Sep 232013
 

From the book: Chum for Thought: Throwing Ideas into Dangerous Waters by David Satterlee

Find out more, including where to buy books and ebooks

Read or download this essay as a PDF file at:https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B4eNv8KtePyKX0N1cTNqMTY1N2c/edit?usp=sharing

Confucius, Emerson, and Ginsberg

The classic tenants of Confucianism and Taoism take disparate, but not mutually-exclusive, views of existence. While only Confucians would seek to give advice for improving society, elements of both views are important to a balanced and healthful existence within a society.

Confucianism is all about improving society. Individuals are expected to yield to established laws and the greater good of the community. The fundamental concept for maintaining society is the competence and fairness of public servants, which earns respectful honor and loyalty (for others, family, ancestors, public servants, and tradition). Law and tradition are looked to for guidance. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophyexplains:

Confucius’ social philosophy largely revolves around the concept of ren, “compassion” or “loving others.” Cultivating or practicing such concern for others involved deprecating oneself. … Learning self-restraint involves studying and mastering li, the ritual forms and rules of propriety through which one expresses respect for superiors and enacts his role in society in such a way that he himself is worthy of respect and admiration. A concern for propriety should inform everything that one says and does (Stanford).

Taoism is all about withdrawing from society. Individuals are expected to yield to the law of nature and the harmonious dynamics of the universe. Rather than seeking to improve society, Taoists focus on individual balance and a harmonious relationship with “the way of Heaven.” An immediate sense of rightness is looked to for guidance.

Taoism rejects “established” knowledge and wisdom as obstacles in the path of Tao. An enlightened mind effortlessly reflects universal principles, not rejecting the actual world so much as it’s society and societal conventions. A Taoists’ inner world must be purged of scripted external sensation and interpretation. In Section 47 of the Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu explains:

Without going out of your door,
You can know the way of the world.
Without peeping through your window,
You can see the Way of Heaven.
The farther you go, the less you know.
Thus, the Sage knows without traveling,
Sees without looking,
And achieves without Ado (Tzu 97).

I feel that both Confucianism and Taoism contribute important ideas for the personal choices and the accommodations that are needed to live within a community. Personal compromises are needed to exist without undue conflict with others.

As per the Confucianists, meaning can come from seeking the greater good and embracing orderliness. However, personal liberties are also needed to allow creative expression and developmental growth. As per the Taoists, meaning can also come from creating (or following) a personal path and embracing chance and change.

A fundamental structure underlying our lives is a continuous cycle of being and becoming. One may take the yearly seasons as an example. In the fall, there is a time that peaks at harvest, with processes of gathering in, sorting, organizing, consolidation, and withdrawing. In the winter, there is a time that peaks at storage, with processes of being and resting. In the spring, there is a time of germination, with processes of sowing, cultivating, nurturing, and growth. In the summer, there is a time of change, with processes of chaotic growth, reproduction, and metamorphosis.

It seems like Confucianists are more oriented toward sustaining a stable “winter” perspective while Taoists are more oriented toward flowing with the chaos of a “summer” perspective. Neither or these perspectives can be inherently better as they co-exist in the same system of being and becoming.

American culture already embraces a wide range of competing cultural ideals including those found in Confucianism and Taoism. In fact, the two major political parties in the United States have paradoxical cross-polarizations along philosophical lines.

Republicans are considered conservatives, holding to family values and traditions, yet they are fiercely defensive of their liberty to make personal choices, sometimes to the neglect of the welfare of others. On the other hand, Democrats are considered liberals, holding to values like diversity and adapting to the changing situation, yet are open to giving up personal choice for the benefit of the community.

John Locke and Thomas Jefferson insisted that we have the right to keep and defend individual property, but within the context of compliance to group consensus. Like Confucius, they felt that those in authority served at the will of the people and would decline and be replaced if they failed in their responsibilities.

Americans are also known for their fierce individualism. Like Ralph Waldo Emmerson and Allen Ginsberg, we tend to define our valued and privileged way of life by individual freedom to follow one’s own path.

The adoption and adaptation of our complex mix of philosophical roots encourages both sustainable stability and creative progress in our selves and in our society.

Works Cited

Tzu, Lao. Tao Teh Ching, Translated by John C. H. Wu. Shambhala, Boston & London, 1989
The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Confucius. Sept. 5, 2006, July 10, 2009
Feb 202010
 

Course Description

Professors Benjamin Karney and Thomas Bradbury lecture on families and couples. This course examines relationships and their connection to individual psychopathology, marital discord, and family disruption.

