issue 07

Plato - The Laws 797 translated by T J Saunders

If you control the way children play, and the same children always play the same games under the same rules and in the same conditions, and get pleasure from the same toys, you’ll find that the conventions of adult life too are left without alteration….Change, we shall find, except in something evil, is extremely dangerous.

Notes

1. Once upon a time, of the great men in a Great State, farmers cultivated the land; scientists advanced the science; engineers developed the technology; workmen manufactured clothes, shoes, gramophones, automobiles; wise law makers gave the laws of justice; judges upheld and enforced these laws; erudite teachers taught the young of good virtues and ethics; noble Senators devoted their lives working for the betterment of the State and her people; generals of valor commanded a powerful but lean army in the defence of her peace. Men loved their wives, wives adored their husbands; they took good care of their children, looked after their elders. Honours, integrity, skills of workmanship were venerated; they were the basic rules and conditions of a Great State, under which men played their games. Men Of such a Great State, produced, an economy of immense wealth.

2, Then, a few sophists came along, started peddling the following propositions for change: Let’s transform this manufacturing economy into a Service and Consumption-Based  New Economy; let’s outsource those old industries to other poor States; let’s liberate our workmen from their daily toils; let’s train them to be dot com entrepreneurs, shop assistants; let’s turn all our schools into profitable corporations; let’s make sure our professors are selling more diplomas to renew their tenure contracts. Let’s confine our elders in nursing homes. In such a vibrant New Economy, let’s  raise the debt ceiling to the sky; let’s create more exciting high paying jobs: face-bookers, war game players, musical punks, edgy day traders, mortgage originators, charming private equity sharks, creative bean counters, frequent flying nomads, KPI assessors, lethal divorce attorneys, 24/7 news drumming hosts, newspaper hacking editors, mini-god artists,  18 years old professors, super-star con politicians. Let’s raise the salary of our CEOs to a trillion; let’s privatise all our public roads, let’s charge men tolls for breathing air; let’s elect the handsomest actor to be our Acting President; let’s outsource our entire government over to the most economically efficient corporation. 

3. Who are these sophists? They are nobodies but vile queue jumpers, cunning usurpers. If we let them change the rules and conditions of a Great State, the advancement of men will no longer be based on skills, track records and the integrity of their character but their ‘merits’ in sophistry, trickery and deceit.  Always, remember what Plato told us:’Change, we shall find, except in something evil, is extremely dangerous’. Change, may only be considered if we are in a status of evil. When we live in a State of Greatness, we ever attempt to change the games; we will change the rules and conditions, we will open the floodgate for the most servile, the most incompetent and corrupt men to take over the games. Men of a Great State, must be steadfast, resist to tamper but defend their rules and conditions. 
 
 
 
 

Aristotle – The Politics book 1 chapter 2 translated by J A Sinclair

As man is the best of all animals when he has reached his full development, so he is worst of all when divorced from law and morals…… Hence man without goodness is the most savage, the most unrighteous, and the worst in regard to sexual licence and gluttony. 

Notes

1. When some people call the life of Aristotle uneventful, they likely suggest, Aristotle, very much followed the tradition of Plato: A self-fulfilling intellectual life in learning and teaching, while always abstaining himself from any worldly affairs.

2. Three things about Aristotle are still very noteworthy: First, Aristotle was not an Athenian but a Macedonian; his father, Nicomachus, was the court physician to the King of Macedon. Secondly, it was said that Aristotle was a disciple at Plato’s Academy for 20 years, though we have not yet found any literary  correspondence between Plato and Aristotle.Thirdly, after leaving Plato’s Academy, he tutored the young prince Alexander for 6 years. This brief tutorship did not turn the young prince into a philosopher king; instead, the young pupil became Alexander, The Great Warrior.

3. In 335 B.C., Aristotle returned to Athens, built his school Lyceum. Lyceum was a great success and flourished for some twelve or thirteen years under Aristotle, the greatest teacher who ever lived.  After the sudden death of Alexander The Great in far-off Babylon in 323 B. C., the anti-Macedonian sentiment in Athens was on the rise again. Aristotle, sensing ‘ The Athenians should sin a second time against philosophy (the first time was against Socrates)’, left Athens and retired to Chalcis. He died there at the age of 63.

