Many ancient philosophies had the goal of creating a well-functioning world and used their insights to develop rules of behavior and socio-political orders that are still with us today. Although we may question the metaphysical assumptions of these philosophies, we haven’t abandoned them because they contain important lessons . Recently, I’ve been thinking about lessons from Buddhism and Confucianism, particularly the Buddhist teachings on the origin of suffering and the Confucian idea of cultivating harmony.
We could benefit from studying those ideas more closely. Understanding that suffering comes from attachment and that harmony is created by extending compassion and kindness to others could change how we interact. When we encounter unfamiliar ideas, we often react by defending the familiar. When opposing sides do this, it can become impossible to reconcile our ideas or create change. But comprehending suffering can create a bond built on our shared experience with attachment. This can become the basis for a more respectful dialogue. We need to recognize how to be compassionate in speaking and responding while still firmly holding to our principles. Here are some papers that touch on these important Buddhist and Confucian ideas:
- Chien-Te Lin, “A Buddhist Take on Gilbert Ryle’s Theory of Mind,” Asian Philosophy, April 2014
- Wai Wai Chiu, “Tension and Harmony: A Comment on Chenyang Li’s The Confucian Philosophy of Harmony,” Philosophy East & West, 2017
- Yao Xinzhong, “Centrality or Pathway? A Discussion of the Position of Harmony in Confucian Philosophy,” Philosophy East & West, 2017
- Douglass Smith and Justin Whitaker, “Reading the Buddha as a Philosopher,” Philosophy East & West, April 2016.
- Stephen E. Harris, “Suffering and the Shape of Well-Being in Buddhist Ethics,” Asian Philosophy, August 2014.
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