Saturday, November 15, 2014

373. The Enlightenment, the United States and China

The founders of the United States were intellectually men of the age of the Enlightenment. One of the most important features of the Enlightenment was that Chinese civilization, particularly Confucius moral philosophy, was highly regarded by main frontrunners of the Enlightenment. Confucius’ principle of that the people possess the power of overthrowing a governor who exploits people was accepted as one of the universal principles in human affairs. The direct influence of this principle is manifestly evident in the Declaration of Independence.

It shouldn’t be regarded as coincidence that he principal writer of it, Thomas Jefferson, was made out of the Enlightenment. Traditional nations have their own ethnic traditions. However, the founders of United States were reluctant to carry across the Atlantic the virtue of their old country. The founders believed the moral corruption in Europe should be excluded from the New Nation. Therefore, they were determined to create new virtue for the new nation. In their eyes, creation of new virtue was so important that its success or not would regulate the future of the direction of the nation they created.

If you want to know more about how Confucian moral philosophy made its mark on the founding of the United States,  I recommend you to read Dr. Dave Wang’s article, CONFUCIUS IN THE AMERICAN FOUNDING: THE FOUNDERS’ EFFORTS TO USE CONFUCIAN MORAL PHILOSOPHY IN THEIR ENDEAVOR TO CREATE NEW VIRTUE FOR THE NEW NATION, in Virginia Review of Asian Studies, Volume 16 (2014). In order to understand fully the United States history, the founders’ efforts to draw positive elements from Chinese civilization should be examined carefully. Their efforts shouldn’t be buried in the piles of historical documents that describe that the United States was formed mainly based on the English heritage and the Christian and Greco-Roman traditions. Today all the nations of the world are in one process of modernization. The founders’ way of dealing with other civilizations has provided a great model for all the nations in the world. The founders’ ideas that learn from other civilizations should be adopted by all mankind.

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