were the fathers of the Chinese traditional sciences merely because of their attention to nature rather than to society.
With a generally shared practicable character, the seme “way” (Tao) can be embodied in different realms. The Taoist Tao refers to a non-and super-ethical direction other than the conventional ethical one. The Confucian world is doubly transcended towards both the non-human and non-being. The artificial Confucian limitation of the relevant horizon is changed. Taoism makes Confucian thought face the expanded selective field of both the ethical and the non-ethical.
4. The Relevance and Irrelevance of the Taoist Challenge to Confucian Ethics
The function of Confucian humanist ethics is based on the inner spiritual mechanism of humanity. The Taoist uses a non-religious superhuman notion, “Tao” (the old term used in new sense), to replace the human jen as the highest principle of human existence. As we explained in the first section, the theoretical foundation of Confucian ethical principles, especially jen, is first due to the artificial limitation of reasoning to the human world. Practically speaking, the Taoist philosophy of life provided a permanent questioning or a pragmatic balance to Confucian ethical praxis in Chinese social and intellectual history. The point is that man naturally can or has a right to choose any realm of existence as the working field of his meditation and practice.
Furthermore, the charms of the philosophical term Tao indeed opens a refreshing and productive horizon besides that of dull and ambiguous moral terms, emancipating human imagination and practice from traditional moral indoctrination. It is widely known that Taoism launched the most energetic intellectual and cultural fields in Chinese history. Confucian doctrine by contrast limited itself to the perspective of human existence. But what is the exact meaning of the opposition of the Confucian and Taoist? In order to answer this question, we need not refer to the original statements contained in the two texts, because the two sets of argumentations cannot satisfy modern theoretical curiosity. Even in the Chuang-tzu, however, the problem of theoretical opposition is interpreted as one of artificial limitation. Chuang-tzu uses the name of Confucius to demarcate between the interhuman world (Fang-nei) and the extra-human world (Fang-wai). The Taoist challenges the highest Confucian principle and maintains that the Confucian demarcation is only relative and artificial, although the Confucian holds that it is absolute and natural. In fact, however, the Confucian ethical discourse and the Taoist metaphysical-ontological discourse belong to two different realms, and humans can reasonably choose either. The principles of the Taoist Tao and the Confucian jen therefore function in different domains of reasoning. The basic confrontation of the Confucian and the Taoist is that of the ethical and non-ethical orientation of human freedom.
1) The Relevant Comparison
In our discussion of the Taoist texts, we have attempted to refer to the coherent parts of each and their commonly shared parts. As historically formed texts, they contain fewer topic-relevant or fewer self-consistent parts to be dismissed. The compositional miscellany and thematic mixture of the texts, despite their historical existence and influence, do not need to be taken as an intellectual entirety. This is particularly the case with many topics in the Chuang-tzu. Even in the more coherent text of the Lao-Tzu, we should distinguish the philosophical and the tactical parts, although giving reasonable attention to the pragmatic link between the two. In other words, we shall use the historically transmitted texts in a coherent way, omitting the irrelevant parts.
Not every Taoist criticism of Confucian thought is intellectually significant. There are confused discussions of Confucian thought and its historical practice by Confucian agents. This kind of criticism can of course positively reconfirm the inefficiency of Confucian politico-ethics, but it is not related to the theoretical problems. We shall pay special attention only to those parts which are theoretically relevant. The main theoretical oppositions of Taoism and Confucian ethics can be briefly summarized as the following:
a) following the natural laws of society vs. sharpening the ethical consciousness or will;
b) denying objective ethical criteria vs. advocating ethical values;
c) giving up individual efforts vs. making individual choices;
d) renouncing the intellect vs. searching for ethical wisdom.
The first two Taoist principles are more fundamental. In distinction from all religious or supernatural reasons, they are based on an absolute empirical objectivism which covers two subjects. First, by equating the natural with the social as well as the objective with the subjective, Taoism challenges Confucian ethical humanism, holding that human affairs are part of cosmological matters. On the basis of the first principle, Taoism denies the existence of ethical values and therefore dismisses the logical necessity of ethical differentiation–the very presupposition of Confucian thought. The Taoist contribution to ethical epistemology lies in its disclosing the lack of objectivity of ethical value. The justification of Confucian ethics, however, does not rely on this objectivity. The Taoist attack on Confucian thought is of only negative significance, without relevantly negating Confucian ethics, presenting instead an expanded theoretical contour to characterize the essential trait of Confucian ethics. As a result, Taoism’s absolute relativism indirectly indicates the necessary and reasonable “moderate relativism” of Confucian doctrine, whose justification is based on a logic of discursive demarcation.
2) Taoist Semantic and Logical Confusion
Rhetorically speaking, one of the Taoist’s tactics involves creating semantic confusion between natural and axiological items, using the former to replace the latter. Concretely, in contrast with the Confucian leading terms “jen” and “i,” the Taoist creates the higher leading terms “Tao” and “te” (a so-called cosmological attribute). Consequently, they presuppose a naturalist “ethics” which is superior to social ethics. The ethical logos is not limited to the social realm, but expanded to the cosmological. The semantic distortion results in the weakened efficiency of moral rationality.
One of the most remarkable characteristics of Taoist logic is its genetic way of reasoning: the designation of the unnamed origin or source of the cosmos, of the inconstant or changeable conditions of the world and both the temporal and spatial relativity of matter. The uncertainty of the genetic mode of reasoning is used as a logical reason to deny the existence of ethical values. Existential argument is based on the ambiguous use of the natural and the axiological. Between them there is no logical link, according to the intuitively presented Confucian ethical pragmatics. Nonetheless, the influential point of this Taoist argument has exercized its impact on the Chinese mentality at a pragmatic level as well. It influences the choosing mind practically rather than logically. The Taoist way of arguing relies on the pragmatic confusion of two realms of discourse in the mind, disturbing its potential for coherent ethical valuation.
Although the ethical is far from being the objective in a natural sense, ethical value can be regarded and followed as the quasi-objective in an ethical realm. The logical objectivity of the ethically directed should be separated from the relative certainty of the subjectively ethical direction. Therefore, there are two kinds of confusion in Taoist logic: first, that of the two ontological and axiological realms; and second, that of the axiological and the pragmatic. It extends the Confucian choice between good and evil to that between morality and amorality. From this analysis, we can see that the Confucian ethical logic remains unaffected. Its inner structure is instead even further highlighted through the Taoist questioning.
3) The Pragmatic Taoist Character
The basic contrast between the Confucian ethical way and the Taoist natural way has a universal significance. Practically speaking, the Taoist position is more liable to lead to a logical yielding to power. In modern terms, power can have intellectual, political, military, economic and technical. forms. Owing to the egoism of Taoist amoral ethics, if conditions are favorable, the subjugation of the individual to power can result simply from the sensuous hedonism of the majority; if conditions are unfavorable, brutal power can more easily expand without resistance. Thus, the Taoist “ethical” pragmatics tends to be potentially collaborative with existing power. A genuinely Confucian ethics by contrast tends to resist brutal power. In a deeper sense, Taoist ethical nihilism is also an effective choice on the basis of egoism. It is evident that Taoist philosophy contains a hidden ethical position of its own; it has already made an original choice concerning human morality. It is mixed with a natural principle of non-resistance and utilitarianism, leading to the weakening of the potential for ethical subjectivity. Taoism is liable to surrender to external pressure or force, whether cosmological, metaphysical, social, historical or political. If ethical subjectivity can become a force in opposition to external pressure, the Taoist position maintains the harmony or solidarity of the former with the latter; in essence, it renounces ethical opposition to power. Tactical Taoism is good at manipulating interhuman conflicts without paying attention to moral standards. It involves an opposition not between the ethical and non-ethical, but rather between the possibly more and less profitable. This contrast between Taoism and Confucian ethics proves harmful to the latter. Taoism also confuses two kinds of egoism with the same natural philosophy: moral and philosophical egoism. The latter is used to justify the former.
Despite the fact that the existence of ethical values is dependent on humanity, ethical situations are actually describable. They can have “objective” descriptions. The change of contents of ethical situations, which can also be caused by the cessation of the action of social members, can be objectively reflected in observable social relationships. When a Taoist insists on his objective and neutral position in social conflicts, he already makes a decision to yield to the objective conditions of the changeable ethical situation. As a conscious mind, he is a social being. He cannot make an asocial decision while maintaining an intellectual dialogue with other social partners. It is true that historically there have been many Taoist advocates who led an ethically hypocritical way of life amidst social conflict, as is the case with historical Confucian agents. More Taoist literati, however, have taken an ethically passive position in order not to disturb their own comfort, including their literary and artistic pleasures. They are cultural variants of Confucian hermits.

(4) The Legalist Philosophy of Power in Contrast with Confucian Political Ethics
When talking about the pre-Ch’in intellectual dialogue, we can assume the actual existence of an historical dimension, which is not historiographically recorded. The earlier accumulative process of intellectual development could be indirectly traced back or inferred through historical records which appeared only in the later period. Therefore, despite the fact that Taoist texts actually appeared much later than the ancient historians claimed, their intellectual source could be indirectly traced to the pre-Ch’in period. In general, the Chinese world of books was only established in the Han dynasty. The formation of historical texts and that of the related thought can be separated. In both Taoism and Legalism we can see this separation.
Compared with Confucian thought, pre-Ch’in Legalism was mainly a utilitarian political practice. The Legalist way of thinking is more about the tactics of power than political morality. Because of shared concerns about political objectives and methods, the Legalist and the Confucian must have been in contact. Moreover, if the Confucian-Taoist contrast is between two textual domains, the Confucian-Legalist contrast is between the textual and historical domains. The former is a purely intellectual confrontation, while the latter is a confrontation between ethical thought and historical practice. More precisely, it is a contradiction between the political ideal and the political technique serving the political reality. Historically speaking, the contrast in our discussion can have a connection to both pre-Ch’in and post-Ch’in history, namely, to the entire despotic political history of China. For the sake of convenient theoretical explanation, our focus still lies on the former period. On the other hand, the contrasted content partly occurs in the textual and partly in the historical sphere. We shall expand our field of contrast in order to more clearly explain the nature of Confucian ethics. Historiographically speaking, the contrast or comparison between the Confucian and the Legalist during the Warring-State period is more relevant. As Hsiao Kung-ch’üan points out, the political thought of China suddenly became active during this period (Hsiao 1965, 1 and 30), while the pre-Ch’in political organization remained relatively less complicated and more flexible. Hence, the principles of the two schools of political thought can be clearly contrasted. The Confucian-Legalist comparison is centered on the levels of political aims and means. After the totalitarian organizations of the Han, the compared levels become more complicated for our analysis. As we stressed before, our historical examination is basically organized for the sake of promoting the ethical or politico-ethical analysis in our discussion.
While the Taoist is more critical of the basic epistemological foundations of Confucian ethics, the Legalist is more opposed to its political direction and methods. The confrontation of the Legalist and the Confucian occurs at both the intellectual and the socio-political and historical levels. The latter is especially important for understanding their ethical conflict. The intellectually and historically mixed mode of the Confucian-Legalist conflict can be multiply defined. Ethically speaking, the Taoist conflicts with the Confucian at the individual pole, and the Legalist conflict switch it at the collective pole. The Taoist challenge to the Confucian is more related to the problems of the ethical choice of the individual, while the Legalist challenge is more related to problems of the ethico-political choice of the government or the head of government who controls a collective. Moreover, the former is more connected with Chinese cultural life, the latter more with Chinese political history. Practically speaking, the relation of the Legalist to the Confucian is more relevant for humanist interests, although the theoretical level of the discussion is less demanding than is the case with the Taoist. In contrast to the characteristic Confucian failure in political practice, the Legalist proves to be much more politically feasible and historically successful.
1. The Identity of the Legalist Trend
Literally, “Legalism” means the school of “fa.” The Chinese character “fa” originally means standard, norm, justice, law, penalty or system. As usual, the etymological history of a Chinese word should be carefully separated from the definition of a “school” whose title contains the word. In pre-Ch’in thought and history, Legalism was one of the most important intellectual trends, although it first only existed in the political practices of pre-Ch’in-Han politicians. As regards the term “Legalist,” there are two different references. One is the ancient politicians who maintained the political principle that strict penal law and the regulation of fair rewards were the main way of dealing with socio-political problems of internal government and external activities. They opposed those Confucian-inclined officials who emphasized moral, educational and ceremonial principles government and diplomacy. The other are the legendary authors of several books discussing political and social problems in accordance with Legalist positions. Some of the political agents of the former category and political thinkers of the latter were the same persons. As Hu Shih said, “there is no special school called the Legalist in ancient times....Later people called all books about related topics Legalist.” (Hu 1930, 361) He further advocates a necessary distinction between legal practices and Legalist discussions in ancient times. (ibid., 370) Of course, there was a natural link between both, and political practice naturally emerged before political reflection. Moreover, in fact, most so-called Legalist writings were created after the beginning of the Han dynasty using the names of legendary pre-Ch’in Legalist politicians. In our discussion, we shall first point out three different items.
a) First, despite the lasting doctrine of morality and rites as political principles in the Spring-Autumn period, the principle and practice of organizing institutions and maintaining the system of “reward and punishment” were historical and traditional facts without which the political organizations could not have existed. All rulers and officials must have operated with the “Legalist” tools in maintaining social and political order. Hsü Fu-kuan holds: “In the feudal system of the Spring-Autumn period it was li (rites), rather than penalties which maintained the social order.” (Hsü 1972, 72). He asserts that it was only in the Warring-States period that Legalist began to prevail.
This statement can only be understood in connection with the degree to which Legalist strategy is employed. It was in the expansionism of the Warring-States period that the Legalist tendency and technique were systematically developed. The new era strengthened the original coercive traits implied in all historical political life. Therefore, despite the “Legalist measures” employed universally to various degrees throughout ancient history, the new situation in the Warring-States period was full of political incentives for autocracy and expansionism which required stronger “Legalist” measures and techniques.
b) Second, following the political expansionism during the period ranging from the late Spring-Autumn Period to the Han dynasty, politicians with Legalist dispositions increasingly tried to appeal to extreme “Machiavellian” principles rather than to Confucian ethico-pedagogical ones. As Ku Chieh-kang declares, this was a time of “the movement of reconstructing an imperial system” in China (Ku 1990, v. 5, 414): the politically more ambitious state rulers required more effective political methods. Thus, there emerged the historical movement of Legalist political reform.[8] Among a set of Legalist measures, the favorite was ruthlessness towards the ruled people. Therefore, K. Wittfogel says, “...punishment was the primary weapon of the so-called Legalists....And it remained a cornerstone of official policy throughout the imperial period.” (Wittfogel 1978, 139)
c) Third, many scholars before and even after the end of the Han advocated Legalist political principles and put them down in texts in the name of famous legendary pre-Ch’in legalist politicians. We have then several Legalist books, each of which contains dozens of articles.
Therefore, among the ancient officials and scholars maintaining “fa” (law, decree, tactic, institution), there were three different kinds. In addition to 1000 years of Chinese political and legal practice, what is available to us with respect to the systematic discussions of Legalist thought are several major Legalist books edited or written in the Han and post-Han dynasties, such as the Kuan tzu, the Book of Lord Shang, the Shen-tzu and the Han-fei Tzu. The titles are also the names of the major Legalists who represented three major stages of Legalist thought in connection with three political rulers: Duke Huan of Ch’i (685-643 B. C.), Duke Hsiao of Ch’in (381-338 B. C.) and Ch’in Shih-huang-ti (259-210 B. C.). Among the four books, only the last one, which is closely tied to the success of the First Emperor, seems intellectually more genuine and academically more valuable mainly because of the fine quality of the first part of the text. J. Gernet judges that it is almost the only historically authentic book about Legalism. (Gernet 1979, 86) Nevertheless, even the historical authenticity of this text has been doubted in modern times. Hu Shih even said that “only ten or twenty percent of the content belongs to the original” (Hu 1930, 365). In a broad sense, the military school, including the Sun Tzu, is also a sect of Legalism, for both share an inclination towards strategy and tactics, especially the psychological manoeuvres employed between rivals. Among the four legendary figures, however, Han-Fei is the most recent, living in the late Ch’in Dynasty. His thought is more likely to have been written down by his direct or indirect followers. His direct disciple, Li Ssu, is said to have been the strategical assistant of the First Emperor of the Ch’in dynasty, who conquered the entire country.
The books by the earlier Legalists Kuan and Shang are mostly collections of articles written by many hands in different periods. They could have been first finished only after the Former Han, despite the much earlier origin assumed in legendary tales.[9] Compared with the Han-Fei Tzu, their content is also more common-sensical and practicable, lacking intellectual significance. Some of the original content is based on historical legends about related Legalist practices during the ancient Ch’i and the Ch’in times. In consideration of the Legalist tradition, it is indeed necessary to make an historical and intellectual distinction between the Legalist of the Spring-Autumn Period and that of the Ch’in tradition, which led to the political unification of China. In general, the possible inconsistency of the Kuan-zu with the actual policy of the historical politician Kuan-tzu could be greater than that of the Book of Lord Shang with the historical Shang Yang. Therefore, the Kuan-tzu, is not the right material for understanding the historical and academic aspects of Legalism.
2. Analysis of the Legalist Texts
As a dialogical partner in our discussion, the Legalist is different from the Confucian in aspects of philosophical foundations, political objectives and political methods. Still, we should point out the ambiguity of the word “fa,” which is used to represent the Legalist school. As we explained above, fa as a single character literally refers to “norms,” “rules,” “law,” “decree,” “institution,” “penalty-rewards system,” “tactics” and “stern control.” Legalists pay much more attention to the role of legal-political systems in maintaining strict social order. Legalism’s instrumental rationality leads to its greater success in political expansionism. Its first noteworthy feature lies in emphasis on tactics or manoeuvres in interpersonal control and struggle based on the utilitarian principle mutual support and conflict and in its understanding of mutual hatred as the essence of the relation between the ruler and the ruled. Despite its constitutional mixture, the essential part of Legalism is this psychological wisdom of the ruler in the manipulation of interpersonal power. Fung Yu-Lan points out the three aspects of Legalism: “the situation of power (shih), the art of manipulation (shu) and law (fa): all of them are means of the king’s dominance.” (Fung 1970, 391).From the Confucian point of view, the negative tendency of Legalism is due to this immoral character. Although most Legalist texts are not original and are too miscellaneous in content, they generally reflect the “actual” Legalist way of political thinking and practice prevailing in ancient times. Let us first summarize the Legalist traits expressed in the Legalist texts.
1) Politico-Philosophical Outlook
It is interesting to note that socio-political Legalism and naturalist-metaphysical Lao-tzu-Taoism are closely connected by a common strategical philosophy. Lao-tzu talks not only a great deal about the self-protective tactics of the individual in various kinds of danger and under threat from others, but also about the philosophical background of the cosmological and social conditions of human existence. The Legalist rejection of the Confucian ethical principle is based on the negation of the feasibility and necessity of the jen-principle in human society. The Confucian doctrine of the moral potential of human beings in connection with politics is not advocated by the Legalist. What the Legalist politicians searched for was stable legal order maintained through coercive system based on the knowledge of human selfishness. Tao in the political order was regarded as part of the cosmological Tao, which consists of the objective, inhuman, value-neutral laws. The objective and means of political life were arranged according to the principle of non-action (the rejection of individual spontaneity in the social hierarchy). The objective Tao and the attitude of non-action (precisely: passive reaction) in accordance with the Tao become a theoretical presupposition of Legalist political philosophy. Non-action from the human subjective side is equated with following an objective “social nature.” Therefore, Lao-tzu is the metaphysical father of both Taoism and Legalism, for they both advocate the absolute priority of the objective order before the subjective self.
This philosophical trait is ascribed to Legalism only in the late stage of pre-Ch’in-Han history. The Taoist philosophical appropriation of Legalism materialized in early Han politics. The thought of Lao-tzu and Legalism was then combined by rulers and politicians. This historical development of Legalist politics discloses the implicit Taoist presupposition of the Legalist tradition. In some of chapters of the book Han-fei Tzu, we find ideas (chapters 5, 20 and 21) which would include the way of political governing in a more general Tao of nature, although such discourses could have been inserted in later times. For example, we read: “The Tao is the mother of a state” (Chu-tzu Chi-ch’eng, V. 5, 103); learn about “the ruler following the Tao” (ibid, 104, 105). The earlier expression, “the Tao of the state or ruler,” is expanded to “the Tao of the world” (ibid., 115) or “the Tao is the origin of everything and the standard of right and wrong” (ibid., 17) - a universalization of the rules at different grades of existence. It is important to pay attention to the epistemological link between Tao as a metaphysical-cosmological power and rule and shih (interpersonal structural force) as a socio-political combination of power and rule in Taoism and Legalism.
2) The Strict and Fair Regulation of Penal Law and Rewards
These kinds of discourse form part of the main topics of the Legalist texts criticizing ineffective moral indoctrination in political governing. The basic ways to force people to behave correctly recur to selfish human nature. It is alleged to be a fact that human beings are primarily self-interested. This principle is based on the priority of maintaining political order of any kind in contrast with realizing a benevolent morality.
3) Psychological Tactics in Power Games
The most remarkable talks in the Legalist texts, especially in the Han-fei Tzu, are about the psychological analysis of the tactical relationship between rulers and officials in light of positional constraints. These discourses disclose a cruel picture of the mutual support and conflict among people in the political hierarchy. In general, this part consists of two topics, one of which involves the phenomena of interpersonal relationships, especially those between the ruler and the ruled; the other contains advice concerning the ruler’s skill in controlling or dominating officials. Han-fei’s book is a philosophical or psychological guide in the art of intrigue to be used by rulers to maintain political control of their subjects. (Cf. Chu Tzu Chi Ch’eng v. 5, and the Han-fei Tzu, chapters 4–14, 17–19) It also contains opinions about political, military and economical measures to carry out the internal and external goals of the maintenance and expansion of the power.
4) Ruler-Centrism in Political Philosophy.
Legalist thought and practice definitely benefit the ruling class and existent regimes. They stand on the side of political power. We see here a rational effort at making the political instruments efficient through establishing strictly stipulated legal systems. The Legalist is the representative of actual power in contrast with ideal morality. As Fung Yu-lan says, “the Legalists talk about governing from the point of view of the prince or state.” (Fung 1970, 383)
3. Legalist Thought and Political Methods
It has been generally agreed that the confrontation of the Confucian and the Legalist is that of ideal-oriented and reality-oriented lines, or rather, that of morality-oriented and power-oriented lines. Despite the different focuses among various kinds of Legalist thought, all pay the same attention to the feasibility of political policy. Many of them present excellent examples of political success attained through Legalist designs, such as Kuan-tzu, Shang Yang, Han-fei tzu and Li Ssu. For this reason, many Western Sinologists prefer to call them the true statesmen. As De Grazia says, “In China the Legalists signalize the birth of political science in a modern sense....In the fourth century b. c., several states began to adopt Legalist ideas....The Legalists used to justify their system pragmatically....and their policies won quick, visible successes.” (De Grazia 1973, 334) In contrast to the conservative Confucian outlook on remote dreams, the Legalists concentrated on feasible political reforms with a view towards strengthen the present state power they served. The efficacy of their political consideration was manifested in strengthening rather than weakening the established state systems. The reformative inclination characteristic of their political programs and strategies appears in their inventing better means to increase the efficacy of the existent political machine. As Ch’i Ssu-he contends, “Between the early Chou and the early Spring-Autumn Period the feudal hierarchy was sternly maintained. When the Warring-States period came, each state attempted political reforms, dismissing the hereditary privilege of the aristocratic systems and attracting capable literati.” (Ch’i 1981, 105) The strengthened political machinery was employed to further expand the territory of the state and to conquer other states. The final aim of Legalist political thought lies in both internally establishing strictly controlled regimes and externally annexing neighboring states. For these two political purposes, they needed to reorganize the established state systems through a more effective tactical wisdom. For the task of institutional reorganization, they invented many useful and effective measures to help the increasingly ambitious rulers carry out their imperialist projects.
Thus, the progress of Legalist political technique was inwardly linked with the spread of political power and the dominance of the established powerful collective. Efficacy and aggression historically accompanied one another. Legalist expansionism was the archetype of traditional hegemony with its goal of absolute power and its effective technique of suppression and annexation. Having developed along this successful Legalist line over 200 years (since 361 B. C.), the Ch’in state progressed step by step and finally unified China (221 B. C.). In other words, China as a wholly organized country was formed through the Legalist political expansionism made possible by the new situation of the Warring-States period with its political strategy. The fact is that the formation of a unified China was directly due to the successful implementation of utilitarian-oriented political Legalist principles and not to morally idealist Confucian principles. The former focused on inventing a new way (“changing or reforming the current methods”) and the latter on returning to the “old.” This only reveals, however, the irrelevance of Confucian idealism to political reality. Therefore, historically speaking, the typical Legalist represents political success, while the original Confucian represents political failure in China.
Originating in the Spring-Autumn period, Legalist thought became more prevalent in the Warring-States period. It was only in this period that the various Chou states became relatively independent and conscious of their new political opportunities. As Hsiao Kung-ch’üan says, “those most capable of vigorous action and ambitious undertakings succeeded in making their states ever stronger and making themselves ever more autocratic rulers. There was no restraining authority from the legitimate king above and no guiding or controlling influence exercised by the aristocracy below.” (Hsiao 1965, 32) Therefore, only then did they more tangibly feel the need of more power and have more capability for attaining their political ambitions. Objective conditions stimulated the instinctive desire for power and the wisdom to realize this desire. Under such circumstances, the state rulers required more practicable knowledge in order to improve the quality of their political systems and technique. Given this necessity, Legalist policy was welcomed in various states. By contrast, the Confucian was marked by its inability to deal with the rapidly changing situations of political power. Like the Confucian, however, the Legalist did not take political systems themselves as the objects of political philosophy. In general, the Legalist also lacked theoretical knowledge of institutional structures and of a higher political ideal, apart from some Taoist metaphysical poetics devoid of any sociological aspects. Nonetheless, they were practical reformers of socio-political institutions in an empirical way. What they really concerned themselves with in their explicit political discourses was totalitarian and hegemonic strategy based on feasible measures, an empirical psychology of human relationships and cunning tactics in the struggle for power. The final aim was to advance the position of the rulers, who were taken as the keys to maintaining political order. In the old times coercive legal means were employed, but the ambition for interstate hegemony was not so strong and penal law and punishment were not employed so systematically. Now “Legalist” means were much more creatively used for ambitious political projects inside and outside the country. The enhanced consciousness of political and tactical manipulation together with new possibilities turned traditional utilitarian skills towards the systematic Legalist strategy.
4. The Compositional Diversity of Legalism
Legalism was especially characterized by an instrumental wisdom of political methodology. Its emphasis on the strategically technical dimension reflects a power-philosophy. Because of this practical character, Legalist thought was first a political art. It was formed mainly in practice rather than in written material, although there later appeared some related theoretical conclusions. Historically, the actual situation of Confucius’ time must have made politicians, including Confucius himself, treat political problems in a pragmatic way, including governmental supervision and punishment, while the Confucian only brings ethical matters into the discourse. Nevertheless, this absence does not mean negation. The Confucian absence of political method historically reflects the general situation of the Pre-Warring-States period when political activities were less energetic, less developed, and less changeable. As a result, the political aspect functioned as a constant condition, similar to a natural one, as we explained in the first section on Confucian ethics. When the Legalists began exercising their political art from the 7th to the 3rd century B. C., their political thought was realized in their political activity without any related theoretical support. Their “thought” was verbally formulated only by more cultivated people after the Ch’in dynasty, with a lot of imaginative additions. Therefore, we cannot take the texts of these Legalist books as the exact expression of historical “Legalist” thought. Even those later edited Legalist books are not so systematically arranged. Therefore, this is another reason why we cannot accurately judge Legalist political thought in terms of those texts in contrast to the Confucian texts, which are less political and less historical.