4. Most works of Aristotle we now possess, are the works of his late years, which were most likely compiled and edited from his lecture notes at Lyceum by his devoted disciples. To study these works, could be a life changing experience; though your perseverance is needed to accomplish a task of such an intellectual nature. Before reading Aristotle, it will be very helpful to remember what Mr J A K Thomas ( The English scholar who translated The Ethics) advised: ‘Let him not think that he is reading a book but that he is listening to a man speaking. He will find that it makes a great difference, especially when he remembers who this speaker is’.

 
 
 
 

A Book To Recommend

Cicero and the Roman Republic  by F. R Cowell

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issue 06

Plutarch - Pompey, Lives.

A city, like a ship, can gain stability from opposed forces which together prevent it rocking one way or the other; but now these forces were united into one and there was nothing to stop the movement of violent party interest from overthrowing everything.

Notes

1. Plutarch, the last classical Greek historian, the first modern biographer, was born in Boeotia in AD 46. He left us many great works in two categories: Parallel Lives, as series of biography of Greek and Roman historical personages; Moralia, as a collection of essays addressing various subjects of importance.

2. In the middle of his biography on Pompey, Plutarch, surprised us with some very insightful views on the demise of Pompey, which was followed by the end of Roman Republic and the rise of Roman Empire. Plutarch says, according to Cato, the demise of Pompey was not caused by the quarrel and split between Pompey and Caesar, but the alliance and harmony which Caesar offered to Pompey who so willingly accepted. As a conciliatory gesture, to everyone’s surprise, Pompey even married Caesar’s daughter, Julia. Caesar was a master mind in deceiving his formidable foe into his own sword as he wished.

3. When a group of great men, for some reasons, left their previous city, took a risky sea voyage, landed on an unfounded land where they joined together, started cultivating the land to secure their sustenance, built fords and walls to defend their settlement. Then, a man of eminence, came along to become the first ruler, gave some basic good laws to the people, a city state was born.

4. Once men settled in a city state, they formed factions, began playing politics, factions turned into a few alliances which could not be amalgamated any further, these alliances became opposed forces. According to Plutarch, it is the co-existence and interplay of these opposed forces, which prevents the city from tilting to one extreme or another. When the city is stable, she prospers.

5. In modern time, men of opposition parties, go to the same schools to learn their sophistry, study the same extracted texts of social science, wear the same suits to meet the press, rise to power in government in the same scheme, conduct a debt driven economy based on the same philosophy, wage wars against other nations on the same pretext. Men of such similar nature will conspire to oppose each other only in their fervent speeches, but always collude in their principles to seek more power and wealth for themselves. As Plutarch predicts, one day, there will be nothing to stop them from overthrowing everything.

子贡问曰:“乡人皆好之,何如?” 子曰:“未可也。” 乡人皆恶之, 何如?“ 子曰:” 未可也。不如乡人之善者好之,其不善者恶之。“

 论語 第十三篇第二十四章

Zigong*asked, If a man is liked by everyone in the village, how would you think of this man? The Master* said, Not good enough.

If a man is hated by everyone in the village, how would you think of this man? The master said, Not good enough. He is a good man only if the good people in the village like him, and the bad people in the village hate him.

Book13  Chapter24  Analects. Translated by James Farmer

Notes

1. Analects by Confucius is divided into 20 books; each book consists of between 10 to 46 chapters, each chapter only includes one brief dialogue between Confucius and his disciples. There is no obvious internal structure in terms of the way under which each book and chapter is sequenced, but each dialogue tends to address one specific set of philosophical principle with lucidity. This lucidity is achieved by presenting us complex philosophical ideas through brief and simple dialogues.

2. The above dialogue exemplifies this brilliance of lucidity. By asking two simple questions, followed by two simple answers, it unveils a very thoughtful philosophical idea: According to Confucius, what is more important to know is not how many people hold favourable opinions about a man, but what kind of people hold favourable opinions about a man. If a man is liked by many mobs, then this man is nobody but a mob head; if a man is liked by some greedy merchants, then this man is nobody but a shrewd gold digger; if a man is liked by a few people with proven track records in their ethical and moral integrity but hated by all people of crooked characters, this is a man Confucius regards as being truly good and noble.

