Philosophy is reborn in every generation. Every people reinterprets the statements, beliefs and world-views for the societies in which they live. The ability to reach back to the tenets of the original Plato, the original Aristotle, or the original patterns of thought for any historical people is a fascinating pursuit. But it is only entertainment and a collection of facts that are largely useless unless it can be brought into some relevance for modern times. As such, if we are to confront the philosophies of the East in a dynamic fashion, we must do so as they impact today. I will attempt, in the following chapters to present the major ideas of the East. The focus will be upon the Chinese interpretation of these concepts though the ideas presented herein can be found throughout Asia. I will give examples where I believe they apply. The reader can accept or debate the ideas as he feels fit. If they spark interest or intelligent discussion of the issues presented, they will have been successful.
The order of presentation will be to give a brief account of the conceptual distinction that brought about the philosophy, the legend associated with the idea and then the principle derived from the concept. In this manner, hopefully both the distinctively Chinese mythical flavor of the idea and the pragmatic (also very Chinese) application of the idea can be seen.
Unfortunately there are only two kinds of commentaries on Eastern Thought, poor and worse. There is no substitute for reading the primary texts, researching the nuances of language associated with that culture or historical period and spending a lot of time contemplating the ramifications of any philosophical system. This pamphlet will serve as a beginning point, however poor, and if nothing else provide a viewpoint to argue against.
Chaos and Philosophy
Humanity has had, as an integral part of their existence, a fear of the unknown. For ancient man, the known predator or hazard was infinitely more preferable to the unknown terror. The reason for this is actually quite reasonable. If one can understand a thing, one can predict its behavior. What one can predict, one can either control or lessen its destructive potential by altering one's own actions. Conversely, what one cannot understand can be neither countered nor prepaired against. The unknown is therefore a potentially far greater threat.
Because of this, Man, in every venue, has sought to control nature for survival. In some quarters, Europe or the Americas for example, this pursuit resulted in much myth and the attributing of phenomena to spirits or gods. In the Mediterranean, especially among the Greeks, this pursuit began in myth and eventually gave way to what we now call scientific method. The approach of the Chinese, developed completely independently from either of these, appears as a unique mixture of both approaches to describing reality.
Return to Main Page