Monday, September 11, 2006

Confuscianism / Legalism

Dear YCK,

thank you for the enlightening email. I strive to demonstrate what is palpable and palatable to the masses in terms of governance and policies without dwelling on the depths of their associated philosophies. Admittedly it is easy to fall into the same trap as everyone else with government propaganda and BS. Nevertheless I hope to gain your understanding for future pieces which I may post on the same topic using the same verbiage as this is what 'we' know. I appreciate your candour and email and am reproducing it here:

With my limited understanding of Confucianism, I believe that it has been maligned. However, you could not be faulted as the misunderstanding has been purveyed by none other than the government.

A rather good blog by kiweto was a brave attempt at unmasking true the ruling philosophy of the government. He identified it as Legalism, the ruling philosophy of the Qin dynasty.

I will try to redress this in my own way:Silvan Solomon Tomkins (1911-1991), a personality theorist, in the light of his Polarity Theory saw the recurrent polarity in fields as diverse as mathematics, political theory, theory of child rearing and theory of personality as being attributable to humanistic versus normative orientations.The former positive idealization sees man as an end in himself.

Tomkins assumed that it attempts to maximize positive affect for individuals and for all their interpersonal relationships. The latter negative idealization holds that a man must work towards attaining his full stature, only through struggle toward a norm, a measure, an ideal essence.

Tomkins believed that it stresses that norm compliance is the primary value and that positive affect is a consequence of norm compliance, not to be directly sought as a goal. As a corollary, the suffering of negative affect is a frequent and inevitable experience. Tomkins devised a polarity scale, in which an individual chooses between two statements each on diverse ideological issues to assess the individual's position on the humanistic-normative spectrum. An example of such a pair of statements:

1. The maintenance of law and order is the most important duty of any government.
2. Promotion of welfare of the people is the most important function of a government.

Statement 1 is normative and 2 is humanistic. Humans are basically evil. and Humans are basically good. are another example of such a normative-humanistic pair. Xun Zi the founder of Legalism firmly believed in the former, while Mencius held the latter to be true. It does not take a genius to figure out who was the humanist here!Like the case of the revered Nanyang spirit, snuffed out about two decades back, Confucius name has been abused to legitimize a political agenda. I hope I have succeeded in attaining my original aim to right this wrong.