On the other hand, since the establishment of Han-Confucianist ideology, there has been a separate characterization of Legalism as a definite set of morally negative tendencies ideologically opposed to the Confucian. For both the Confucian and the Legalist, beside their historical and textual contrasts, there is also an ideological contrast. We should make clear the different identities of the schools concerned. The following points are to be noted:
i) The textual: the consistently rearranged ideas in the Legalist texts, namely, the consistently readable parts of the available texts of the transmitted “pre-Ch’in” Legalist books. Legalism here can be taken as a name for definite politicians in a definite period, although their tendencies were also shared by people before and after them.
ii) The ethical: the immoral tendencies of the dominant power in ancient Chinese history, as described in the Confucian texts about political lust, aggression, brutality and suppression, which are the opposite of Confucian political-moral conceptions;
iii) The ideological: those brutal and ruthless historical actions of evil hegemonic rulers or dynasties and their intellectual assistants. The Ch’in dynasty, the first Empire, is typical, although its opponents largely behaved in a similar way. In the later Confucianist context, the term Legalism is used mainly in ideologically negative way.
iv) The historically technical: the tradition of political technique, including that connected with institutions and policies. This covers both pre- and- post-Confucian times and is manifested in both historical records and in post-Ch’in political discourses of various kinds. In fact, this aspect is shared by all types of political activity.
As we have explained, Legalism as used by us in our dialogical situation has been synthetically reorganized, consisting of the above-listed four kinds of the sources. In this dialogical situation, the Confucian text or Confucian thought is the two-fold opposite of the Legalist: there is both the explicit idea expressed in the Legalist and Confucian texts and the tacit practice in political history. The reorganized Legalist elements function as the opposite to Confucian political thought and the representative of all totalitarian tendencies. In our dialogical situation, we shall focus on the definition of the second type, but simultaneously, to a lesser degree, we shall consider the other three types. Accordingly, we shall first choose three categories of related Legalist factors:
a) motive and objective: the unlimited strengthening and constant expansion of political power;
b) psychological techniques (tricks, deception, supervision and plots) for interpersonal dominance;
c) social and material techniques (institutions, policies, measures, knowledge and material tools) for expanding power.
The above features of Legalism are related elements for organizing the Confucian-Legalist ethical dialogue in our present discussion.

(5) The Legalist Strategical Challenge to Confucian Political Ethics
While Taoism is the most serious challenge to the Confucian philosophy of life and ethical epistemology, Legalism is the most important challenge to Confucian political ethics. In the Chou dynasty, the main academic and political confrontation recorded in the historical materials emerged between the Confucian and the Mohist. This historical phenomenon, however, was not really significant in either a political or scholarly regard. The so-called “schools” of the time were social groups with multiple purposes and characters. Besides purely personal reasons for pursuing the same utilitarian social objective, the spiritual character of the doctrines was more pragmatic than scientific. The Mohist attacks on Confucian agents are about various current practical problems. The disputed contents are of a practical nature and lack intellectual significance. What the Mohist attacks in the Confucian funeral rites, academic activities, love of music and self-conceited attitude is more the actual manner of the historical “ju-school” practitioners. As a social group for moral practice without profound interest in theoretical debate about political ethics, Mohism was an important historical movement, but it displays the same inefficacy in political practice as its opposite, ju-Confucians. Therefore, we cannot say that the Mohist forms a serious challenge to Confucian ethics and politics in the theoretical sense.[10]
With Legalism, the case is quite different. The above-indicated elements of the ancient Chinese Legalists maintained a direct connection to Confucian doctrine. First, any political system based on Confucian ethical principles cannot lack coercive legal foundations. The relationship of the legal to the ethical, however, never became a Confucian topic in the original texts. When the hegemonic (pa) movements became prevalent in the late Spring-Autumn Period, the actual political situations and requirements turned out to be very complicated. The purely political dimension became more relevant to political philosophy. At the time, the main hegemonic politicians were important political thinkers and reformers. Their political designs for the stability and expansion of the states were contrary to Confucian political philosophy defined purely in ethical terms. The absence of Confucian political technique does not negate the political aspect of Confucian political ethics, but instead indicates a lack of awareness of a pragmatic aspect in the system. Finally, when the Legalist texts were compiled in the Han and post-Han periods, China had already experienced much richer political changes on a far larger scale than was the case in Confucius’ time. People then gained greater knowledge of political practice and of the relations between politics and ethics. In treating these themes, Legalist scholars were able to find out mistakes and shortcomings in the Confucian doctrine which indicated its essential political weakness.
1. Legalist Power-centrism in Confrontation with Confucian Political Ethics
Generally speaking, the most important Legalist criticism of Confucian thought lies in its insistence that the latter completely lacks the means to realize its political ideals in actual society. The following are the main contrasts between the two political directions:
1) The Political Contrast: The Confucian “Ancient and Moralist” Model vs. the Legalist “Modern and Utilitarian” Model
A remarkable slogan of Legalist political philosophy is “follow the model of the modern king,” stressing the necessity of changing and reforming traditional rules and ways in governing and adopting modern methods. (Cf. the Hsün Tzu, in Chu -tzu Chi-ch’eng 1986, v. 2, 101[11])
One of the characteristic ideas of Confucian political philosophy is its emphasis on following the original (legendary) ideal systems of the three dynasties. In Confucian thought, the old way is better than the modern way, given its utopian interpretation. To the contrary, one of the typical Legalist notions is that the modern is better than the old for many ostensible reasons. Practically speaking, modern political patterns offer more provable material. What is established by modern kings was held to be more valuable than what was established by former kings. Owing to this reasonable view, Legalist political philosophy has been regarded from a modern point of view as more progressive and technically more acceptable. The better politico-moral model is thought to be found through modern information.
As indicated before, Confucian doctrine should be read in ethical rather than in political terms. The ideal of the “Three dynasties” is not an actual model to follow but merely the symbol of the ideal ethical situation without any historical detail. The Confucian images of the political ideal only function at a symbolic level. The phrase the ideal politics of the “Three Dynasties” amounts to an “X” representing the set of ideal politico-ethical criteria. Due to the serious lack of an instrumental rationality or the externally practical reason of Confucian thought, the ancient dream could be taken in a way which was easily attacked by the mature political rationality developed in later history. The Legalist’s focus on the modernity and efficiency of political methods also indicates its limited interest in the moral aspect and its greater interest in political utility. This political contrast can therefore be read in a hermeneutic way which suggests that Legalist political discourse is about the political realm, while Confucian political discourse is about the ethical one. This is not a real contradiction. This conclusion also follows from the different historical involvements of the two kinds of texts.
2) Desirable Statecraft Based on the Strict Principle of Strict Punishment and Fair Reward vs. that Based on the li-System
The factual contrast of law (fa) and rites (li) should be discerned carefully. Both categories contain aspects of institutions and manners as well as constraints and encouragement. They do not therefore refer to different social or political realms, or rather they in fact widely overlap in commonly shared institutional parts. What distinguishes them are the political measures and policies or operational ways of established systems.
In addition, the term “fa” (literally “law” or “rule”) refers more to the tactics and policies of the rulers according to decrees of reward and punishment than to legal institutions, although these were much more constructive in creating new systems to strengthen autocratic regimes. Both the transmitted traditional systems and the new systems served the same totalitarian aims. As indicated before, the Confucian li-systems as administrative instruments of various kinds can hardly function effectively or independently. From an ethical point of view, however, the Confucian li is not to be read in political terms. The Confucian li-learning should be interpreted as a moral teaching about how to train oneself and others morally through the li-practice or -procedures. Even the Confucian political concept “cheng” (governing) was said by Confucius to mean doing what is correct. Confucian li-discourse is formed on the condition that the substantial political framework is put in parenthesis.
3) Utilitarian Policy in Favor of the Ruling Few vs. Material and Moral Benefits in Favor of the Ruled Majority
The aim of Confucian ethico-political doctrine is to realize jen-principles in social life. The Legalist pursuit of self-interest and the Confucian pursuit of morality are two contrary directions of political practice. One is based on selfish human nature and the other on natural love. Both historically and politically, it is evident that only the Legalist line is realistic, workable and applicable. On the other hand, Confucian ethical love is politically embodied for the benefit of majority; the ruler is only the governor or instrument of the order of love.
4) The Coercive Control of the Ruler over the Ruled vs. the Moral Loyalty of the Ruled to the Ruler
The core of Confucian politics lies in the sincere and confidential relationship between the king or prince and his officials. The correct behavior or the correct attitude should be formed at the ethical rather than the utilitarian level - this is the point of Confucian political philosophy. The Legalist goes to the opposite extreme and maintains principles based on natural motives, searching for self-interest and avoiding suffering for the sake of stable government. If the Confucian prince and minister are essentially mutually respectful friends, then Legalist kings and officials are potential enemies. Standing on different levels, they equally lust for power and maintain the same machine of power. The rulers and the ruled are both psychologically inimical and practically collaborative because of their shared egoism. Based on the knowledge of these potentially hostile relations, Legalist procedures can improve the collaboration between the ruler and the minister.
As regards political mechanics, within the feudal framework the Legalist line is required for establishing a large-scale central kingdom whose organizational totality requires effective means for maintaining control. What is advocated by the Legalist is first logically reasonable and second historical truth. In this political line, ancient Chinese politics underwent a rapid change which forced political thought to be consistent with political practice and reflect social objectivity.
Because of this development, Chinese political technique was systematically enriched in both the theoretical and practical realms. This greatly helped Chinese political figures thoughout history to realize their political projects thoughout history. Since the appearance of the conscious and systematic strategy of Legalism, Chinese political structure has been historically solidified and pragmatically modelled. It remains true, however, that Legalism, with its capability to control the organized collective and to realize social reform, was neglectful of or even contrary to the moral objectives benefiting the majority.
2. The Historical Interaction of the Two Trends of Political Philosophy
1) The Identity of the Pre-Ch’in Political School
Because of the compositional heterogeneity of texts, disciplines, schools, doctrines and practices in ancient Chinese social and cultural life, it is not easy to make a clear distinction between two objects in intellectual history. Substantial differences of various kinds also exist at a level lower than that of normal discourses.
We take the Legalist school or trend as a group of various related elements which can be combined or mixed with the elements of other “schools” or trends. We distinguish between the essential elements of a principle and the actual application or realization of those elements in their historical combinations. A “school” can have these two different references.
It is well known that Legalist thought was theoretically or philosophically connected with Lao-tzu’s Taoism. Both “schools,” because of their constitutional heterogeneity, differ from and overlap with each other simultaneously. It is customary to distinguish between different philosophical, religious and political “schools” which present themselves in Chinese literature as intermingled. In this context, a school can be a conglomeration consisting of personal figures, practices, interests and behavioral directions. There is no clear demarcation between two historical schools but only a tendency of each of them with reference to definite aspects. For the purpose of our theoretical analysis, however, a school can be taken as the main features of a tendency in synthetically shaped historical situations. We exclude the thematically or situationally irrelevant part caused by historical complications which can be the object of an historical sociology. Therefore, using the terms “the Confucian,” “the Taoist” and “the Legalist” in a general way, we shall only concentrate on the “ideal type” of each and consider their interrelationships at the intellectual level. This ideal type can be formulated abstractly and can also be found by the main inclination in practice of an historical figure. For the latter, as we pointed out before, a representative figure of a school plays several roles. Thus, a Legalist can be a consultant, a politician or even a king. All of these show a similar tendency to varying degrees with reference to the aim, means and style of Legalist politics, in combination with many other different functions and activities due to their different positions and situations in the historical process.
2) Constitutional Heterogeneity: Textual and Historical Materials
In our treatment of pre-Ch’in intellectual history, heterogeneous criteria can be used to describe our objects. Some have a textual appearance; some have a half-textual, half-historical appearance. In our last chapter about Taoist philosophy, Taoism is taken as the thought expressed in two main texts. Our treatment of Legalism, however, is different. The existence of the latter is more historical than textual, although there indeed exist several important historical Legalist texts. The point lies not in the fact that Legalist texts are not as authentic as Confucian and Taoist texts (although this is the case), but rather in the relevant intellectual relationship between the Confucian and its Legalist opposite: the historically effective Legalist elements. Thus, the point lies in the significant challenge to Confucian political ethics in Chinese political reality which is partly expressed in texts and partly in historical records. The autonomous Confucian texts also maintain their historical points of contact, which must be brought into relation with the historical Legalist tendency. As we pointed out before, in the Pre-Han Legalist development, there are three stages: the Kuan-tzu stage in the Ch’i-state; the Shang-Yang stage in the early Ch’in state; and the Han-fei/Li Ssu stage in the late Ch’in period. The line of development reveals the ascension of the Legalist tendency with respect to both tyrannical goals and political rationality. Because of the inner continuity of Legalism, the more developed later stage can help make explicit the nature of the original tendency of the earlier stage discussed by Confucius. In any case, earlier Legalist politicians showed moral concern because of both historical and intellectual restrictions, although the potential to lead to political brutality had already been discerned by Confucius. What Mencius criticized in the later period in the rulers’ political misconduct should be ascribed to the same tendency. This fact once again proves that we should adopt a more flexible conception about Legalism as the opposite of Confucian thought in our dialogical situation. In brief, the moral and technical aspects of Legalism can be linked to a comparison with the Confucian school in a two-fold fashion.
Historically speaking, all Chinese rulers who occasioned serious internal or external cruelties, including their ministers who designed and assisted in their political actions, were “actual or historical” Legalists, just as many consultants, advisors and writers were “intellectual” Legalists. Similarly, many modern Chinese and foreign aggressors and tyrants can also be included in this category because they embody the same set of Legalist traits. Once again, the term “Legalist” is not reduced to categories i) and ix). They are carriers of those Legalist traits which are necessary for realizing political tyranny. In this definition, Legalism consists of those historical elements which assert the formation of political tyranny of any kind, including both moral orientation and technique. This definition should not be equated with the performance of legendary Legalist politicians who display Legalist traits in their political practice. In our expanded sense, Legalism is a mixture of political power and intelligent technique; its identity contains two aspects which can be alternatively expressed in different socio-historical roles. Historically speaking, however, the aspect of intelligence plays a more representative role because of the historical constancy of political power itself.
3) Divergence of Political Values
More serious confusion occurs between the above-defined Legalist elements and political rationality in general. In ancient Chinese history, the two are extensively mixed. During the Pre-Ch’in period, the latter was realized through the formation of the former. The success of Legalist powers during the Warring-State period was evidently due to the implementation of strengthened instrumental political rationality. If increased political rationality is the mark of the Pre-Ch’in dynasty’s early Legalism, for which the criterion is method, the tyrannical degree of the Post-Ch’in powers is another mark of later Legalism. It is evident that without “Legalist” methods, no political powers could have formed since the Han dynasty. One reason is that after Han-Confucianism, the earlier Legalist methodology was absorbed into Chinese political history, including many instrumental and strategical renovations made by the First Emperor. The contrast between benevolent Confucian regimes and hegemonic Legalist ones can only be defined in terms of the morality of the related political objectives. In our dialogical context, Legalism is first defined in politico-ethical terms. Therefore, the Legalist tendency of some historical events cannot be unambiguously defined. The same movements in different political situations can have different politico-ethical implications: some are Legalist elements and some are Confucian elements. The determinative factor in the definition remains the politico-ethical motive and objective.
In our analysis of original Confucian ethical thought, historical Legalist elements are compared with the Confucian critique of hegemonic politics, which became more tyrannical after Confucius. We have summarized the Legalist elements defined by both the historical manifestations of Chinese political reality and Confucian ethical criteria (types i), iv) and ii)). The latter can help make clear the elements of Legalism relevant to political tyranny with its immoral aims and cruel means. Those basic traits of “evil” Legalism can be taken as the opposite of Confucian political ethics, although in Confucius’ time there did not yet exist the term “fa-chia” (Legalism). In ancient times, Legalism (fa-jia or “law-family”) and the hegemonic line (pa-Tao or “hegemonic policy”) were part of the same politico-ethical tendency; and tyrannical government (pao-cheng or “brutal governing”) was the extreme type of hegemonic Legalism.
4) The Contrast of the Basic Elements in the Two Schools
There is a systematic contrast between the Confucian and the Legalist politico-ethical principles as we have defined them. In the following, we shall outline this ethical contrast. The first part concerns the Confucian, the second the Legalist.
a) the utmost aim of politics:
morality vs. power; the happiness of the people vs. expansion of the regime;
b) the main political methods:
moral and cultural means vs. coercion and terror;
c) the relations of officials to kings:
moral counsel vs. tactical counsel;
d) the personality of the literati in the face of power:
spiritual independence and moral commitment vs. political opportunism and collaboration with the power-holders;
e) philosophical presuppositions:
moral idealism vs. natural lust and respect for power.
In Chinese political history, the double oppositional lines are related to philosophical and ethical principles, political objectives, political policies and personal manners. The divergence reflects that of moral and immoral politics. The two tendencies have to differing degrees been widely manifested. The autocratic and brutal domination of any dynasty or regime is Legalist despite the use of Confucian elements. There is always a distinction between the primary and the secondary in the Chinese political mechanism. The original Confucian doctrine was by no means politically practical, but Chinese political despotism was based on the ruthless use of coercive tactics formed in theoretical and practical Legalist traditions. With regard to the politico-ethical debate between the two lines, we may conclude the following:
a) The tactical rationality of the Legalist proves the weakness or even the lack of political technique on the part of Confucian doctrine;
b) The Legalist doctrine is the actual organizing principle of Chinese despotic regimes, which were essentially opposed to Confucian political morality.
c) Confucian political morality remained incompletely employed in Chinese political history and was instead mainly “transformed” to the spiritual or cultural world. The fact of Legalist historical success cannot disprove the Confucian ethical ideal. The basic distinction between unjust political processes and ethical cultural idealism is characteristic of Chinese civilization. [12]
5) Operative Aspects of Legalism
The historically ambiguous and intermingled expressions of Legalism contain a pragmatic rationality of their own. The term “fa-chia” becomes an “operator” employed in various contexts to perform a synthetic role, whereby it maintains a pragmatic flexibility. The definite meaning and the role of the term can only be made clear with reference to the definite context. In general, it involves different aspects of the Legalist operational mechanism, such as the object, objective, means, personal role and hierarchical position. A basic distinction is made between the direction of Legalist practice and the concrete tactics of the Legalist agent. In its pure form, Legalism is a practice in search of power itself; the power-holder is only a functional carrier in the mechanism of power. Respect for the ruler is respect for power. Besides this strategical direction of the Legalist agent, there is also a tactical one involving concrete interpersonal relationships. The Legalist agent also considers how to approach the system of power. The ruler can be the tool by means of which the Legalist agent pursues his own goal. It is Han-fei Tzu who reports on the important phenomenon of the competitive relation between king and subject. It is only logical that the interpersonal struggle for power exists in totalitarian regimes where everyone searches for his share of power by dint of hierarchical advantage. We should add that the slavish loyalty of the Legalist official towards the ruler is more tactical than moral. For this reason, the Legalist-directed Han dynasty employed Confucian moral loyalty to create ideological control in addition to political control. As a result, the Legalist use of Confucian elements became an elaborate means to push forward Legalist objectives. We shall discuss this topic in another volume of our study.
Thus, Legalism can appear at the collective and individual levels alike, presenting different aspects as political philosophy and personal practice. This distinction explains the historically mixed expressions of Legalism. In our analysis, we shall concentrate on the former for the sake of understanding Legalism as a collective practice of political philosophy.
3. The Prototype of Totalitarianism and the Technical Existence of Absolute Power
The contrast of Confucian thought with both Taoism and Legalism has many heuristic implications which exceed its Chinese context. The first involves the permanent contradiction between moral philosophy and philosophy of life; the second has to do with moral politics and tyranny. The three Chinese schools present an archetype of tension in the basic politico-ethical triangle of human existence. With its lack of theoretical formulation in comparison with the Western tradition, this Chinese politico-ethical triangle can more effectively and clearly present the essential structure of this intellectual and historical tension.
Historical examination can go together with intellectual examination. Even when we attempt to say that it was Legalism which forced the movement of Confucian thought from the political to the cultural, this statement cannot be objectively formulated. The compositional heterogeneity of the three schools makes us careful in organizing our conclusions about their social and cultural interaction.
Despite their wide and complex overlapping, Confucian thought and Legalism can be essentially separated at the level of their main spirit and practical tendency. It is true that most historical Legalist politicians were more capable in governing and expanding the state than other kinds of politicians, but we shall not adopt the efficiency of political and military practice as the central character of Legalism. As we have already explained, besides the two pragmatic levels of the individual and the collective, there are two dimensions of the historical phenomenon called “Legalism”: one is that of technical political capability, the other is that of motivation and aim. The “essence” or the central tendency of Legalism in our comparative discussion is ethically identified. The first dimension is ethically neutral. It is only the second dimension of Legalism which is the real opposite of Confucian idealism. This means that some Confucian criticism of Legalist political instrumentalism is itself due to ignorance of political pragmatics. In this context, we must distinguish the historical and the theoretical confrontation.
When we take the First Emperor of the Ch’in as the representative of Legalism in the sense of the second type, we do not intend exclude his practical achievements, but instead to focus on the orientational and technical aspects of ethics. As our ethical index rather than as an historical figure, the First Emperor may be viewed as the first carrier of national Legalist evils (i.e., our type iii)). The Ch’in Emperor is therefore the typical signifier of “Legalism” in our special sense, namely, the symbolic-ideological sense, which can be called an Asian prototype of modern totalitarianism as a special apparatus to effectively and systematically initiate and organize evil activity. In this regard, we can summarize the basic traits of Legalism in the following operational ethical terms:
a) motive: absolute holding of power through controlling or subjugating others; based on the thorough going egoism of the power-holders.
b) objective: building up despotic or totalitarian politico-technical machinery to expand power through internal autocracy and external aggression. The essence of Legalist power lies in combining strength and technique for the purpose of realizing subjugative tyranny and expansionism.
c) means: tactically and ideologically strengthening the organizational hierarchy at the social, technical and spiritual levels through techniques for implementing political threats, tricks and plots and political supervision.
Stylistically, Legalism is noted for its political immorality, tactical brutality and technical efficiency. It is the successful realization of human domination. Legalism in this sense is an effective method for realizing absolute domination and maintaining stern order. This essential mode of Chinese Legalism is historically first represented by the First Chinese Empire and the Han-Wu emperor, who exhibit all of the above-listed three traits which are also shared by totalitarian political movements in other times and other areas. As the political opposite of typical Confucian thought, extreme Legalism is an organic combination of the immoral lust for power and technical rationality. Compared with other types of totalitarian theories in world history, Chinese Legalism is characterized by its unique wisdom, “shu”: the art and technique of dominating in the ruler-minister relation. It is the doctrine of how to assist the dictator in realizing the first stage of interpersonal control. It is true that the art of manipulation between ruler and subject was also an important wisdom in the ancient middle East, as Wittfogel described in the case of Egypt, India and Persia (Wittfogel 1985, 155-7), but the Chinese type was more systematic, being noted for its more elaborate psychological practice. This is perhaps one of the crucial reasons for the lasting existence of its autocratic system. The technique of psychological control is the most energetic and productive kernel of the hierarchy of power.
In general, Legalism may be identified in two doubly contrasting frameworks: the political/ethical and the textual/historical. According to the first framework, there is a technical political dimension and a politico-ethical dimension. The Confucian as historical thought can be confronted with Legalism in both dimensions. With respect to a typical topic in intellectual history, there is a textual scope consisting of related historical texts and political manifestations in Chinese history characteristic of the Legalist guiding policy employed by historical figures. Briefly, the former is an ethical/theoretical criterion and the latter is a political/historical one. Both provide us with different contexts for comparison. The former involves a theoretical analysis with a flexible historical description, the latter an historical analysis having a compositional ambiguity. We shall attempt to employ the two in order to form our discourse about the confrontation of Confucian thought and Legalism. As a rule, we shall present the theoretical aspect through the historical aspect.
What we call good and evil refer more to socio-historical effects than to their initial state at the motivational level. Evil, after all, is the combination between an embryonic motivation and a developed socio-history; the latter requires technical conditions for its realization. In this sense, Legalism as an historical school (our type i)) provided exactly such favorable technical conditions for the evil political power of the pre-Ch’in period. In our dialogical context, the technical aspect of Legalism is a pertinent factor in a number of senses. First, the technical aspect helped evil power to develop; second, this operational advantage helped “defeat” (for our hermeneutic reading) its rival, Confucian political ethics, with lack of technical potential; finally, it helped structure the political power which became the historical foundation of Chinese social order. Legalist elements constitute the “hard core” of Chinese political history, while the Confucian elements constitute the “hard core” of Chinese cultural history. It was the development of historical Legalism in Mencius’ time which made the Confucian school recognize its own effective field and the negative object of its politico-ethical operation. We find then that a more operationalized Confucian politico-ethics emerges. Historical Legalism, since its conclusive victory in the Ch’in-Han empires, lost its separate existence precisely because of its extensive penetration into Chinese political history.

Part Two: The Ethical Pragmatics of the Mencian Political Will
(6) The Ethico-political Turn of Confucian Doctrine: The Mencian Philosophy of Politico-ethical Will
The ethical ideal originates from the awareness of evil reality. Both good and evil belong to human nature with its unchangeable instincts, although the concrete manifestation of these inclinations changes with the cultural and historical context. Both the object and the objective of ethical practice derive from human nature and are rendered stable by biological, psychological and sociological conditions. This is the epistemological presupposition implied in Confucian ethics. With the same epistemological framework, different operational areas can have different focuses and priorities. Ethical thought may contain more static or more dynamic schemes for organizing external and internal practice. While the Confucian system is more statically oriented, the Mencian system is more dynamically oriented. Both of them form a comprehensive system of ancient Chinese ethical pragmatics.
1. The Hermeneutic Reading of the Mencian Text
1) Mencius’ Reorganization of Ethical Operations in the Face of Strengthened Legalist Pressure
In the Confucian ethical situation, there are two operative centers, one of which is the power-holder, the kings, and the other of which is the ethical judge or critic, the Confucian. The external objective of Confucian practice is fixed at the social level. The king or prince as the power-holder is regarded as the possible key to realizing Confucian politico-ethical objectives. One involves the orientation of ethical practice, the other has to do with its energetic possibility. Whatever the objective may be, the first external step of Confucian ethical practice is to take the king as the object of persuasion and criticism. All other roles in the Confucian ethical situation are connected with the two operative centers, the ethical critic and the target of ethical criticism, respectively. The role of the philosophical Taoist could be to assist or defy either center according to subjective and objective conditions. In light of the Confucian perspective on ethical practice, the Taoist role could be negative in the public realm but positive in the private realm.
The Taoist role of challenging the Confucian is played out in the field of subjective rather than social ethics. The Legalist role, however, differs from that of both the Taoist and the Confucian. It is an advocate of the system of all domineering political elements, including both agents and methods. Kings, officials and advisors in the ruling class can all be included in the Legalist category, if they advocate a socio-political policy of internal suppression and external aggression through coercive means. Technically speaking, therefore, the Legalist is a constituent part of political power having both orientational and instrumental aspects. The evil intention of political power can only be expressed and realized through effective techniques. Historically speaking, power (as interpersonal domination), vice (as individual intention with its external effects) and technique (as material and psychological instruments) are constantly mixed together.
The Confucian-Legalist dialogue is in essence a dialogue between the Confucian ethical spirit and autocratic political power. The Confucian doctrine covers two main realms: the subjective and the social. In Confucian ethics, the first realm is more complete and the second limited at the ethical level, as we said before. Consequently, Confucian ethics tends to withdraw from power if it is less collaborative or sympathetic at the ethical level. As a matter of fact, political history subsequent to Confucius’ time became more and more “Legalist” or anti-Confucian. This further proves the inapplicability of the Confucian political ideal; on the other hand, the richer political experience accumulated through Legalist expansionist movements made Confucian followers pay more attention to the political dimension. It was Mencius, the second “Confucian sage,” who led Confucian attitudinal ethics further oriented towards a political direction in both the subjective and the social realm. Mencius, as a Confucian-k’uang-type agent and Yan Hui as a Confucian-Chüan-type agent, are the two major representative figures in the history of Confucian ethics. Compared with the other disciples described in the Analects such as Yan Hui and Tzu-Lu, Mencius is indeed historically more acceptable because of the historiographically and hermeneutically more coherent text of which he is the central narrator. He developed Confucian political ethics at both the social and subjective levels, leading Confucian doctrine towards the challenge of the existing political power. He created a new Confucian dialogical type between the holder of power and the critic of power, developing a spiritual archetype for the Chinese ethical mentality.
