Three Ways of Thought in Ancient China

Three Ways of Thought in Ancient China

Three Ways of Thought in Ancient China

Three Ways of Thought in Ancient China

Excerpt

This book consists chiefly of extracts from Chuang Tzu, Mencius and Han Fei Tzu. These are books by philosophers, and many people assume that to read a book about philosophy, unless one has studied the subject specially, is about as much good as for a layman to pore over a treatise on parasitology.

But there are all kinds of philosophy, and the kind that this book deals with is not at all technical. Chuang Tzu's appeal is to the imagination; he can be understood by anyone who knows how to read poetry. The appeal of Mencius is to the moral feelings; the book is meaningless unless we realize that it was written at a time when morality (as opposed to Law) was at stake. Hitherto Mencius has not much interested Western readers because it has been studied by itself, without relation to other ways of thought that challenged its ideals. Realism, as expounded by Han Fei Tzu, finds so close a parallel in modern Totalitarianism that the reader, so far from being puzzled by anything remote or unfamiliar will wonder whether these pretended extracts from a book of the third century B.C. are not in reality cuttings from a current newspaper.

Each of these sources has required a somewhat different treatment. The methods of Chuang Tzu are those of the poet, and in the case of poetry analysis is useless.

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