*Zigong is one of Confucius’s disciples, The Master refers to Confucius.

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issue 05

Plato – The Republic. Translated by Desmond Lee

The truth is that if you want a well-governed state to be possible, you must find for your future rulers some way of life they like better than government; for only then will you have government by the truly rich, those, that is, whose riches consist not of gold, but of the true happiness of a good life and rational life.

If you get, in public affairs, men whose life is impoverished and destitute of personal satisfactions, but who hope to snatch some compensation for their own inadequacy from a political career, there can never be good government. They start fighting for power, and the consequent internal and domestic conflicts ruin both them and society.

Notes

1. Plato was born in 427 B.C., three years before the breakout of The Peloponnesian War. His father died when Plato was only a few years old; his stepfather, Pyrilampes, was a close friend and a strong supporter of Athenian democratic leader Pericles. From his mother side of the family, his uncle Charmides and her cousin Critias, were strong supporters of oligarchic movement in Athenian politics.

2. Often, great thinkers rise after a major crisis. Two significant events set the scene for Plato to rise to the occasion: The Peloponnesian War, The Trial and Execution Of Socrates. The Athenian final humiliated defeat to the Spartan at the end of war, was the historical circumstance under which Plato became highly skeptical about Athenian democracy. The tragic death sentence upon his admired teacher Socrates by an Athenian jury, was the personal circumstance under which Plato finally abandoned his political ambition and devoted the rest of his life in the study of philosophy.

3. Plato was a voracious literary master; he left us more than twenty dialogues. Plato, never appears in these dialogues; Socrates is the centre character who conducts philosophical conversations with his various contemporary personages.

H.G. Wells - The Outline of History (1923).

Civilization is something more than the occasional seasonal growing of wheat. It is the settlement of men upon an area continuously cultivated and possessed, who live in buildings continuously inhabited with a common rule and common city or citadel.

Notes

1. In what kind of place do men like to settle down? First, a place where there is a favorable climate, so they can cultivate the fields to secure themselves a sustainable supply of food and substance. Second, a place there is a geographical advantage to defend themselves against predatory barbarians. Finally, men feel confident and secure to start families, to develop their own language, to form communities, to build a city state.

2. In modern time, most men do not need seek settlements, they are born in the cities; but, men of cities, they are nothing but tramps unless they gain secure employments to pay their dues. A city rises and prospers when she provides plentiful decent employments, though she declines as soon as the rents and taxes start to inflate.

3. A historical city of refined culture, welcomes respectful visitors; while she must reject vulgar transients, who are arriving in noisy groups, guided by their little flags, roaming around in their over-sized buses, barking at local fine restaurants and museums, always looking for a free peek at her neighbourhoods.

子曰: "其身正,不令而行; 其身不正,   虽令不从。"

论語 第十三篇第五章

The Master said, a man of good character will act in the right way, though you do not order him to do so; a man of crooked character, even you order him to act in the right way, he will not obey.

Book 13 Chapter 05, Analects.  Translated by James Farmer  *

 Notes

1. Confucius, devoted his life in the education of his disciples; though he conceded men of crooked character were not susceptible to good education. In Confucius’s time, there were many emerging independent states in China; the concept of forming a proper government still remained at a very primitive stage. This is the historical circumstance, which we must acknowledge, in order to understand Confucius’s bottom-up approach to build a humane civil society: First, to educate people to be good , then good people will form good government.

2. Confucius is not a divine God, his ideas and philosophy is only intended to address those issues in the society of his time.  If a government is already formed by corrupt and crooked people, any satisfactory solutions to rebuild a clean government are not likely to be found in the Analects by Confucius.

*My translation is made based on the original translation by Burton Watson, there is a slight difference in choice of words.

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issue 04

Francis Bacon* - Of Riches, The Essays.

Of great riches there is no real use, except be in the distribution, the rest is but conceit.

Notes

1. What does a man get from his great wealth? Bacon thinks, first, he will spend it in his consumption of goods and services. Second, he will feel so much self-pride over his immense wealth envied by his neighbors. The former is the pleasure of his senses; the latter is the pleasure of his mind.