2) The Hermeneutic Reading of Rhetorical Exaggeration in the Mencian Text
It is interesting to note that most modern critical historians praise Confucius but do not appreciate Mencius, thinking the latter to make many unfounded and speculative statements about historical facts and finding his energetic and rhetorical eloquence to reveal a less scientifically inclined mind. There is first a problem with the scholarly value of the Mencian text. There are, however, two different kinds of scholarly value: the positive and the normative. Considering that there are in fact not many ancient texts which contain historically reliable facts, we do not need to blame Mencius for such inadequacies. Just like Confucius, he should not be taken as an historian or a scholar in a modern sense. Instead, we shall pay attention to the ethical value gained by the hermeneutic reading of his argument.
It is true that regarding historical authenticity we cannot expect much from Mencius’ descriptions. Many ancient scholars took his words as historical documents (for example, the assertion that Confucius compiled the book The Spring-Autumn Annals or that there was something called the well-formed land system in antiquity etc.).[13] Still, we should not read his historical discourse in a historically positive way. Even his patently incorrect statements about some historical facts can be read rhetorically: for example, the contention that “There were none of the disciples of Chung-Ni (Confucius) who spoke about the affairs of (Ch’i-) Hwan and (Chin-) Wan.” (Legge 1990, v. 1, 138) This statement merely expresses the Confucian moral disdain of the hegemonic politics of earlier powers. It is a statement about attitude rather than about historical fact, regardless of the actual intention of the author. It is true that Confucius mentions and even praises the political achievement of Ch’i-Hwan’s minister Kuan Chung several times in the Analects (see chapters 3 and 14). A proper reading of the Mencian sentences would be: “Confucians are ashamed to accept a hegemonic attitude.” The fact is that he rhetorically uses an affirmative sentence to express an axiological judgement. If so, Mencius’ relevant meaning implicated in the historically unconfirmable sentences lies in the emotionally exaggerated expression of his own axiological attitude. Thus, we should read the Mencian text in a hermeneutically axiological rather than a historiographically positive way. As a result, some of his unfounded or simplistically phrased discourses should not be taken as a reliable source for authentic historical documents; in addition, they could be indirectly read in an ethically axiological way.[14] We raise the problem of how to read the Mencian text in order to increase rather than to decrease the intellectual significance of this second great Confucian classic. The increased use of historical narrative in the Mencian text over against the Analects reflects its rhetorical intention of playing a more pragmatically persuasive role in Confucian ethical praxis. We shall point out that the Analects and the Mencius are the two most original books produced before the Ch’in-Han period. Both shape an archetype of Chinese ethical pragmatics based on empirical human nature. They are historical documents, but their content is certainly not completely historic.
2. Mencius and His Book
In the post-Confucian period before the end of the Chou dynasty (ca. 479 B. C.- 221 B. C.), a social sect with Confucius as its spiritual father spread in various states. Called the Confucian school or sect, the activities under this title are of several different kinds, involving political consultation, administration, private teaching, organization of ceremonies and editing Confucius’ text. Like many other pre-Ch’in “schools,” however, it contains more practical than scholarly content. About 100 years after the death of Confucius, Mencius became active in spreading Confucian thought.
The story of Mencius’ life (ca. 372-289 B. C.) and work survives only in legend. According to generally recognized but hardly confirmable rumor, he was the disciple of Tzu-ssu, the grandson of Confucius. Mencius became an influential moral teacher at a time when most Chou states were obsessed with the expansion of political power and the annexation of neighboring lands. Despite the several disciples appearing in his book, in distinction from the original Confucian group, he was a solitary debater, wandering and arguing with rulers and literati of different strains of thought about political ethics based on Confucian thought. In a time of disorder and animosity, when the “Hundred Schools” were actively competing with one another, Mencius appeared as a heroic individual defender of Confucian ethical thought.
The text of the Mencius has been supposed to be the product of his disciples, such as his contemporary Kung-sun Ch’ou and Wan Chang, or even of later followers in subsequent generations. As regards the authorship of the text, Chiang Po-ch’ien contends, based on an examination of its appellations, that most of the text could have been noted down by two disciples (Chiang 1983, 615). Ku Chieh-kang, however, in discussing the titles of many lost ancient books, doubts the originality of the Mencius. (Ku 1990, v. 1, 451) Traditional discussions about the authenticity of the book are in fact connected with the intellectual reliability of the arguments rather than with the historical origin of the book itself. The difficulty lies in the fact that historical names, authors, and compilers are mixed together and without being clearly distinguished. It is important, however, to see that the text maintains its homogeneity of language, stylistics and argumentation, so that it seems to have been written or edited by a single hand. In distinction from a more miscellaneous book, the Chuang-tzu, the fourteen chapters of the Mencius hint at a unified style which composes a quite consistent text and expresses a vividly coherent personality who plays a pragmatical-rhetorical role in its politico-ethical discourse. The substantial and stylistic homogeneity of the text is historiographically relevant to our use of the text and not just to wishful thinking about its authorship. The stylistic consistency and logical homogeneity of the Mencius, just like that of the Analects, makes it different from other pre-Ch’in texts (Cf. Chiang 1983, 611)[15] and helps establish its historical authenticity. Thus, it must have been written and edited by a single hand or by a few persons with a consistent style before the Ch’in-Han period. This naturally enhances its academic and intellectual value, for its homogeneity has been the source of its historical and intellectual inspiration.
It was first in the Sung dynasty (after 960 A. D.) that the book was viewed as one of the Confucian classics alongside the Analects, although in the Han it had been regarded as one of the main “auxiliary” books to the classics. Partly because of its less privileged historical position and partly because of its more defiant political tones, the book was not taken as seriously as the Analects before the Sung dynasty. It is very curious, however, that its strong pro-Confucian themes and criticism of brutal rulers are mixed. The peculiar combination of these two features and its wide reception in despotic China is highly interesting. In distinction from the Analects, which talks more about general maxims of moral personality, it concentrates more on attacking the actual political brutality and wrongdoings committed by contemporary rulers as well as on criticizing non-Confucian thought. The general praise of the book is due to its effective defence of the Confucian orthodoxy over against various intellectual heterodoxies during a period of deterioration. For us, however, the emphasis lies more on its “logical” tie or continuity with the original Confucian text. The situation of the debates in the text during the Warring-States period cannot be historiographically retraced. The historically accepted legends of the debates may be regarded as the valid historical background for the historical reading of the text. In brief, we will use the historically accepted legends about Mencius and his book as the necessary background for understanding the meaning of the text and its relations to Confucian and other strains of thought.
3. Mencius’ Position in Pre-Ch’in Dialogical Situations
In view of the historical mission of Confucian ethics, the appearance of the book by Mencius was logically necessary. In Confucius’ time, the Master was a unique moral speaker in confrontation with power and community dominated by historical customs and restraints. Another kind of independent moral agent was the escapist - the hermit. Critics of prevailing socio-political life, the early hermits chose the way of non-cooperation with the ruler, expressing their critical attitude through escapist behavior. By contrast, Confucius as a critical reformer started an active dialogue with the rulers. Confucius was a vociferous speaker in traditional political situations, aiming to change moral reality. The original Confucian dialogical situation consists of three parts. Beside the Confucian, the other two parts are played by the escapist hermits, who play the role of the silent opponents of the social moral conditions, and the majority of officials, who take the role of servants to the rulers.
In comparison to our dialogical situation in the Spring-Autumn time, the Warring-State period provides us with a more plurally dialogical situation. The dialogical situation consists of several mutually conflicting voices. Only during this period did the Confucian school meet its eloquent dialogical rivals and lose its original uniqueness as the single challenger of power. It was Mencius who first played the Confucian role in multiple dialogical situations. As Confucius’ successor, Mencius undertook the task of maintaining and testing the Confucian principles in confrontation with both the ruling power and the divergent rival schools. On the other hand, in more complicated situations he had to invent additional content in order to make Confucian thought more relevant to new historical conditions. The parts added by Mencius arose from a multiple rather than a single dialogical space. The original unique Confucian voice, which had no strong rivals, was transformed into a new version with several social and intellectual opponents. Besides the Confucian voice, there was also the voices of the rulers and other literati. The original triangle in the text consisting of the single speaker, Confucius, and the silent rulers and escapists were transformed into a new triangle: the Confucian, the rulers and the Legalist agents acting on behalf of the rulers. It is evident that the basic framework of intellectual confrontation originally consists of three poles: power with its silent Legalist assistants, the moral admonitor of power, and the escapist from power. Now the dialogical partners are reduced to dichotomous opposites: power and the critic of power. We should point out that in the Mencian text the Taoist figure plays no role (except its extreme type: Yang-chu). The Mencian discursive scope is not metaphysical but political. It is Legalism which, as represented by the current rulers, became his rival interlocutor in the realm of political activity.
Only in the Warring-States period did political power and its Legalist assistants become vociferous in the Mencian-Confucian text. When the implicit rivals of the Confucian became more talkative, the Confucian became rhetorically more eloquent. In answering why he loves debate, Mencius says, “I am not fond of debating, but I am compelled to do it.” (3B, 9, 1; Cf. Legge 1990, v. 1, 279) If Mencius’ type of the Confucian doctrine is less original as an ethical system, it turns out to be more eloquent and relevant in a pragmatic ethical sense. Its persuasiveness and inspirational character are doubly required by the intellectual ambience of the new political domain.
The complementary role played by the Mencian in relation to the Confucian is not fortuitous. It is the organic part of the Confucian system in more active political historical processes. Mencius made the static Confucian doctrinal system more dynamic in the new historical context. Of course, Mencius’ performative dimension remains ethical rather than political in nature. As we shall demonstrate later, Mencius’ political practice is itself significant only at the ethical level. Even at this level, the original Confucian is relatively less dynamic. The text of the Analects remains a static system presenting spatial or horizontal relations conveyed by its reservoir of maxims and criteria - in brief, the set of moral rules on which ethical practices are based. For the original Confucian agents, however, there are always questions about how to actually inspire or stimulate jen-learners, if the latter have complete freedom to decide by themselves whether they should be engaged in ethical practice. It is the Mencian system of persuasion with its inspiring maxims which has become by means of its rhetorical devices a more productive source of politico-ethical energy.
In consideration of the debates between Mencius and his rivals, we should first make a distinction between the texually valid opposite and the legendary or historical opposite. The latter is relatively less important. First, because all related stories and descriptions are not historiographically confirmed, so we cannot make historical use of such legendary materials. What is of use to us are the parts of the stories which support a consistently meaningful reading of Mencius’ text. The valid reading space as it is historically formed is determinative of our choice of legendary details. Therefore, our chosen rivals of the Mencius are not those described in the text, which are trivial, but rather those which can significantly challenge the Mencius. The text will not then be valued for its explicit arguments and debates, but instead for the relevant content which forms a meaningful dialogical field of Confucian doctrine. Mencius’ text is eloquently organized, and its rhetorical mechanisms have been immensely inspiring role in Chinese intellectual history. While the Confucian text is more a static structure of moral recipes, the Mencian text is more a dynamic trigger for the effective operation of Confucian practice.[16]
Although Mencius’ dialogical rival - the Legalist strain - was historically defined, the Mencian idea remains purely intellectually defined in our discussion, as is the case with Confucius’ text. Both Confucian and Mencian thought exist in their texts without an historically realistic stratum, although many stories were freely invented. This means that in the dialogical situation of the Mencian, the Legalist texts themselves did not yet exist or had not yet impacted Mencius, while the more vehement Legalist practices of the late Warring-State period were also not available to him. According to historical speculation, Mencius was a contemporary of the first important Legalist minister of Shang Yang, but the latter and his activities are not mentioned in the Mencius. Thus, Mencius’ main rival in the politico-ethical debate was not the Legalist politician but rather the rulers themselves. Therefore, the political structure of the state in this dialogical situation is similar to that in Confucius’ situation; both use the same Legalist politician, Kuan Ch’ung, as a representative political agent in contrast to the Confucian. Consequently, both texts keep an historiographical distance from historical reality.
4. The Pragmatic Focus on Confucian Political Ethics
After the Warring-States period, Chinese political life became more complicated; earlier movements towards annexation in the Spring-Autumn period became widely spread. Meanwhile, economic and cultural life also developed and intellectual activities advanced. The lack of political technique in the Confucian doctrine was exposed. In this respect, there are two dimensions to be considered. First, the basic Confucian political principles based on the li-system never attained the expected ethical aims until Mencius’ time. Compared with the more practical and successful Legalist line, Confucian ideal of li-politics seemed to be mere daydreaming. This Confucian weakness loomed larger in the face of progressive political expansionism along the more feasible Legalist line. On the other hand, many conservative political agents in the li-tradition, some of whom called themselves Confucians, had long since been criticized as incapable and hypocritical. Before the brilliant successes obtained by active Legalist politicians, those who advocated the li-system looked less creative or more conservative. Meanwhile, the critics of Confucian political doctrine came from various schools, including the then highly influential Mohist and the extreme Taoist Yang-Chu school (Cf. the related materials in Legge 1990, v. 2, 92-122). All of the anti-Confucian critics became the targets of Mencius’ attacks. As we shall explain in detail later, the debates include the principles, doctrines, manners, causal relations and prestige of socio-political life. In general, the “Hundred-School debates” consist of multiple conflicts of opinions which are the compound of heterogeneous topics from a period when the literati were able to move about in different states. As different social groups, they practically differed about socio-political problems and solutions. The sociological nature of the conflict is at least as relevant as its intellectual nature.
1) Weakness in Political Methods and Tactics:
As a k’uang-style Confucian, Mencius was more actively engaged in political debates than Confucius himself, and most of his discussions are about political matters.[17] On the other hand, as we pointed out at the beginning, his general conception of the link between the moral motive of the ruler and political success is typically unscientific. In comparison, Legalist politicians were more scientifically minded, being more knowledgeable of the political methods and strategical psychology which would strengthen the ruling power and the established political order. The weakness of Mencian theory in political knowledge and practice, however, hermeneutically signifies the border of the scope of the Mencius’ discursive practice. There is a demarcation between political science and political philosophy. What Mencius argues is mainly the basic moral principles of political life and activities; his talks about political practice should be regarded as special means for conveying the concern for political morality rather than actual policies. If what he suggested about political affairs remains too unrealistic and therefore useless, it must be understood through a different way of reading.[18]
Thus, his judgements of political facts function as expressions of a politico-ethical idealism. The original Confucian politico-ethical discourse was further politicized by Mencius. His text is politico-ethical in nature. It concentrates on the basic moral principles of political practice. Therefore, we can say that the Mencian type of Confucian thought is a development of the original Confucian politico-ethical doctrine at the political level. Mencius expresses more ethical concerns at the political level despite the weakness of his political methodology.
2) The First Principle of Politics: To Love and to Benefit People
jen-ethics is an ethics of love. Confucian jen-love is supposed to be realized in the ideal li-system. The original jen-topic occupied an idealist level and lacks sufficient practical consideration. For Mencius, the central part of the li-system is political. The political li-system has been controlled by state kings and political rulers. The realization of jen-love entails an ethically correct political practice which is determined by the ruler: the king. In comparing Mencius with Confucius, Hsiao Kung-ch’üan remarks that Confucius is inclined to disdain people and to regard the ruler and people as existing in harmony. Instead, Mencius regards them to be opposed (Cf. Hsiao 1965, 86). Thus, Confucius seems to recognize the “existing regime.” (ibid., 93) The fact is, however, that in this case the two Confucian teachers are talking at different levels. It was Mencius who shifted his discourse from the ethical level to the ethico-political, reflecting more upon practical problems of political ethics in his theory. Thus, at the political level, the Confucian principle is naturally focused on the confrontation between the ruler and the people.
The transition from the general Chou-li system advocated by Confucius to more practical political arrangements has a historical reason as well. In Mencius’ time, China as a whole had become further disorganized, the central regime having been weakened to a nominal symbol. The old feudal central kingdom evidently could not be rejuvenated through the ideal Confucian li-system. Several state-powers became truly independent political entities. The Confucian problem of the ethico-political reform of the central government disappeared, becoming a matter at the local state level. Confucian jen-politics had to develop itself at the state and interstate level. The general and abstract li-principle became a political one following the change of political conditions. State politics, according to the Confucian analysis, was a politics of the ruler or a politics guided by the ruler’s mind. The original Confucian appeal to the princes at the general ethical level was transformed into Mencius’ appeals to the kings (the earlier “dukes” were spontaneously promoted to the “kings” now by themselves) at the political level, which was then reduced to the relation between the king and his people. More precisely, after this political transformation, Mencius’ problems of political ethics became those of the proper relationship between the mutual interests of the king and people. The transformation of the politico-ethical strategical focus is that of a movement from the examination of the proper mind of the ruler to the confirmation of the just external relations of the balance of interest between the ruler and the ruled. The traditional tendency of Chinese political life was towards the absolute inequality of the interests of both sides. While Confucius mainly appeals to the rulers to love the ruled, Mencius urges the ruler to share his various enjoyments with the ruled. (1A, 2, 7; 1B, 1, 4, 5) It is Mencius who chooses to confront the immediate contradiction between the ruler and the ruled. In other words, Mencius as an individual literate directly challenges the selfish appetites of the king, viewing the sensuous appetites of the ruler as the main cause of bad government. In order to realize Jen-politics, the king has to restrain his own appetites. Regardless of political matters, Mencian thought is ethically more directed towards and centered on power. This political turn of the Confucian ethical tradition means that the central object of Confucian ethical thought has shifted from the pole of the good to the pole of anti-evil. Indeed, we may even say that in the Mencius, the Confucian ethical focus on the pole of the good shifts to the Mencian ethical focus on the pole of evil.
If the king really loved his people, he would share benefits with them, true love comes from commiseration with poor people. Mencius’ rhetoric first points out the improper behavior of kings and then indicates its causes in selfish desires. For the sake of carrying out their immoral private and public projects, kings forced the people to labor and to fight for them. Private and public royal business are based on crude exploitation. The extreme manifestation is military ambition leading to brutal massacres. Mencius points out that the first sign of a jen-king is that he either has no appetite or can control his appetite for murder. (1A, 6) Thus, the problem of jen-politics: how to make the ruler do good, is reduced to that of how to stop the ruler from doing evil or how to change the king’s evil attitude towards the people in his private and political activities. It was Mencius who more clearly than Confucius recognized that the jen-mind of the king is first realized in his sympathy with the people and his control of his desires. jen-ethics was politically concretized in the realm of the king’s moral intention. Ethically speaking, the progress of the jen-mission depends on the success of the Confucian wish to cultivate the mind. The target of Confucian criticism is now centered on the ruling class itself.
3) The Distinction between the Principle of Interest and the Principle of Righteousness
Although the term “i” (“justice, righteousness, propriety”) is mentioned often in the original Confucian text, it is with Mencius that the term became a main concept alongside the generic term “jen.” Mencius first used the character “i” in combination with “jen” in his ethical discourse. Since then, the combined concept consisting of the two characters “jen” and “i” has been the representative index of Confucian ethics. Like many other Chinese characters, “i” can have varying semantical focuses in contexts despite the single etymological origin. For the Mencius, “i” can be interpreted mainly as the proper way to attain jen or jen-Tao; it emphasizes the concrete roads or external means towards this end. Jen is the goal and i is the way. Thus, we read that “benevolence is the dwelling-place...and righteousness is the path (to enter)....” (Legge 1990. v. 1, 468) This emphasis hints at Mencius’ focus on the means and methods of Confucian ethical practice. Mencius also stresses the inwardness of the concept “i” during his debate over human nature with Kao-tzu. This question is similar to the original Confucian emphasis on the inwardness of li. In fact, both li and i have an external as well as an internal aspect. The emphasis on inwardness is only a pragmatic warning about confusing the properly performed internal and external process with an only apparently properly performed process. Concerning the comparison of li and i, li means more the proper arrangement of external ethical practices, while i means the proper principle itself of the same practice. Thus, the Mencian statement looks completely correct. In the combination of jen and i, there is another distinction in the locus of practice: jen is internally directed and i externally directed. As the Ch’ing scholar Tai Chen points out, however, the enriched meaning of the combination of jen and i involves both genealogical and orderly aspects. (Tai 1982, 48) The Confucian emphasis on the inwardness of li and i is a focus on their close and necessary link to the inward entity jen. The same question can arise with jen itself. In Confucius’ text, the semantic scope of the term jen spans both the internal and external realms. In pre-Confucian times, the concept of li was mainly externally employed; Confucius uses the term to signify the related internal aspect, expressing the extension of the scope of Chinese ethical reflection. Similarly, the Mencian emphatic usage of i reflects his attention to the external plane of the application of moral principles. For the sake of the semantic precision of ethical terms, besides the principle or standard of the ethical motive “jen,” Mencius requires a separate standard or principle of the external realization of internal principles. For example, the li-process requires both internal and external standards (jen and i) for its more complete (both internal and external) performance. For this reason, there is a need for the double conception “jen-i” as the guiding principle of Confucian ethics. This explains why the common interpretation of i is “propriety,” which expresses more external correctness or justice. According to the Confucian tradition, however, the internal aspect of external practice must be stressed, so that the inwardness of i is also highlighted. As Chu Hsi said, “The propriety of matters seems external in nature, but what arranges i remains internal.” This remark indicates already the separation of the two concepts. Their possible connection is a different problem. For the pragmatic semantics of ancient Chinese, the emphasis on this connection in most contexts is understandable. The Mencian usage of the character i reflects his attention to the external projection of original Confucian ethics. Mencius’ inclination towards external practice is stronger than that of Confucius, being closer to the political plane of political attitude and policy. Consequently, i is particularly employed in order to represent the right means leading to jen-goals in contrast to the opposite: useful means for attaining selfish interests. The dichotomy of i (righteousness) and li (interests) becomes one of the major political principles of Mencius.
According to Mencius’ doctrine, all political and private choices in social and individual life can be divided into two oppositional directions, one for and out of selfish desires and the other for and out of ethical concerns. This dichotomy seems to make too strict a division between the ethical and the non-ethical. Hence, Mencius’ term “i” becomes a widely criticized target of modern scholars, for it seems to neglect the aspect of just private and public interests in social life. In modern discussions, Mencius’ dichotomy is frequently regarded as a typical example of ethical ambiguity. The fact is, however, that modern readers misread the meaning of this term, which is valid only in its chosen contexts. Compared with Confucius, Mencius is more conscious of the problems of various practical interests, including the economic and political. The Mencian contrast between interest and righteousness has nothing to do with a negation of material interest. One modern mistake in understanding ancient Chinese terms lies in taking a character as a well-defined concept having a fixed meaning. As we indicated in chapter 10, however, a Chinese character can have different combinations of semes in different contexts. Furthermore, in Mencius’ semantics, the exact meaning of a term is often given in relation to its opposite. So his term “li” (interest) does not have the meaning of “interest” or “benefit” in general but denotes the special category of interest, which is the opposite of or contradictory to righteousness (i), or rather the selfish type of interest. When Mencius criticizes the king’s pursuit of interests in his political affairs, he refers to improper rather than proper interests, which are in conformity with the principle of righteousness. The talk about national interests is especially connected with the improper motives and immoral goals impinging upon the customary pursuit of material interests, defined as those in contradiction to ethical interests. The term “interest” in a negative sense can be used in various contexts in contrast to spiritual or unselfish aims. The king’s questions about how to attain “interests” imply that the term has been already morally posited. In the debates about the proper goals of the king’s business, Mencius opposes the latter’s selfish pursuit of his individual lust and ambition. At that time, the meaning of the state’s interests was almost the same as that of the king. Therefore, Mencius’ criticism of the principle of the “interests” of the king or the state’s business is correct in modern ethical terms. The term “interest” refers to the king’s selfishness, in contrast to the jen-goal which favors the ethical “interest” of the people. When Mencius stresses that the king should share his pleasures with the people, the term “pleasure” is synonymous with “interest” in general. This proves that Mencius only opposes unjust or immoral interest rather than interest in general.
In modern times, Mencius’ dichotomy has become one of the main principles of Chinese political philosophy in the face of utilitarianism. The term “interest” or “utility” can be easily misread. We should bear in mind that no ethical practice can avoid the involvement of “interest,” if love, spirit, nobility, death or honor can be interpreted as special kinds of “interest” or “utility.” Interest and utility are anything accepted according to a standard and include both material and spiritual dimensions. Therefore, the terms interest and utility can only be read in contrasting contexts. The dichotomy is still valid and valuable in modern ethical and political discussions because most people and countries are still inclined to seek unjust and unfair advantages (interests). Thus, we can translate the Mencian distinction between righteousness and interest into that between right and wrong interests in political ethics. The double concept presents a tension between right and wrong conduct embodied in the internal conflict of right and wrong desires in the heart as well as in social activities. The significance of the Mencian model lies in the moral contradiction itself and not in the concrete material embodying the contradiction.
4) The Dichotomy of the Benevolent Principle (wang-Tao) and the Hegenomic Principle (pa-Tao) in Politics
The further politicization of ethico-political practices in the Warring-States period made opposite principles manifested themselves in political policy. In the Mencian dichotomy of political policy, the concepts employed are connected to both inner and outer aspects, namely, both the motivational and the social dimensions. Mencius’ criteria have these two dimensions expressing its ethical centrism. According to Mencius, a goal defined by a motive will lead to a definite direction in political activity.
wang” (“truly ethical king”) politics is politics for the sake of the people; it emphasizes the moral principle of political government. In contrast, “pa” (“mighty ruler”) politics is politics for the benefit or selfish interest of the king and the state; it emphasizes the principle of coercive control for the sake of strengthening the power of the state and the ruler. The former political principle arises from and embodies mutual love, the latter mutual fear and self-interest. pa-politics was effective and successful despite its immoral political direction. Mencius, who was not a political scientist, mixes the criteria of utility and morality at the practical level, wrongly holding that only a moral regime can endure.[19] Like Confucius, Mencius was confused about the relation of morality to politics, regarding ethical wishes as actual possibilities. Since the time of the Five Hegemonies of the Spring-Autumn period, Chinese political development has shown a general tendency towards the more successful pa-politics, which since the establishment of the Ch’in empire has been the constant principle of Chinese political life. The significance of Mencius’ dichotomy of political direction is effective mainly in the ethical dimension. Being ignorant of political mechanisms, Mencius concentrates on the ethical dimension, which is intimately tied to the political motive and goal. Since his time, the moral principle and the principle of power have evidently become contrasting factors in political developments. Historical possibility and ethical desirability are also for Mencius two separate criteria for judging political events: the realistic-immoral and the idealistic-moral. With such an apparently simplistic dichotomy of the political mechanism, Mencius establishes a permanent model of the moral contrast between benevolent and evil political systems, regardless of their material achievements and administrative efficacy. It emphasizes moral nature of politics favoring the people.[20]
The Mencian dichotomy between wang- and pa-politics as political principles should be distinguished from the historical politics subsequently described as wang-type or pa-type. Just as Han-Confucianism is different from the original Confucian doctrine, the original Mencian political philosophy of the contrast between wang and pa is different from actual politics with its various moral or hegemonic tendencies. Mencius’ political moralism is in fact the negative product of his direct observations of the prevailing existing politics. His ideal politics negatively results from the existing wrong politics. As in other places, Mencius’ statements reflect more his own moral judgements and wishes than the objective world. In general, as we pointed out at the beginning of this chapter, many of his incorrect statements about history and politics should be regarded as special ways of expressing politico-ethical standards which are axiological justified even today. Because of the general limitation of ancient political rationality, political descriptions are symbolically used by Mencius as moral judgements. Similarly, we can also say that he uses his politico-historical descriptions to express his own political ethics. Modern readers can appropriate the positively presented discourse in an ethical way. The politico-historical denotation is linked to the ethical connotations of Mencius’ discourse.
