.. timately, even Mencius shi-fei (this-not this) are input to the xin. Our experience introduces them relative to our position and past assumptions. They are not objective or neutral judgments. XUNZI also concentrated on issues related to philosophy of mind though in the context of moral and linguistic issues.
He initiated some important and historically influential developments in the classical theory. His most famous (and textually suspect) doctrine is human nature is evil. While he clearly wanted to distance himself from Mencius, the slogan at best obscures the deep affinity between their respective views of human nature and mind. Xunzi seems to have drawn both from the tradition advocating cultivating heart-mind and from the focused theory of language. This produced a tense hybrid theory that filled out the original Confucian picture on how conventions and language program the heart-mind. Xunzi made the naturalism explicit.
Human guiding discourse takes place in the context of a three-tier universetian (heaven-nature) di (earth-sustenance) and ren (the social realm). He gave humans a special place in the chain of nature,’ but not based on reason. Animals shared the capacity for zhi (knowledge). What distinguishes humans is their yi (morality) which is grounded on the ability to bian (distinguish). Presumably, the latter ability is unique among animals with knowledge because it is short-hand for the ability to construct and abide by conventionsconventional distinctions or language. One of Xunzis naturalistic justifications for Confucian conventional rituals is economic. Ritual distinctions guide peoples desires so that society can manage scarcity.
Only those with high status will learn to seek scarce goods. His departure from Mencius thus seems to lie in seeing human morality as more informed or filled-out by historical conventional distinctions. These are the products of reflection and artifice, not nature. However, in other ways Xunzi seems to edge closer to Mencius. He also presents ritual as part of the structure of the worldimplicit in the heaven-earth natural context. One natural line of explanation is this: while thought creates the correct conventions, nature sets the concrete conditions of scarcity and human traits that determine what conventions will be best for human flourishing.
Return to Outline Historical Developments: Han Cosmology The onset of the philosophical dark age, brought on by Qin Dynasty repression followed by Han dynasty policies resulted in a bureaucratic, obscurant Confucian orthodoxy. The Qin thus buried the technical ideas informing philosophy of mind along with the active thinkers who understood them. The ontology of the eclectic scholasticism that emerged was essentially religious and superstitious. It was, however, overtly materialist (assuming Qi (ether, matter) is material). So the implicit philosophy of mind of the few philosophically inclined thinkers during the period tended toward a vague materialism.
The Han further developed the five-element (five phases) version of materialism. They postulated a correlative pentalogy linking virtually every system of classification that occurred to them. The scheme included the organs of the body and the virtues. Interpretation and analysis of correlative reasoning is a controversial subject. From here, the mental correlations look more like a frequency selection from the psychological lexicon than a product of philosophical reflection, observation or causal theory. The Yin-yang analysis also had mental correlates. Following Xunzi, Orthodox Han Confucians tended to treat qing (reality:desires) as yin (typically negative). The yang (value positive) counterpart was xing (human moral nature).
The most important development of the period was the emergence a compromise Confucian view of minds role in morality. It eventually informed and dominated the scholastic Neo-Confucianism of the much later Sung to Qing dynasties. The small book known as the Doctrine of the Mean gave it an influential formulation. It presents the heart-mind as a homeostasis-preserving input output device. The heart-mind starts in a state of tranquillity.
The account leaves open whether this is a result of ideally structured moral input, resolution of inner conflicts, or the absence of (distorting) content. Xunzis view of the empty, unified and still mind seems the proximate ancestor of the latter aspect of the view. The vagueness, conveniently, makes Mencius doctrines fit it as well. The input is a perturbation from the outer world. The output, the heart-minds action-guiding response, restores harmony to the world and the inner state to tranquillity.
If the inner state prior to the input is not tranquil, the response will not restore harmony to the real situation. Han Confucianism filled out this cosmic view of this black-box interaction between heart-mind and world harmony using qi materialism. Qi is a rather more a blend of energy and matter than pure mattertranslations such as life-force bring out an essential connection with vitality. This makes it more appropriate for a cosmology that links the active heart-mind with the changing world. Qi was the single constituting element of spirits and ghosts as well. Wang Chungs skeptical, reductive application of qi theory focused on shen (spirit-energy).
He did not view its consequences for heart-mind as particularly iconoclastic. It still lacked a notion of consciousness independent of zhi (know). (Our zhi, he argued, stops when we are asleep and so almost certainly it does when we are dead.) His arguments that nature had no intentional purposes illustrated his reductive behaviorismif it has neither eyes nor ears, then it cannot have zhi (purposes or intentions). This argument would hardly make sense if he had the familiar Western concept of consciousness. Similarly, he argues that the five virtues are in the five organs so when the organs are dead and gone, the virtues disappear with them. Return to Outline Historical Developments: Buddhist Philosophy of Mind The next developments are related to the introduction of Buddhist mental concepts into China.
Most accounts credit a movement dubbed Neo-Taoism with paving the way for this radical change in philosophy of mind. Wangbis Neo-Taoist system was explicitly a cosmology more than a theory of mind, but interpretations tend to read it epistemically. Wangbi addressed the metaphysical puzzle of the relation of being and non-being. (See YOU-WU) He postulated non-being as the basic substance. Non-being produced being.
He dubbed this obscure relationship as substance and function. Interpretations almost inevitably explain this on the analogy to Kants Noumenon and Phenomenon. As noted, Wangbi had few epistemological interests, but the analysis did have implications for heart-mind theory. He applied the metaphysical scheme to his Confucian sloganSage within, king without. The mind was empty within while the behaviors were in perfect conformity with the Confucian ritual dao.
This tilts the Taoist tradition toward the emptiness reading of the black-box analysis of heart-mind. Wangbi also placed li (principle) in a more central explanatory position. This paved the way for its use in translating Buddhisms sentence or law-like dharma. It played roles in both Buddhist epistemology and theory of mind. In sparse pre-Han usage, li was objective tendencies in thing-kinds. (Intuitionists and naturalists took them to be the valid norm for that kindspecies relative bits of dao.) Wangbi gave it a more essentialist reading in the context of the Book of Changes. He postulated a li guiding the mixtures and transformations of yin and yang.
One should be able to bypass the complexity of the system by isolating and understanding its li. Buddhism introduced revolutionary changes into Chinese heart-mind conceptual scheme. The original Indo-European religion probably originated the familiar Western phenomenalism (consciousness, experience-based mentalism). Indian philosophy came complete with the familiar Western sentential analyses, mental content and cognitive emphasis (belief and knowing-that). It even mimicked the subject-predicate syllogism and the familiar epistemic and metaphysical subjective-objective dualism.
It introduced a semantic (eternal) truth predicate into Chinese thought along with a representational view of the function of both mind and language. Reason/intellect and emotion/desire formed a basic opposition in Buddhist psychological analysis. An inner idea-world parallels (or replaces) the ordinary world of objects. Soul and mind are roughly interchangeable and familiar arguments for immortality suggest both metaphysical dualism and mental transcendence or superiority over the physical. It conceptually links reality (knowledge, reason) to permanence and appearance (illusion, experience) to change.
A universal chain of causation was a central explanatory device and a mark of dependence and impermanence. Two caveats are in order, however. First, although Buddhism introduced a dualist conceptual scheme, many schools (arguably) denied the dualism so formulated and rejected any transcendent self. Second, it is unclear how well the philosophy of mind was generally understood and whether much of it actually took in China. One of the early and notoriously unsuccessful schools was the Consciousness only school (translated as Only Heart-mind) which translated the idealism of Yogacara Buddhism. The Yogacara analysis was Hume-like in denying that anything linked the infinitesimal moments of awareness into a real self.
Scholars tend to blame its demise, however, as much on its objectionable moral features (its alleged Hinayana or elitist failure to guarantee universal salvation) as on its conceptual innovations. The most successful schools were those that seemed to eschew theory of any kindlike Zen (Chan) or Pure Land Buddhismor those that opted for intuitive, mystical simplicity (Tian Tai and Hua Yen). The most important conceptual legacy of Buddhism, therefore, seems to be the changed role and importance of the character li (principle). In Buddhism it served a wide range of important sentential and mental functions. It facilitated the translation of law, truth, and reason.
Neo-Confucianism would take it over (with notoriously controversial implications) as key concept in its philosophy of mind. Return to Outline Historical Developments: Neo-Confucianism Neo-Confucianism is a Western name for a series of schools in which philosophy of mind played a central role. Scholars (somewhat controversially) present these schools as motivated by an anti-foreignism that sought to resurrect indigenous classical systems. These had lain dormant for six-hundred odd years when the freshness of Buddhism started to attract the attention of China’s intellectuals. Resurrecting Confucianism required providing it with an alternative to Buddhist metaphysics.
