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Lecture 1

PHL237H1 Lecture Notes - Lecture 1: Filial Piety, Chinese Philosophy, Western Philosophy

Course Code
Vincent Shen

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What does the term “philosophy” mean? Traditionally, what were the Chinese terms more or
less equivalent to the term “philosophy”? When the Jesuits introduced Western philosophy to
China in late 16th Century, what terms they used to translate “philosophy”? By whom was the
term translated into “tetsugaku” 哲哲? Who first used it in Chinese as “zhexue哲哲, why there are
debates today in China concerning the legitimacy of using the term “Chinese philosophy”?
oPhilos + Sophia = Love of wisdom
oSystematic, reflective thinking on life
oChasing after wisdom
Chinese terms:
oNo specific term for philosophy in the beginning
oDaoshu (dao and art of its realization)
oDaozue (learning of dao)
oLixue (learning of principles)
oZhe xue  learning wisdom, science of wisdom
oIt was then phonetically translated  fei lu suo fei ya/ ai zhi zhi xue
oNishi Amane (japanese)  tetsugaku  zhe xue
oFirst used by Liang QiChao
oLack of historical narratives in Chinese philosophy
oDebate over whether ancient Chinese thinkers/ masters can be counted as philosophers as
there was no such concept or label then
What, according to Fung Yu-lan, what was the spirit and task of Chinese philosophy?
oDirectly or indirectly concerned with government and ethics
oAccomplish synthesis out of antitheses, and explain how this can be done
oHighest form of achievement of a man as a man is becoming a sage
oTask of philosophy is to enable man to have the character of sageliness within and kingliness
oSomething to be experienced
What are the special characteristics of Chinese philosophy in comparison with Western
1. Language
oChinese: Pictograms/ ideograms  expresses ideas through images (TIAN, great
oWestern: Alphabetical system/ abstract
2. Images/ metaphors
oChinese: based on language, philosophy expresses itself by image-ideas  metaphors,
narratives, synthesis  compensated through suggestiveness, ideas suggested are
(ZHUANGZI, metaphors to talk about FREEDOM)
oWestern: pure ideas, concepts, argumentations, analysis
3. Theoretical interest vs. Pragmatic interest

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oChinese: starts with situation of concern/ anxious apprehension, from
PERILSECURITY/ comprehensible and applicable to many things, enable a man to be
a man
oWestern: starts with theoretical interest/ intellectual curiosity/ philosophized to escape
ignorance  pursuing science to KNOW but not applied, not for any utilitarian end
What textual legacies did early Chinese philosophers inherit when they emerged in Chinese
intellectual history? Write down three names of those texts and tell succinctly their main ideas
and contributions to Chinese philosophy.
Expressed feeling/ affectivity as the essential mode of human existence
History of humans and function of practical reason in judging historical events
Evolved from divination  ethics  cosmology
According to Fung Yu-lan, what are the six classics serving as teaching materials in the
Classical Confucianism?
1. Book of Changes
2. Book of Odes
3. Book of History
4. Rituals/ Rites
5. Music
6. Spring and Autumn Annals
Explain the three meanings of li in ancient China.
1. Sacrificial/ religious ceremonies
2. Political order/ institutionalized social structure
3. Codes of behaviour
Every movement should be ritualized to have social order
Philosophically speaking, what is the main contribution of Confucius to li? How did he lay the
transcendental foundation of li?
oLaid philosophical foundation to the li, although it existed before Confucius
oConfucius tried to revitalize rituals by giving it a philosophical foundation
oYou have capacity/ potential to develop  humaneness
oRen  Yi  Li
Explain Confucius internal and external arguments for filial piety and respect for elders.
oFilial Piety:
Being good to one’s parents, maintain loving/ respectful relation to them
oInternal Reason:
Reciprocity of love of filial piety, you are vulnerable until the age of 3 (parents raise you), it is
only proper to relay that love
o[Zaiwo: when your parents die, mourning for 3 years is too long therefore 1 year is enough]

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oExternal reason:
Social function of filial piety, YOUZI, root of humaneness, superior man works on his roots (filial
piety), once root is established then the Way is rising
Explain the meaning of ren, yi, li and their relationship.
Li must be found within something more original
Ren  Yi  Li
oRen: humaneness/ humanity, interconnectedness and responsiveness to others, when
expressed  Love
oYi: righteousness/ moral justice/ respect for others/ proper conduct
oLi: ritual/ harmony/ sense of beauty/ establish beautiful harmonious order
Explain the meaning of “virtue” according to Confucius and enumerate some most important
virtues in his virtue ethics.
Excellence of abilities
Wisdom- excellence of human intellect
Humanness- excellence of human feeling
Bravery- excellence of human will
Lead life of REN
1. Earnestness
2. Liberality
3. Truthfulness
4. Diligence
5. Generosity
oGood relation with others  harmonization of relationship
What was Confucius’ conception of politics?
oRather than leading by law and punishment, lead by rituals and virtues or else people have no
internal sense of shame
oLead with virtue  Regulate by li
Explain the meaning of Confucius’ politics of rectification of names.
oIf names are not rectified, language will not be in accord with truth, things can’t be
accomplished (need action to accomplish things), li/yue won’t flourish, punishment will not be
oRectify names in order to have well-ordered society
oFather should be a father, son should be son…
oEvery name in social relationships implies certain responsibilities and duties  ethical norm
What is a negative golden rule? What is a positive golden rule? Explain them in term of
oNegative Golden Rule:
Don’t do onto others what you do not wish yourself
oPositive Golden Rule:
Do to others what you wish yourself
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