Friday, September 25, 2020

One of The Golden Texts of Philosophy

The quoted text below is from volume I pages 667-669 of Will and Ariel Durant's series of books "The Story of Civilization" -

"The Confucian program is expressed pithily and profoundly in the famous paragraphs of The Great Learning: 

The ancients who wished to illustrate the highest virtue throughout the empire first ordered well their own states. Wishing to order well their states, they first regulated their families. Wishing to regulate their families, they first cultivated their own selves. Wishing to cultivate their own selves, they first rectified their hearts. Wishing to rectify their hearts, they first sought to be sincere in their thoughts. Wishing to be sincere in their thoughts, they first extended to the utmost their knowledge. Such extension of knowledge lay in the investigation of things.

Things being investigated, knowledge became complete. Their knowledge being complete, their thoughts were sincere. Their thoughts being sincere, their hearts were then rectified. Their hearts being rectified, their own selves were cultivated. Their own selves being cultivated, their families were regulated. Their families being regulated, their states were rightly governed. The states being rightly governed, the whole empire was made tranquil and happy."

Will Durant goes on to write -

"This is the keynote and substance of the Confucian philosophy; one might  forget all other words of the Master and his disciples, and yet carry away with these "the essence of the matter," and a complete guide to life. The world is at war, says Confucius, because its constituent states are improperly governed; these are improperly governed because no amount of legislation can take the place of the natural social order provided by the family; the family is in disorder, and fails to provide this natural social order, because men forget that they cannot regulate their families if they do not regulate themselves; they fail to regulate themselves because they have not rectified their hearts - i.e., they have not cleansed their own souls of disorderly desires; their hearts are not rectified because their thinking is insincere, doing scant justice to reality and concealing rather than revealing their own natures; their thinking is insincere because they let their wishes discolor the facts and determine their conclusions, instead of seeking to extend their knowledge to the utmost by impartially investigating the nature of things. Let men seek impartial knowledge, and their thinking will become sincere; let their thoughts be sincere and their hearts will be cleansed of disorderly desires; let their hearts be so cleansed, and their own selves will be regulated - not by virtuous sermonizing or passionate punishments, but by the silent power of example itself; let the family be so regulated with knowledge, sincerity and example, and it will give forth such spontaneous social order that successful government will once more be a feasible thing; let the state maintain internal justice and tranquility, and the world will be peaceful and happy.

It is a counsel of perfection, and forgets that man is a beast of prey; but like Christianity it offers us a goal to strike at, and a ladder to climb. It is one of the golden texts of philosophy."