5) The Separation of Wishes and Means: the Mencius’ Political Rhetoric:
Mencius’ grasp of the structure of political institutions is as poor as that of Confucius. Institutional problems never became part of Confucian methodological invention. As regards political causality or tactics, both Confucian masters exhibit weak observation and inference. For this reason, many Confucian tactical ideas are ineffective. Connections between ethical goals and related political means are never discussed clearly. This indicates a general shortage of or disconnection with instrumental political rationality. We should note, however, that ethical and political problems belong to different realms, so we should not use one to confirm or negate the other. The weakness of Confucian political tactics cannot be taken as a test for Confucian political ethics or philosophy, which has its own independently valid origin. While Confucian political reflections are more determined by institutional traditions as their natural backgrounds Confucian ethical reflections show more originality. The point is that we should learn how to read Confucian ethical discourse properly despite its conveyance through improperly formed positive arguments. For example, the reference to the legendary original emperors Yao and Shun and their achievements might be historically unfounded, but the discourses on these historically accepted legends can express some spiritually valid ethical ideas influencing the moral mentality and behavioral patterns in different historical situations. The historically unfounded legends as signifiers could hermeneutically correspond to the actually existing ethical wishes as psychological signifieds. We are attempting to discover the actual ethical wishes and related valid ethical criteria rather than draw positive political inferences. Mencius’ politico-ethical discourse is ethically positive, disclosing the negative ethical traits of historical regimes. In a negative way, the Mencian has kept its close link with Chinese political history, functioning as a constant critique of dictatorial domination and enslavement.
5. The Mencius’ Theory about the Origins of the Moral Mind
While Mencius further develops Confucian ethical practice in the political dimension of a politically more complicated historical period, he also develops Confucian theoretical reflections in the philosophical dimension of an intellectually more elaborate period. Philosophical and theoretical reflections in ancient Chinese intellectual activity refer to a systematic way of thinking about the deeper causes or reasons behind apparent and common-sensical discourses about human moral practice.
1) The Origin of the jen-Principle: Heaven
Without any speculative overtones, Mencian thought uses the term Heaven actively. In Mencius’ causal reasoning, Heaven plays the role of establishing order (6B, 15), supervision (5A, 5), guidance (2B, 13), warning (1B, 3) and distributing punishment (1B, 10) for humanity. Although the Mencian arguments are organized empirically, without appealing to supernatural sources, they require power above human consciousness to fulfil the logical function of ethical practice. Presupposed are the authoritative origin of ethical imperatives and the controlling supervision of human practice. In distinction from the Heaven of religious imagination, Mencius’ Heaven has neither a personalized nor a metaphysical character; instead, it only fills an empty locus of the pragmatic logic of Confucian ethics. Mencius’ Heaven is practicably conceived than theoretically inferred. Considering the original empiricism of Confucian ethics, the concept Heaven is not to be assigned a superfluous philosophical sense not required by Confucian logic. Instead, as we shall explain later, it plays a great role in Mencian ethical pragmatic procedure.
There is a pragmatic reason for Mencius to rely on the concept Heaven. He needs a superhuman or transcendental force to guide the moral mind and human action. While Confucius takes Heaven as a pragmatically neutral factor, Mencius seems inclined to regard Heaven as a helper and guide in human affairs. In contrast to the religious conception, Mencius’ Heaven exists only implicitly and relatively. In fact, the Mencian Heaven is only an quantitative enlargement of the potential of the jen-mind. In an non-theoretical fashion, Mencius establishes a logical tie between the known human ethical source and the unknown cosmological ethical source. There is indeed a change in Heaven’s function for Mencius in comparison to its status in Confucius’ thought. His moral pragmatics, however, essentially remain humanistic because Heaven never “purposely” interferes in human decisions, while humans can never anticipate its direct help, as is the case with religious belief. In modern reading, Heaven is only a logical presupposition concerning the origin and efficacy of the unexpected in ethical processes. The ethically manipulative procedure of Mencian pragmatics remains the same as in Confucius’ thought, except Mencius imagines that Heaven always stands on his side when he makes a correct decision. He assumes his ethical logic to be the same as that of Heaven. Operatively speaking, Heaven as a logically presupposed operator only plays a role in psychological encouragement. Its epistemological role is decreased to the minimum, because Mencius’ thought lacks all cognitive aspects. In brief, the emphatic use of Heaven in Mencian arguments is due to two main requirements: the origin of ethical reasoning and the unknown result of practice.[21]
2) Human Nature as the Origin of the Human jen-Intention:
Mencius’ theory of human nature is perhaps the most theoretical aspect of his reasoning and also the most influential development of Confucian ethics. He indicates that the jen-mind or love for others is rooted in human nature, itself originating in Heaven, which is taken as the source of all natural beings. This notion is, however, not logically connected with the Sung Taoist-Confucian metaphysical interpretation. Feng Yu-Lan correctly remarks that “Mencius’ human nature is empirical and the human nature of the Neo-Confucianists Ch’eng and Chu is metaphysical.” (Feng 1986, v. 4, 89) Both human nature and Heaven were rendered metaphysical by the Sung scholars.
Mencius’ most noted proverb is that human nature is benevolent or that kindness is rooted in human nature. In distinction from his contemporary Kao-tzu, who promulgates a theory of the ethical neutrality of human nature and the later Confucian scholar Hsün-tzu, who promotes a theory of the evil of human nature, Mencius insists on the natural benevolence of the human heart. According to Mencius, the actual negative manifestations of human behavior are caused by physical desires aroused by bad external influences. Keeping to the Confucian line, Mencius maintains that the jen-intention and the jen-will are innately rooted in human being; they follow from human nature. This means that behind the conscious motives and perceivable behaviors connected with the jen-goals there exists an untangible source or wellspring of jen from which the jen-idea and jen-actions can naturally flow forth under favorable conditions. Like everything else, it is caused by Heaven as the presupposed general origin and creator of the world. Behind jen-consciousness, there exists human nature; and behind the latter, there exists Heaven. Heaven is described as having two functions. As the center of nature, it is the origin of human nature and less the guide of man’s actions. In the second function, Heaven is said to order things without human knowledge.
Without any sophisticated discussion of quasi-metaphysical conceptions, Mencius attempts to make the two terms play more active roles in his ethical reasoning. First, he tries to find for jen-consciousness an immanent source and then a superhuman source, or an inner nature and then an outer nature. Both sources can bring about three new factors in Confucian ethics. First, it makes jen-consciousness and jen-action the natural products of one’s inward force and authoritative superhuman power, rather than merely that of individual free invention. Beside the naturalness of the origin of jen, the possibility of jen actions is increased through the genealogical necessity. Finally, the assigned authority of the direct and indirect sources in human nature and Heaven, respectively, with their products of Jen-mind and Jen-actions are taken as absolute imperatives. Therefore, we should not examine Mencius’ theory about human nature and Heaven either in philosophical or in scientific terms. Instead, we should perceive their function as strengthening of the effects of Mencius’ ethical pragmatics. Mencius’ conceptions and their roles in Confucian ethical practice should be understood more technically as psychological tools used to inspire the ethical mind rather than as purely intellectual notions of ethical inference.
One of the widely accepted conceptions of Confucian ethics is that man is morally good in nature. Immorality of mind and actions occurs because the correct development of man’s original pure nature is obstructed by three external causes: the inessential part of human nature called desire; unfavorable outer conditions; and a lack of effort on the part of the will. As indicated above, there is no systematic discussion of the constitution of human nature in the Mencius. The term “nature” is used ambiguously by Mencius. It is taken in the common sense of inclinations of all sorts, including biological ones. Its proper sense is that of ethical propensity. Only the latter is tied with a natural power: Heaven. Over against the more sophisticated Neo-Confucianist theories of the Sung dynasty, the concepts of mind, heart and inward nature are not yet elaborated in Mencius’ text. Therefore, many related discussions about Mencius’ theory of human nature by successive Confucianist philosophers only reflect their own sophistication or imagination, with Mencius’ text as the operative material. Like many classical Chinese words, terms concerning human nature can be enriched with many additional senses. The term “hsing” (“nature”) or “jen-hsing” (“human nature”) is defined in various contexts. This term can be pragmatically used in various ways. In the simply formulated sentences about human nature in the Mencian text, we cannot find anything more profound besides what we actually read. Only because Mencius has been deified and his terms used frequently to convey others’ ideas has the Mencian concept of human nature become complicated. By contrast, we should concentrate upon the actual usage and role of the terms in the Mencian text. The significance of this concept can then be grasped from the point of view of an operational rhetoric.
3) Three Different Doctrines of Human Nature
It is evident that Mencius’ concept of the innate goodness of human nature is more wishful than actual, for evil manifestations of human nature have prevailed throughout human history. One of Mencius’ main rivals, Kao-tzu, presents a more reasonable notion of human nature: there is neither innate goodness nor innate evil in human nature; the good or bad results of human actions are mainly influenced by outer conditions. This empirical observation is sharply attacked by Mencius, who calls it the fiercest enemy of the Confucian, for it can destroy the theoretical foundation of Confucian ethical argument. In Mencius’ text, there are four famous paragraphs about this debate concerning human nature. (6A, 1, 2, 3, 4) While Kao-tzu insists on the separation of empirically positive descriptions and axiological judgments, Mencius insists on the concomitant descriptions of objective and axiological matters. The four main arguments of Kao-tzu are: 1) human nature is like the willow and morality is like a bow made of willow; 2) human nature is like a stream of water and morality is like the direction of the stream caused by topographical conditions; 3) human nature subsists in biological traits such as the desire for food and sex; 4) jen as natural love is internal and righteousness as moral measurement based on outer principles is external. Mencius’ retorts are not all relevant or logical. On the whole, both sides are not precise enough in their linguistic usage. This is particularly the case with the words representing concepts of nature, human nature, righteousness, jen and inside and outside, among other objects. Kao-tzu is at least ambiguous in using the terms jen, i (6A, 4) and hsing (6A, 3). He does not distinguish between physical and moral correctness; and he also combines jen as moral love with jen as private love. Still, he limits human nature to the purely biological dimension. Using the same ambiguous terms, Mencius points out Kao-tzu’s confusion, emphasizing the necessity of distinguishing between human nature and animal nature (6A, 3) and outer perceptual sense and inner moral sense (6A, 4). In general, however, Mencius’ criticism is more practical than theoretical. Kao-tzu’s theory equating moral and physical judgements and reducing morality to objective conditions indeed challenges the theoretical foundation of Mencius’ ethics.
Concerning the theoretical foundation of Mencian human nature, a more important opposite point of view was raised by the later Confucian scholar Hsün-tzu (313?–238 B.C.), who declares that human nature is innately evil because it has biological desires. For the sake of more completely grasping Mencius’ concept of human nature, we need to consider Hsün Tzu’s position, although he was not a contemporary interlocutor of Mencius. In comparison with Mencius’ notion, Hsün’s idea is even more reasonable from a modern point of view, if we think the source of moral wrongdoing is innate selfish desire. Also loyal to the li-system, Hsün was criticized by Confucians mainly because of his opposition to the principle of the goodness in human nature. In present-day discussions, however, we should not be closely involved in the traditional form of the debate for two reasons. First, the same term was never semantically defined clearly by any ancient scholar. Second, ancient psychological and historical observations of the topic were never precise enough. Instead, we shall attempt first to make clear the structure of the problematic itself and then to find the genuine reason for divergent formulations of the problem.
The above three different points of view have the following in common:
a) There are both good and bad aspects to the human mind and human actions;
b) li and moral education can increase good and decrease bad behavior;
c) effort is necessary for moral progress;
d) “b)” and “c)” can help destroy bad behavior.
We can hardly find any substantial difference between the moral practices based on these three views of human nature. What makes them different is only the potential origin of morality and the mechanism of human nature, which have nothing to do with actual ethical decisions as long as all of them support the li-system or jen-Tao. For all three schools, volitional and practical efforts are the same, that is, both internal and external practice are carried out in the same way. The divergence in the debate about human nature was never expressed at the practical level; it should not have become so important a topic to be handled repeatedly over the course of 2000 years. Nevertheless, regardless of the semantic ambiguity, we can perceive a more relevant reason behind Mencius’ argument in the motivational dimension. Analytically speaking, moral wrongdoing is the synthetic result of several factors: (A) the propensity for good in human nature; (B) the propensity for evil in human nature; (C) objective conditions; and (D) unknown factors. No-one can deny the existence of any of these four factors. Of course, one can choose terms which describe them artificially. Mencius prefers to call (A) “human nature” and therefore assign it an innate trait; and Hsün prefers to call (B) “human nature.” According to Mencius, one should pay attention to oneself in order to internally improve oneself (the spontaneity of ethical will is an internal necessity); while for Hsün, one should pay an attention to the outer li-system in order to conduct oneself properly (behavioral obligation is an external necessity). For both, however, the attention can only be given through volitional effort. Both have to maintain a two-fold attention to ethical practice. Internal as well as external practice is necessary for all three schools. The essential difference lies in the fact that for Mencius the ethical impulse results from and is directed towards the inner order, while for Hsün it results from and is directed towards the outer order. The first necessity is inwardly determined, the second outwardly. Psychologically speaking, inwardly oriented ethical practice is more immanent and ego-related and therefore more inspiring and persuasive. It is Mencius who is more concerned with ethical subjectivity and the dynamics of ethical reason.
The Mencian presupposition of the quasi-metaphysical entities of human nature and its superhuman origin, Heaven, are substantially useful operators in subjective ethical practice. The consciousness of the possibility and necessity of ethical choice accordingly increases. The Mencian style of Confucian ethics strengthens inwardly oriented ethical attention through political practice. In comparison with the original Confucian, the Mencian theory creates introspective concentration on outward political practices. The outer political dimension and the inner ethical dimension are organically united. Ethico-political practice is based on a subject-centered mentality. The formation of the jen-heart or -mind becomes the foundation of the ethico-political mission. Moral wrongdoing is caused by the disorderly state of the human mind and human nature, and the direction of ethical effort turns to the mental. Ethical matters concern the recovery or resumption of the normal structure of the mind. As Mencius says, the jen-mission lies in “regaining the lost mind,” this is, arriving at an ethically proper mind. In effect, however, the opposite explanation leads to the same result: putting something proper into one’s heart leads to an ethically proper mind. The desired results of both sides are exactly the same.
The ethical argument between Mencius and his rivals is centered on the immanence of the ethical will, which is said by Mencius to be rooted in an inner nature linked with an external nature. The more empirical arguments of Kao and Hsün tend to destroy the immanent Mencian ethical ground, as we explained above. Still, there is an implicit difference in their respective discursive zones. Hsün is concerned with the sociological feasibility of morality for the majority, Mencius with its psychological feasibility for the elite. He attempts to theoretically support the original intuitive Confucian pragmatics. Scientifically speaking, Hsün is more acceptable than Mencius; but rhetorically speaking, the Mencian text maintains its naturally persuasive and inspiring power, in which quasi-metaphysical words function as pragmatical rhetorical devices. On the whole, therefore, the primitive Mencian metaphysics is still under the control of the original Confucian empirical rationality. Either “Heaven” or “(human) nature” as an independent source of the human will proves the Mencian intention of establishing an effective power to promote the ethical will. With his augmented strength, the jen-man establishes himself through exactly the same empirical procedure as the Confucian. More precisely, we can say that the heavenly superpower functions at the aesthetically rhetorical rather than the epistemologically cognitive level.
4) The Wrong Motives of Political Agents
Mencius stresses the significance of the Confucian principle of motivational purity in political life. He mentions two rivals of Confucian thought, the absolute egoism of Yang Chu and the absolute altruism of the Mohist. The first is evidently contrary to the Confucian advocacy of love for others. The opposition can be generally reduced to that between the Confucian and Taoist, which also concentrates on a principle of self-love. Yang’s idea is an application of Taoist egoism to political life. Egoistic lust is taken as a natural inclination which justifies itself against Confucian moralism. (Cf. Legge, 94) It is indeed a significant challenge to the foundation of Confucian subjective ethics, which presupposes mutual respect and love among people. This challenge from Yang, which arouses Mencius’ great anger, can be treated in the discussion of Taoism. While the Taoist challenges the Confucian justification of the ethical choice of the moral agent, the Legalist challenges the Confucian justification of political goals and means.
Why does Mencius think the more dangerous challenge comes from the currently prevalent Mohist movement against Confucian political practice? The Mohist first principle of political ethics: universal love, is sharply attacked by Mencius. Essentially there is not much divergence between the graded Confucian love of Jen and Mohist universal love, for the Confucian philosophy of love, based on the feudal family system, applies to all people despite the varying degrees of the love of one Confucian agent for others in the community. Therefore, when Mencius says that Mohist universal love entails neglect of the prestige of the king or father, he is completely wrong. Mohism even refers to the same historical moral archetype, Wen-king of the Chou, to prove its principle. According to the Shu (“Historical Documents”), which is also frequently cited by Mencius, the Mohist says, “King Wen exercised the principle of universal love on a vast scale.” (Legge 1990, 113) Understood at the connotational level, however, Mencius’ concern is actually with the genealogical pragmatics of Confucian ethics. For Mencius’ practical ethics, the traditional system of filial piety is both theoretically and practically necessary. The theoretical core of Confucian love is based on the love between parent and child, a natural empirical tie. The love naturally existing between parent and child can through proper li-procedures progressively expand to include other human relations. Without acknowledging the ethical foundation in human nature, Mohist universal love cannot really exist and the natural foundation of parent-child love will not be nurtured. Moreover, the abstract Mohist idealism destroys the Confucian ethical epistemology. Substantially speaking, Mencius attempts to maintain the purely empirical genealogy of love. Mencius’ passionate advocacy of the system of filial piety contains a highly practical concern. The empirical Mencian idea would secure the empirical social foundation of ethical faith and action. According to Mencius’ logic, heavenly power still needs an empirical foundation which can be secured by education.
Considering the Mencian theory of the origin of ethical action, we must distinguish two levels. One involves the genealogical and pedagogical order of jen-consciousness, the other involves the psychological mechanism of jen-consciosness in the mature ethical mentality. In fact, here as in other Confucian contexts, there exist three different realms of ethical discourse: the axiologically semantic realm of ethical notions as such; its psychological mechanism; and socially pragmatic technique for forming both of them. In connection with ethical practices, there are two different aspects of human nature. When Mencius mentions filial piety, he refers to the second point; and when he says that innate commiseration is the origin of doing good, he refers to the third point. Consequently, there are two mechanisms of jen-actions. Based on this explanation, the debate between Mohist universal love and Mencius’ filial piety belongs to different levels. At the third level, it is Mencius himself who presents the universal jen-principle that everyone is potentially jen-moral, having “four jen origins”: the four kinds of feeling of commiseration; moral shame and hatred; modesty and moral insistence. (2A, 5) If moral sensibility is not limited to clan members, the Mencian doctrine of four origins justifies the Mohist principle of universal love. In other words, the fact that the four kinds of feeling arise from common human nature, proves the universality of jen-love. Once again, we have to point out that the four tendencies are only possibilities not realized in everyone. What Mencius says about a psychological fact cannot secure the realization of the moral potential. In fact, the actual dispositions of social beings occur only in concrete social contexts which contain a number of different factors, each of which can influence the “basic” dispositions. More precisely, that which is “basic” or “innate” only belongs to one mode of the dispositions among many others. All of them can potentially play an equally strong role in shaping the actual disposition in its context. This means that any kind of good and bad disposition has the equal right and chance to become dominant in an actual situation. Both the moral and immoral sides of human nature have the same chance to become determinative of one’s inclination in ethical choice. What Mencius advocates is only one possibility among many. Consequently, the Mencian arguments about human nature should be read as an ethically persuasive rhetoric, which can employ a positive logic of probability.
In conclusion, what makes Mencius different from Yang Zhu with reference to political motives lies in a philosophy of life tied to the free choice of the direction of life, while what makes Mencius differ from the Mohist in his treatment of political motives lies in the psychological mechanism. The former is an axiological difference, the latter one of objectives and tactics. In addition to the historical background, which cannot be wholly illuminated, the reason for the obstinate Mencian position in arguing against unorthodox opinions lies in his requirement of theoretical precision and practical efficacy. He uses his own pragmatic inference to organize a theoretical foundation for Confucian ethics, insisting on its practical tendency. The final purpose is to strengthen Confucian ethical persuasion. Therefore, a theoretical effort with limited logical strength can play an effective role in certain contexts. The historical relativity of the Mencian theory of human nature draws from an empirical reservoir of alternative dispositions. The justification of Mencian human nature, besides its pragmatic effect, can be positively supported by the flexibility of the empiricist concept.
5) The Epistemological Implication of Mencian Filial Piety
The study of filial piety is one of the most complicated topics in classical Chinese humanities because of differing emphases on the same social fact: the parental link. Besides the strictness and complexity of parental obedience, there are also different theoretical contexts among the different types of filial piety. Therefore, we have to treat each doctrine of filial piety with reference to its particular context. Both Confucius and Mencius advocate or emphasize the significance of filial piety. All of the related ideas are contemporary customs transmitted from an earlier time. Confucius and Mencius only adopt existent systems and attempt to “strengthen” their spiritual aspect. The rhetorical expression of absoluteness is directly linked with this spiritual emphasis. Still, this tendency has a deeper implication connected with ethical thought: filial piety is a feasible channel for shaping ethical motives whose first element is natural affection. Filial piety then becomes an energetic mechanism for educating the moral mind. In addition, theoretically speaking, the biologically and sociologically constituted basis can become a theoretically confirmable foundation for the formation of moral feeling and will. A social custom is therefore transformed into a logically necessary step for filling the lacuna in practical ethical logic.
From a less positivist angle, the empirical source of moral generation can be separated from the socio-historically formed system - the filial piety which is one of many possible interpersonal relations. In more logical terms, the interpersonal link of filial piety has to be extended to larger social domains in order to make the ethical doctrine more coherently realizable. This is what we have in reference to all acceptable empiricist theories of ethics. In the meantime, we lose the absoluteness or the categorical imperative of ethical praxis. With this dogmatically or affectionally accepted basis of filial piety, Confucian-Mencian ethics more than any other empirical ethics implies a practical force. On the other hand, however, for empiricist ethics without this traditionally effective instrument, the Confucian-Mencian doctrine reveals the logical step required in ethical practice: regard for the empirical potential of human nature. To modern scholars, it can only be a limited source of practical efficiency. The Confucian-Mencian system, with the same empirical tendencies, attempts to make the ethical system ideally satisfactory through presuppositions which remain minimally metaphysical. The Confucian model attempts to logically unify empirical ethical positions. We can also regard traditional faith and custom in ancestor worship and the maintaining of clan lineage from this empirical angle. The Confucianist philosopher Ch’eng of the Sung dynasty points out the great significance of ancestor worship and family genealogy for unifying the mind and strengthening the mores of the people. (Cf. Chu Hsi 1937, v. 9, 252-254) The diachronic origin can improve the consciousness of the common source and therefore secure the unity of a people’s existence.
It is evident that the effect of the morality of filial piety is highly dependent upon its social context. As the most important category of Confucian human nature, it was an historically available method for realizing Confucian ethical projects. Being both biological and social in nature, the mechanism of filial piety became the actual historical tool of Confucian ethical pragmatics.[22] The Confucian ethical methodology based on this mechanism has a pragmatic significance only in Chinese history. Hermeneutically speaking, however, the Confucian theory of filial piety is also a heuristic model signifying a necessary step in Confucian pragmatic ethical logic. In Confucian ethics, the system of filial piety is both the historically available means and the signifying mark of the absence of ethical logic. The latter remains universally meaningful. Therefore, we should distinguish between the historical effects of the Confucian ethical mechanism of filial piety and its pragmatic logical role. The theoretical role of the latter is realized by the historical fact of the former.
6. The Pragmatic Rhetoric of Mencian Doctrine
As a poetics of ethical will, Mencian theory cannot be read in a positive way. We must treat Mencius’ self-contradictory discourses at a pragmatic rhetorical level. In fact, different parts of his texts can contradict each other. When the will is resolute enough, one can certainly regain one’s “lost mind.” Otherwise, one is proved to lack a strong will. The will is also part of human nature. Practically speaking, Mencian rhetoric declares that only those with a resolute ethical will have a good nature. This apparently theoretical statement functions as a pragmatic stimulant. The crucial difference among the above-mentioned three doctrines of human nature lies in the pragmatic aspect. The question is which explanation can be more helpful in forming a moral mind? Both Kao and Hsün stress the importance of external conditions, while Mencius stresses individual spontaneity or immanence. It is true that the establishment of external conditions also requires individual effort. This make the three strains of thought almost identical at the practical level, as we said above. In fact, Mencius relies on the system of filial piety for forming the moral mind. There are nonetheless two kinds of individual spontaneity: one is probable, the other is necessary; or one is an advisory opinion, the other is an absolute imperative. According to Mencius, a jen-man “must” regain his genuine self or seek for his “lost mind.” He insists, “The great end of learning is nothing else but to seek for the lost mind.” (6A,11,4) Of course, the word “must” can only be rhetorically read as a reference to “resolves to” His “must” cannot be understood in terms of a positive argument about human nature.
Accordingly, based on this Mencian theory, Wang Yang-ming in the Ming was able to launch a powerful spiritual movement based on the essential part of human nature discovered by Mencius. The reason for ethical choice lies in the image or rationale which make one more spontaneously energetic in searching for an objective outside the scope of ordinary desires. Ever since the Sung dynasty, Mencius was regarded as the source of the Chinese doctrine of mind, with Wang Yang-ming as the highest development along this line. In addition, with reference to the Mencian doctrine, the scholar Wang Fu-chi in the late Ming period asserts that “the greatest in the world is mind,....The operation of mind implies all principles and shapes the establishment of all matters.” (Wang Fu-chi 1963, v. 7, 5677) The Chinese doctrine of mind (including human nature and will) originated by Mencius became a school of ethical pragmatism. It is interesting to note that the Mencian pattern of ethically inspiring art can be employed in many directions. The same impulse to seek for the self can be turned towards self-establishment. The genuine inspiration and establishment of will are not necessarily linked with an ethical origin. Still, the debates about the origins of morality or the moral mind are no less theoretically important today. They touch on the core of the human condition, its ethical choices and energy. Without an objective (empirically positive) or logical foundation for the establishment of moral consciousness, people can create any kind of practical procedure as long as it sociologically works. In this sense, religious and metaphysical procedures are not more logical or rational than theories of the innate goodness of human nature. Compared with the more elaborate theories of the West, Mencian doctrine has the advantage of a rhetorically maintained humanitarian and empirical coherence. Mencius touches on mind from different empirical perspectives in order to form a pragmatic framework as the basis for the spontaneity of actual choice. The rhetorical function of the primitive Mencian metaphysics is made available through the parallel autonomies of the empirical and the transcendental. This parallelism keeps the latter as a rhetorical device in Mencian subjective pragmatics whose efficacy remains empirically determined.
Precisely speaking, Mencian subjective ethics can be, like the Confucian, effective, but only to varying degrees, being applicable only to a few noble-minded persons who have politically but mostly culturally functioned as the bearers of moral standards. The Mencian text, together with the Confucian one, has played the role of ethical stimulant in Chinese history, although its political and social effects have been highly determined by non-ethical socio-historical conditions. We already pointed out that the Mencian quasi-metaphysical theory of human nature plays a pragmatic role in actually shaping moral inclinations, especially those of the ethical elite. On the other hand, however, there are parallel lines of pragmatic ethical actionality: the logical and the rhetorical. The pseudo-logical form of rhetorical discourse can act on the intellect layer and the pragmatic layer separately. Both can act collaboratively or separately in concrete situations. Concerning Mencian ethical discourse, its rhetorical potential independently exists in various forms, including the quasi-metaphysical. Moreover, inaccurate Mencian statements about historical causality can still be “operators” employed at the performative level which can be realized through the effective reading of the ethical agent. An ethical agent can combine both textual (T) and subjective (S) elements forming a special rhetorical composition for causing a pragmatic ethical reaction. The rhetorical composition formed through reading part “T,” this is, the text, is a stable textual substrate for pragmatic ethical use.