2. In Bacon’s time, great riches is most likely referred to the wealth of the lord in a manor, the lord distributes his wealth as payments to his footmen, butlers, valets, housemaids, cooks. In this seclusive manor village of his, most men are working in the farm field as his tenants, the rest as servants inside his manor. The lord and his family, all their needs are taken care of by his entourage of servants, his manor house is the symbol of wealth, admired and applauded by all his subjects. The main task of the lord is to prudently manage his estate, collecting all dues from his tenants, so this serene manor life of leisure can be maintained for generations to come.

3. In modern time, great riches are of two kinds: the wealth of an individual( billionaires) and the wealth of a large corporation. The institution, the enterprise corporation, is the manor for our billionaires; except the following two differences: First, all subjects within this manor are called employees, whose task is not to consume the wealth of the lord in serving his needs, but produce more wealth for the corporation. Second, if a large modern corporation is co-owned by several billionaires with equal shareholding, it is not one of these billionaires who will become the lord (CEO) of this corporation; after some careful negotiations, a man of neutral interest will be appointed to fill such an important position, in the hope he will be loyal to these billionaire owners and do his utmost to augment more wealth for their corporation.

4. A man is given a difficult task with such a pool of immense wealth, while he is expected to be loyal and accountable to so many billionaire masters, he most likely chooses to play clever politics to deceive his masters as he has all the means once he becomes the lord (CEO)of a large corporation: it is in his right to deploy his people to take over all important positions within the corporation, not based on their qualifications and skills but their submission and loyalty. He is a brilliant orator, who knows how to win the hearts and minds of his board directors, once he subdues these directors, he gains the total control to dispose the great fortune of his billionaire masters, by issuing pay cheques for himself and his loyalists, handing over lucrative contracts to his mates, hiring the most creative certified accountant to cook his books.

* Bacon (1516-1626), the founding father of empiricism, was the second son of Sir Nicholas Bacon ( Lord Keeper of the Great Seal under Elizabeth I ) and his second wife Ann Cooke Bacon, whose sister married William Cecil, the great minister of Queen Elizabeth I. At the age of 12, he entered the Trinity College where he first met Queen Elizabeth who was so impressed by his precocious intellect and called him “The Young Lord Keeper”.  In 1618, he served as Attorney General and Lord Chancellor of England under King James I. In 1621,  he was accused by the Parliamentary Committee of corruption and sentenced to a fine of £40.000 which was remitted by the King. After such a sudden fall from grace, Bacon, devoted the rest of his life to study and writing. He left us three great works: The Advancement Of Learning,  Novum OrganumThe New Atlantis.

 或曰:“ 以德报怨,何如?” 子曰:

“何以报德?以直报怨, 以德报德.“

论語 第十四篇第三十四章

Someone said, Repay hatred with virtue – how would that do? The Master said, then how would you repay virtue? Repay hatred with uprightness. Repay virtue with virtue.

Book 14 Chapter 34, Analects. Translated by Burton Watson

Notes

Analects, Confucius ( 551-478 B.C.) left us, is most likely edited and published by his devoted disciples. Analects is a literary collection of conversations between Confucius and his most favorite six students, each short brief conversation composed of a few sentences, intends to reflect one set of ethical principle. Plato writes his dialogues in the same literary style, except each dialogue is more dramatic, intends to address one specific philosophical matter a time in a great length.

A Book To Recommend

The Outline of History

By H. G Wells (1866-1946).

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issue 03

R H Tawney - The Acquisitive Society

It is a commonplace that the characteristic virtue of Englishman is their power of sustained practical activity, and their characteristic vice a reluctance to test the quality of that activity by reference to principles. They are incurious as to theory, take fundamentals for granted, and are more interested in the state of the roads than in their place on the map.

Notes

1. In 1921, English historian of economics, R. H Tawney, published his book The Acquisitive Society; he started with a highly critical observation on the general character of his country fellowmen: being keen and preoccupying with practical means, incurious and ignorant of fundamental principles. The world has changed since 1921, however, not only Englishmen but more people in other parts of the world have become increasingly obsessed in seeking innovative and creative schemes to achieve their ambitious ends in wealth and fame, principle has become an antiquated English word in our modern press. If men are allowed to act without any regards to sound principles, what kind of society we will end up with?

