ToBeFair:The brighter sides of Kalamazoo

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Posted by andreas from ( on Thursday, October 03, 2002 at 6:43AM :

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ToBeFair:The brighter sides of Kalamazoo

God, am I relieved, it's not only a "Calamity Zoo"


Scholar: Confucian thought may offer path to peace

Saturday, September 28, 2002


The ancient ethical system laid down by the Chinese philosopher Confucius could help George Bush as he debates invading Iraq, a Harvard University professor said here this week.

In a presentation to the Center for Asian Studies at Kalamazoo College, Tu Weiming said a key element of the Confucian approach is similar to, and yet significantly different from, the popular axiom of doing unto others as we would wish they did unto us.

"Do not do onto others what you do not want them to do to you. This is Confucius," said Weiming, Harvard-Yenching professor of Chinese history and philosophy.

Under this dictum of reciprocity, the United States would have to consider its response should Iraq decide to attack us, he added.

We would have to ask ourselves, Do we repay malice with malice, or is it best to respond to malice with justice -- which is the path Confucius advocated.

"I think in this country there is this belief today of what is best for us may not be the best for someone else," said Weiming.

"American unilateralism has led to massive consequences," added Weiming. "If we don't understand the world outside, we're in trouble. That is the reason why dialogue becomes absolutely critical."

Weiming's lecture, "Confucian Perspectives on the Dialogue among Civilizations," was more, however, than just a critique of American foreign policy.

The author or editor of 19 books in English, 13 books in Chinese and well more than 100 articles and book chapters also spoke about the history of Confucianism as well as the role it could play in these times by helping people of many religions come together for discussion and understanding.

Confucius was born in a poor family in the year 551 B.C. His birthday is Sept. 28, which is today, and is celebrated in Asia and in this country as "Teacher's Day," said Weiming.

"Confucianism became the mainstream of Chinese thought for a long period of time," he said. "Confucianism teaches that there is no spiritual sanctuary outside the world today."

In this system of thought, which is considered in China as much a religion as a philosophy, there is a strong emphasis on people changing the world by starting with themselves.

"You learn for the sake of yourself. This is character building, self-realization, but it is not isolated to the individual," Weiming said.

In other words, we are compelled first to transform ourselves through self-understanding and then to take what we know and who we have become into the world.

This means that a follower of Confucius needs to engage the moral, political, ethical and spiritual issues of the day. A person, said Weiming, can be a Confucian and a Christian, or Confucian and a Buddhist, and so forth.

Education about the world around us and dialogue with others is the approach Confucius preached.

"Confucianism believes that no concrete human being is the full realization of humanity," said Weiming. "We cannot claim that our path is universal. We are responsible for broadening our scope and enhancing our flexibility and openness to the community."

Although the Confucian philosophy lost much of its popularity for many centuries, it is now on the upswing, given that it offers the modern world a way to solve contemporary problems, said Weiming.

"Confucianism is not a world religion, but it has the potential of becoming more than just a phenomenon of Asia," he said. "Confuciasnism calls for us to be socially engaged and culturally sensitive."

Chris Meehan can be reached at 388-8412 or

-- andreas
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