 (7) Mencius’ Doctrine of the Establishment of the Politico-ethical Will
As indicated above, Mencius reorganized Confucian ethics with a focus on the political aspect and then strengthened the theoretical foundation of the original Confucian pragmatics on the basis of the concepts of Heaven and human nature. Ethical practice became more closely and relevantly connected to the political mission; the political jen-intention gained a stronger, more convincing and more persuasive source for securing the rationale and efficacy of morally chosen actions. With this elaboration of the social dimension of jen and his pragmatic reasoning, Mencius turned to the moral agent himself as the source of internal and external action. The technique of strengthening moral consciousness in confrontation with evil political power became the most important development of pre-Ch’in Confucian doctrine. Mencian doctrine addresses the energetic source and technique of ethical practice, representing the performative character in the Confucian line.
1. The Inquiry into the Theoretical Foundations of Confucian Ethical Faith and Will
Generally speaking, the various strains of pre-Ch’in Chinese thought are pre-theoretical or non-speculative. The theoretical progress of Confucian doctrine is only expressed in thought about required pragmatically and logically ordered steps of ethical reasoning rather than in the logical elaboration of ethical inference as such. The Mencian theoretical effort resides in reflection upon a pragmatic rational sequence of practical steps. The quasi-theoretical Mencian concepts “Heaven” and “human nature” are still bound to a practical rationality. This means that the conceptual terms play substantial functions in empirical observations, reflections and actions defined within actual social life. In other words, the Mencian Heaven and human nature are practical operators used for strengthening ethical faith in ethical praxis. Both theoretical concepts, Heaven and human nature, are embodied in natural and empirical objects. The heart or mind (hsin) as the site of human nature and the sky (tian) as the image of transcendent power are corporeal media which can be practically manipulated in the sequence of ethical reasoning. The empiricity of the theoretical items involves both physical and psychological dimensions. Therefore, the quasi-metaphysically theoretical realm is mixed with practical aspects in the Mencian discourse.
1) The Logical Necessity of Moral Inwardness
The inwardness and the half-metaphysical, half-empirical nature of ethical faith and action increase the feeling of the unavoidability and necessity of ethical praxis. When opposing Kao-tzu’s theory of the outwardness of morality, Mencius defends the inwardness and immanence of morality, for otherwise the practice-oriented logical sequence of Confucian ethics would be destroyed. For this reason, he says that Kao’s oppositional theory will disorder the world. (6A, 1) Along with his doctrine of the innate goodness of human nature, Heaven becomes an additional quasi-metaphysical support. While the first subsists in the immediately secured feeling of moral self-devotion, the second is rather a speculative type of moral inference. Mencius, however, unites the two as the logical ground for a set of prescriptive norms. On the whole, both concepts play a pragmatic role in his ethical reasoning. Mencius’ insistence on his theoretical viewpoint only reveals his consciousness of the necessary link between ethical doctrine and its reasonable foundation. On the other hand, this gesture towards theoretical reasoning discloses the need for logical necessity in Confucian ethical reasoning in general. The establishment of morality is regarded as a conscious search for the hidden, imbedded, obstructed or misguided essence of human nature. (6A,6) The ethical imperative is based on pragmatic necessity. This is the same rational impulse we find in Western ethics, but it presents itself in an intuitive mode. According to Mencius, merely the effort at concentrating on one’s genuine self can lead to control over moral conduct. The Mencian view of the inwardness of morality is tied to the feasibility of ethical practice. Theoretical speculation functions as practical faith, which can lead to the resolve for action.
2) The Symbolic Role of Heaven’s Immanence: The Relationship of jen to Heaven
Mencius’ Heaven seems more volitional in character than Confucius’ Heaven. It can, at least implicitly, decide the success or failure of man’s efforts. (1B, 3; 1B, 10; 2B, 13; 4A, 7; 6B, 15) Still, it remains just as “empty” in its definition as does Confucius’ notion of Heaven. All ethical values such as the four moral principles of his ethics remain within empirically defined human nature. Heaven follows the tendency of humanity, rather than the reverse. There is no active involvement of Heaven in human designs; there is never a dependent relationship of humanity on Heaven. Heaven seems to exist outside of the human will. If so, what is the use of Heaven in Mencian ethics? Confucian thought only imagines a transcendent Heaven, which plays a pragmatic psychological pragmatic role, but this quasi-religious substitute functions completely according to man’s will. The popular saying, however, asserts to the contrary that man acts according to Heaven’s will.[23] Therefore, the Confucian Heaven is different from a God who enjoys absolute authority over human decisions. Nonetheless, Heaven is a useful and logical presupposition of Mencian rhetoric. It can strengthen rather than damage the positive Confucian humanitarian pragmatics through the following main features:
a) Its will and intention are in complete agreement with Confucian morality. It only offers Confucian ethics a supernatural assistant with an imagistic identity.
b) Its only active role is supposed to lie in determining the speed and scale of realization of Confucian practice in the empirical realm. The active character of Heaven is not something new in human affairs. It is difficult or impossible to predict the development of human practice on the basis of a quasi-supernatural faith. The natural gap between prediction and realization can be described as the unknown “decision” of Heaven. The general uncertainty the “X” of human choice, is both empirical and positive. Heaven, despite its quasi-metaphysical identity, plays the role of “X.”
c) It has an active psychological role, allowing agents to pursue their goals without worrying about the uncontrollable results of their efforts. With the existence of Heaven or the determinative “X” in mind, man can finish his process of moral choice more easily. This is a substantial gain, although it is only a psychological one.
As a result, it is Heaven, rather than the human agent, who is responsible for the external realization of ethical effort. In this regard, a politico-ethical agent cannot be sure of the result of his actions. The mental operation of the moral project and its external realization are theoretically separated in the politico-ethical process. The common human worry concerning the two possible states (success and failure) of results is reduced to that concerning one actual state (subjective success or correction of the operational steps). A double-value dimension in the external world is reduced to a single-value dimension in the internal world. The Confucian agent has two kinds of success in his ethical practice: external realization (success of external practice) and internal realization (success of internal practice). jen can be the goal in both the internal and external dimensions. Thus, a Confucian, as long as he remains a Confucian, that is, as long as he is sincere enough, never fails, either in social reality or in ethical logic. With this pattern of mind, he can maintain a firm and constant will and devotion according to his own principles without being defeated by unknown or uncontrollable external factors. One must merely do one’s duty and wait for the result decided by Heaven or “X”. A Confucian never asks for a sign from Heaven; he makes his own decision according to his own empirically chosen principles, which also come from his own experience. Thus, the Mencius’ richer description of the original Confucian Heaven rhetorically enhances primitive reasoning about the relation between the known internal process and the unknown external process.
Practically speaking, it is still human will rather than Heaven’s decree that makes the “final” decision within the logically valid realm of the choosing process. (It is only the process of choosing which is innate in one’s immediate existence). For this reason, Ch’eng I-ch’uan, the Sung’s philosopher, says, “For Confucian practice, there is a Tao to follow and an ’i’ (just way) to obtain; there is no necessity to talk about the decree or fate of Heaven.” (Cf. Chu Hsi 1937, 211) This proves that Heaven’s role lies outside the process of ethical practice. The progress of Confucian ethics lies in the ethical agents refusing to appeal to supernatural force; he does not “pray” in any case. (By contrast, the rulers of the Shang and Chou dynasties and many ancient Chinese were in the habit of praying.) Therefore, the symbolic existence of Heaven plays a collaborative role along with the autonomous mechanism of individual ethical choice. Heaven’s role appears within individual autonomy in conformity with Confucian humanitarian principles. On the whole, both the Confucian are the Mencian Heaven is a concept more at the level of pragmatic reason than at the level of metaphysics.
3) The Original Metaphysical Turn: The Borderline between Naturalist and Metaphysical Discourses
Both Heaven and human nature in the Mencian text reflect an effort at establishing an objective foundation for subjective ethical choices. It is in this sense that we say that the Mencian is more theoretical in its discursive style than the Confucian. A special feature of the Mencian text is that it stands in the middle between the earlier Confucian humanitarian naturalism and later Neo-Confucianist metaphysics. Mencius’ initial metaphysical efforts reflect the logical requirement of ethical reasoning, but his approach remains within the naturalist Confucian framework. This mixed position is characteristic of his concept “human nature.” The key term “hsing” (nature) is a carrier of the required multiple senses: the natural disposition in human being (the objective); the existential connection between human nature (the objective) and Heaven, the cosmological authority (the objective); and the basic division between natural essence (hsing: essential nature in humanity) and the natural material (: desire). “hsing” becomes a semantic ground on which several semes: the objective, essential, subjective and dispositional, interact with each other. The dispositional direction is linked to the objective and the essential. It is evident that there are two pairs of dichotomies: the objective-subjective and the essential-secondary. The authoritativeness is formed by both the objective and the essential elements. There is another dichotomy related to the ethical agent: the volitional-existential, which is linked to the ground of ethical choice. In Mencian ethical reasoning, the ethically volitional is connected to both the objective and the essential. Human nature as the origin of ethical choice is logically and naturally secured by three parts: the objective (the cosmological/natural), the essential (spiritual disposition/authoritative Heaven) and the volitional (relevant attention/ effective determination). In comparison with Confucian reasoning, the Mencian reasoning adds the rationally pragmatic connection between the first part and the second two parts. Briefly, the question is whether the ethical will (part three) can have an objective authority (parts one and two). Mencius attempts to find some quasi-metaphysical support, while on he holds to the natural or physical ground in exploring the possibility of a quasi-logical support. In essence, there are three separate instances: objective cosmological truth (tian), objective ethical truth (li) and the actual choice or decision of the agent for the former two. The logical gap between the first two instances and the last remains, despite the fact that the former is logically proved to be true. Mencius is aware of the pragmatic gap and maintains a natural approach to the logical realm. Thus, along with the theoretical (quasi-metaphysical) support on the epistemological side, there is still a pragmatic support on the practical empirical side. Mencius creates a spiritual technique based on such wisdom in order to solve crucial problems of ethical pragmatics.
2. The Utility of ch’i (Passion-Nature, Spirit, Breath or Air) as the Material Energy of Ethical Actions. Three Types of Valor
1) ch’i as the Energetic Source of Ethical Will
One of the most characteristic notions of ancient Chinese theoretical thought is “ch’i,” whose literal sense is “inhaling air” within the body. Without touching on the rich and complicated development of this conception in philosophy, literature, art and medicine in subsequent Chinese history, we shall address its use in Mencius’ text. ch’i is half-psychological and half-physical material, the substantial support or basis of ethical courage. ch’i is the material support for the energy and impulse of any risky action in addition to other intellectual factors. It is interesting to note that it can exist independently from intentional and intelligent content. This airy substance is also the material support of psychological and behavioral boldness which cannot naturally be aroused by intentional effort. The material substance for the bold and energetic mind and actions is formed with reference to the three original basic Confucian principles (wisdom, benevolence and bravery). Mencius found that the last should be given separate attention for the sake of enhancing the logic and effect of Confucian pragmatics. Without a realizable virtue of courage, the entire process of the ethical practice cannot be carried out; it is even more directly connected with the performance of concrete moral actions. The principle of bravery is materially tied to ch’i as the substrate of its external realization or projection. The Mencian ch’i becomes a practically effective link between the moral idea and actional resolve in Confucian ethical pragmatics. Without appealing to any sophisticated theoretical reasoning, Mencius turns to a practical or natural aspect in order to fill out the logical lacuna of the “categorical imperative” in his ethical pragmatics. This primitive Chinese concept, which is a metaphor based on physical substance, functions more at the behavioral than at the theoretical level. On the other hand, however, according to the Confucian structural idea, the three categories of basic virtues should function in a harmonious way guided by the central volitional organ called chih (will). Accordingly, bravery and the related ch’i should be guided by chih as the controlling center of the personality. The quasi-physical substance ch’i remains a dynamic part of the general Confucian concept chih. Simply put, ch’i is the energetical substantial part of the ethical will. The Mencian doctrine especially elaborates the relations of ch’i, yung (bravery) and chih. This relationship became the basis of the technique of Confucian ethical practice.
2) yung as the Total Manifestation of Ethical Will; The Stylistics of Valor: Three Types
ch’i as the more tangible factor in Confucian behavioral psychology is the material substance of physical boldness required for successful ethical decision and practice. Taken by itself, ch’i - or its behavioral projection, bravery - can exist separately from the ethical will as an entire mechanism. Mencius first describes two non-Confucian types of bravery based on ch’i. First is Pei Kong-you’s type of “pure boldness”: he who can single-handedly attack a powerful king without hesitation. The other type is Meng Shih-she: he who defends himself through careful calculation. The second type is less bold but more prudent than the first in facing enemies. According to Mencius, a Confucian agent prefers the second type of valor. This means, according to the structural strategy of the Confucian ethical pragmatics, that the Confucian agent does not appreciate pure boldness. His valuation of bravery is essentially tied to all other virtues. He acknowledges the necessity of the independent energetic source, ch’i, for brave conduct; and he emphasizes that this biological element should be under the control of the ethical will. Only bravery guided by the ethical will is the “great valor” of the Confucian type. Thus, Mencius asks himself, “if, on self-examination, I find that I am not upright, shall I not be fear even of a poor man in his loose garments of hair cloth? If, on self-examination, I find that I am upright, I will go forward against thousands and tens of thousands.” (2A, 2; Legge 1990, v. 1, 187-8) The Confucian type of valor is based on and supported by ethical faith, without which no bold behavior, no matter how great and heroic it is, can be valued.
Briefly, there are two kinds of valor: one is biological without any serious moral implication; the other has a deep moral underpinning. The Confucian makes a sharp distinction and a delicate connection between the two. Showing a prudential and even critical attitude towards plain boldness, Mencius compares it with the less bold action which could contain more intelligent calculation. True or “great” valor consists of two necessary elements: ch’i-boldness as the material substrate of bravery and righteousness as its spiritual basis. ch’i-boldness is also a necessary part of Confucian moral valor, but it must be guided or controlled by the moral will directed towards i (righteousness and propriety). This Mencian technical aspect of ethical bravery has a two-fold theoretical implication. First, it positively indicates the practical necessity of behavioral energy in ethical praxis; second, it negatively exhibits the theoretical necessity of ethical reasoning. Thus, Mencian ethical pragmatics is connected to ethical situations in a double fashion.
3) The Cultivation of Ethical Energy: The ch’i-Element
The problem of the Mencian doctrine of valor lies in preparing the ch’i elements in the moral agent. His pragmatic aesthetics holds that the ch’i-element should be nurtured through long ethical practice. It is the natural product of the process of moral training rather than the product of theoretical intention or physical training. This Confucian ch’i-element comes from and is accompanied by “i” (righteousness), the result of the accumulation of righteous deeds, but not something incidentally aroused by an intention of righteousness. (2A, 2; Cf. Legge 1990, v. 1, 190) This famous maxim indicates an important technical aspect of Mencian pragmatics. A relevant factor of technical nature in the formation of moral resolve is habitual process along the right lines. Furthermore, a rhetorical metaphysical device is also used. The Confucian agent can feel ch’i fill everything between Heaven and earth (ibid.). ch’i as the material element of moral valor is felt to be connected with both the inner core of the will and the outer cosmos. The moral substance and the cosmological substance seem to be linked at the material level. ch’i becomes a material link between the subjective and the objective, securely founding the subjective. There exists a material exchange between the psychological and the cosmological dimensions which renders the ch’i, the energy of ethical action, materially secure. On the whole, however, ch’i, despite its physically identified autonomy, is an element of the entire mechanism of valor which itself is the materially constituent part of the will as the energetic center of ethical practice.
Because of its material autonomy, ch’i can be used to support both small and great valor. The distinction between the two kinds of valor is based on their ethical involvement and dependent on whether they are linked with the jen-objective, as is the typical righteous valor of King Wu of the Chou dynasty. “He also, by one display of his anger, gave repose to all the people of the Kingdom.” (ibid., 157) The King Wu brought peace to the people on the basis of this ethical emotion. Without ch’i, the moral will loses pragmatic energy. Without the guidance of the ethical will, ch’i becomes plain passion producing irrational bold action which has nothing to do with Confucian moral deeds. In this context, Mencius indicates that only a solidified will, namely, an ethically concentrated will, can guide passion-energy (ch’i). Furthermore, only ethical intelligibility clearly expressed in words can lead to an ethically unified will. This idea repeats the original Confucian constitution of the ethical will consisting of benevolence, wisdom and valor. In describing the behavioral manifestation of the will, three factors: moral knowledge (which includes jen and wisdom), the will and ch’i, become a unified whole carrying out moral deeds. Knowledge especially means the capability to discern four types of wrong rhetorical excuses: “the one-sidedness, the extravagant, the depraved and the evasive.” (ibid., 191) Concerning the problem of ch’i-valor, the object of Confucian agents is often the moral opposite. The related function of wisdom or intelligence involves penetrating to the hidden motive behind the false words of evil people. Disclosure of misconduct can help the Confucian perceive the mistakes of his rival and increase his moral self-confidence, a necessary element for gathering moral valor in the face of danger. Such a ch’i under proper guidance is described by Mencius as the style “hao-jan” (“vast and flowing”) (ibid., 189). It is indeed felt by Mencius to be an energy spreading from the inside to the outside, becoming the cosmologico-material support of internal ethical valor. Therefore, ch’i becomes a useful operator in moral practices. It even later spreads to the metaphysical and ontological planes. Then ch’i becomes the substantial tie or medium between human nature and Heaven or the cosmos. This character can be used to describe a material element or energy circulating in the world, including the human body. There are then two-fold ties between human being and Heaven: the ethical and the material. The latter can be used to support the former at the practical dimension, which covers physically difficult and dangerous actions, particularly when extreme courage is required. This concept has been further elaborated by subsequent philosophical and religious Taoist theories. It is also one of the most important concepts in Sung Confucianism.
4) The Pragmatic Metaphysics of ch’i
On the whole, the presentation of the notion ch’i lays a strong emphasis on the behavioral and physical dimensions of Confucian ethical practice. As indicated above, Mencius highlights the actional aspect of the moral will, linking it to boldness in difficult situations. In calling Mencius’ doctrine a philosophy of will, we refer to this special focus on the volitional source of bold moral action. Rhetorically speaking, the invention of the concept ch’i is a great success of Confucian and other Chinese ethical pragmatics. Through imaginative and concentrated training, a concrete feeling of this substantial energy is formed alongside intelligent consciousness. It is organically linked with three dimensions: the quasi-physical, the moral-psychological and the supernatural. This half-material, half-spiritual feeling, which can be intuitively grasped though training, helps to trigger ethical resolve at both the mental and behavioral levels.
From another angle, this Mencian invention is a “pragmatico-logical” step completing Confucian ethical procedure: it is a practical guarantee for the capability of actually establishing the ethical will. This means that purely ideational morality and the customary habit of behavioral valor are not enough to complete the Confucian ethical process. The Mencian material ch’i guided by an ethical spirit can complement the composition of the Confucian ethical mentality. In concrete situations, ch’i is used to make Confucian valor more productive. Thus, the Mencian doctrine is an art of ethical action. The invention of the concept indirectly proves the existence of a pragmatic logical necessity in the process of establishing the ethical will. What is the true ground of moral action? How can it lead to the overcoming of immoral or amoral desire? Instead of a logical solution, Mencius uses this aesthetic way to solve the problem of actional moral courage based on an empirical-natural position. When added to the related conceptual support, this half-material element ch’i is ethically operative. Therefore, the two Mencian concepts i and ch’i are used to augment the actional dimension of Confucian ethics. While ch’i is a half-material, half-spiritual medium and the substrate of morally just valor, i is a half-ethical, half-instrumental medium for concretizing the correct approach to jen. The correct objective way (i), the correct subjective valor (yung) and the correct quasi-biological energy (ch’i) prepare for jen-practice. All such performative terms are used to fill out the logical lacuna in the ethical process. Through this empirical point of view, we became aware that there is the separate dimension of passion in addition to the logical one in the actual performance of moral actions. Without the former, the latter does not necessarily lead to the realization of the ethical project. Mencius uses aesthetic behavior to solve problems in the ethical realm.
Consequently, the concept “ch’i” bears certain theoretical implications for the intelligent dimension of “Sollen.” “Sollen” is not only a logical inference from ethical theory, it is a physical force leading to the performance of the ethical project. Ethical practice is therefore not only a cognitive but also a behavioral problem. Ethical cognition does not necessarily lead to ethical behavior; the required behavior is not necessarily caused by ethical cognition. There exists a practical “blind point” or epistemological gap between the two poles of spirit and body. According to Mencius, the lacuna can only be filled by a physical art or corporeal technique. With a more intensive mind for political practice, Mencius found a practicable way to more effectively carry out difficult ethical practices. While the Mencian art of practical valor has lost its effect in the modern scientific era, it can still uncover a theoretical question or dilemma about the intermediate node at the behavioral level. It negatively explains the logical distance between ethical belief and behavioral performance in moral history. Practically speaking, the quasi-metaphysical Mencian invention of cosmologically supported energy, ch’i, functions at the level of the ethical technique of Confucian pragmatics. It further proves the political turn of Confucian ethics through the Mencian focus on the technical aspect of outward ethical practice. A Confucian agent is required to face more directly the political objects which threaten and endanger ethical agents.
3. The Defiant Critic of Power: The Conflicting Constitution of the Dialogical Situation
In the first section of the book, we discussed the double character of Confucian political practices with reference to Confucius as teacher and official. A Confucian is an independent teacher of morality who is theoretically inferior to no-one; however, he is socially subject to the rulers. Ethical superiority and social inferiority converge in the Confucian politician, splitting his personality into the spiritual guide and the politically guided. Thus, a Confucian style of existence is doomed to sundrance. One has to play a double role and maintain the balance between the two in one’s political life.
While in Confucius’ time the hegemonic states still were nominally respectful of the Chou emperor, in the Warring-States period the more independent states became extensively involved in fierce military and aggressive diplomatic actions which led many ambitious literati to advance themselves through serving the kings. The literati were deeply motivated to search for benefits and fame through utilitarian activities. Living in such a highly utilitarian period, the kings became more persistent in their selfish interests. The rulers Mencius addressed as the object of his moral persuasion were more deeply anti-Confucian than those Confucius had met over 100 years earlier. Owing to the greater concentration on political practice in this period, several kings, as symbols of political power, become the main partners in Mencius’ moral dialogue. Mencius attempts in vain to speak to them about principles opposite to the prevailing tendency of political immorality and criticizes their evil conduct. A basic intellectual and practical contrast forms between the two extremes in the text. Mencius’ dialogues portray the mutually contrasting situation of the Confucian spirit and immoral power.[24]
1) Moral Conscience versus Political Power
There are many dialogues between Mencius and the Kings of the Ch’i and Wei states in the Mencius, especially in 1A, 1B, 2A, 2B and 5B. In dialogue with the kings, Mencius plays the role of individual ethico-political teacher and moral critic, the Kings that of holders of political power lacking moral wisdom. The contrast of moral conscience and immoral power discloses ideas about political directions and ends. The kings are described as stupid, selfish persons filled with lust for wealth and power, engaged in military expansion and the indulgence of pleasure without regard for the benefit of the people. Mencius is a representative of the people and political morality, urging kings to exchange their interests for those of the poor. Standing between the oppressed and poor people and the oppressive and rich kings, Mencius plays a critical and persuasive role. The dialogues convey the unilateral criticism and reproach of Mencius, the socially lower individual morally superior to the rulers. In several important dialogues between Mencius as the individual critic and the kings as the holders of collective power, the identity of the Confucian literati is further defined. The Confucian is an individual moral critic confronting the reigning political power; his task is reduced to moral confrontation with political power. In essence, it is an encounter between two powers: the individual-spiritual and the collective-material; or the two poles of the ethical and the political. In short, the Mencian dialogues with the kings are confrontations of two kinds of power: the spiritual-moral and the material-immoral.
According to Mencius, the relations between the ruler and the officials should resemble that of a brotherhood of mutual respect. (4B, 3, 4) Otherwise, the Confucian official has the right and duty to leave the ethically unqualified ruler. Furthermore, in the extreme case, an evil ruler may be killed. (1B, 8, 11; 3B, 5 ) This means that the physical body of the ruler is not absolutely sacred. For Mencius, it is clear that what makes a ruler superior is his position and obligation. If he fails to perform his duty, he should abdicate. A ruler’s main duty is to take care of the people rather than to enslave them. Compared to Confucius, Mencius has a clearer notion of the identity and duty of the king. Power itself is nothing for Mencius; it is only the possibility to perform ethical obligations. With this idea, the ruler becomes an equal to the morally motivated literati or “shih.” “They delighted in their own principles, and were oblivious of the power of princes. Therefore, if kings and dukes did not show the utmost respect, and observe all forms of ceremony, they were not permitted to come frequently and visit them.” (Legge 1990, v. 1, 452)
The successful form of political thought during the Warring-States period is Legalism, a mixture of intelligence and tactics centered on the three main principles of law (for Shang Yang), tactics (for Shen Pu-hai) and strategical dynamics (for Shen Tao). The Legalist principles of political philosophy would strengthen the absolute power of the rulers and oppose the Confucian li-spirit based on the moral principles. The moralism of Mencius’ political philosophy over against the politics of power is directly contrary to Legalism at the both theoretical and practical levels. We can even say that Confucian thought is individualist while Legalism is collectivist, for the latter depends on the material power of the majority led by the ruler.[25]
2) Critical Attitude versus Obedient Attitude
Mencius is never obedient when facing the kings. With mere formal respect, Mencius openly insists on the correction of their wrong attitude and behavior. (6B, 7, 8; 7A, 19) Mencius is always a sharp critic of the kings, who are the targets of attack by the Confucian critic. In the text, it is Mencius who has the right to attack and the kings who must be attacked. The morally weak image of the kings in the text is very significant for understanding the character of the Confucian ethical personality. In the text, Mencius abandons his political duty in the courts, becoming a purely moral critic. He does not need to obey the king. The purely dialogical role makes him function as a firmer critic. “If a sovereign follows not the right way, seek to enrich him is to enrich a Chieh (an ancient bad king).” (Legge 1990, v. 1, 441) Mencius points out that the Confucian should be on the moral offensive rather than merely politically obedient, like a “concubine” of the king. This means that the Confucian intellectual is an independent critic first and only then a functionary. He should not be an official for the sake of serving the desire of the ruler. Hence, Mencius complains, “The officers of the present day all go to meet their sovereigns’ wickedness, ...they are sinners against the princes” (ibid., 438) There is a necessary split between the apparently obedient respect of the Confucian as an official and the essential moral offensive of the Confucian as a critic. The first function provides the means for the second. The role of the moral teacher is superior to that of the survile official.
3) The Independent Individual versus the Powerful Collective
It is important to note that theoretically the Confucian critic is an individual without any social support apart from his own moral strength. Besides himself, only Heaven and Earth support him. He is ready to face alone thousands of enemies. (Cf. Legge 1990, v.1,187-8 ) In contrast to the collective power of the king, the confidence of the Confucian is based on his own ethical conscience and will. He lives by himself, making the ethico-political problems of humanity his own concern. Thousands of followers support the king; supporting the Confucian are only his own individual moral valor and faith. The true Confucian is a lone hero confronting immensely powerful rivals. The contrast of individual will and collective power is the essential feature of the Confucian spirit. The original Confucian spirit represented by Confucius and Mencius is both materially and spiritually independent. In political life, it is disconnected from the political collective controlled by the traditional power-structure; and in spiritual existence, it is segregated from all other thought, including that of the ruler. Although in actual and external aspects he plays the role of a functionary in the hierarchy of the political power, in his internal existence he lives completely independently, making each decision and taking each step according to the moral principles of his own will. Essentially speaking, the Confucian is the guide and supervisor; the ruler is the guided and the supervised. The Confucian does not fear the powerful king; indeed he despises him if he is immoral. “Those who give counsel to the great should despise them, and not look at their pomp and display.” (ibid., 496) This defines the proper attitude of the Confucian agent in facing the ruler. The confrontation of the individual (conscience) with the collective (power) amounts to that of the individual (ethical will) with the organizational (social force). It is as well a confrontation of morality with utility and of criticism with obedience. In a word, Mencius, the image of the defiant Confucian hero, plays the roles of individual, critic, moral conscience and, finally, ethical valor.
