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The Confucianist hierarchy

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libertygrl
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Posted 04/08/12 - 11:41 AM:
Subject: The Confucianist hierarchy
This is probably related somewhat to Thinker's topic on power and corruption.

Confucianism taught that a hierarchy of authority is the natural order of things. I know I'm surrounded by independent thinkers here, and the notion of "authority" probably comes with a natural sense of distaste. The idea of someone else having "authority" over me doesn't thrill me much either.

I do have an employer, to whom I grant some degree of authority, but I essentially see us as working toward common ends and having a mutually beneficial relationship which I am free to leave anytime I see fit, and he is free to do likewise.

I respect the authority of local government and police force insofar as I see it as being reasonable to do so. I feel free to leave, resist, or fight any situation that seems unfair. This is an attitude I think Confucius himself would probably have embraced, but later the Chinese government translated his teachings into an emphasis on unquestioning obedience.

I've always gotten the impression that there are certain circumstances in which unquestioning obedience may be an important facet - in the military, for example. And how did the pyramids come to be built in Egypt, and other wonders around the world? Was there an obvious factor of unquestioning obedience? Was it simple slavery - did the people choose to obey or were they forced? Or did a large group of people merely have a lot of faith in the bigger picture?

What do you guys think? Does unquestioning obedience have any rightful place in the world?
Thinker13
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Posted 04/08/12 - 12:46 PM:

libertygrl wrote:

I've always gotten the impression that there are certain circumstances in which unquestioning obedience may be an important facet - in the military, for example.


I don't know about others but I feel that unquestioning obedience in military if it's also known as 'patriotism' doesn't impress me much. Fighting in a war doesn't eradicate any problems. Unquestioning obedience is almost always forced, either by conscipucuos use of force or by subliminal programming.



Libertygrl wrote:
And how did the pyramids come to be built in Egypt, and other wonders around the world? Was there an obvious factor of unquestioning obedience?


A. If you're exalting the unquestioning obedience because it made those wonders around the world possible: I don't see it. Do you think that wonders of world really make world a better place at cost of lives of many who died creating them?

B. If you are trying to point towards something else---I did not uderstand.


Librtygrl wrote:
Was it simple slavery - did the people choose to obey or were they forced? Or did a large group of people merely have a lot of faith in the bigger picture?


Pyramids are mystery, but as far as Tajmahal is concerned people were forced and the chief artisan was killed ( or so I am told.)


This large group of people having faith in the bigger picture, without any questioning, gives rise to Fascim, Nazism, Proselytyzing and so and so on.

In my opinion, Socrates, Galileo and countless others died because of questioning. Unquestioning obedience is merely a meme helping some 'isms' thrive. More this 'unquestioning obedience' factor a religion has more and quicker it seems to proliferate and thrive, creating a force of fanatics which is hell-bent on killing sanity.
libertygrl
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Posted 04/08/12 - 1:43 PM:

Thinker wrote:
If you're exalting the unquestioning obedience because it made those wonders around the world possible: I don't see it.

no, it wasn't an exaltation at all. only speculating on occasions where it might have a place. i have no idea how such monuments were built, whether it was a form of group inspiration or sheer coercion. if it was merely the latter, why did the masses never rebel? surely thanks to their numbers they could have been obstacles to such achievements. to say that the army forced them to do it, well how was the army itself coerced then to support the hierarchy?

Thinker wrote:
This large group of people having faith in the bigger picture, without any questioning, gives rise to Fascim, Nazism, Proselytyzing and so and so on.

i disagree. i would say taoists as a group also practice faith in a bigger picture, while taoism is not something i would characterize as coinciding with fascism or nazism, or giving rise to them. it may give rise to proselytizing, perhaps, to some small extent, but most of the taoists i've met in real life never proselytized to me. the proselytizing of faith is something that conjures in my mind christianity first and foremost (they are commanded to do so), but also other bible-based faiths. and i don't just mean the christian bible, but any form of text that serves as a bible does.

regarding having a military, do you believe a country should be prepared to defend itself if another country tries to invade and conquer? (i'm talking about maintaining a military for defensive capability, not offensive.)
Thinker13
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Posted 04/08/12 - 10:24 PM:

libertygrl wrote:
only speculating on occasions where it might have a place. i have no idea how such monuments were built, whether it was a form of group inspiration or sheer coercion. if it was merely the latter, why did the masses never rebel? surely thanks to their numbers they could have been obstacles to such achievements. to say that the army forced them to do it, well how was the army itself coerced then to support the hierarchy?


