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Old 04-24-2001, 05:49 PM   #1
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Post Eastern philosophies and "objective" vs. "subjective" morality?

What position, if any, do various Eastern philosophies (Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism) take on the question of whether morality is "objective" or "subjective"? Does this question even make sense from most Eastern philosophical points of view?
 
Old 04-25-2001, 05:02 AM   #2
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How is morality treated in western philosophy?
 
Old 04-25-2001, 05:34 AM   #3
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Generally i wouldnt bother...but i might as well Whenever you find better written and researched articles which you agree with..dont waste energy in writing the whole thing (laziness is a virtue )

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">The two greatest moral philosophers of ancient China, Lao-tzu (flourished c. 6th century BC) and Confucius (551–479 BC), thought in very different ways. Lao-tzu is best known for his ideas about the Tao (literally “Way,” the Supreme Principle). The Tao is based on the traditional Chinese virtues of simplicity and sincerity. To follow the Tao is not a matter of keeping to any set list of duties or prohibitions, but rather of living in a simple and honest manner, being true to oneself, and avoiding the distractions of ordinary living. Lao-tzu's classic book on the Tao, Tao-te Ching, consists only of aphorisms and isolated paragraphs, making it difficult to draw an intelligible system of ethics from it. Perhaps this is because Lao-tzu was a type of moral skeptic: he rejected both righteousness and benevolence, apparently because he saw them as imposed on individuals from without rather than coming from their own inner nature. Like the Buddha, Lao-tzu found the things prized by the world—rank, luxury, and glamour—to be empty, worthless values when compared with the ultimate value of the peaceful inner life. He also emphasized gentleness, calm, and nonviolence. Nearly 600 years before Jesus, he said: “It is the way of the Tao . . . to recompense injury with kindness.” By returning good for good and also good for evil, Lao-tzu believed that all would become good; to return evil for evil would lead to chaos.

The lives of Lao-tzu and Confucius overlapped, and there is even an account of a meeting between them, which is said to have left the younger Confucius baffled. Confucius was the more down-to-earth thinker, absorbed in the practical task of social reform. When he was a provincial minister of justice, the province became renowned for the honesty of its people and their respect for the aged and their care for the poor. Probably because of its practical nature, the teachings of Confucius had a far greater influence on China than did those of the more withdrawn Lao-tzu.

Confucius did not organize his recommendations into any coherent system. His teachings are offered in the form of sayings, aphorisms, and anecdotes, usually in reply to questions by disciples. They aim at guiding the audience in what is necessary to become a better person, a concept translated as “gentleman” or “the superior man.” In opposition to the prevailing feudal ideal of the aristocratic lord, Confucius presented the superior man as one who is humane and thoughtful, motivated by the desire to do what is good rather than by personal profit. Beyond this, however, the concept is not discussed in any detail; it is only shown by diverse examples, some of them trite: “A superior man's life leads upwards . . . . The superior man is broad and fair; the inferior man takes sides and is petty . . . . A superior man shapes the good in man; he does not shape the bad in him.”

One of the recorded sayings of Confucius is an answer to a request from a disciple for a single word that could serve as a guide to conduct for one's entire life. He replied: “Is not reciprocity such a word? What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others.” This rule is repeated several times in the Confucian literature and might be considered the supreme principle of Confucian ethics. Other duties are not, however, presented as derivative from this supreme principle, nor is the principle used to determine what is to be done when more specific duties—e.g., duties to parents and duties to friends, both of which were given prominence in Confucian ethics—should clash.

Confucius did not explain why the superior man chose righteousness rather than personal profit. This question was taken up more than 100 years after his death by his follower Mencius, who asserted that humans are naturally inclined to do what is humane and right. Evil is not in human nature but is the result of poor upbringing or lack of education. But Confucius also had another distinguished follower, Hsün-tzu, who said that man's nature is to seek self-profit and to envy others. The rules of morality are designed to avoid the strife that would otherwise follow from this nature. The Confucian school was united in its ideal of the superior man but divided over whether such an ideal was to be obtained by allowing people to fulfill their natural desires or by educating them to control those desires.
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[This message has been edited by phaedrus (edited April 25, 2001).]
 
Old 04-25-2001, 05:35 AM   #4
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Unlike the ethical teaching of ancient Egypt and Babylon, Indian ethics was philosophical from the start. In the oldest of the Indian writings, the Vedas, ethics is an integral aspect of philosophical and religious speculation about the nature of reality. These writings date from about 1500 BC. They have been described as the oldest philosophical literature in the world, and what they say about how people ought to live may therefore be the first philosophical ethics.

