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« A Taoist Christmas | Main | Can Capitalist CEOs be Good Confucians? »

December 26, 2005


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You're speaking of Confucianism as if it were a pure philosophy outside of culture. I understand, since I do the same with philosophy that I like. But it is problematic.

The problem with this is you're missing out on what actually matters here, which is NeoConfucian practice in everyday Korea. I'd put Korean virtues soemwhere akin to the Ten Commandments: nice moral ideas which everybody sorta knows, but which aren't the basic determinants of ethics. I mean, when I refrain from killing someone, it's not because of the Ten Commandments, or a Christian exhortation to love one another. I refrain from it because of deep-seated cultural norms and because of my own sense of ethics which was developed within a culture. The fact of the matter is that Hierarchy (pecking order) is the part of Confucianism that is most dominant in modern Korean practice, and the Virtues have been taken off the stove to make way for Business and Profit.

Now, I won't blame Hwang's actions on Confucianism, because there are more sensible sorts of blame to place on him. But people will, eventually, start to use Confucianism as a defense for those working under Hwang -- it's already begun in the comment sections of different websites -- and that would be extremely unfortunate. Those working beneath him should have known better than to go along with the ruse.

Somewhere in the Analects, it explicitly says that an older man isn't an authority just because he's elder; there are older men who are idiots, too. However, this doesn't seem to have survived the transition to Korean Neo-Confucianism (or, perhaps, the dictatorial period earlier in this century; unsurprisingly, since this kind of thinking would invite criticism that is suppressed both in classrooms, where a lot of this is learned, and in political life, where criticism was pretty harshly suppressed for many years). Unfortunately, a culture that doesn't include license for loud, vocal criticism of ideas and claims regardless of who is making them cannot effectively practice science. It can try, but everything will take much longer and the effort will be pointless if one is competing with societies that aren't fettered by so much critical limitation. It's as simple as that.

Good insights on this story. Just keep the parentheses out of your writing. You can say whatever you needed to say in the above post without them. It makes reading easier on the head and eyeball. Keep up the good blogging.

Much of what we call Confucianism is really a mixture of the ideas of Confucius and Legalism that emerges after the Qin dynansty. So, yes, Korean "neo-Confucianism" does reflect a different politico-cultural context than either the US or pre-Qin China. But Confucius's thought is capacious enough to allow for a variety of interpretations. And I would like to resuscitate (rescue?) the non-Legalist, and thus less hierarchigal, Confucianism of the original Analects. I know this kind of project is open to a variety of critiicsms, but, hey, if there can be a variety of Marxisms, and Christianities, and Islams, and Liberalisms, and Conservatisms, why can't there be a modernized Confucianism?

If your objective is to create a modernized Confucianism, based on the purportedly non-Legalist and thus [sic!] less hierarchical confucianism of the original Analects, perhaps you should stick to adumbrating what that might look like. The principal problem with your views on the connection, or lack thereof, between Confucianism and [pick a dysfunctional element of] Korean society, is that it flies in the face of too much history. Sure, there's no one-to-one causal link between "Confucianism" and the inanities of Korea; most, likely all, phenomena, are heavily overdetermined. But the facts remain that Confucianism, in particular a particular brand of neo-Confucianism, was very deliberately adopted by the founder of the Chosun dynasty as the new state ideology and forcibly imposed on what previously had been in many fundamental respects a matrilineal tribal society. In the process, in order to be made workable as a mechanism of political ordering, it clearly had to taken on many of the elements of Legalism - which suggests more than a few questions about the viability of the echt Confucianism that you esteem as a political philosophy. Moroever, in modern times, the habits breed into society by centuries of stae-sponsored and enforced neo-Confucianist indoctrination, were hijacked and even more crudely used by various authoritarian regimes to achieve their political and economic objectives. So, yeah, one could say, it's not confucianism that'a at work here, but only by pointing to the lodestar of bell jar philosophy - one which, moreover, like so-called moderate Islam, has been singularly silent in all of its homelands in mounting even a theoretical challenge to such supposed abuses of the original creed.

when can stem cell grow a eyeball for those lost it by accident, when they can finish studies about this.

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