Presentation on theme: "Contrasting Western & Chinese mainstream views of the person. The diagrams on the following two slides are meant to illustrate “default,” non-controversial."— Presentation transcript:
Contrasting Western & Chinese mainstream views of the person. The diagrams on the following two slides are meant to illustrate “default,” non-controversial ways of thinking of the person in: 1)Contemporary Western societies 2)Traditional China (including ancient China) There are other ways people in each context have and do picture what people are. These diagrams simply represent “stories” most people in each context would likely see as obviously so. (Naturally, a set of five powerpoint slides oversimplifies the contrast and can’t point out its limits.) 1
1) Mainstream modern Western portrait The “atomic individual” Historical influences The “soul” of the Greek / Christian tradition The “self” of the Romantic Tradition (19 th c.) 2 This diagram indicates that people in modern Western societies are likely to think first of people as individuals, bodies importantly separated by space, unable to “know” the essential core of others because that core is a “self” (or “soul”) within that is not publicly knowable. Our selves are with us from birth and are the core of our humanity. Each person is born fully human, with unique features and essentially valuable beings.
Mainstream view in traditional China The person as intrinsically social Reflected in Confucian tradition (mainstream) Countered by Daoist tradition (creative minority) 3 This diagram represents a mainstream view of the person in traditional China. At birth, our bodies possess fully human features, but the characteristics of humanity, with all its value, are not yet present. Our human qualities are still only potential. We gain these as we are “shaped” by others (parents, etc.), who mold us in the form by training us how to act, speak, be humans in thefull sense. The “self” we experi- ence as inner derives from their external nurturance. Other humans “create” us as human, and we essentially linked as a group.
Some consequences of atomic view Atomic view is outcome of long tradition towards “valorizing” the individual – emphasizes person as prior to society – individuals possess “rights” – states must justify intrusions on private “space” – emphasis on unique character, talents, “genius” 4
Some consequences of the social view Expression of patterns common in many traditional societies – no grounds for individual “rights”; family/society is the source of and prior to the person – priority of family as natural unit of value – individuals have inherent duties/obligations – state claims on individual need little justification – common features of people emphasized 5