The Vedas are, in a sense, hymns, but the gods to which they refer are not persons but manifestations of ultimate truth and reality. In the Vedic philosophy, the basic principle of the universe, the ultimate reality on which the cosmos exists, is the principle of Ritam, which is the word from which the Western notion of right is derived. There is thus a belief in a right moral order somehow built into the universe itself. Hence, truth and right are linked; to penetrate through illusion and understand the ultimate truth of human existence is to understand what is right. To be an enlightened one is to know what is real and to live rightly, for these are not two separate things but one and the same.

The ethic that is thus traced to the very essence of the universe is not without its detailed practical applications. These were based on four ideals, or proper goals, of life: prosperity, the satisfaction of desires, moral duty, and spiritual perfection—i.e., liberation from a finite existence. From these ends follow certain virtues: honesty, rectitude, charity, nonviolence, modesty, and purity of heart. To be condemned, on the other hand, are falsehood, egoism, cruelty, adultery, theft, and injury to living things. Because the eternal moral law is part of the universe, to do what is praiseworthy is to act in harmony with the universe and accordingly will receive its proper reward; conversely, once the true nature of the self is understood, it becomes apparent that those who do what is wrong are acting self-destructively.

The basic principles underwent considerable modification over the ensuing centuries, especially in the Upanisads, a body of philosophical literature dating from 800 BC. The Indian caste system, with its intricate laws about what members of each caste may or may not do, is accepted by the Upanisads as part of the proper order of the universe. Ethics itself, however, is not regarded as a matter of conformity to laws. Instead, the desire to be ethical is an inner desire. It is part of the quest for spiritual perfection, which in turn is elevated to the highest of the four goals of life.

During the following centuries the ethical philosophy of this early period gradually became a rigid and dogmatic system that provoked several reactions. One, which is uncharacteristic of Indian thought in general, was the Carvaka, or materialist school, which mocked religious ceremonies, saying that they were invented by the Brahmans (the priestly caste) to ensure their livelihood. When the Brahmans defended animal sacrifices by claiming that the sacrificed beast goes straight to heaven, the members of the Carvaka asked why the Brahmans did not kill their aged parents to hasten their arrival in heaven. Against the postulation of an eventual spiritual liberation, Carvaka ethics urged each individual to seek his or her pleasure here and now.</font>
[This message has been edited by phaedrus (edited April 25, 2001).]
 
Old 04-25-2001, 05:41 AM   #5
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Jainism, another reaction to the traditional Vedic outlook, went in exactly the opposite direction. The Jaina philosophy is based on spiritual liberation as the highest of all goals and nonviolence as the means to it. In true philosophical manner, the Jainas found in the principle of nonviolence a guide to all morality. First, apart from the obvious application to prohibiting violent acts to other humans, nonviolence is extended to all living things. The Jainas are vegetarian. They are often ridiculed by Westerners for the care they take to avoid injuring insects or other living things while walking or drinking water that may contain minute organisms; it is less well known that Jainas began to care for sick and injured animals thousands of years before animal shelters were thought of in Europe. The Jainas do not draw the distinction usually made in Western ethics between their responsibility for what they do and their responsibility for what they omit doing. Omitting to care for an injured animal would also be in their view a form of violence.

Other moral duties are also derived from the notion of nonviolence. To tell someone a lie, for example, is regarded as inflicting a mental injury on that person. Stealing, of course, is another form of injury, but because of the absence of a distinction between acts and omissions, even the possession of wealth is seen as depriving the poor and hungry of the means to satisfy their wants. Thus nonviolence leads to a principle of nonpossession of property. Jaina priests were expected to be strict ascetics and to avoid sexual intercourse. Ordinary Jainas, however, followed a slightly less severe code, which was intended to give effect to the major forms of nonviolence while still being compatible with a normal life.</font>
 
Old 04-25-2001, 05:43 AM   #6
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">The other great ethical system to develop as a reaction to the ossified form of the old Vedic philosophy was Buddhism. The person who became known as the Buddha, which means the “enlightened one,” was born about 563 BC, the son of a king. Until he was 29 years old, he lived the sheltered life of a typical prince, with every luxury he could desire. At that time, legend has it, he was jolted out of his idleness by the “Four Signs”: he saw in rapid succession a very feeble old man, a hideous leper, a funeral, and a venerable ascetic monk. He began to think about old age, disease, and death, and decided to follow the way of the monk. For six years he led an ascetic life of renunciation, but finally, while meditating under a tree, he concluded that the solution was not withdrawal from the world, but rather a practical life of compassion for all.