4) The Permanent Standard of Political Justice Hidden in the Traditional Political System Taken as Political Nature
In Mencius’ text, we can feel a distinct tension between ethical immanence and political feasibility. The former is internally determined by human nature, while the latter is externally determined by historical conditions. Mencius tries hard to be loyal to both, but he prefers the former to the latter. The historical lack of the reflective knowledge of political instruments in Chinese civilization leads him to take the institutional world as the constant in his political calculation. He and other Confucians only concentrate on the moral dimension. If the improvement of the ethical dimension is not enough to lead to political progress, this dimension can still be used as a valid test for ethical standards based on human nature. The denotational discourse of politics is used as the connotational discourse of morality.
4. The Transformation of the Ethics of Love into the Ethics of Evil as the Object of Political Ethics
Confucian ethics can be described as an ethics of good as well as an ethics of evil. The first focuses on the moral standard; the second focuses on the necessary stage of overcoming evil as the opposite of good. A philosophy of both good and bad indicates the original character of the static attitude. The pole of evil (crime, error, wrongdoing) marks an operational step in the road towards the good, while political evil is not yet separated as an object of ethical practice in Confucius’ system. In general, Confucius’ ethical themes are directed to the general level of ethical praxis.
Saying that Mencius’ thought is connected with the political realm does not mean that he addresses the practical aspects of political life. In political discourse, there can be various focuses. As Chang Tai-yan points out, “Mencius’ doctrine especially lacks the learning of li (rites):” (Chang 1956, 49) This indicates that unlike Confucius, Mencius does not believe that the return to the old li-utopia could alleviate the current socio-political corruption. Nevertheless, this does not mean that he is more capable of treating practical politics or that he differs from Confucius with regard to the political ideal. The original Confucian jen-ethics is based on the formation of familial and neighboring love. The second possibility and the objective of Confucian ethical practice is centered around the human relationship of love, which is directly experienced as an empirical fact. Since Mencius, the basic fact has been theoretically explained as originating in human nature, which resembles other beings “produced” by Heaven or the general origin of nature. Because Confucian ethics focuses on human love, love is naturally the central Confucian notion. Confucian love is not only a daily feeling, it is also systematically embodied in the social world, namely, in the li-hierarchy. According to the Mencian moral principle, love has different grades: that between family members and non-family members (Legge 1990, v. 1, 259) and that between noble-minded persons and common people. (ibid., 476 ) For the Confucian, the current li-system is far from satisfactory. The Confucian mission attempts to change the actual li-situation into an ideal one. During this process, the Confucian has to struggle against all sorts of social anti-jen and anti-li phenomena, especially in the political realm. What we see is a constant confrontation between the Confucian ideal and non-Confucian reality, which is taken as morally evil. Thus, an ethics of love is transformed into an ethics against evil, which becomes the object of Confucian criticism and its righteous hatred. Nevertheless, the mode of evil is mainly expressed in the breach of the li-code at the general level. This attention to generality is also the reason why Confucian ethics remains less politically pragmatic. Its political ethics is not yet operational in ethical praxis; the object of politico-ethical projects has not been established. The power-holder who breaches the li-system is not yet described as the origin of political evil. After a further analysis of more pragmatic political praxis, the attribute of the origin of evil can be attributed to the ruler. Then political evil becomes historically identified and Confucius’ general evil is transformed into Mencius’ political evil. A Confucian ethics of evil is thereby “epistemologically” established.
In consideration of the theoretical Confucian focus, we should make a distinction between the objective and the object of Confucian ethical practice. jen is the final objective or goal of Confucian ethics, there can be several intermediate objects before the objective. In this sense, despite the Mencian theory of human love, evil is the main object of the Mencian type of Confucian doctrine; and the major evils exist at the social level represented by the ruling class. The double conversion of the ethical object from the good-the individual to the evil-the collective leads to the fact that the ruler becomes the main target of Confucian ethical criticism. This establishes a concrete Confucian focus on the political and therefore operational direction. while Confucius’ ethics of good indicates a focus on ethical value and norms as such, Mencius’ ethics of evil evidences a focus on socio-psychological and politico-ethical causality further linked to pragmatic reason.
1) The Power-Holder: The Source of Evil and Object of Ethics
The major difference between Confucius and Mencius seems to lie in the object and style of their politico-ethical practice. In fact, the difference between the original Confucian masters is also connected with their pragmatic ethical focus. While Confucius is more inclined towards the poles of good and love, Mencius is more inclined towards those of evil and hatred. It is indeed the case that both Confucius and Mencius regard human love as the basis of jen-ethics. This basis is the theoretical presupposition of their ethical reasoning. At the operational level of their ethical practice, Confucius prefers harmony or balance among the several parameters, while Mencius chooses to focus on fighting the enemy of the good: evil. Concretely, the Mencian practical focus lies more on frontal attack against the evil holders of political power. This shows a more practical concern in performing Confucian ethics. Mencius is more anxious to change political reality, regarded as both the possibility for attaining the good and the obstruction of improvement. The actual mentality directed towards the evil power-holders is two-fold: it involves functional feasibility and ethical criticism. From Mencian theory, it can be derived that the ruler has a three-fold identity: A: the natural post as power-holder (the prince or king); B: the human political agent (with a duty to love the people); and C: the physical body (with its desire). In A as the embodiment and physical representative of Heaven-mandated power, the ruler is symbolically respected by the Confucian. The attitude and related feeling are oriented towards the entire political hierarchy, including its human medium: the ruler. In C, the ruler is like any other person, full of common human desires. By dint of the possibilities in A, however, he is much more capable of pursuing extravagant lusts of various kinds leading to the suffering of the people. In B, he is the possible agent of ethically positive political activity.
Accordingly, Mencius as an ethical agent has three different operational attitudes with respect to this single mixture called the ruler: for A, respect; for C, criticism and reproach; and for B, expectation. With a formalist respect for the structural position of the ruler, Mencius actually has a two-fold attitude towards him: criticism and expectation. The former belongs to the actual and present, the latter to the potential and future. C is his actual object at the present, while B is only his potential object in the future. Because the Confucian never really projects his design into the future, B is never put into his actual program. This identity of the pedagogical critic makes him have a critical attitude towards the ruler.
What Mencius must firstly solve is the wrongdoing in C, the ruler as the powerful and lustful physical body. The actual or immediate object of ethical practice is wrong action and its effects. The directly confronted object in the external realm is the badness of the ruler. Sometimes the functional position and the physical being can be separated. In talking about an ancient bad king killed by a good official, Mencius says, “He who outrages benevolence is called a robber; he who outrages righteousness is called a ruffian. The robber and ruffian we call a mere fellow. I have heard of the cutting off of the fellow Chau, but I have not heard of the putting a sovereign to death in his case.” (Legge 1990, v. 1, 167). Of course, badness is embodied in the ruler himself as a human being.
In this regard, we can locate the essential difference between Confucian doctrine and Western religious ethics. For the Mencian, the immediate object of ethics is human evil and hatred for it, but not its theoretical presupposition: human love. For the sake of love, Mencius chooses the attitude of ethical hatred. For the sake of searching for goodness, Mencius chooses evil as his direct object. His is a righteous hatred and an ethical negation of evil. We should pay special attention to the theoretical distinction between love and hatred and to that between good and bad. There is a problem of theoretical priority in Confucian ethical technique. While Confucius holds an all-inclusive view over the entire range of ethical existence, Mencius’ ethico-political focus concentrates on the key targets of the reformative Confucian mission: human evil and its physical support, political power.
2) The Relation of the Ethical Critic to the Power-Holder
The relation between Mencius as an ethical agent and the ruler in the text is comparable to that between the teacher and pupil or the critic and the object of criticism. (1A, 1-6; Legge 1990, v. 1, 125-137). He takes the historical rulers as examples of the utmost evil to be destroyed. If the evil king is killed, he is no longer the king but just a bad person. “While he (the Chou-king Wu, a good ruler of a small state) punished their rulers, he consoled the people.” (1B, 11; Legge, 171). Here, evil is closely united with the ruler, proving that the moral status of the ruler and his power are essentially separate for Mencius. The benefit of the people is a morally higher standard than that of the ruler. How to measure the moral status of a ruler depends on the original Confucian moral standards rather than on power or the lineage of power. It is historically and culturally significant that the Mencian criticism of despotism was theoretically accepted in Chinese history. The Mencian text has played its separate role in subsequent, more totalitarian reigns as the carrier of a political ideal. Of course its possible function in the actual world has been effectively excluded or distorted. Nevertheless, it has been allowed to exist at the spiritual level as the abstract standard of political morality.
5. The Dichotomy of Moral Criticism and Political Power
In the above discussion, we see a sharply formed comparison between morality and power. This comparison shapes the focus of ethical praxis around the relation between the ethical agent and political power.
1) The Basic Confrontation between the Ethical Critic and the Power-Holder
In the above three-fold attitudinal structure, Mencius makes a sharp distinction between A, B and C, especially between B and C. C makes the ruler a target of moral attack, while A and B commit him to moral obligation. The ruler is a mixture of nobility, obligation, and wrongdoing. These three aspects of the ruler are structurally based on power as such. The ruler is in fact the power-holder. It is power which makes the ruler positively or negatively capable of playing the three roles. Consequently, what makes Mencius respect, acknowledge and criticize is the power itself. The dichotomy of criticism and power forms a basic tension in Mencian ethical practice. The Mencian dialogue with power is categorically different from the Confucian dialogue with the Taoist, who is also powerless but exists in the same theoretical dimension with Confucius. Mencius’ dialogue with the power-holder forms a new type of dialogue between material historical existence and ideal ethical existence. Thus, the dialogical channel is heterogeneously formed. Based on this, Mencius proceeds to defy political power. It is a dialogue between the moral conscience of the individual and the evil power of collective strength. This is the very center of Mencian ethical aesthetics. Stylistically, it is not a logical process realized in the same dimension, whether material or spiritual. Instead, it is an encounter between matter and spirit. The desire for political power is primarily caused by biological instinct. While Confucius delicately avoids such direct encounter, Mencius chooses to face it directly. We can even call it a struggle against power embodied in the three-fold identity of the ruler. Having an ideal expectation of the power to do good, he actually defies the power to do bad. These two possibilities of power become the general object of Mencian practice. It becomes an archetype of the Confucian ethical personality. The Mencian type of the Confucian is a defiant and critical challenger of collective power, a Confucian who stands off from the masses controlled by the ruler and raises a separate moral standard over against an immoral one. Therefore, it is also a physical encounter between the moral powerless and the immorally powerful, or a confrontation between spiritual and physical power.
2) The Role of the Ethical Critic: The Anti-Legalist Line
There are no historical legends of Mencius’ personal suffering. By contrast, he is said to have been welcomed by many rulers and accepted by them as a successful teacher. This legend does not impinge upon his defiant role in the dialogical situations of the text. The point is that this type of dialogue has been allowed to be read in Chinese history. The dialogical role of Mencius in the text can be separated from his historical legend along with the historical Mencius. The strength of Mencian rhetoric lies in the text itself rather than in other sources. In our case, Mencius as a textual role, as a legendary hero and as a historical figure are not hermeneutically connected.
The Mencian role in the text exhibits the necessity of the dramatic confrontation of the opposite poles in Confucian consciousness, regardless of the practical results. This is a politico-ethical idealism and not an ethico-political utilitarianism. The one, represented by the Legalist, stresses social success, the other the psychological feasibility of ethical criteria. They are two different performances in external and internal domains: political activity and moral consciousness. Having no program and expectation for political success, the Mencian actually engages in forming only the internal world. Nonetheless, this is a challenging and defiant internal world. Mencius teaches Chinese literati to form such a world in the face of the evil political world.
In our explanation, the traditional manoeuvres of despotic political history and military and political expansionism belong to the same politico-ethical line. We call this line the Legalist, referring to the writers and politicians specialized in immoral expansionist tactics and intrigues for immorally advancing the regime. Therefore, the Mencian dialogue with the kings is an extension of the Confucian dialogue with Legalism. As far as Confucian political ethics is concerned, the Confucian dialogues with Legalism remain the central form of Confucian ethics radically directed to its utmost object: political power.[26]
The different emphasis and style of Confucian and Mencian ethics displays a natural development, if Confucian ethics as a worldly teaching is taken as a political and historical doctrine. Confucian goodness can only be negatively signified by evil. The Mencian type of Confucian ethics is a further emphasis upon the practical aspect with a more clearly focused object and objective. Confucian ethics is in essence a political ethics.

(8) The Mencian Pragmatic Rhetoric of the Politico-ethical Will
1. The Mencian Technique of Ethical Will: chih
1) Individualist Valor
In order to undertake the great task of changing society according to just political standards in a ruthlessly ruled community, the Confucian agent in the Warring-States period must have more dynamic valor than was required in Confucius’ time. A Confucian in the Warring-State period shifts his ethical role from moral teacher and counsel to moral critic or even warrior. Mencius creates a special image of man as an independent moral challenger. In order to perform this function, the Confucian becomes more independent and confrontational. In distinction from the modest reserved style of Yan Hui, who is another great sage at the same level with Mencius in the Confucian tradition, the Mencian type of the Confucian should be a “brave hero,” or rather, he should plan to be a hero in hard times. Socio-political justice began to deteriorate and the intellectual circumstances became unfavorably complicated. There emerged ways of thought different from and opposed to the Confucian. Therefore, the dialogical partners of the Confucian agent included both the power-holders and the eremitic literati. Enhanced moral courage is also shown in a consciousness of the individuality of one’s moral adventure. One has to be brave enough to regard himself as the sole possible candidate for moral adventure, not trying to shift the burden to anyone else. In this sense, the Mencian idea of Heaven as the metaphysical source of morality is not logically founded. In fact, the quasi-metaphysical image is only an instrument employed according to the choosing mechanism of the individual. In any case, all his spiritual reliance must be rooted in himself. The singleness of his ethical efforts is not only physically expressed in brave actions but also in the mind, which should be spontaneous and dynamic. A genuine Confucian should maintain complete moral autonomy rooted in its own spiritual existence.
2) The Establishment of chih (Will, Direction)
It is simplistic to translate the Chinese word “chih” by “will” or “goal.” In modern double-character words, we can have more precise equivalents of Western conceptual terms. The single character “chih” used in antiquity, however, constitutes a synthetic composition in the Confucian and other Chinese pragmatic ethics. It means a mental-behavioral mechanism consisting of the mentally directed goal, the mental direction itself and the volitional-behavioral source of the direction. The literary meaning of the word chih is “volitional direction and its mechanism as such.” Compared with Confucian doctrine, Mencian thought is inclined to political pragmatics, so that volitional words play an active role. This means that Mencius contributes more with his rhetorical inventions to enriching the practical function of chih. In this context, we can present the following logical sequence of Mencian pragmatics according to our interpretation.
a) the external objective: jen
b) the external object: evil power
c) the internal objective: the preparation for combating evil
d) the internal object: the quality of the Confucian combatant
e) the internal way: self-cultivation
f) the internal decision: the establishment of chih
g) the initial trigerring of moral resolve: inspiration through reading the Mencian rhetorical text.
The first step in ethically establishing the process is “g.” We will introduce the Mencian rhetoric of chih in this chapter.
Despite modern criticism of Mencius’ subjective discourse concerning political practice, the permanent merit of Mencius lies in his politico-ethical rhetoric appealing for the establishment of the Confucian attitude in the face of difficult and dangerous situations, which are linked to both the intelligence and passion. The ethical individualism of Mencius makes Mencian ethical doctrine oriented more to the subjective and heroic style than is the Confucian. According to the Mencian, the utmost source of moral valor and decision is one’s own heart. Relying on his own heart, a Confucian hero should be brave enough to fight any enemy. Moral valor is the material substrate of ethical practice. Valor, however, is only one feature of the virtuous inclination following from self-cultivation. In order to attain a complete Confucian personality, one needs to be resolved to establish himself through both mental and volitional training. If the Mencian doctrine of chih is more impressive than the Confucian one, this is because his pragmatic rhetoric chooses more severe and threatening situations as the relevant ethical object of one’s praxis. Hermeneutically speaking, the Mencian rhetoric of moral inspiration can be interpreted as a logical mode of Confucian ethical pragamtics. The meaning of its emotional terminology can be hermeneutically transformed into that of the more functional terms in the performative process, such as jen, yung, ch’i and chih. The original stimulating effects of the terms can be functionally grasped in an extended context. There is indeed a hermeneutic problem with Mencian ethical poetics. In the following, we shall first enumerate the sentences in the Mencian text encouraging the establishment of chih.
2. The Agent of chih: The shih -Type and His Binary Choices
The standard Confucian role in ethical operations is more frequently called “Chün-tzu,” the nobly-minded gentleman who is well cultivated and disciplined - more like a Chüan-type in Confucian personality. The typical Mencian agent is frequently called “shih,” etymologically: a valiant agent, the Kuang-type of Confucian agent), which suggests both a hero defying harsh situations as well as a firm-willed literate without official status. The term shih appears more often in the Mencius than in the Analects. (In the sense used here, there are about 37 and 8 appearances of the term, respectively.) In Confucius’ text, shih is linked to the ruler: he is a brave and honest subject (13:20) or a general devotee (4:9; 8:7; 14:2). In Mencius’ text, a shih becomes independent from or opposed to the ruler. For Confucius, a shih is well prepared to serve the ruler; for Mencius a shih is resolved enough to quit the ruler (4B/4). Through the change of the semantic focus in term from Confucius to Mencius, we can see the shift of ethical style between them. The emphasis on the spiritual independence of the shih also reflects the turn of Mencius’ political ethics, which is characterized by the precision of the object of political practice: criticism of the ruler. Only an independent shih is able to carry out this dangerous task. The Mencius’ shih is primarily linked to the moral courage to face danger.
Mencius’ shih is a spiritually independent and ethically valiant literate. The first feature reflects his inclination to be non-officially committed and morally valiant. Compared with Confucius, the narrative role of Mencius in the text resembles more a shih. There is no description about his official duties despite his wish for an acceptable position.[27]
Following are quotations about the shih in the Mencius.
• “There is only shih, who, without a certain livelihood, is able to maintain a fixed heart” (1A, 7, 20).
”Fixed heart” means the constant will for the ethical mission. Without any external support, a shih still maintains his mental direction. His only “wealth” is his moral will.
• “A shih lays the foundations of the inheritance, and hands down the beginning which he has made, doing what may be continued by his successors. As to the accomplishment of the great result, that is with Heaven....Be strong to do good. That is all your business.” (1B, 14, 3)
The firmness of a Shih’s will cannot be moved by the external negative results of his behavior. Volitional perseverance subsists in his heart.
• “If, on self-examination, I find that I am upright, I will go forward against thousands and tens of thousands” (2A, 2, 7)
The contrast between righteousness and valor shows a Shih’s moral valor in expectation of serious danger. His valor is due to his moral consciousness.
• “chih (will) is first and chief, and ch’i (passion energy) is subordinate to it.” (2A,2,9) “I am skilful in nourishing my vast, flowing ch’i (passion energy).” (2A, 2, 11) “Being nourished by rectitude, and sustaining no injury, it fills up all between heaven and earth....It is the mate and assistant of righteousness and Tao. Without it, man is in a state of starvation.” (2A, 2, 14 and 15)
The contrast between conscious chih and unconscious ch’i indicates a physical technique moving the shih’s will in an ethical direction. Morality, will and energy can be combined to form the basis of moral consciousness.
• “Since all men have these four principles (commiseration or jen; shame for evil or i; retreat for concession or li; distinction of right from wrong or chih (wisdom)) in themselves, let them know to give all to their development and completion, and the issue will be like that of fire which has begun to burn, or that of a spring which has begun to find vent.” (2A, 6, 7)
The contrast between nature and efforts reveals that the moral inclination is rooted in one’s heart. The shih’s will can be established only through regaining possession of his own mind. There is both an objective and a subjective necessity for orienting oneself towards the jen-goal.
• “Let their rulers have their wealth, I have my benevolence. Let them have their nobility, I have my righteousness. Wherein should I be dissatisfied as inferior to them?” (2B, 2, 6)
The contrast between power and ethical will shows that in facing social or political pressure, a shih is aware of the basic difference between his standards and those of his social superiors. The consciousness of the classification of personality helps strengthen the shih’s abstinence against evil power.
• “It is a rule that a true royal sovereign should arise in the course of five hundred years....But Heaven does not yet wish that the kingdom should enjoy tranquillity and good order. If it wished this, who is there besides me to bring it about? How should I be otherwise than dissatisfied?” (2B, 13, 3 and 5)
This contrast between objective fate and subjective spontaneity is a notorious as well as inspiring paragraph in Chinese intellectual history. It hints that the ethical mission is supported by Heaven and thus objectively justified and eventually successful. It also stimulates the shih to imagine himself to be the chosen savior of humanity. This is empirically rational– just as a gambler imagines he might win and adds to the shih’s feeling of righteousness. Empirically it is acceptable, for the unknown force, fortune and probability are rational factors in our world of probability.
• “The determined shih never forgets that his end may be in a ditch or a stream; the brave shih never forgets that he may lose his head.” (3B, 1, 2)
The contrast between life and death implies that the first factor forming the shih’s will is not anticipation of success, but rather faith in and resolve for morality itself. The absoluteness of his faith is indicated by his resolve to lose everything in the world, including success and life.
• “To dwell in the wide house of the world, to stand in the correct seat of the world, and to walk in the great path of the world; when he attains his chih, to practice his principles for the good of the people; and when he fails to attain it, to practice them alone; to be above the power of riches and honors to make dissipated, of poverty and mean condition to make swerve from principle, and of power and force to make bend: these characteristics constitute the great man.” (3B, 2, 2)
The contrast between external and internal success means that the establishment of the will involves anticipating two possibilities beforehand. The practice can be organized in either one without changing its worth.
• “The shih makes his advances in what he is learning with deep earnestness and by the proper course, wishing to get hold of it as in himself. He abides in it calmly and firmly.” (4B, 14)
The contrast between the confident and the uncertain mentality indicates the calm and firm mental state the shih should have during his endeavors.
• “Heaven’s plan in the production of mankind is this: that they who are first informed should instruct those who are later in being informed, and they who first apprehend principles should instruct those who are slower in doing so. I am the one of Heaven’s people who has first apprehended, I will take these principles and instruct the people in them.” (5B, 1, 2)
The contrast between progress and backwardness relates to the fact that the shih is continuously defiant. He is proud of his leading role in a world different from the common world. “Noble and superior” describes the ethical mission. The image of the missionary teacher and lonely hero only strengthens his self-confidence.
• “He who nourishes the little belonging to him is a little man, and he who nourishes the great is a great man.” (6A, 15, 2)
The contrast between the great and the small in personality triggers the acceptance of Confucian moral superiority.
• “When Heaven is about to confer a great mission on any man, it first exercises his mind with suffering, and his sinews and bones with toil. It exposes his body to hunger, and subjects him to extreme poverty. It confounds and disturbs his undertakings. By all these methods it stimulates his mind, hardens his nature, and supplies his incompetencies.” (6B, 15, 2)
The contrast between physical tests and spiritual establishment is one of the most influential mottoes of Mencius, hinting that present hardship is only a sign of the heavenly mandate of the great mission.
• “The honour which men confer you is not good honour. Those whom Chao the great ennobles he can make mean again” (6A, 17, 2)
The contrast between social value and moral value teaches the shih to neglect external values of political power, insisting on the innate value of morality.
• “When neither a premature death nor long life causes a man any double-mindedness, but he waits in the cultivation of his personal character for whatever significant in future; this is the way in which he establishes his Heaven-ordained being.” (7A, 1, 3)
The contrast between the changeable, harsh world and the unchangeable, firm will teaches the shih to maintain Confucian manners regardless of external suffering.
• “When we get by our seeking and lose by our neglecting; in that case seeking is of use to getting, and the things sought for are those which are in ourselves.” (7A, 3, 1)
The contrast between the ideal aim and possible means indicates the theoretical possibility of attaining ethical goals. Attainment means gaining what is allotted to the inner part of one’s horizon of practice. Only inner attainment is the object of concern for the shih. Outer attainment exceeds the scope of one’s proper attention.
• “All things are already complete in me. There is no greater delight than to be sincerely directed to my self.” (7A, 4, 1)
The contrast between real possibility and ideal direction means that the self is the only object and source of effort. While life continues, the proper direction can be logically set.
• “If poor and in hardship, they attend to their own virtuous cultivation in solitude; if advanced to dignity, they offer good to all people.” (7A, 9, 6)
The contrast between internal and external attainment entails the view that nothing in ethical practice will fail. One’s external behavioral space and external achievements can to a larger or smaller degree depend on external factors. Corresponding to these two dimensions is the autonomy of internal achievement. Causally, the three of them are connected, but axiologically they are separate. The autonomy of internal achievement as such is complete. Precisely speaking, it is the causal condition for external achievement, but axiologically it is not a preparatory step for other objectives. The original Confucian distinction is further internalized by the Mencian philosophy of will. This was conducive to the development of the Sung and Ming Confucianist philosophy.
• “Many men wait for king Wan (a legendary good ruler of the Chou) and then they will receive a rousing impulse. shih, distinguished from those men, without king Wan, rouse themselves.” (7A, 10)
The contrast between the internal and external sources of moral inspiration indicates that the heroic shih is independent and spontaneous, able to establish himself without waiting for the inspiration of favorable conditions. A Confucian shih needs no external stimulants; he can inspire himself through concentrating on his ethical soul.
• “What belongs by his nature to shih cannot be increased by his grandiose business, nor diminished by his dwelling in poverty and retirement, for the reason that this is determinately apportioned to him in his commitment.” (7A, 21, 3)
The contrast between occasional achievement and essential completion reveals that the external result of the shih’s practice cannot explain his true achievement. Whatever he accomplishes is exterior to his genuine worth following from his own nature. One consequence is neglect of one’s external career. This means that a shih has to practice in external fields according to his own criteria. The quality of this practice is to be tested by his internal achievement, no matter how great his external achievement are.
• “What do you mean by exalting chih? Setting it simply on benevolence and righteousness...When benevolence is the dwelling-place of the heart, and righteousness the path of the life, the business of a great man is complete.” (7A, 33, 3)
The contrast between the moral direction and the completion of the ethical self helps the shih fix his direction on the moral goals themselves. The completion of one’s ethical choice is decided by the precision of the direction.
• “A great artificer does not, for the sake of a stupid workman, alter or do away with the marking-line.” Similarly, “...he there stands exactly in the middle of the (Tao’s) path. Those who are able, follow him.” (7A, 41, 2 and 3)
The contrast between the constant criterion and the proper practice stresses the absolute necessity of maintaining high moral norms in the face of the mediocrity of the majority, which may influence the external achievements of the shih’s projects.
• “A sage is the teacher of a hundred generations....If he made himself morally distinguished and heroically great a hundred generations ago, those who hear of him can be all aroused in this manner.” (7B, 15)
The contrast between heroic solitude and the historical continuity of ethical spirit teaches the shih to be content in his lonely efforts. He, as one of the few, has a long historical duration and is a node in an heroic chain of tradition lasting forever. Therefore, a shih’s companions are significant for a historical period longer than his own time.
• “What they (the rulers) esteem are what I would have nothing to do with; what I esteem are the rules of the ancients (moral norms). Why should I stand in awe of them?” (7B, 34, 2)
The contrast between ethical criteria and the criteria of power psychologically enable the shih to face worldly pressures of various kinds and not be bullied by power in his practice.
