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Ethics in Zuiangzi’s Concept and Confucianism, Term Paper Example

Pages: 7

Words: 2052

Term Paper

Introduction

Ethics form a foundation for guiding people to make the right decisions. Although there is usually a clear definition of what is right and what is wrong, some situations do not give a clear differentiation between the two. In such cases, ethical theories and concepts help individuals in identifying the right decision to make in such situations. Ethical concepts also help in defining morality when individuals are faced with a complex situation where they have to choose between themselves and other people. Besides ethical theories, numerous religious and academic teachings have contributed to the strengthening of moral principles among individuals. For instance, Zhuangzi in “Discussion on Making All Things Equal” provides an ethical perspective that helps readers decide between right and wrong. Often, comparing the different approaches to ethics with ethical theories helps establish the extent to which they remain considerate of the normal settings experienced by human beings. Besides ethical theories, the perspectives further help individuals in defining their morality and making ethical decisions.

Discussion on Making All Things Equal

In ‘Discussion on Making All Things Equal’, Zhuangzi explains what it means for different things to be equal to each other in the ethical setting. In explaining what is right, the article argues that human beings are different and may have diverse preferences. Zhuangzi’s version of ethics insists that human beings exist differently and having a universal approach to ethics would require unifying them so that they were equal (Van Norden, 2016). Although it acknowledges the differences between individual interests, beliefs, and preferences, it argues that having a universal ethical approach to ethics would demand that those involved have a common thought regarding the outcome of ethical behavior. Often, ethics are not only important to the person engaging in an activity but also for the person being affected by the outcome. For instance, if a person did something good, they would not be the only ones benefiting from the action. Similarly, something bad does not only affect the actor but also the other people to which the act was directed.

In ‘Discussion on Making All Things Equal’, Zhuangzi argues that the right thing does not necessarily subject people to change their beliefs and interests. Instead, the version of ethics allows people to remain different while doing the right thing. In other words, it recognizes individual differences and respects the importance of people’s ideas or ideals, habits and customs, interests and preferences, and religion as well as culture. Zhuangzi asserts that the universal approach that can determine the actions of individuals as right or wrong includes what the other person would like to be done to them (Van Norden, 2016). In other words, measuring the morality of an action depends on what the affected person feels. In such a context, if a person does not think that what was done to them is wrong, then it may mean that the action was not wrong. Similarly, the ethical position of Zhuangzi implies that something that one person thinks is right may be wrong in the eyes of another person. It is on this concept that Zhuangzi agrees that ethical models should acknowledge and respect differences among individuals.

In explaining how morality is determined by the feelings of the affected individual, Zhuangzi argues that most people hold an opinionated mind. As a result, people tend to have the opinion that their perspective regarding what is right and wrong is the universal standard of measuring morality. In creating a better approach towards understanding morality, the author argues that individuals should allow their minds to be free of fixed opinions (Van Norden, 2016). Eventually, they develop ‘a brightness’ comparable to a mirror and can easily reflect other things and people as they are and not projecting their perspectives on them. According to Zhuangzi, having a clear mind helps individuals maintain respect for others regardless of their perspectives. He goes further to argues that everything has its ‘this’ and its ‘that’, which means that every person’s opinion counts.

Confucian Notion of goodness

Unlike Zhuangzi, the Confucian notion of goodness insists on the need to maintain the highest level of universality in ethical practice. Confucian ethics are founded on the principles of benevolence, humanity, kind-heartedness, virtue, and humanness. It argues that goodness is the foundation of human life and that without goodness one would not live a meaningful life (Stephens, 2018). Unlike Zhuangzi, Confucian goodness does not focus on the differences that people may have. Instead, the approach maintains a universal view of what is good regardless of individual differences. The most common approach to goodness attached to Confucianism is that a person should only do to others what they would want to be done to them. In such a context, the theory insists on making sure that people choose to be ethical regardless of their differences in circumstances. Confucian ethics applies to all areas of human life including biomedical, animal rights, and economics (Stephens, 2018). Unlike Zhuangzi, Confucianism tends to remain focused on the ethical consequences of one’s actions. In other words, people had the responsibility to make sure that their actions produced the best outcomes possible while minimizing possible negative outcomes.

