Saturday, September 12, 2015

410. Dr. Eric Schwitzgebel, Confucius-A Part of American Past

Dr. Eric Schwitzgebel, professor of philosophy at UC Riverside, wrote an excellent Op-Ed article for Los Angeles Times, titled “What's missingin college philosophy classes? Chinese philosophers,” He pointed out correctly, “Our neglect of ancient Chinese philosophers in U.S. philosophy departments is partly a remnant of our European colonial past.” However, “the remnant of our European colonial past” is only a part of American history, a main part if you want to say. Clearly, we need to study other parts and piece them together to construct the whole history of the United States. There is no right history until we get all parts and put them in right place in American past.

The tradition-to learn from Confucius moral philosophy, started by the principal founders of this country, was longer than United States history. Actually, the main founders were good students of Confucius moral philosophy. They not only studied but also promoted Confucius moral philosophy in North America tirelessly. As early as 1738 Benjamin Franklin published some chapters of Confucius moral principles in his widely read newspaper, Pennsylvania Gazette. Thomas Jefferson even regarded a moral model set up by Confucius as his own moral example.   

Dr. Schwitzgebel has found that, “Considered globally, moreover, Confucius, Laozi and, to a lesser extent, the other major ancient Chinese philosophers have been enormously influential.” He has also found surprisingly the fact that in the United States, “among the general population, Confucius and Laozi are better known and more broadly discussed than any but a handful of European philosophers.” 

Why this? We have to go back to the founding fathers' wisdom and efforts to borrow from Confucius ethics. It was not Confucius walked with his teachings into American history but the founders applied his moral teachings in the founding of this country. As for how the founders used Confucius moral principles to help them in the founding of the United States, please read Dr. DaveWang’s article" Confucius in American Founding", in Virginia Review of AsianStudies, vol. 16, 2014. 

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