All of the above performative sentences convey a series of orders about how to strengthen the will in the face of various worldly pressures and hardships. These moral orders, formed in reference to various human situations, issue a message about the direction of rational ethical choice. The Mencian doctrine and art of the establishment of the will is formed on the basis of a rationality of ethical choice. Its rhetorical strategy lies in dismissing doubts and hesitation by making ethical choices. Even the metaphysical part of its wording is used empirically and practically. A rationality based on the use of images rather than on their imaginary content leads to an applicability based on human rational experience. The related steps can be summarized:
a) Making a distinction between the empirically possible (inner effort) and the empirically difficult (external conditions) and between the ethically necessary (internal effort) and the pragmatically probable (external achievements), which correspond to each other. The empirical and axiological dimensions can be combined to create a positive basis for ethical consideration and decision.
b) The causal connection and the axiological segregation between internal and external practice are pragmatically combined. The internal field is causally tied with and axiologically separated from the external one. Accordingly, the horizon of subjective choice and the horizon of objective effects are separated; and an absolute necessity is established in subjectivity. This result guarantees the practical formation of the ethical will in the world.
c) The notion of the completion of a choosing practice is internalized to facilitate the formation of ethical decision. The object and objectives thereby become concrete, tangible and attainable.
d) Setting a practically desirable limitation to the scope of choice in order to enhance concentration.
e) The supernatural force of Heaven is used empirically and logically in a world of probability where no precise prediction about the result of human projects can be made and the possibility of external success is open to chance. The existentially speculative but functionally empirical presupposition of Heaven is an additional possibility consistent with the empirical world. It increases self-confidence, which can lead to subjective spontaneity completely guided by empirical moral criteria. The supernatural presupposition of Heaven never changes the rules based on human experience. The pseudo-logical image is used aesthetically or pragmatically as a psychological complement to the system of empirically and rationally organized practice.
f) The coherence and convenience of the set of criteria and methods of the choosing are consciously secured to maintain a consistently organized rationality as the subject of ethical practice.
By dint of the above arrangements, intelligent, passionate, volitional, behavioral and imagistic functions are synthetically and consistently operated by a rational mind towards a unified goal.
3. Mencian Pragmatic and Rhetorical Logic or the Art of Ethical Inspiration: The Network of Binary Patterns
The force of Confucian ethical doctrine lies in its intuitive presentation of the system of ethical choice. It uses the form of dichotomous choice in various categories. The reader is led to the situational tension of two opposite items and forced, under the pressure of the pragmatico-logical tension, to practically realize a choice between two alternatives. The sequence of favored items of various situations of choice intuitively presents an axiological hierarchy in the form of the sets of empirically determined ethical criteria.
Based on the original Confucian teaching, the Mencian agent further shifts to the central realm of Confucian external practice: political tension. Facing the strong contemporary political pressure of the Legalist trend, Mencius was forced to handle the same topic of the ethical direction of political life. In Chinese intellectual life, the Mencian and other theoretical efforts have played a logical role. In the modern times, politically speaking, classical Chinese political philosophy seems out of date, but as a matter of fact it is still politico-ethically significant. Politico-ethical matters and politico-technical and scientific matters belong to different levels. There are two levels of the pre-Ch’in political discourse: that of the political mechanism in general and that of the political morality which it implies. Our purpose lies in reading the second off of the first. The secondary level of discourse about political axiological objectives can also be read at the subjective level, the final domain which is the genuine concern of the Mencian interpretation. Concretely, Mencius teaches a) how to intelligently focus on the original Confucian discrimination between jen and non-jen at the political level and b) how to direct one’s attitude and will towards a). Similar to, but more emphatic than, Confucius’ method, Mencius’ method employs a binary rhetoric to form its own characteristic instruments of moral inspiration. Consequently, in the Mencian text, we see another set of patterns of choice based on binary oppositions.
Based on the original Confucian system of dichotomous choice, Mencius developed and elaborated his reflections on the political realm, including both the objective and subjective dimensions. This indicates his further turn in a pragmatic political direction in his politico-ethics through sharpening the contrast of both extremes. In his system, he focuses on the objects contrasted, moving from the “natural” object to the intelligently focused object, in order to more strictly and effectively reorganize his ethico-axiological topography. Let us give some examples.
1) The Positive Division between the Position of Power and other Qualities of the Power-holder; the Attitudinal Division between the Knowledge of the Objective Power-holder and the Valuation of his Morality
• The division between the prince as the hierarchical leader and the heavenly mandated ruler as the moral agent.
An actual or natural ruler has a two-fold status which should be morally separately treated. According to both the Taoist and the Legalist point of view, a political ruler is a natural power-holder. Even for Confucius, a prince is not allowed to be killed despite his bad conduct. (Cf. 11:23) Mencius, however, first definitely points out that a ruler can be a power-holder and a political criminal at once. This division involves the problem of the constitutive identity of the political ruler.
• The division between physical power and spiritual respect.
The power a prince holds should not be confused with moral conduct as the genuine source of respect. Power itself is not the object of moral valuation. This division concerns the exact object of moral valuation.
• The division between the “kingly” (wang) governing and the “chiefly” (pa) governing
It is interesting to note that in the Analects there is only one occurrence of the word “pa” (14:18), but in the Mencius there are many. While Confucius employs the term it in a neutral way, describing a useful political function of the appointed prince (pa) on behalf of the king or country of the Chou, Mencius uses it as a morally negative term in contrast to the morally positive term “wang.” Although for Confucius the contrast seems to have been initially formed with jen-politics, the “pa”-politician Kuan of the Ch’i is criticized as incomplete in knowing li. Kuan, however, is praised as a great and good politician.[28] ???In other words, in Kuan’s case the character “pa” was not yet used as negative word.
Mencius clearly uses “pao” (brutality) to describe ruthless governing. In Mencius’ time, the evil political line had become technically specialized by way of practical measures based on systematic coercion. Accordingly, the Mencian “wang/pa” (benevolent/ruthless) dichotomy or contrast contain morally negative aspects.
• Moral loyalty versus absolute obedience to the king.
In Confucius’ time or after the Ch’in-Han period, the king or emperor was regarded mainly as the holder of absolute authority. It is true that Confucius stressed a distinction between the hierarchical post and the moral obligation of the king, but he never faced the issue directly. His tactical hesitation or practical uncertainty towards the king is due to the pre-political stage of practice in which his ethical discourse is organized. His tactics in handling his choices is only a passive retreat before the evil kings. By contrast, Mencius steps forward to actually solve the problem, but only at the level of attitudinal decision. In Confucius’ case, “...a great minister is one who serves his prince according to what is right, and when he finds he cannot do so, retires.” (Legge 1990, v. 1, 245) Confucius never encourages or accepts a strategy of direct moral confrontation with an evil ruler. Nevertheless, the more explicit Mencian attitude is a logical development of the Confucian implicit one, transforming the attentional scope from the earlier less active ethical level to the later more active politico-ethical level. The subjective consideration becomes further politicized in that the volitional focus turns to the relation of the ethical agent to the political power-holder. The Confucian relation is further politically concretized. The ethical agent has to face the pressure of power directly. Political loyalty to the prince is relativized by a separate criterion of morality; the Mencian agent is allowed to defy the power-holder.
• The division between the higher power of Heaven and the lower power of the prince.
The term “Heaven” with its imagistic form can be used with many different meanings. It is absurd to try to harmonize the different conceptions of the various historical schools which are based on the same word. “t’ien” (Heaven) or its spatial image is an index or signifier capable of being used in different ways. For this reason, we can only ask how different are these uses of Heaven, for we have no reason to try to find some logical connection among them. Mencius uses Heaven as a supernatural power replacing the moral authority of the king, thereby deconstructing the absolutism of the latter. Heaven becomes a practical tool to overcome or constrain the pressure of power. An earlier, more religious concept of Heaven as a god is used in an empirical way, excluding its religious functions but keeping its newly presupposed theoretical ones. Politically speaking, Heaven enables the Confucian agent to be bold enough to face the moral challenges of evil political power. Epistemologically, Heaven remains positive as an operator in ethical praxis, because it functions as the authority of ethical idealism. The latter is represented only by supernatural imagery. The authority of Heaven amounts to that of the ideal itself. Secondly, it helps to limit or normalize the human conception of the power of the ruler, just as the ideal always functions as the norm for human behavior. Heaven is only the imagistic signifier of the power of the ethical ideal. Finally, the myth of Heaven functions as ethical self-confidence itself, leading the agent to oppose reality.
2) The Division between Internal Inspiration and External Stimulation
The Mencian ethico-political turn expresses itself through its focus on the formation of the subjective will in political situations. When the agent feels political pressure, he needs increased self-confidence and the ability to react in order to handle the situation. Mencian political ethics refers to a dynamic ethics of establishing subjective will in the face of the evil power-holder. The Mencian theoretical development is mainly completed in this aspect. As result, moral imperatives are taken as necessarily and internally formed. On the other hand, because of the general humanism of Chinese intellectual empiricism, metaphysical and religious deductions are reduced to the minimum. The logical lacuna involved was filled in an artistic way.
• The division between the internal and external grounds of ethical strength.
As we explained before, the Mencian argument about human nature and Heaven is less clear than Hsün-tzu’s position that people are innately evil, so that the li-system is required to control evil and maintain social order. (Cf. Chu-tzu Chi-ch’eng v. 2, 289) Mencius holds that a strong ethical subjectivity needs to have an innate potential for morality. Both Hsün-tzu and Kao-tzu can convincingly define the relation between possible morality and the li-order, but they cannot secure a potent ethical subjectivity. In fact, the Mencian stress, like the Confucian, is related to the elite. With a positive judgement about psychological fact or genealogy (necessity), Mencius actually expresses a “possibility” (rather than a necessity) of cultivating the seed of morality: ethical strength. The Mencian psychological reasoning can have a performative influence upon mind. For the sake of overcoming psychological empiricism, he invokes Heaven, which is essentially linked to the ethical soul. Then the two transcendental factors: the spatial zenith and the mental depth, are used together to augment the empirical surface of ethical behavior. Here we see a two-fold dichotomous contrast between the empirical ego and the non-empirical moral seed and mandate of Heaven. These genealogical dichotomies produce the contrast between the inwardness and externality of moral production and between the power of Heaven and that of the prince. Mencian ethics obtains a double theoretical support: a profound humanism and a non-religious transcendentalism which operationally remains a human empiricism, as we pointed out before. It is essential that the presupposition of the transcendental object “Heaven” does not change the operation of Confucian empiricism without influencing the empirical performance of practical balances. Instead, as a marginal concept, it plays a quasi-empirical role in helping rather than hampering the formation of ethical will.
For a modern scientific mind, the two Mencian theoretical doctrines seem to be invalidated both theoretically and practically. As constituent parts of a classical ethical model, however, they reflect two necessary factors of human ethical pragmatics through a negative mode: the logical origin of human morality and that of the formation of ethical subjectivity. The intuitive Oriental ethics of the Confucian-Mencian line negatively confirms a logical necessity or lacuna filled in a pragmatically reasonable but a-logical way. The complementary conclusion can help more relevantly reorganize the genuine ethical situations of mankind. Mencius, just like Confucius, leads us into the basic ethical situation and allows it to influence us directly or intuitively. We human beings, because of our innate nature, react spontaneously under the impact of situational ethical factors in a guided direction with different degrees of confidence and resolve at the behavioral level, depending upon whether we accept the half-transcendental and half-psychological Mencian theory. In general, the ethical situation described by the Confucian-Mencian view is empirically and intuitively effective. Despite its deeper conditions, the moral fact exists on the surface. Hence, ethical choice has no reason to function at a profound level of “deep structure.” Confucian-Mencian ethics both historically and theoretically discloses the immediate empiricity of ethical phenomena.
The Mencian highlighting of graded love and the system of filial piety is logically and pragmatically derived from the internality of the ethical source. While for Confucius filial piety is part of the general li-system, Mencius gives more consideration to the ethical dynamics implied in it because he pays more attention to the feasibility of Confucian praxis in the political situations which remain central ethical practice. How to increase the efficacy of Confucian pragmatics through a set of more effectively reorganized conceptual patterns becomes the major aspect of Mencian thought. It is true that Mencius’ discourse is more theoretical than Confucius’. It is generally accepted that Confucius says little about innate goodness, but the latter is one of the main themes of Mencian doctrine. As Chu Hsi said, “he would like people to know the origin of morality and then people would be able to be more strenuous in doing good and dismissing evil.” (Chu Hsi 1986, v. 4, 1306) The Mencian theory is extremely pragmatic. To the modern mind, the Mencian theory of innate morality can be relativized as an inborn possibility of possessing moral power. The “innateness” is empirically true, for moral intention can only emerge from the mental internality which remains the sole source of subjective morality.
• The division between the spiritual direction and the professional direction; the division between the spiritual guide and the spiritually guided.
Confucius makes clear the necessity for an ethical agent to hold to an ethically spiritual direction in contrast with a military or economic technical direction. Mencius more concretely or politically develops this idea. In a quite elaborate way, Mencius distinguishes between the concepts of official obligation, official pay, awards, mental labor, physical labor and the ethical mission. (3A, 4; Legge, 246-56) Against the common-sensical idea that a man should earn his own livelihood, Mencius stresses the necessity of spiritual privileges in the various professional choices. One reason is that an ethical agent, in so far as he is a good politician, can bring a thousand times more material profit for the people through his intellectual leadership. The ambition to be a good leader is morally more important than that to be an honest common worker. A more profound implication of the idea lies in its emphasis on the absolute priority of ethical attention in the Confucian agent’s life. Besides the negation of desiring official promotion, he also negates the vulgar idea of fairness in profession. There are two basic human undertakings: that of the “great” man and that of the “little” man. The difference in nobility is not only morally but also politico-technically defined. The politico-ethical construction of a society is primarily defined according to ethical criteria. According to Confucian pragmatics, this is finally decided by the qualified ethical agent. For this reason, Mencius opposes all objections to the Confucian priority. In Mencius’ case, the division especially concerns one’s attitude towards the power-holder. Only this spiritual priority can help form a position firm enough to resist the pressures of power. All other professional directions, despite their utility, cannot lead to this final state of ethical will.
• The division between incapability and inaction.
As a system of ethical inspiration, the Mencian text tends to combine theoretical and empirical elements in its rhetorical discourse in order arouse the maximal self-confidence and dynamic spontaneity of the reader. Like the Analects, however, the Mencian text seems to express the self-contradictory idea of the general possibility that any man can become a jen-man and the reality that only the elite are able to attain the jen-goal. According to his theory of the innate goodness of human nature, the transformation of a weaker mind into a stronger mind relies on the spontaneous search for the essence of the soul. The original triggering of moral resolve is a highly marginal: choosing right or wrong depends on the momentary resolution of the wise consciousness to which Mencius appeals through his ethical rhetoric. Everyone is able, if the will is there. If everyone does not actually choose the good, this is because there is no will, not because everyone is not capable. “Therefore your Majesty’s not exercising the royal sway, is because you do not do it, not because you are not able to do it.” (Legge 1990, v. 1, 142) Objectively, Mencius is logically wrong because he presupposes that moral desire is “able” to dominate physical desire. Pragmatically, his affirmative judgement functions as a persuasively performative form stimulating the moral potential. The Mencian rhetoric implies that the moral mind is only a probability.
3) The General Division of Binary Morality
Through his emotional rhetoric, Mencius presents a network of sharply contrasted binary elements. The Mencian set of general contrasts such as “jen vs. non-jen,” “righteousness vs. interest,” “kingly vs. chiefly” and “great man vs. little man” is nothing else than a common-sensical division in personality values. In fact, however, these distinctions complete the initial division in the first stage of one’s politico-ethical choice. These first divisions compose the operative framework of Confucian choice and form a network in the mental ethical topography, shaping subsequent choosing activity in the internal and external fields. Beside its directing role, the framework of first-level divisions also constitutes a dynamic channel which can enable the initially formed choosing activity to develop itself in the desirable direction. The framework of dichotomous patterns accustoms the Confucian agent to the regulated orientation of his mental operations. The strongest binary choosing consciousness insists on the absolute contrast between right and wrong. It is important to note that the system of binary contrasts in the Confucian-Mencian texts only functions at the ethically axiological and volitional levels, orienting the basic or first-stage criteria and choices without being involved in technical dimensions of society and praxis. These texts can still be intellectually influential today because of their internal autonomy. This character of the texts is due partly to the social conditions of their composition in antiquity and partly to Confucian empiricism, which excludes the trans-empirical substrate and morally constrains instinctive human appetites. The humanist Confucian doctrines contain fewer taboos for controlling human desires in comparison with other religiously directed moral doctrines.
4. The Abiding Significance of Confucian-Mencian Political Ethics
1) The Pragmatic Ethical Merits of the Original Historical Texts
Among the alleged Pre-Ch’in texts, the Confucian and the Mencian are the only ones whose content, language, style and editing are undoubtedly original. They are genuinely the oldest of Chinese historical documents. They are the most valuable as well as the most useful in the Chinese intellectual world. Their evident textual merit lies in their substantial and stylistic coherence. Their moral value lies in their stylistic coherence, which reflects the spiritual coherence of national ethical praxis. Their substantial coherence induces the coherence of ethical reasoning in the Chinese mentality. The vitality of original Chinese ethics is exhibited in this coherence of ethical reasoning, which has obtained its empirical justification in Chinese history.
We find much heterogeneity in other Pre-Ch’in texts produced in later historical stages when ways of thinking and acting had already become more practical and therefore more synthetic in many aspects. The object of our research is first the problem of the proper criteria for using historical texts. Due to their compositional homogeneity, the Confucian and Mencian texts can be continuously employed in social, intellectual and historical contexts. This explains why the reading of the texts is hermeneutically more compatible with the scientific examination of historical situations. No doubt, this hermeneutic compatibility is realized only at the level of the historical process, namely, the ethical or politico-ethical level. As regards the reading of other texts, the situation is too complicated in its intellectual and sociological aspects. For example, in comparing Mencius’ thought with Hsün-tzu’s thought, we are confronted with the complicity of the two sides. Hsün-tzu is normally called a synthetic thinker combining both Confucian and Legalist elements, with a two-fold emphasis on the ethical and political realms. Because of the scientific or Legalist way of thought which emerged in a later historical stage, his text is more valuable than Mencius’. Nonetheless, this way of thought is less original or less creative due to its intellectual and historical “modernity.” Its ethical aspect decreases the coherence of the ethical reasoning because it touches on multiple social and intellectual contents, including socio-political practice. Concerning socio-political philosophy, the more historically-involved writer Hsün Tzu enters into a realm easily linked to modern rationality in several considerations. His more practical or scientific insights paradoxically lose their spiritual merit because of continuous progress in social and intellectual history. The same can be remarked in connection with other socio-political and psychological thinkers in history whose thought was surpassed by developments in later times. The advanced knowledge of later stages weakens their modern significance. Meanwhile, unfortunately, their historiographical merit is not necessarily greater because of another shortcoming in the historical texts: their socio-political authenticity. For the same reason, we dare not touch upon the socio-historical aspects of the two Confucian texts. We are content to regard them as ethically autonomous. Thus, they are both historically and intellectually more authentic and valuable. The one refers to their textual identity, the other to their ethical autonomy.[29]
2) The Timeless Elements of Humanist Ethics
The Confucian and Mencian political idealism is evidently infeasible. There is a unbrigeable gap between their ethico-political methods and human political reality. We have already pointed out that Confucius is weak in imagining effective ways to realize his jen-politics. In his time, the majority of illiterate people did not listen to his moral teaching, although the happiness of the people was the objective of Confucian political ethics. One of the well-known assertions of Mencius is: “The people are the most important; the sacrifice system is the next; the sovereign is the lightest.” (7B, 14, 1)
This does not mean Mencius has a way to realize the ideal.
The above conclusion does not mean a denial of the validity of the Confucian politico-ethical principles themselves. If the Confucian does not know how to realize his objectives, he can still judge correctly the moral quality of the current political situation and the nature of the actual political procedures leading to immoral results. Based on Confucian humanist thought, Mencius sets up a set of basic criteria to be employed in order to judge the moral or interpersonal quality of political reality. These politico-ethical criteria were originally deduced from the basic Confucian ethical principles. The basic contrast of political types is reduced to two attitudes in treating the other: love versus enslavement. The contrasting objectives and styles can be shown in domestic and foreign policies. We can enumerate them in the Mencian text as follows:
a) The proper aim of politics is the happiness of the people in a fair social order: the li-system. The opposite is the ruler’s selfish project: extravagance; the expansion of power; and enslavement.
• “The ancient rulers caused the people to pleasure as much as themselves “. (1A, 2, 3)
• “...these four classes (the old and wifeless, the old and widows, the old and childless, orphans) are the most destitute of the people, and have none to whom they can tell their wants, and King Wan, in the institution of his government with its benevolent action, made them the first objects of his regards....” (1B, 5, 3)
b) The proper motive of the ruler are love and working for the people out of morality. The opposite is the satisfaction of rulers’ selfish desire for profit, reputation and power.
c) The proper manners of government are respect for ministers and other states and love for the people. The opposite is heavy penalties; intrigue; and exploitation.
• “When a prince, being the parent of his people, administers his government so as to be chargeable with leading on beasts to devour men, where is his parental relation to the people?” (1A, 4, 5)
• “If your Majesty will indeed dispense a benevolent government to the people, being sparing in the use of punishments and fines, and making the taxes and levies light,....” (1A, 5, 3)
These are basic contradictions between good and the bad politics. Their names are “jen” (kindness, benevolence) politics and “pao” (cruelty) politics or “wang” (kingly benevolence) politics and “pa” (coercion, hegemony, subjugation) politics. The basic dichotomy has been used in China over the course of 2000 years without changing its original sense, which is mainly expressed at the motivational and stylistic levels of political comportment. There is a serious pragmatic gap between Confucian motivational ethics and its possible political realization. This objective gap has made every ruler claim to represent Confucian politics through his own systems, which are contrary to Confucian political ethics. Still, the basic Confucian political criteria remain rationally valid. The reason lies in the fact that they exist only at the axiological and motivational levels. In comparison, despite the progress of science and technology, modern politics and the knowledge of political life have been full of anti-moral positions at the poles of both the power-holders and intellectuals. Therefore, Confucian politico-ethics with its empirical focus remains pertinent for judging the moral problems of modern political life.
A delicate Confucian distinction is made between practical success and moral success with a view towards morally deepening and solidifying political success. The majority is inclined to accept any kind of success, apt to take any hegemonic success as politically acceptable. Political conquest and subjugation are distinguished by Mencius from politico-ethical success. He differentiates between the value of political expansionism and that of political morality. “He who, using force, makes a pretence to benevolence can become a hegemonic leader (pa) for other states. For this he requires a large kingdom. He who, using virtue, practices benevolence can become a moral king (wang). For this he need not wait for a large kingdom.” (2B, 3, 1) More concretely than Confucius, Mencius presents a set of permanent criteria for political morality which remain highly pertinent in modern world.
Many modern “successful” politics have been realized by dint of “pa” (bullying, subjugation, expansionism, aggression, exploitation, control and deceit), although they have brought about moral disaster to the majority of the people. Despite the great technical development of human political life, related ethical situations have remained unchanged in Chinese history. We have to recognize that until today most immoral results in human political life have been caused by immoral motives and objectives with the same practical background. Traditional mistakes in human political life are repeated, although related technical conditions have advanced. The modern progress of political history is based on institutional reform, that is, changes at the external technical level. There is an epistemological border between the social and the subjective. Both belong to different operational procedures defined by separate parameters in connection with the status of the ethical agent: the number of the people involved and the operational planes (technical, societal and intellectual). Social and the subjective ethics are identified and regulated by different operational parameters. Subjective ethics is much less influenced by social and technical developments. The original modes of its interpersonal relations remain unchanged. Mencian subjective ethics, with its intelligent and pragmatic efficacy, reflects the original, basic ethical situation of the individual in both its public and private valuation, offering a valid model for modern politico-ethical reflection.
3) Operational Pragmatism in Establishing the Politico-ethical Will
The Mencian discourse implies four different operational ethical layers:
a) Confucian ethical valuation;
b) the theoretical elaboration of the ethical foundations;
c) axiological persuasion by dint of the dialogical and narrative rhetoric;
d) volitional technique for shaping the ethical will.
Layer “a” involves the application of original Confucian thought to the political realm (moral versus immoral government; the relationship of the king to the people; the ethical attitude of the agent; the immediate object of ethical practice). Layer “b” is the logical attempt to expand Chinese ethical rationality (the immanent source of the moral will; the relationship of the human to supernatural potential; the empirical basis of the moral mind). Layer “c” is first of all the immediate confrontation of oppositional motives inserted in the dialogical framework in order to form the tension stimulating the ethical sensibility; second, it is the persuasive unfolding of valuation through narrative depictions of historical legends. Layer “d” is a practical procedure for establishing ethical valor and resolve in order to deal with difficult relationships between ethical reason and behavioral decisions. These four layers express the originality of Mencian ethics. In brief, it was Mencius who projected the original Confucian ideational norms onto historical realities, introducing them to the plane of politico-ethical rationality.
Compared with original Confucian ethics, Mencian ethics is more dynamically organized in developing the ethical will, more actively dealing with the relationship between the cognitional and volitional-emotional levels. Consequently, in facing the immediately real challenge of political pressure, it forms volitional mechanism of the defiant ethical ego. jen (the moral goal), i (the intelligent way), chih (the firm will), yung (ethical valor) and ch’i (actional energy) form a structural union of different ethical factors, each of which keeps its relative autonomy. The Mencian model of ethical pragmatics, despite the modern weakening of its intellectual and practical efficacy (mainly at the level of “i”), heuristically exhibits the universally necessary steps and functions of ethical practice, presenting the entire structure of an ethical pragmatics rooted in human nature. We moderns still exist in the original tension between ethical reason and subjective practice. This is disclosed by our analysis of the innate structure of the historically original ethical pragmatics. In the field of subjective ethics, we are still working at the same level as did the ancients. All of us are continuously faced with the same interpersonal existential problem of recognizing basic values and taking suitable attitudes towards these values. All of us, ancients and moderns, are involved in the same conditions of the interpersonal relations and human nature.

(9) The Energetic Formalism of the Ethical Will: ch’eng.
A Semantic Digression
Confucius’ text and Mencius’ text form a complete system of Chinese pragmatic ethics based on humanist instincts for accepting moral values and creating valor to resist anti-moral values. The aim of Chinese ethics is first expressed in self-consciously shaping the qualified subjectivity of ethical praxis.
The potential of this ethics is based on the creation of the ethical ego along a pragmatic empirical direction. Outer and inner practice are organically interwoven with a view to build up a strong ethical will which remains psychologically empirical. Long before the appearance of Chinese Confucianist philosophy in the Sung-Ming period, a doctrine of training the ethical will was formed by Confucius and Mencius. Besides being a practical method, the doctrine is also “virtual” evidence of both the necessity and the absence of a “categorical imperative” in ethical existence. Chinese ethical wisdom instead presents an pragmatic empirical alternative which appeals to the instinctive building up of volitional strength. Thus, the Mencian concept of “ch’eng” becomes a generic parameter describing virtuous elements characteristic of the Chinese mentality. ch’eng is a specific mental inclination directly related to the strength of the ethical will; it is an index and a measure of the dynamic features of ethical energetics. We can even assert that ch’eng (in the sense of energy) is the fundamental designation of Mencian ethics, just as jen (in the sense of standard) is that of Confucian ethics. In distinction from the inclusiveness of the concept of jen, ch’eng is specifically relevant to the energetic traits of the ethical ego’s will. It describes volitional strength directed by jen.
Mencian ethics is generally described by the term “i” (justice, propriety). “i” is more related to the process of practising than jen, which is more inclusive. The aspect of practice is in fact closely connected with volitional strength. The Mencian doctrine of i is based on a practical technique for attaining i. The Mencian physical and psychological techniques for attaining volitional strength can be reduced to a pragmatic aesthetics or poetics of ethical will. ch’eng is the Mencian doctrine of will for ethical power in contrast to the Legalist will for political power.
ch’eng can also be the representative topic of Mencian ethics because it has provided a foundation for the historical development of Chinese ethical thought. The doctrine of ch’eng constitutes a link between original Confucian ethics and its subsequent historical unfolding. For this reason, we shall complete the treatment of Mencian ethics with an expanded discussion of ch’eng and without any regard for its later metaphysical development. It is well-known that the pragmatic metaphysical school of the Ch’eng-Chu doctrine of the Sung and the pragmatic psychological school of the Lu-Wang doctrine of the Sung-Ming pay the same close attention to the learning of ch’eng. It is the latter, however, which maintains a more intense concentration on the formalist operative mechanism of ch’eng. With much less metaphysical erudition, Wang Yang-ming, the most influential and original successor of Mencian ethics, is superior to all other Confucianist philosophers due to his pragmatic psychological relevance for the ethical stylistics of ch’eng through combining Mencian rhetorical ethical energetics and Zen-Buddhist ascetic praxis. We can here neither treat the learning of ch’eng in general nor Wang’s doctrine in particular. Instead, we shall only present a systematic outline of the related issues in order to stress the most original feature of Mencian ethical energetics.