Alright. If it was an act of 'group inspiration,' as you call it, I don't feel that there was any need of 'coercion' or 'unquestioning obedience.' If the whole group is equally inspired there is no need of anyone telling anyone else about 'what to do.'

I would very well speculate that masses did rebel. Slaves used to rebel but only some of them could ever become mutiny. If you have read or watched movies about Moses, you would know that in Egypt there were so many slaves and many of them were driven away in exodus by Moses. It was a rebellion in my opinion.

As far as army being forced to do heinous acts is concerned, you need not go far in history, USA army has done some really marvellous things in recent past and almost everyone is aware of such hierarchies in other eras. For example: You might question how Hitler commanded such a vehement force to carry out his plans of world domination at cost of millions of humans.


libertygrl wrote:
i would say taoists as a group also practice faith in a bigger picture, while taoism is not something i would characterize as coinciding with fascism or nazism, or giving rise to them.



Let me be very clear here: If you carefully look into the nature of Taoism or Buddhism or Zen: None of these would really make one an individual having great faith in unquestioning obedience or group ideologies. This I would say despite what you have observed in world as Buddism, Zen or Taoism. And I say so because they ask you to enquire and question everything until your mind disappears.

A flowering of consciousness, like Buddha, Laozi or Gorakshnath is never really interested in creating groups but rather in imparting wisdom to individuals, but as soon as they depart, a flag appears and appears an umbrella, people start gathering under these flags and umbrellas and everything which was started with an intention to achieve blooming of consciousness starts rottening and groups are almost always as a rule cause of deterioration, especially when power hungry leaders start asking for unquestioning obedience. That is what happened to much of Zen which was considered purest of Buddism.



libertygrl wrote:
it may give rise to proselytizing, perhaps, to some small extent, but most of the taoists i've met in real life never proselytized to me. the proselytizing of faith is something that conjures in my mind christianity first and foremost (they are commanded to do so), but also other bible-based faiths. and i don't just mean the christian bible, but any form of text that serves as a bible does.


Proselytizing is not a very good thing.


libertygrl wrote:

regarding having a military, do you believe a country should be prepared to defend itself if another country tries to invade and conquer? (i'm talking about maintaining a military for defensive capability, not offensive.)



I know if I say yes: You would say that in such case 'unquestioning obedience' is nedded on part of soldiers in order to serve their country. I agree, but it's because we're looking at the fragment of the 'whole' problem. This unquestioning obedience in certain fraction of soldiers calls for the same in hundreds of other groups. What if, in the first place there is no attack by any country on any other country? There would be no need of 'unquestioning obedience.' I know what I am talking about is not reflected in history. But that is what I am trying to say. If these soldiers start thinking and all of them, then they would ask questions and if all of them ask questions the critical mass reached will lead to passive resistance and if it continues for enough long there will be no violence.


If all soldiers in the world started rejecting unquestioning obedience, the world would soon be a less violent and more peaceful place.
libertygrl
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Posted 04/09/12 - 10:26 AM:

Thinker wrote:
Alright. If it was an act of 'group inspiration,' as you call it, I don't feel that there was any need of 'coercion' or 'unquestioning obedience.' If the whole group is equally inspired there is no need of anyone telling anyone else about 'what to do.'

what if the whole group is inspired to follow a certain individual? can it still be considered "group inspiration"? or is it necessarily coercion?

Thinker wrote:
I know if I say yes: You would say that in such case 'unquestioning obedience' is nedded on part of soldiers in order to serve their country.

not sure where you've gotten the idea that i think "unquestioning obedience" is a good thing. if you think i'm defending it, then you've read me all wrong. i'm asking whether anyone thinks it has a place, not trying to insist that it does. it is a matter of "questioning" (as opposed to "unquestioning"). i've not formed any particular opinion on the matter.

Thinker wrote:
Proselytizing is not a very good thing.

indeed, i find it rather annoying myself.

