The harmony in Eastern and Western conception:
Taoism and Classical Greek philosophy.

Henrik Klindt-Jensen, University of Aarhus, Denmark

Preliminary remarks 

In this paper, I am going to clarify the relation between the concepts of harmony in Eastern thought – particular in the Taoism – and in the western thought, particular in Classical Greek Philosophy.
Chinese versus Greek philosophy in general

In the ancient Greece, the discipline philo-sophia philosophy was born as the concern and love for wisdom; Pythagoras seems to be the first user of the word: he would not proclaim himself as being a wise man, a sophos, but through rationality he could reflect wisdom in a way, where it can be of understanding and use for people of less wisdom; he thus conceived himself as a philo-sophos, a philosopher in stead of a sophos.

Furthermore, Pythagoras was a mathematician, discovering the law for harmony in the tone pitches with regard to length of the strings. The Greek Philosophy is born as a Philosophy of nature, not necessary denying the existence of the gods, but not relying on these. The giving up of the gods as the explanation for the world does not imply the old Greek belief in harmony. Now it is found in the co-existence of several elements of nature, by Empedocles four in number. Also Chinese Philosophy states a minor number of elements; the balance of these must also be found in man and thus indirectly in society.

We find a common feature in the conception of harmony in the classical Greek Philosophy and Chinese Philosophy: the harmony is prepared in nature, but man must seek to accomplish the harmony within the society and the concrete individual harmony in body and mind. Here we find the crucial concept of self-control in the Greek Philosophy. It is expressed in the old virtue sophrosyne. If we shall have harmony in society, we must have harmony with ourselves – through sophrosyne.

The Chinese Philosophy is a Philosophy of cosmos as well as philosophy of life. Since the Greek Philosophy is rather reflective, it more separates these areas of thoughts. Born as a thinking of nature, the Greek Philosophy only later reflected upon life – beginning with Socrates. Socrates inherited also wisdom, not concerned as Philosophy before him: he followed the inscription over the entrance to the Apollo Temple in Delphi, stating Know thyself and Not too much. Such wisdom is a part of Chinese philosophy from its very start – since we have given a more broad definition of philosophy in China. But this wisdom becomes part of Greek Philosophy through Socrates. Socrates was provoked by the sophists, stating relativism and lack of obedience to the gods, the denial of the old values, the virtues belonging to the former aristocratic society. The sophists belonged to the new time, not based upon cultivating inherited land with the use of slaves, a land that originally was appropriated by warfare and courage; the sophist represented the new culture that was based upon trade and craft. Socrates wanted to restore the old values, to reformulate them in a way, where they could enter into the new time. Socrates became critical about the new democracy, where the old values, the virtues where lost.

The way forth worth would be a kind of general education; he began with the youngsters on the square of Athens. The new time provided a breeding ground for drift towards egoistic power and greediness. This meant the break of the old harmony. The task was to create a new harmony. You would have to begin with your own self-control, your modesty – which was one of the old virtues: sophrosyne. Socrates’ pupil Plato continued this project of education by his school, called the Academy. Here, he draw Socrates more concrete broader education back into the mythical and metaphysical perspectives. Thus we find the myth of the lost Golden Age, where gods and men had been together, found by Hesiodus etc. The development had been decay to Hesiodus’ own Iron Age. The task was thus to get a memory of the old time and to bring it into the new society. Also in Chinese philosophy, we find a conception of the history in terms of decay. Especially in Confucianism, the task for the philosophy is seen as bringing back the golden time of the early Chou Dynasty, or at least features of it. Socrates, Plato and Aristotle understood themselves in an opposition to the actual democratic way of government of the state; they more believed in some kind of Aristocracy, but not in the decadent form of the reactionary rule of the 30 tyrants, which for few years interrupted the democratic development. The Chinese philosophers – at least in principle – were often true to the actual aristocratic empire, but saw that it was in need of improvements. Thus the Chinese and the Greek philosophers can be compared: earlier on things were much better, but now things are going wrong, people are not finding the harmony inside themselves, and thus the harmony of the state cannot be maintained. Also the leader/ the leaders of the state must train

作者 admin