2. This is also a matter of end and means. The end, it will only be realized in the future if we can figure out the right means. Most men are impatient, they like to act, dislike being in the idle, anxiously waiting for their chosen ends. Seeking and contemplating the means is in present tense, it is something men can act on right now, some men spend most of their life and fortune in building and rebuilding their beloved cars and boats.

3. An end can be only wished for, though we have no control over whether our wish will be fulfilled or not, it is still in our power to consider and question the quality of our goals before we commit ourselves to pursue those goals. Should you spend your spare time in studying Plato to become a philosopher or trading shares in the hope for a spectacular financial gain ? Should you spend all your income and time in building your own sports car or saving the income for the rainy days ahead?

4. If our end is qualified with sound principles, is it justifiable to proceed with all means regardless of any moral and ethical deliberations? In the pursuit of building the most entertaining technological device, is it moral and ethical to pay slave wage to the assembly line workers? In the name of spreading democracy and freedom, is it moral and ethical to use military aggression, bombing cities and killing human lives? Democracy and liberty is to make people live more civilly and peacefully, it is not to destroy public properties and human lives, it should have nothing to do with aggression and violence.

或谓孔子曰:“子奚不为政?” 子曰:“《书》云:’ 孝乎唯孝,友于兄弟。‘ 施于有政,是亦为政, 奚其为为政?”

论語 第二篇21章。

Someone asked Confucius, saying, Why don’t you hold any position in government? The master replied, The Book of Documents says: Being filial to elder parents and kind to younger brothers, will contribute to having a better government. If I can educate people to do so, this is in fact to take part in government, why must I actually hold any position in the government?

 Book II Chapter 21, Analects. Translated by James Farmer *

Notes

1. Confucius was born in 551 B.C. According to Bertrand Russell, Greek philosophy begins with Thales, whose birth date can only be traced by the fact that he predicted an eclipse which occurred in the year 585 B. C. During the ancient 6th century, China was so far away from Greece; however, philosophy study, emerged almost the same time, at both locations.

2. While Plato is concerned about proper constitutions, under which philosophers can become rulers; Confucius, thinks good government must be formed by good people selected from a good society, a good society consists of good communities, a good community consists of good families; therefore, family is the most important basic social unit where we must start to teach people how to behave in good manner and custom.

*My translation is made based on the original translation by Burton Watson, there is a slight difference in choice of words.

A Book To Recommend 

The Affluent Society by John Kenneth Galbraith 

John Kenneth Galbraith (1908-2006), a Canadian of Scottish decent, PhD in Agriculture, the University of California, Berkeley. His important works was a trilogy on economics: American CapitalismThe Affluent Society, and The New Industrial State. Adviser to Presidents of F D Roosevelt, Garry Truman, Lyndon Johnson, he had a fond rapport with Kennedy who appointed him as the United States Ambassador to India ( 1961-1963). A persistent advocate for sound public policies and regulations, a vocal critic of unrestrained free market.

 A Video Conversation with Galbraith

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issue 02

lona39

Aristotle – The Ethics

This is an indication that none of the moral virtues is implanted in us by Nature, since nothing that Nature creates can be taught by habit to change the direction of its development.

Notes:

1. Most men can speak, see, listen, walk; Aristotle thinks men are born with these natural faculties; virtues, men had none upon their birth. Virtue is the child of habit, some sort of propensities in men produced by a certain set of habitual acts.

2. Aristotle claims it is a matter of real importance whether our early education confirms us in one set of habits or another. If the early education is excellent and provided to a group of pupils at a prestige school, can we assume that every pupil of this group will become virtuous? There are only three possibilities: all will become virtuous, some will become virtuous, none will become virtuous.

3. As Aristotle points out, Nature of each man prepares in him the ground  for the reception of virtue. Though, men have same sort of natural faculties, but our capacity in each of these faculties varies; some men are superior athletes, some are charming actors, some are engineering genius. Some men have a solid ground to obtain all good virtues, some have a soft ground to adopt a few virtues, some men have no ground to become virtuous.

4. Once being virtuous, is it possible to become more virtuous? The most likely scenario: Man, in his early life, might gain some initial basic virtues from the teachings by his caring parents, his erudite teachers. These basic virtues, though simple and a few, nevertheless, put him in the right foundation to further grow his virtues.