Buddhism is often thought to be a religion, and indeed over the centuries it has adopted in many places the trappings of religion. This is an irony of history, however, because the Buddha himself was a strong critic of religion. He rejected the authority of the Vedas and refused to set up any alternative creed. He saw religious ceremonies as a waste of time and theological beliefs as mere superstition. He refused to discuss abstract metaphysical problems such as the immortality of the soul. The Buddha told his followers to think for themselves and take responsibility for their own future. In place of religious beliefs and religious ceremonies, the Buddha advocated a life devoted to universal compassion and brotherhood. Through such a life one might reach the ultimate goal, Nirvana, a state in which all living things are free from pain and sorrow. There are similarities between this ethic of universal compassion and the ethics of the Jainas. Nevertheless, the Buddha was the first historical figure to develop such a boundless ethic.

In keeping with his own previous experience, the Buddha proposed a “middle path” between self-indulgence and self-renunciation. In fact, it is not so much a path between these two extremes as one that draws together the benefits of both. Through living a life of compassion and love for all, a person achieves the liberation from selfish cravings sought by the ascetic and a serenity and satisfaction that are more fulfilling than anything obtained by indulgence in pleasure.

It is sometimes thought that because the Buddhist goal is Nirvana, a state of freedom from pain and sorrow that can be reached by meditation, Buddhism teaches a withdrawal from the real world. Nirvana, however, is not to be sought for oneself alone; it is regarded as a unity of the individual self with the universal self in which all things take part. In the Mahayana school of Buddhism, the aspirant for Enlightenment even takes a vow not to accept final release until everything that exists in the universe has attained Nirvana.

The Buddha lived and taught in India, and so Buddhism is properly classified as an Indian ethical philosophy. Yet, Buddhism did not take hold in the land of its origin. Instead, it spread in different forms south into Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia, and north through Tibet to China, Korea, and Japan. In the process, Buddhism suffered the same fate as the Vedic philosophy against which it had rebelled: it became a religion, often rigid, with its own sects, ceremonies, and superstitions.</font>
 
Old 04-25-2001, 08:05 PM   #7
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'Both speech and silence transgress.' zen saying

'Nothing is either good or bad but thinking makes it so.' Shakespeare

These are questions in the realm of duality and the mind and only each one can come to understanding individually. I don't think the serious guru or student could give an answer to such a question..it is almost a koan.
 
Old 04-26-2001, 09:09 AM   #8
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phaedrus quoted some un-named article as saying the following, regarding Hindu ethical philosophy:

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">During the following centuries the ethical philosophy of this early period gradually became a rigid and dogmatic system that provoked several reactions. One, which is uncharacteristic of Indian thought in general, was the Carvaka, or materialist school, which mocked religious ceremonies, saying that they were invented by the Brahmans (the priestly caste) to ensure their livelihood. When the Brahmans defended animal sacrifices by claiming that the sacrificed beast goes straight to heaven, the members of the Carvaka asked why the Brahmans did not kill their aged parents to hasten their arrival in heaven. Against the postulation of an eventual spiritual liberation, Carvaka ethics urged each individual to seek his or her pleasure here and now.</font>
Fascinating. Does anyone here know whether there is any connection between Carvaka and Tantra? Or, at least, was Tantra one of the "several reactions" referred to above?

I ask because some sects of Tantra have initiation rituals which deliberately blaspheme orthodox Hinduism.


[This message has been edited by Kate Long (edited April 26, 2001).]
 
Old 04-26-2001, 01:19 PM   #9
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by phaedrus:
Generally i wouldnt bother...but i might as well Whenever you find better written and researched articles which you agree with..dont waste energy in writing the whole thing (laziness is a virtue )

quote deleted....
</font>
Source of the quote please?

DC
http://www.digitalchicken.net
 
Old 04-26-2001, 08:56 PM   #10
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apologies was in a hurry that day...its britannica

Kate

Carvaka is an atheist school and tantra (applicable to buddhism & jainism as well) basically deals with esoteric side of the religion or philosophy by dabbling in magic, spells ...etc

[This message has been edited by phaedrus (edited April 26, 2001).]
 
 

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