For this, they drew on ch’i metaphysics, the black-box homeostasis preserving analysis of heart-mind, Wang Pi’s and Buddhism’s li and Mencius’ classical theory of the inherent goodness of heart-mind. The intricacies of Neo-Confucian systems are too rich to analyze in detail here. The earliest versions focused on the notion of qi linkage between the heart-mind and the world influenced by our action. They characterized the tranquil state of the black-box as void. The school of li criticized that analysis as too Zen-like. (This was a typical and damning charge to participants in this movement, although a Zen period in ones development of thought was a common pattern among Neo-Confucians.) The li school insisted that any adequate account of heart-mind had to give it an original moral content.
It did this by postulating an interdependent and inseparable dualism of li and qi. The li permeates the heart and all of reality, which is composed of qi. The most tempting (and common) elaboration uses the Platonic distinction of form and content, but that analysis teeters on the edge of incoherence. The school fell back on dividing the human mind from some transcendental or metaphysical Tao-mind. This made it dubious as a theory of mind at allin the ordinary sense.
It essentially became a metaphysics in which heart-mind was a cosmic force. One way of understanding the motivation that drove the otherwise puzzling metaphysical gymnastics links philosophy of mind and ethics. Neo-Confucians were searching for the metaphysical system such that anyone so viewing the cosmos and one’s place in it would reliably do what was right. The goal was having the metaphysical outlook of the sage. The criterion of right and wrong was that the sage’s mind would so judge it. If we could replicate the outlook, we would be sage-like in our attitudesincluding both beliefs and motivations. The effect on motivation and behavior was more important than the theoretical coherence of the system.
The complexity of moral choice and human motivation required so many perturbations into their account of the proposed system that it became an almost infinitely flexible rationalization for intuitionism. Mencian optimism about innate heart-mind dispositions proved an uncomfortable legacy. If human nature and the heart-mind are innately and spontaneously moral, it was unclear why we require such mental gymnastics to cultivate and condition the dispositions. They portrayed the li as inherently good in all things, but somehow humans, alone in all of nature, might fail to conform to its own natural norms. The attempt to explain this via the li qi dualism flounders on the metaphysical principle that the dualism pervades all things. Despite this well known (and intractable) Confucian problem of evil, the school again became the Medieval orthodoxy.
Office holding required being able to parrot the view in considerable detail to show their moral character. The school of Heart-mind was a rebellion against that orthodoxy. We best understand this rival as a species of normative, objective idealism. It saw the actual heart-mind as li and therefore inherently good. The xin projects that li onto the world in the act of categorizing and dividing it into types.
Thus our normative, (phenomenal) world is good but that good is a function of the mind. Moral categorization and action are a simultaneous and combined responses of the heart-mind to the perturbations or the disharmonies we encounter. The analysis of mind is functionalthere is no goodness of the mind separate from the goodness of its categorizing and acting. Knowing is acting. The school of heart-mind somewhat gingerly accepted the implication of their Mencian heritage. There is no evil. I say gingerly because whether one should formulate or teach this conclusion or not is itself a choice that the mind must assess for its contextual value. In itself, as it were, the heart-mind is beyond good and evil.
Others, hence, criticized school of heart-mind was for its own Zen-like implications. Any moderately clever student could figure out that whatever he chose to do was right (c.f., Zhuangzis initial criticism’s of Mencian idealism). They, in turn, criticized the Buddhist character of their rival’s assumptions that some kind of state of mind (enlightenment, realization) would magically result in sagehood. The moralistic name-calling of this inter-Confucian debate sapped further development of theory of mind. That coupled with its irrational optimism in the face of growing awareness of the vulnerability and weakness of China to resist Western and Japanese military and political power resulted first in mildly more materialistic and utilitarian systems. Eventually intellectuals developed a wholesale interest in the next Indo-European thought invasion, which took the form of Marxism. Maoist theory of mind was an unstable mixture of Marxist economic and materialist reductionism and traditional Chinese optimism.
The right political attitude (typically that of the part member) would give good communists spectacular moral power and infallible situational intuitions about how to solve social problems. Again, the obvious failure in the face of irrational theoretical optimism has produced a general antipathy to idealizations. One can guess that the next phase, like the Buddhist phase, will be one of borrowing and blending. However, the current skepticism about the general outlines of folk psychology in the West and its essentially alien character probably will keep Chinese theory of heart-mind distinctively Chinese. Return to Outline Bibliography Chan, Wing tsit. 1986 Neo-Confucian Terms Explained (New York: Columbia University Press) pp.
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