5. Can a virtuous man become sinful and unethical? Most likely so, the sinful and immoral, are always attempting to corrupt others, to recruit those virtuous to join them. How many men will sacrifice their lives in order to uphold their virtuous and moral principles? Very a few.

rom20

David Hume - Essays Moral, Political, Literary

Nothing appears more surprising to those, who consider human affairs with a philosophical eye, than the easiness with which the many are governed by the few; and the implicit submission, with which men resign their own sentiments and passions to those of their rulers. When we enquire by what means this wonder is effected, we shall find, that, as Force is always on the side of the governed, the governors have nothing to support them but opinion. It is therefore, on opinion only that government is founded; and this maxim extends to the most despotic and most military governments, as well as to the most free and most popular.

Notes:

1. Hume, a distinguished Scottish scholar, his character is as refine and delicate as his literary style. In his own Esquire The Life of David Hume, he concluded the following about his own character:’ I was, I say, a man of mild dispositions, of command of temper, of an open, social, and cheerful humour, capable of attachment, but little susceptible of enmity, and of great moderation in all my passions’.

2. What surprises Hume is: how a few can rule many, why many submit so willingly to a few. His own conclusion, which even surprises him more: The rulers have nothing to support themselves but opinion, that government is founded on nothing but opinion.

3. People do not form government, but the leader people choose to vote for based on their opinions has the mandate to form government. When people have a consensus of opinions about a man: He is so liked by many, speaks with eloquence and conviction, looks handsomest in his appearance, then people will be willingly to entrust this man the task to rule the nation under which people obtain their livelihoods.

4. Can we build a bridge based on opinions? Can we enrol students into our prestige institutions based on opinions? Can we entrust someone the task to conduct a heart surgery based on the opinion that he is so liked by his neighbours?

5. In modern time, tasks are of two kinds; the single technical task and the managerial task. The competency of the former task can be accurately tested and measured according to a set of specific standards; we can require a first officer pilot to demonstrate his competency in a cockpit when he applies for the promotion to become a captain. The later task is more problematic, it is simply impossible to ask anyone to demonstrate to us how he can competently manage people or rule a state. All we have are past records: his orated promises, his track records, opinions of his associates.

子曰:“学而不思则罔,思而不学则殆”。

论語 第二篇15章。

The Master said, learning without thought is pointless, thought without learning is dangerous.

Book II Chapter 15, Analects. Translated by Burton Watson.

Notes:

Confucius ( 551-479 B. C. ), was born in the area of present day north eastern China Shan Dong province. His father, who belongs to the lowest rank of noble class, died when he was three. Confucius was raised by his mother in poverty. His work Analects was made the official imperial philosophy during the succeeding Han Dynasty ( 141-87 B.C.). Since then, Analects has been also designated as the required reading texts for state civil examinations until the end of 19th century. The top rank successful exam sitters are selected to become potential candidates to fill important public servant positions.

 

 

 

 

A Book To Recommend

The Prince and The Discourses by Niccolo Machiavelli

 

 

 

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issue 01

lon3001

Adam Smith  - The Theory of Moral Sentiments

How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his    nature, which interest him in the fortune of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it except the pleasure of seeing it.

Notes:

1. The above statement was made by Smith in the beginning of his first major work The Theory Of Moral Sentiments. It attempts to generalize that man as selfish as he is, by his nature, is still concerned about the fortune of his fellow beings, it is his pleasure to see the happiness of others though he gains nothing from seeing it.

2. If man, by his nature, tends to be selfish and concerned about the interest of others, it is reasonable to assume that man must act in his selfishness first before he gives any considerations to the interest of others. Being selfish is not to be concerned about the interest of others, it’s impossible to be both at the same time.

3. In reality, only after man has obtained enough food, he will consider sharing his food with the hungry, only he has no fear of his own safety, then he will consider to give shelter to the homeless. Only man has obtained enormous wealth, he will be able to consider becoming a philanthropist. Only the government of an opulent nation will consider giving economic aids to or accepting refugees from nations of poverty.

