Saturday, October 10, 2015

413. Confucius and the Origin of Communal Tradition in the United States

The communal tradition of the United States was started by the founders in the founding era of the United States. It was nurtured by Confucian moral philosophy the founders promoted in the new nation. 

Most people would not think ancient Chinese thought was relevant for the American founding, but Confucian moral philosophy had answers for the moral reconstruction in the wake of the independence. In his famous work The Analects, Confucius taught a life long process of moral advancement. One of my friends was puzzled by Dr. Dave Wang's paper, Confucius in American Founding. For him, Confucianism favored a hierarchical political system culminated in the emperor. How Confucianism made contribution to the cause of the founders, who fought against the monarchical society. It was also unthinkable that Confucius would support the founders radical ideals, --commitment to liberty, equality, government of the people and rule of law. 

Here we need to understand Confucianism fully. No doubt, in Confucius era, the monarchical society with an enlightened ruler was an ideal social system. Confucius taught rulers to be virtuous and formulated a series of ethic principles for leaders of state. Therefore, a very important part of Confucianism is personal virtual cultivation. Confucius requested leaders to be  gentlemen who should always claim moral leadership to exercise proper influences in order to put society in good order. Following Confucius moral principles, gentlemen with good virtue always serve the community with their talents and resources. They should devote attention to local welfare institutions, such as promoting education.

Clearly, the founders who realized the value of Confucian personal virtual cultivation, adopted his individual moral improvement in their efforts to reconstruct a new virtue for the new nation. That explains why the founders promoted the Confucian moral philosophy in the founding era. As for how they used Confucian moral philosophy, please read Confucius in the American Founding.

One of the legacies from the founding fathers efforts is that their efforts had produced the phenomenon as discovered by Alexis de Tocqueville in 1803 "that Americans were very good at associating with one another and subordinating their individualism to voluntary groups of one type or another."(Francis FukuyamaConfucianism and Democracy).

No comments: