More notes at http://tanguay.info/learntracker
C O U R S E 
Chinese Thought: Ancient Wisdom Meets Modern Science
Edward Slingerland, University of British Columbia
C O U R S E   L E C T U R E 
Eastern Holistic Thinking and the Paradox of Virtue
Notes taken on December 10, 2014 by Edward Tanguay
the individual is tied up in their social role
identified and honored on basis of role, not individual life history
e.g. as ancestry or father or son
not so much concern as individuals qua individuals
visual representation of this
early bronze vessels
individuals hard to identify
large numbers of people engaged in group activities
they are all playing their roles in the ritual
contrast with bowl from 530 BCE Greece
many individual characteristics
recognizable individuals engaged in activities
e.g. portrayal of Achilles and Ajax
figures are large and standing out against the background
focus is not so much the group activity and the scene that is going on
why did China focus so much on the social role?
higher population densities
agriculture in the Yellow and Yangtze was able to support much more people
living much closer together
large scale, intensive agriculture
Classical Greece
goat herders wandering around on the hills alone herding goats
individual traders in small boats plying the coastline on their own
fisherman essentially engaging in relatively solitary activities
small scale farmers
Shang culture
large scale agriculture
agriculture in the Yangtze River valley was based on rice
labor intensive
you can't be a lone rice farmer
have to create large rice paddies
timing is crucial
you are essentially transforming the landscape into stepped hills of rice paddies
an immense amount of water control and labor that goes into this
so the demands of rice agriculture are going to tend to subordinate the individual to group activities
greater territorial integrity
the Yellow River and Yangtze River valleys are fairly flat
can travel easily
relatively unified around these East-West rivers
crops they could grow at one point on the river they could grow at another part since it was on the same latitude
relatively non-complex coastline
not many bends, curves and coves
many coves that are easy to defend
you will have more fragmentation in a civilization based in the Mediterranean than in one based in the Yellow and Yangste River valleys
Eastern vs. Western patterns of social thought
individualism vs. collectivism
analytic vs. holistic
exercise to identify the difference: draw a picture of how big you see yourself in relation to your friends
gives a sense of how important you see yourself in relation to your social networks
USA/Canada is highest
Europe's slightly smaller
in Japan, they tend to display themselves as the same size or even smaller than
abstract relationships vs. analog/holistic patterns
show picture of carrot, rabbit and dog, ask which goes together
holistic thinker will say rabbit and carrot, tend to think in terms of scenes and relationships, and rabbits eat carrots
analytical thinker will say rabbit and dog go together, "animals go together since they are the same category of being"
show fish tank
analytical thinkers tend to concentrate on the moving fish
holistic thinkers tend to see more of what is in the background, i.e. everything in tank
research in China shows that people from wheat regions tend to think more analytically than those from rice regions
suggests a link between a how you make your living and how you see yourself in relation to your friends
thinking of yourself as a collective is probably the default way people have historically thought about themselves
what's new is individualism and analytic thinking that develops in Northern Europe at a certain time
unity of politics and religion in the Shang Dynasty
king is also the high priest
all religious functions are subordinated to his rule
no independent priesthood
there's no separation of church and state to use contemporary terminology
you can't separate the state from its religious affairs
the state receives its legitimacy directly from its function as a religious organization
very different than models of religion in of the world
strong sense of rendering under Ceasar what is Ceasar's
we're going to have this kingdom of God that's going to be in the next world
a prince which is incompatible with him being a religious figure
he has to give up his political role in order to become a religious leader
in early China, politics, religion and family are all tied together
lack of a sharp divide between life and death
ancestors are not gone
we're aware they are dead, we've buried their corpses in the ground
but they are still present in an important, social way
people are still interacting with them
e.g. through sacrifice and divination
they continue to influence the world
the world the ancestors lived in was much like their own
they maintain social roles, status, personality, activities they had in life
so unlike Christianity, they didn't have the concept of death as a radical change where you go from an earthly world to the kingdom of heaven
and unlike in Buddhism of Karma, the idea that you are going to die and get reborn in a completely different form
death doesn't change the social structure of the present
paradox of virtue, of "de"
de, or moral charisma, can only be acquired by someone who is not consciously tryng to acquire it
it accrues to someone who is genuinely virtuous and genuinely other-oriented
oracle bones which portray stories of virtue
1. king's consort has fallen ill
king petitions the spirits to let him take her place
the spirit was impressed and spared both of them
2. two princes fall ill
king seems to offer his life for them
"the assisting princes having been restored to health, the king's de is with this even even more approved by the ancestors"
the king's offer of self-sacrifice has this result:
sick person gets well
king does not get ill
the king's "de" or virtue is magnified
but it works only if the king is not gaming the system
he has to be sincere, he has to know he is not acting in order to gain virtue, this is the paradox
this tension of how to gain virtue is something many ancient Chinese philosophers dealt with