5. Furthermore, are there other possibilities? First, a selfish man may always remain selfish, never proceeds to consider the interest of others. He feels all his wealth and fame has been obtained due to his hard work in augmenting self-interests over others. Now, he enjoys the comforts and pleasure provided by his status, he has no intent to give away anything to others. Second, man is also capable of being jealous and discontent of others. He has no joy to see the success of others, out of his resentful rage; it is even possible he commits crimes and malice to destroy the fortune of others.

6. Possible conclusion: Man may have three tendencies: being selfish, being social and caring about others, being envious and capable of taking malevolent actions to harm others. If I do have unlimited leisure time, my further inquiry will be to find out what triggers a selfish man to become generous and considerate to others, being fate or feeling guilty?

bue01

Montesquie - The Spirit of Laws

As distant as heaven is from earth, so is the true spirit of equality from that of extreme equality. The former does not imply that everybody should command, or that no one should be commanded, but that we obey or command our equals. It endeavours not to shake off the authority of a master, but that its masters should be none but its equals. 

Notes:

1. Montesquieu, was born in 1689 in southwest of France. His father was a soldier with a long ancestry of nobility, his mother inherited a large monetary asset from her aristocratic family, and she brought the title Barony to the family. During his life, Montesquieu accomplished three major works: The Persian Letters, Consideration on The Causes of the Grandeur and Decadence of the Roman, The Spirit of Laws. Of the three, The Spirit of Laws brought him enormous eminence and it received the highest praise from the rest of Europe.

2. Montesquieu, thinks equality does not mean that people in society should act with no regard to traditions, manners and customs. If there is no respect for old age, there will be no parents; if there is no reverence for learned, there will be no education; if there are no ranks, there will be no army.

3. We are equal, only in terms of our equal citizenship in a democratic state, but equality does not mean all people in society are equal in terms of their social and economic status. The population in our modern society is highly divided and stratified by their different professions. A truly civil society offers all people equal access to advance their status, based on a transparent system under which the process of selection for promotion is being conducted, this system should be vigorously tested and challenged to make sure the most talented and competent (measured by the level of specific skill qualifications, track records of relevant experiences, the integrity of good moral and ethical character) are always given the senior positions of command. A closed and corrupt system will only promote the most incompetent and servile characters to rule the competent, any nation or institution under such a system will only decline or vanish in the long run.

4. If we give full consent to a good doctor to manage the medical affair of our whole family, it’s because we have verified the track records of his excellent patient care history, his sound medical qualifications. To do so, we must have an open and transparent system under which those track records and trade qualifications can be measured and bench marked according to a set of objectively tested specific standards.

5. In modern time, we substitute ‘objectively tested specific standards’ with one magic word ‘merit’. It is only a very clever literary advancement, but it opens the flood gate for incompetents to enter the ruling class, a system under such a murky concept gives spectacular rises to those who seem to be naturally born with brilliant skill of servility and polished showmanship, only a handful skills in human society are impossible to be objectively tested and bench marked, the skill of servility happens to be the first one on that short list.

rom16

子曰:“不患人之不己知,患不知人也。”

论語 第一篇16章。

The Master said, Don’t worry about whether other people understand you. Worry about whether you understand other people.

Book I Chapter 16, Analects. Translated by Burton Watson.

Notes:

1. Confucius was born in 551 B.C in the small feudal state of Lu, in the area of present day north eastern China Shan Dong province. His family name was Kong, later on people called him Master Kong out of respect for his work in teaching the young. Master Kong, Kong Fuzi in Chinese Pinyin, ‘孔夫子’; the name Confucius is a latinized form of Kong Fuzi. His father, who was a member of the lowest rank of the nobility, Shi ‘士’ class, died when Confucius was very young.

2. The major work Confucius left for us is Analects, it was said Confucius had as many as three thousand pupils. Analects is a literary collection of conversations between Confucius and his most favourite pupils ( 6 of them in total), the text was written in Classical Chinese. Emperor Wu of Han dynasty (141 B. C.- 87 B. C. ) declared Analects as the philosophical pretext for the official state doctrine on how a state should be governed. Since then Analects has become an important part of Chinese school curriculum until the present day. This explains why most Chinese school graduates today are still able to read the original text in Analects in Classical Chinese, Classical Chinese refers to the written language at the time of Confucius, so we are talking about the language used by ancient Chinese nobles more than 2500 year ago.

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