1. The Three Zones of Cardinal Virtues
We have mentioned several times that Confucius uses the three words (chih, jen, yung) to represent three general classes of ethical virtues. As in many other places, these emotionally concrete terms are used in abstract and general ways. Briefly, “jen,” in the sense of kindness and love, is linked to the direction of ethical action; “chih,” in the sense of wisdom and capability, is linked to ways or methods of action; and “yung,” in the sense of bravery and persistence, is linked to the energy and impulse of action. These are three constituent dimensions of the dynamic mechanism of ethical psychology. Most virtues or virtuous inclinations can be classified under these three basic headings or under certain mixtures of them. For each dimension, there are several “parameters” or constituents, such as the following:
a) “jen”: directedness, degree and quality of love (the structural proportion of the varying quality of love in connection with different kinds of people); love for principles; hatred of evil; the direction of ethical attention, affection and emotion.
b) “chih”: wisdom, capability, method, technique, knowledge, thinking, measuring and flexibility.
c) “yung”: energy, spontaneity, resolution, courage, resistance, desire, self-control and combat. The items in this heading are closely tied with those in the general section on volition.
2. The Source of the Energetics of the Ethical Will: ch’eng as the Sign of Will and Virtue
It is evident that the three cardinal virtues, whether in their narrow sense as the concrete virtuous qualities or in their expanded sense as categories of virtues, have been prevalent in most cultures. This indicates the commonly shared, basic three-fold division of human moral psychology. The Confucian focus on subjective operationality, however, brings out a special dimension of the three zones of virtues. In Confucius’ text, the dimension which is later called “ch’eng” is not yet separately dealt with, although it substantially exists in Confucian ethical discourse. To complete our discussion about the Confucian ethics of will, we shall add a special analysis of the elements of the volitional dimension which characterizes the pragmatic potential of Confucian-Mencian ethics. These purely volitional qualities compose an independent section in our description of the Confucian ethical horizon. ch’eng is to be distinguished from the three cardinal virtues. In fact, it covers abstract qualities such as strength, duration, flexibility, persistence, spontaneity, energy, breadth, depth and concentration. These descriptive terms, as names of general qualities of volitional psychology, can be applied to all other items in the three headings in order to secure the eventual quality of ethical practice. In describing the phenomena of the Confucian ethical will, we can distinguish between the qualities or elements of three cardinal virtues and those of ch’eng, which are the elements used to describe the special quality of the potential for shaping the three cardinal virtues. Nonetheless, many formalist traits of ch’eng  overlap with those of the yung-category, which is closer to the volitional than to the other two. In distinction from yung, however, ch’eng is a new conglomeration of virtuous elements for examining and guiding the quality of ethical projects. It is formed through the expanded use of the elements of yung in the three headings. Its qualities determine those of the other virtues. The former are essential parts of the latter. For this reason, the Confucian doctrine of the three cardinal virtues anticipates the more formalist Mencian doctrine of ch’eng.. In Chinese philosophical history, the category “ch’eng” has played an increasingly important role. This unique concept is linked to the will and its technical aspects, all of which reflect the pragmatic subjective character of Chinese ethics. Confucius’ doctrine is the origin of this subjective ethics, which focuses on the energetic potential of the ethical will. As a result, the zone of ch’eng belongs to the center of the Confucian will. In brief, the necessity of ch’eng-zone with its formalist virtues is due to the requirement for the enhanced actional spontaneity, for which a specific collection of formalist volitional qualities can provide a reliable guarantee. Of course, the virtuous elements of ch’eng-zone appear only in synthetic or combinative modes in the ethical texts without their separate occurrences. Our representation abstracts its elements from its daily manifestations.
3. The Volitional Aesthetics of ch’eng
ch’eng” is more closely tied with the core of the will than are the other kinds of virtues. It is the essential regrouping of the related elements of the three headings in connection with the operative technique of ethical will. We are attempting to present the unitary dynamic aspect of Confucian ethical pragmatics. While jen is the general carrier of the ideal of Confucian ethics, the separate occurrences of the term “ch’eng” in the Mencian text fortify the volitional aspect of Confucian ethics. In Confucius’ time, the psychological description was not so emphatically used as in subsequent periods. In fact, the purely psychological term “ch’eng” (sincerity, earnestness, honesty) does not appear in the Analects. There are only two occurrences of the word in the text, neither in the sense of the abstract noun which Mencius employs. The volitional strength of the jen-agent is represented by other more synthetic terms, including “chih” (“moral will”). (4 / 4; 4 / 9)
1) The Attributes of ch’eng
ch’eng” literally or etymologically means “honesty,” “truth,” “sincerity,” “faith” and “keeping promises.” Functionally, it organizes and controls the volitional qualities in ethical practice or action. Why is there a need for another section besides the will itself? First, will is a general psychological term connected with any kind of action. Second, the will can be taken as a synthetic and mixed source. The ethically refined will called the “true will” is characterized by its ch’eng-quality. The psychological elements of ch’eng are special qualities of the constitution of the ethical will and its creative production of virtues. They belong to the center of the organizing will, although they intuitively appear along with other qualities in concrete situations. As functionally independent elements, these elements are the index of the technical and formative part of ethical virtues and their combination in ethical situations; they are not so much substantial in character. As the index of volitional strength, they share in the guiding or controlling of the will and are also signs of achievements of the volitional guidance. If the appearing or realized elements of the three virtuous zones are signs of ethical capability, the elements of ch’eng are the signs of the efficacy of the function of the three main virtuous zones: they characterize the quality of all other virtues in their operative combinations.
ch’eng can be embodied in different mental areas such as emotion, feeling, inclination and resolution. It can be also a generic term representative of volitional inclination. Its existential or referential realm, however, is the energetic kernel of the ethical will. Unlike a purely psychological inclination, it is morally oriented. Confucian ethics and the entire Asian intellectual history have revealed a separate volitional part of the operation of the ethical will. All distinctions between apparently similar but essentially different motives in the text reflect the Confucian concern with the quality of virtues and their operations. The distinction between different qualities of ethical practice in Confucius’ discourse reveals the identity of the central virtuous elements. Briefly, ch’eng describes the volitional aspect of the operation of virtue.
ch’eng can be also described as a special mechanism of the will which has a dynamically and structurally organizing potential in the constitution of and in operation with the elements of the three headings. Etymologically, it is mostly used in the daily senses of “honesty” and “faith,” which are realized together with the elements of the three zones of virtues. When abstracted, ch’eng-elements become formalist and functional terms, such as energy, spontaneity, strength, duration, flexibility, persistence, concentration, width and depth. These volitionally formalist qualities can augment the quality of the virtuous elements of the three main headings along with their operational combinations. ch’eng is the dynamic sign of will and virtue.
2) The Operation of ch’eng
In the original Confucian doctrine, ch’eng-elements are still mixed in concrete events. ch’eng appears as subjective and self-conscious effort on various occasions. It is both mechanism, as a part of the ethical will, and the feeling of the function of the ch’eng-mechanism. ch’eng is a general index of the total quality of the ethical will. The quality of the ethical will is therefore reduced to or represented by the quality of the ch’eng-mechanism. In general, ch’eng-elements play four leading roles in manipulating the elements of the three main headings: concentration, excitement, unification and examination. Thereby, the directedness, speed, effects and duration of ethical actions are better secured. They become immediate factors establishing qualified ethical practice. Thus, we see the following:
a) the orientation of operation in the three basic zones of virtues;
b) the organization of operation in the three zones;
c) the harmonization and coordination of the functions of the three zones;
d) the examination of the efficacy of ethical operation.
The energetic spontaneity of the ethical will expressed by the ch’eng-mechanism is logically prior to the operation of the three zones of virtues. In consideration of the entire process of Confucian ethical practice, there are three steps: the ch’eng-mechanism; the operation of the three basic virtuous zones “jen,” “chih” and “yung”; and the ethical processes performed on the basis of the operation with the virtuous elements belonging to the three basic zones in both the internal and external realms. The three steps in the psychological process of Confucian practice can be regarded as a logical and causal sequence. Far from being segregated from each other, the various factors in these steps, virtuous sections, layers and areas are in constant interaction and mutual combination. There are two modes of classification of ethical function: the “logical” or “grammatical” and the actual or practical. The entire process of Confucian ethical practice is taken as a development of the ethical origin. The source of the ethical will is essentially exhibited in a special appearance of the ch’eng-functions. The Confucian ethical practice embodied in the Confucian projects is a developmental process of operating with the virtuous elements of the three basic headings generally controlled and expressed by the ch’eng-mechanism of the ethical will. Thus, Confucian-Mencian ethics is essentially characterized by the energetic potential of ch’eng. ch’eng, as the parameter of the strength of the ethical will, acts evenly and sufficiently in all sections, layers and items in order to project its potential. ch’eng involves the quality of the virtues as well as that of their structural operation.
3) The Identity of ch’eng
In the Confucian terminology, there are two levels of the existence of virtues: that of naturally existing virtues and that of virtuous elements separately functioning in various contexts.
The functional appearance of the latter is made through combination with the former. The virtuous elements in the three sections are the result of analytical abstraction.
Furthermore, at a higher abstract level, we obtain the virtuous elements of ch’eng which is naturally mixed with the three main sections of virtues but functionally separate from them. While the elements in the three sections are more substantially composed in external ethical situations, the ch’eng-elements are more formalistically composed in internal ethical situations. Therefore, concerning the doctrine of virtues in Confucian ethics, there are three levels of their appearance: the natural, the substantially abstract and the formalistically abstract. The ch’eng-zone contains volitionally energetic tones of all virtuous elements and their operations. Concretely, ch’eng acts at all related dimensions, especially denotating formalist and energetic virtues such as honesty, intensity, earnestness, perseverance, uprightness and concentration. These virtuous qualities or virtuous tones can be used to describe all elements and their operations in the three large zones of virtues in connection with ethical situations. In the face of all substantial contents of ethical practice, the essential quality of an ethical personality can be indicated by the nature of its ch’eng-mechanism. These formalist tones characterize the degree of ethical attainment of a Confucian personality. They constitute the kernel of the ethical will. Therefore, we can say that the Confucian-Mencian philosophy of will is pertinently represented by these ch’eng-elements and their dynamic combinations in ethical situations. In brief, ch’eng is the immediate index of the ethical personality. This means that the essence of the Confucian ethical will is represented by these dynamic elements directly linked to the strength of the ethical will. Similar to other major written characters of virtue, ch’eng is a pragmatic symbol or a semantic magnet which arouses and assembles all potentially available and necessary elements in the ethical mind.
Consequently, in distinction from the formation of other virtues in the three main sections which are subjective but connected with external fields, ch’eng’s signification and communication is purely self-referential, reaching the innerest ground of the psychological ego. As a pragmatic symbol, it can stimulate practices in two directions: the internal search for the relevant virtuous reservoir and the external projection of ethical goals. These ch’eng-tones are characteristic of the strength and quality of the ethical will and are the favorite object of Mencian ethical poetics. Thus, ch’eng itself is the very object of ethical practice. As an historical index of personal and national ethical spirit, ch’eng is a conclusive symbol of Confucian-Mencian ethical stylistics. With this term, Confucian ethics, besides its values commonly shared with other ethics, shows an especially subjective, or rather volitional, momentum. It is the spontaneous originality of the ethical will itself or its pragmatic stylistic potential. Because of this speciality, ch’eng is the object of the pragmatic aesthetics of the ethical will in the Confucian tradition.
4. The Aesthetics of ch’eng
In ancient Chinese ethical discourse, ch’eng as a generic concept can only exist and function in a synthetic complex of various elements. In the original link between the “theoretical” and “practical” aspects, we find a relevant treatment of the topic of the ethical will. ch’eng used as a general or synthetic set of virtues is connected with two worlds, three operational areas and different virtuous tones, each of which contains a different composition and density. The concrete performance of ch’eng in connection with the event, the person, the generation, the cultural area and the historical period realizes its elements in a selective way. ch’eng is not necessarily realized completely in any ethical event. Furthermore, the psychological intensity of ch’eng is not realized in all important aspects. For example, in Chinese civilization, ch’eng was never sufficiently realized in the aspect of chih (wisdom) or precisely in the aspect of logical reasoning. On the other hand, in the intellectual activities of Taoist religion, an earnest fascination was always shown with alchemy and other superstitions.[30] Thus, ch’eng as a set of virtuous tones or qualities especially in connection with the volitional dimension can occur or appear in different aspects and to different degrees, although it can maintain an independent function at an abstract level.
In light of this analytical explanation, we can better understand Confucius’ distinction between the genuine jen-man and the spurious one (hsiang yuan). We can refer to Wang Yang-ming’s explanation once again. The true sincerity (ch’eng) of a jen-man manifests itself in two important issues:
a) Sincerity towards oneself rather than to others: Wang calls this “self-knowledge.” “When there is nothing special to do, there is still the problem of self-knowledge. To only make an effort with a view towards others is the source of falsification.” (Wang 1972, 147) This means the effort at attaining ch’eng is directed towards oneself rather than towards others. The evident contrary example is the type of the hypocritical gentleman whose social practice is completely directed towards others, aiming to please everyone, good or bad. “The hsiang-yuan type pretends to mix with the jen-man in apparent moral behavior and at the same time actually mixes with the mean man in the immoral manner adopted by the latter. This two-faced policy can bring him the most profits without his true motive being easily disclosed. This duplicitous behavior can make him please both kinds of people in society.” (ibid., 348) The hsiang-yuan type is a specialist at playing the game of sincerity in order to make all others like him, so that he might obtain more benefits.
b) The priority of moral value over utility: This is one of the most frequently emphasized Confucian principles. As we explained earlier, the distinction between li and i in Confucian doctrine must be handled within an especially defined scope, although the traditional formulation of the principle is general in form.[31] In this context, Wang asserts that utilitarian vice has been prevalent over thousands of years, making “people compete with each other for prominence, wrangle for power and rank, contend for profit, be proud of their skill and support each other for the sake of common publicity.” (ibid., 182) He adds that such people use moral slogans because they afford effective means for attaining their aims. Their expression of moral sincerity is directed towards immoral aims.
In light of this, the Confucian term “ch’eng” is a volitional-moral term. This means that the Confucian stresses the pragmatic link between the elements of ch’eng and Jen, that is, the volitional quality realized in the three cardinal virtues. Similar to jen, ch’eng as a written character plays the separate role of the visual carrier of the volitional moral parameters mentioned above, especially different pragmatical facets: direction, strength, earnestness, duration, spontaneity, courage and impulse. It is the index of the potential of willpower and the symbol of the stylistic facets of the ethical will; and it is equivalent to a stimulant of moral disposition and action. Among many terms of virtues in both Confucius’ and Mencius’ texts, jen and ch’eng are the most all-inclusive; the latter is particularly directed to the formalist volitional zone. Compared with the more comprehensive term “jen” and the more pragmatic term i, ch’eng is completely inwardly directed and can be regarded as the kernel of the pragmatic Confucian mechanism of the ethical will. While the universality of jen lies in its inclusive appearance in divergent fields, that of ch’eng lies in its inclusive appearance in the ethical volitional realm. Mencian ethics lays a foundation for the development of Chinese ch’eng-ethics. The crucial point of the Mencian ethics of ch’eng is that ch’eng plays a functional role in the Confucian-Mencian ethical mechanism. It is logical for the subjective Confucian ethics to strengthen the operative energetics of the ethical will. We maintain that the Mencian ethical rhetoric can function as a universal heuristic model apart from its pragmatic effects in its particular historico-cultural context.
Mencian ethics readjusts its focus on the object and objective of Confucian ethics along a politico-ethical line; it also creates a pragmatic ethical energetics inlaid in the Chinese cultural and rhetorical context. The latter constitutes the dynamic psychological feature of the volitional source of the ethical ego. This is represented by an archetypal doctrine for training the formalist energetic qualities of the will. The modern meaning of this actional ethical poetics does not reside in the historical media which realize its identity in a concrete cultural context. Instead, it lies in the structural and functional relationships embodied in rhetorical ethical discourse. These relationships, directly signified by the ch’eng-tones, can be linked to the universal ethical conditions of mankind. On one hand, the Mencian rhetoric intuitively displays the compelling issue of human ethical epistemology and methodology: why and how to energize ethical action. On the other hand, this rhetoric leads the modern reader to another functional dimension of the formalist constitution of the ethical will: the doctrine of ch’eng.
From the modern dialogue with the ancient texts, we may conclude that the reading of traditional texts must be hermeneutically organized. The Confucian and Mencian texts can only live and be understood in present-day dialogical contexts. The historical experience of mankind has been a movement towards unity. In this sense, the hermenutical viewpoint should not be limited by an uncertain historicism. The necessary unification of the subjective practice of choice can provide us with a criterion of certainty. The legally directed institutionalization of the modern era should not preclude the subjective dimension of human existence, which is innately linked to human freedom. Confucian-Mencian humanist ethics, read in a modern context, provides us with a chance to understand more desirable relationships between the free choice of the individual and legalized society. The history of this century only enhances our traditional knowledge that ethics is the most urgent issue of mankind. In contrast with the misleading frameworks of speculative ethical theories which are essentially parasitic on the commercial institutionalization of modern world, the Confucian-Mencian ethical archetype emphasizes a semantically and pragmatically relevant focus on the object and objective of human ethical operations.

[1] For comparison with the Western ethical tradition, we should note the general tendency of empiricist schools focusing on the pole of human evil. (Machiavelli, Hobbes and Hume remain the most important representatives of this line.) The comparative scholar Wittfogel correctly represents the basic tendency in human nature: vice. (Cf. Wittfogel 1985, 136, 145) Thus, empiricist ethics has a natural tendency to focus on the more direct empirical object: evil. It is in this sense that we can further stress the empirical character of Confucian ethics with its strategical focus on human vice in general. The basic concept of jen is the standard for measuring values, including evil, but Confucius “talks little about jen.” (9:1)
[2] The term “politico-ethical” focuses on the ethical dimension in the political realm, “ethico-political” on the political dimension in the ethical realm.
[3]Therefore, the Kantian argument about practical reason is less relevant. In fact, Kantian practical ethics is based on a general legal logic, widely confusing the legal and ethical dimensions in human society. It is the Oriental type of practical ethics which more clearly highlights the identity of practical ethical reason with its empirical form.
[4]The contemporary Chinese historian Ch’i Ssu-he contends that more professional possibilities were open to common people, such as the fields of literature, political counsel, the military and the knighthood, in addition to teaching and learning. Such phenomena did not exist in earlier periods. (Ch’i 1981, 110) According to Ch’i, the decay of the aristocracy and the appearance of despotism are the conditions for the ascent of the common people. (ibid., 114)
[5] Many modern scholars maintain that the work appeared much later than was imagined in earlier times. The modern historian Ch’ien Mu asserts that it was finished in the late Chou period, namely, well after the Analects. (Ch’ien 1957, 61) The Japanese scholar Eiichi Kimuru holds that it was written by several people over a long span of time. (Kimuru 1971, 5)
[6] In ancient times, the finished unit of written text was similar to the format of a modern article rather than that of a modern book.
[7] The number of the Lao-tzu refers to the ordinal number of the chapter or paragraph in the book. In the Chung-tzu the first number refers to the ordinal number of the chapter and the second number to the sentence. The following quotations are mostly taken from the English edition of Legge.
[8] The most well-known measure is that of Shang Yang in the Ch’in period. Shü Fu-kuan summarized the basic measures created by Shang as follows: a stern system of punishment and reward; constraints on the feudal hierarchy of status and dignity; the combination of the military system and the agricultural system; the creation of the basic administrative unit “county” in order to strengthen the central power; the militarization of social organizations and people’s lives; restrictions on education and knowledge. (Shü 1972, 121-5)
[9] W. Rickett attempts to assert the historical authenticity of the Kuan-tzu against the more negative judgements of B. Karlgren and H. Maspero, but he is still unclear about the identity of the ancient Chinese book itself, confusing the title of a book, the name of the author, the originally authentic core and the entire text available today. He says, “...the Guanzi was not a later forgery... “, and “...the Guanzi did... undergo considerable tampering...” (Rickett 1985, 26) In his book Kuan-tzu is written as Guanzi or Guan Zhong, but in this sentence the two uses of “the Guanzi” are not the same. He further cites many references of ancient authors to the same “title” or “name” or even “concrete sentences” consistent with the present one since the Han period, but this cannot “prove” its historical authenticity either. There is different conceptions of the historical authenticity of a book.
[10] There are a lot of fragmentary logical and scientific topics contained in the book of which Mo-tzu (Mo-ti) is the legendary author. These historical documents have no direct connection with our ethical discussion.
[11] Hsün Tzu is traditionally regarded as a synthetic thinker combining Confucian and Legalist elements. We should note, however, that the book is closer to the Han texts than to the Pre-Ch’in texts in both content and style. After the Han, political discourse became universally more practical and the Legalist part ix),” namely, social and material technique became common opinion. This part is not a suitable criterion of the Legalist tendency in contrast to the Confucian. In fact, Han-Confucianism itself is just a combination of Legalism as a whole and Confucian thought. For this reason, we shall not take the Hsün Tzu as a typical partner in our dialogical context.
[12] Modern totalitarian systems reflect basic traits of extreme Legalism: a) The philosophical belief in dogmatically chosen objective social truth (Tao or law) is propaganda. Individual efforts are made in conformity with “objective” (i.e., social, natural, ethnic and religious) laws. b) Coercion, intrigue and plot are used as the political means. c) Totalitarian hegemony or absolute control is the final objective of political activity. The dictator (emperor) is the holder of absolute power. The difference between classical Chinese Legalism as a historical practice and modern totalitarianism largely lies in “technical” aspects, namely, organizational and material-technical means, although they share the same kernel of Legalist elements.
[13] Concerning the latter example, J.R. Levenson provides an interesting description of the modern debate in China. Cf. Levenson 1968, v. 3, 17-18.
[14] The two famous examples mentioned above can be therefore read as follows:
1) One is the unfounded statement about the existence of a legendary ancient system for the division of land, “the nine-squares system of dividing the land.” (Legge, 243) For over two thousand years, this single report had been taken as a true historical fact, and modern scholars have even seriously argued about its historical authenticity. In essence, Mencius uses the legendary system to express the necessity of maintaining a moral principle in economic distribution. The mention of the legendary historical system merely signifies “the justice of distributive division.”
2) The single sentence in his text asserting that Confucius was the author of The Spring-Autumn Annals was formerly widely accepted, but nowadays it is generally doubted. This unfounded statement can at least be read as a Confucian emphasis on the significance of the moral standard for the socio-political order.
[15] Many other alleged pre-Ch’in texts often use two characters representing the content as the title of each chapter, while the two original Confucian texts only use two characters from the first one or two sentences of each chapter as its title. This plain way of dividing chapters indicates the different historical time in which the texts were edited. Even the division of the chapters of the two classical texts occurred much later than their initial composition. The original authors were evidently different from the later editors, who included followers from different generations. On the other hand, the present division of the chapters of the Mencius was made by the Later-Han scholar Chao Ch’i, although the book had been used since the beginning of Former Han and authoritatively established as belonging to the academic section of the Commentary on the Classics in the reign of the Han-Wen-ti emperor (179-157 B.C.).
[16] As we pointed out before, among the early contemporary Chinese critical historians of Chinese philosophy, such as Hu Shih and Ku Chieh-kang, among others, Confucius obtained a much more positive appraisal than did Mencius in both historiographical and ethical aspects. For many Chinese scholars with a modern scientific point of view, Mencius is less important than Hsüen-tzu or Moh-tzu. Jacques Gernet also points out that Hsün-tzu is “much deeper and more original than Mencius.” (Gernet, 1979, 91) Similar attitudes about pre-Ch’in thinkers reflect the irrelevant scientific or positivist position of modernity. In fact, however, the intellectual value of the Mencius lies in its politico-ethical rhetoric, rather than in its historico-political dimension.
[17] Regarding the applicability of the political opinions of that time, we should bear in mind that the main results of political opinions express themselves in military conflicts between states. Many political debates involved topics of historical and political causality. Different opinions about the same events cannot be historiographically confirmed, particularly when the topic is more moral than political, as we see in the Mencius’ case. The genuine reason to reform the policy of one state often lay in special projects for foreign expansion in which the Legalist was more specialized.
[18] His exaggeration of the legend that the followers of Confucius never mention the achievements of the Legalist kings of the Ch’i and Chin states (1A, 7) is evidently false, but its ethically connotation can be grasped through replacing the word “mention” with “value.”
[19] Regarding Mencius’ politico-ethical rationality, we should distinguish between his axiological and his political analyses, although the former is frequently expressed through the latter.
[20] Because of this position, Mencian doctrine is generally referred to by modern scholars as the origin of Chinese democracy. There is still a confusion, however, between democracy as a goal and democracy as a process. With regard to the former, Mencius does not differ from Confucius; with regard to the latter, Mencius is not democratic.
[21] This invention led to the metaphysical development of Neo-Confucianist ethics in Sung philosophy, in addition to the vulgar religious concept of Heaven in Han Confucianism.
[22] Similarly, Han-Confucianist dogmatism employed filial piety as a tool to maintain absolute control over the thought and conduct of the majority. Both the social system and the intellectual concept resulting from historical tradition can be used in different ways. The point lies not in the object itself but rather in its utilization.
[23] It is odd that the spirits in ancient China serve humanity. If they cannot meet man’s requirements, they will be punished by man. We can even say that Heaven is supposed to serve human needs. It is just this Chinese humanism which makes Legge critical of atheistic Confucian ethics. (Legge 1990, v. 1, 72-73)
[24] We distinguish between the historical Mencius, the legendary Mencius and the role of Mencius in the text. Mencian heroism is represented by neither an historical nor a legendary figure. It can only be represented by his image and words in the text.
[25] It is historically paradoxical that Confucian agents as a minority act for the interest of the majority, who actually belong to the side opposing the Confucian.
[26] Concerning the identity of Legalism in our hermeneutic reading of the Mencian text, we can repeat three different uses of the term: a historical tendency; a politico-ethical tendency; and some elements in connection with law and politics. These are employed differently in different contexts. At this point, the ethical meaning is our subject.
[27] The distinction in the semantic focus of the term is more stylistic than referential. Etymologically, both chün-tzu and shih have different referents, applying to the social, official, occupational and ethical layers. The semantic focuses determined by the context, however, can lead to the conclusion that “chün-tzu” mainly refers to the moral personality itself and “shih” to the semantic layers of spiritual independence, moral valor and not holding office. Despite the fact that a shih intends to be an official and a Confucian official can be called a shih (some distinguished top officials can be called “state-shih), the title is especially used to refer to spiritual independence (state-shih possesses an independent valor beyond his official obligations). For this reason, we tend to interpret the use of the word in the Mencian discourse as a semantic focus on spiritual independence and volitional spontaneity in the face of hardship. The original seme of the valiant element of an ancient soldier indicates a substantial valor supporting this spiritual independence. The following qoutations from the Mencius are taken from Legge’s translation; the parentheses have been added by the author for explanation.
[28] Here as in other places, the semantic confusion surrounding the case of Kuan is caused by many problems: the change in the moral aspect of pa in different periods; the change in the meaning of the character pa as the head of an appointed prince or as the tyranny of the prince who forced the Chou-king to arrange this appointment; the strong, aggressive or hegemonic state ruler, regardless of the intention of the central court, dominating over other states by force. In the contrast of political style “wang vs. pa,” the moral implications changed in ancient times. The two imagistic characters (originally they refer to two kinds of rulers) are effectively used today in connection with several aspects of political philosophy.
[29] The academic merits of the scholarly topics of historical texts are also contextually dependent. They are first linked to the constitution of academic collectives. The following three collectives have different priorities in academic judgements about the same historical material: Western sinology, traditional Chinese scholarship, and the modern human sciences. The difference is reflected in their object, objective, method and mutual arrangement. All of their research parameters are determined by different epistemological frameworks.
[30] J. Needham should have treated these subjects in terms of cultural anthropology rather than scientific history.
[31] We can properly compare the Confucian criticism of the utilitarian attitude with the Socratic criticism of the Sophist.