Thinker wrote:
If all soldiers in the world started rejecting unquestioning obedience, the world would soon be a less violent and more peaceful place.

i would agree that violence in general would (perhaps) be reduced in the world without unquestioning obedience to help it along, but there is nonetheless a certain hate, bloodlust, and sadistic mechanism in some that does not need orders from authorities in order to be manifest. they may see others expressing the same hatred or violence and join forces with them, then it has the appearance of unquestioning obedience but is not necessarily so.
Thinker13
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Posted 04/10/12 - 12:38 AM:

libertygrl wrote:


Thinker13 wrote:

Alright. If it was an act of 'group inspiration,' as you call it, I don't feel that there was any need of 'coercion' or 'unquestioning obedience.' If the whole group is equally inspired there is no need of anyone telling anyone else about 'what to do.'


what if the whole group is inspired to follow a certain individual? can it still be considered "group inspiration"? or is it necessarily coercion?


It's a possibility and you can observe many cults around you to find out what happens to such groups and I don't mean that it's necessarily evil.

libertygrl wrote:

Thinker13 wrote:

I know if I say yes: You would say that in such case 'unquestioning obedience' is nedded on part of soldiers in order to serve their country.


not sure where you've gotten the idea that i think "unquestioning obedience" is a good thing. if you think i'm defending it, then you've read me all wrong. i'm asking whether anyone thinks it has a place, not trying to insist that it does. it is a matter of "questioning" (as opposed to "unquestioning"). i've not formed any particular opinion on the matter.



My apologies. I have read too much along the lines. Being presumtuous is an obstacle in true inquiry.


libertygrl wrote:


Thinker13 wrote:

Proselytizing is not a very good thing.


indeed, i find it rather annoying myself.



Here we agree.

libertygrl wrote:


Thinker13 wrote:

If all soldiers in the world started rejecting unquestioning obedience, the world would soon be a less violent and more peaceful place.


i would agree that violence in general would (perhaps) be reduced in the world without unquestioning obedience to help it along, but there is nonetheless a certain hate, bloodlust, and sadistic mechanism in some that does not need orders from authorities in order to be manifest. they may see others expressing the same hatred or violence and join forces with them, then it has the appearance of unquestioning obedience but is not necessarily so.



I could also not be too sure about implications but mass killings in world wars and civil wars have heavily outnumbered sadistic killings. It takes much more than just disarmament to see a really peaceful world.
JrnymnX
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Posted 04/12/12 - 6:01 PM:

libertygrl wrote:
What do you guys think? Does unquestioning obedience have any rightful place in the world?

One should be unquestioningly obedient only to one's sovereign. wink

Thinker13 wrote:
If all soldiers in the world started rejecting unquestioning obedience, the world would soon be a less violent and more peaceful place.

I believe that ideal would rub very hard against reality.
Thinker13
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Posted 04/12/12 - 11:54 PM:

JrnymnX wrote:



I believe that ideal would rub very hard against reality.


To a T.
libertygrl
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Posted 04/13/12 - 12:28 AM:

Thinker13 wrote:
My apologies. I have read too much along the lines. Being presumtuous is an obstacle in true inquiry.

ah, no worries. reading back i see how i might have given the wrong impression, when i said, "I've always gotten the impression that there are certain circumstances in which unquestioning obedience may be an important facet". by that, what i meant to say is that this is what i feel i've been led to believe. my own feeling is that unquestioning obedience is ultimately problematic, but i wondered if i might be missing a potential redeeming quality there. after all, surely there exists nothing in life with no redeeming qualities whatsoever?

JrnymnX wrote:
One should be unquestioningly obedient only to one's sovereign. wink

ha, indeed. i had to mull this over a bit, to suss out whether i feel anyone is sovereign over me. and my feeling is no, neither anyone over me or nor i over anyone. i feel like i'm an essential piece to a really large puzzle - i feel like we all are. as such, i don't think any one thing is really sovereign, in the long run. in the short term, though, i guess i would have to say my inspiration to create art is sovereign. when it comes beckoning, i cannot help but heed its call.

what about you, jrnymn? what, if anything, do you consider sovereign? wink how about you thinker? and everyone smiling face

J wrote:
I believe that ideal would rub very hard against reality.


in the bible, there's a parable about sheep and goats, which suggests contrasting behaviors in people - that some are natural followers, and others aren't. the next matter of questioning that is coming to my mind is whether it is impossible to erase the sheep-like nature out of some. perhaps there is indeed a natural hierarchy of things in their minds, and as such, they have the intractable need to be led, these who may value naturally things like obedience. and, if that is the case, is it necessarily a bad thing? i recognize that it *can* be a bad thing, but is it *necessarily* so?
thedoc
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Posted 04/13/12 - 8:41 AM:

Obedience is a tenuous thing, if imposed from without it will be broken with oportunity. When a person decides to promise obedience to another, it is dependent on accurate information, and if the original reasons for promising obedience prove false then it will be ended. Ultimately if someone promises to be obedient to another they are, in reality, being obedient to their own promise, obedient to themselves. The degree of obedience will vary, a person may be obedient to an employer but usually only during working hours. Unquestioning obedience must be preceded by complete trust in the other person to make the right decisions, otherwise there will be questions and doubt.
JrnymnX
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Posted 04/13/12 - 7:36 PM:

libertygrl wrote:

what about you, jrnymn? what, if anything, do you consider sovereign?