Lecture 17 – Course Conclusion: Families and Couples

Watch it on Academic Earth

Feb 182010
 

Course Description

Professors Benjamin Karney and Thomas Bradbury lecture on families and couples. This course examines relationships and their connection to individual psychopathology, marital discord, and family disruption.

Lecture 16 – Intimacy Across the Lifespan

Watch it on Academic Earth

Feb 162010
 

Course Description

Professors Benjamin Karney and Thomas Bradbury lecture on families and couples. This course examines relationships and their connection to individual psychopathology, marital discord, and family disruption.

Lecture 15 – Making Relationships Better

Watch it on Academic Earth

Feb 142010
 

Course Description

Professors Benjamin Karney and Thomas Bradbury lecture on families and couples. This course examines relationships and their connection to individual psychopathology, marital discord, and family disruption.

Lecture 14 – Marital Disruption

Watch it on Academic Earth

Feb 132010
 

Source: “Authentic Happiness,” Martin E. P. Seligman, Ph.D., Chapter 5

Satisfaction with Life Scale

1 = Strongly disagree – 7 = Strongly agree

  • · In most ways, my life is close to my ideal.
  • · The conditions of my life are excellent.
  • · I am completely satisfied my life.
  • · So far, I have gotten the important things I want in life.
  • · If I could live my life over, I would change nothing.

30-35 Extremely satisfied, much above average
25-29 Very satisfied, above average
20-24 Somewhat satisfied, average for American adults
15-19 Slightly dissatisfied, a bit below average
10-14 Dissatisfied, clearly below average
5-9 Very dissatisfied, much below average

Emotions about the past

May include: contentment, serenity, pride, satisfaction—bitterness, anger

Determined by thoughts and assigned meaning

Freudian view: The content of thought is caused by emotion

Aaron Beck – The leading theorist of cognitive therapy: emotion is generated by cognition

The thinking/feeling connection

There is evidence for both thought driving feeling and for feeling driving thought

Dwelling in the past – does the past determine the future? (Generally no)

The more you believe that the past determines the future, the more passive you’ll be.

Charles Darwin believed that successful individuals contributed to species evolution through reproductive success.

Karl Marx believed that economic forces contributed to future developments.

Sigmund Freud believed that childhood experiences created later psychological characteristics

Effects of negative childhood events on adults

Effects of childhood on adulthood are probably overrated. The evidence is minor. Many studies did not control for genetic influences. This is the nature vs. nurture issue.

Cognitive therapy: Aaron (Tim) Beck invented cognitive therapy, a popular talk therapy for depression. It attempts to redirect negative talk about the past into positive thought about the present and future.

Venting anger: Venting has recently been considered authentic, honest, and healthy. It turns out that venting anger is not productive. Gratitude and savoring are, in fact, more healthful.

Feb 122010
 

Course Description

Professors Benjamin Karney and Thomas Bradbury lecture on families and couples. This course examines relationships and their connection to individual psychopathology, marital discord, and family disruption.

Lecture 13 – Processing Information

Watch it on Academic Earth

Feb 082010
 

Course Description

Professors Benjamin Karney and Thomas Bradbury lecture on families and couples. This course examines relationships and their connection to individual psychopathology, marital discord, and family disruption.

Lecture 10 – Managing Differences in Families and Couples, Part 1

Watch it on Academic Earth

Lecture 11 – Managing Differences in Families and Couples, Part 2

Watch it on Academic Earth

Feb 062010
 

Course Description

Professors Benjamin Karney and Thomas Bradbury lecture on families and couples. This course examines relationships and their connection to individual psychopathology, marital discord, and family disruption.

Lecture 9 – Marriage

Watch it on Academic Earth

Feb 042010
 

Course Description

Professors Benjamin Karney and Thomas Bradbury lecture on families and couples. This course examines relationships and their connection to individual psychopathology, marital discord, and family disruption.

Lecture 8 – Attachment

Watch it on Academic Earth

Feb 022010
 

Course Description

Professors Benjamin Karney and Thomas Bradbury lecture on families and couples. This course examines relationships and their connection to individual psychopathology, marital discord, and family disruption.

Lecture 7 – Individuals in Intimate Relationships

Watch it on Academic Earth

Jan 312010
 

Course Description

Professors Benjamin Karney and Thomas Bradbury lecture on families and couples. This course examines relationships and their connection to individual psychopathology, marital discord, and family disruption.

Lecture 6 – Attraction

Watch it on Academic Earth