I am my sovereign, just as you are yours.
Samvega
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Posted 04/17/12 - 12:53 PM:

I am utterly opposed to the idea of 'unquestioning obedience.' This is not to say that obedience or even hierarchy is unnecessary - but if hierarchical structures exist, the burden of proof must always be on the one demanding such obedience.

To give an example, let's say you are crossing the street at a busy intersection with a four year old child. There are many cars moving very quickly. You tell the child to hold your hand and to wait to cross the street until it is safe.

I think it is clear that in this situation, you are demanding absolute obedience from the child. I also think it is fairly easy to justify your demand for obedience in this case, and if the child should disobey - let's say by running across the street - you could even justify the use of coercive force - say grabbing her hand and pulling her back. The burden of proof is still on you, as the one instituting coercion and demanding obedience, but in this case it is a burden easily met (I owe this example to Noam Chomsky, which he used in a talk about coercion).

Outside of such a simplified scenario, however, I think it is much harder to justify absolute obedience to any human authority figure. Certainly it is more difficult to justify obedience and coercion when we are dealing with adult human beings.

As far as Confucius goes, it has been a while since I read any Confucian texts like The Analects or Mengzi, but as I recall Confucians do not endorse absolute obedience to a ruler per se - a ruler should only be obeyed if they have tianming, the "Mandate of Heaven". Only righteous, virtuous rulers have the mandate. Confucian philosophers like Mengzi argued that if a ruler has lost the Mandate, the people have the right to rise up and overthrow him. The idea that a ruler can and should command absolute loyalty from their subjects is the ideology of a different Chinese school of thought called Legalism.
Thinker13
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Posted 04/17/12 - 1:08 PM:

Samvega wrote:
a ruler should only be obeyed if they have tianming, the "Mandate of Heaven". Only righteous, virtuous rulers have the mandate. Confucian philosophers like Mengzi argued that if a ruler has lost the Mandate, the people have the right to rise up and overthrow him. The idea that a ruler can and should command absolute loyalty from their subjects is the ideology of a different Chinese school of thought called Legalism.


What seems redundant to me is "Mandate of Heaven." I think it's just an embellishment on part of the ruler, and is included in an effort to reduce what you call "Burden of proof." Otherwise 'righteous, virtuous rulers are to be obeyed without question." Seems to be the clause.

How long such rulers remain righteous and how their righteousness is decided is another lot to discuss about.
Samvega
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Posted 04/17/12 - 1:29 PM:

Thinker13 wrote:

What seems redundant to me is "Mandate of Heaven." I think it's just an embellishment on part of the ruler, and is included in an effort to reduce what you call "Burden of proof." Otherwise 'righteous, virtuous rulers are to be obeyed without question." Seems to be the clause.


Well, it depends. The idea that the people can overthrow the ruler if he deviates from the mandate implies several things:

(1) That it is appropriate and perhaps necessary to question if a given ruler has the Mandate, and perhaps should continually be questioned;

(2) That ultimately the people are the expression of the Mandate of Heaven, since in the event that a ruler loses the Mandate they will act to overthrow him.

So while I can certainly see how a ruler might claim he has "Heaven's Mandate" or as they used to say in the West, "the Divine Right" of the King, the fact that the Mandate can be revoked, and that the people themselves are the expression of Heaven, makes this a much more nuanced and open concept. In the West there was no questioning of the Divine Right of Kings, since it was a right bestowed by God. The East Asian concept of Tian (Heaven) is much more fluid. The Confucian Mengzi said, "in a state, the people are of first importance, the shrines of the state gods [i.e. the state itself] come next, but the ruler is least important." Thus one can argue that the will of the people is Heaven.

Of course, this perhaps begs the question: should a ruler give absolute obedience to the people? Is the absolute obedience of a ruler to the masses any better than the absolute obedience of the masses to a supreme ruler?

Edited by Samvega on 04/17/12 - 5:28 PM
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