Discussion on Making All Things Equal and Confucian Notion of goodness

Zhuangzi insists that the right way to view morality and ethics would be to consider each object or person as they are. In so doing, a person can make sure that they understand the entire situation before passing judgment. Often, people tend to make judgments based on what they think is good for them. However, Zhuangzi urges that individuals should consider what works for other people and judge their actions based on their perspectives. In challenging the opinionated mind, Zhuangzi asks questions regarding the origin of ‘things’ (Moeller & D’Ambrosio, 2017). Concerning words, he argues that words are not wind and that they always have something to say. He goes further to ask whether they have something to say in situations when what they have to say is not fixed. The question poses the complexity involved in his argument that all things are equal. He also questions how words can exist and not be acceptable at the same time. In such cases, he attempts to determine the origin of words that are termed as wrong and tries to differentiate them from those that are regarded as right.

In establishing an element of equality in ethics, then it is essential to ask various questions that improve the understanding of “Discussion on Making All Things Equal”. The first question relates to the existence of moral autonomy. Since the wrongness or correctness of action is to be judged based on the perspective of another person, it becomes difficult to understand where that of the actor is involved (Moeller & D’Ambrosio, 2017). Secondly, it is essential to ask a question on the possibility of possessing an understanding or moral uniqueness. Such knowledge may be difficult to acquire, which poses a notable challenge to the ethical position proposed by Zhuangzi in “Discussion on Making All Things Equal”. In responding to the questions, Zhuangzi argues that things may not be easy to differentiate because they transform across each other within a short time. For instance, Zhuangzi talks of a dream where he is a butterfly but wakes up as himself (Moeller & D’Ambrosio, 2017). The situation makes him question the difference between himself and the butterfly, which was difficult to identify. Hence, he argued that the change from a butterfly to himself was a transformation that occurred as other things in the universe transformed. Such incidences make it difficult to understand the meaning of goodness especially across different settings.

The relativity of all experiences, according to Zhuangzi, remains in constant tension with the unity of all other things. Therefore, the ethical standpoint proposed by Zhuangzi in “Discussion on Making All Things Equal” refers to the ability to maintain a clear perspective that does not judge others from what was in the past (Moeller & D’Ambrosio, 2017). Instead, a mind that is open to the possibility that other people may be different and in need of different things allows one to equate all things in their environment. As a result, it becomes easier for people to make individual considerations of the situations that they face. In so doing, it becomes easier to avoid doing things that other people think are wrong. Also, equating the things surrounding a person means that they do not readily judge other people’s preferences or ideals without considering why they have them.

Although there exists a notable attempt to promote ethical behavior in both Zhuangzi’s approach and Confucianism, their approach to ethics differs. While Zhuangzi seeks to respect the differences in people’s beliefs, the Confucian approach maintains that there needs to exist a universality in viewing ethics (Nelson, 2018). For instance, if one person thinks that something is good, it has to be good in the eyes of every other person. In such a context, Zhuangzi manages to create a unique approach to make sure that individual preferences are considered when promoting ethical behavior.

Opinion on Zhuangzi’s Proposed Ethical Position

The ethical position proposed by Zhuangzi provides a complex guide to morality and what is right. However, the author is right because he makes sure that people do not impose beliefs and ideas that are tailored to meet individual needs. Instead, he urges that people should think about those that are experienced to receive the consequences or benefits of their actions before making a decision. For instance, it would be a good gesture is a person asked the other what they preferred to do in a scary situation before assuming that they would love to run and hide. Although the first person would run, maybe the other one would do something different that they have done in the past and helped save them. In such a context, Zhuangzu is right by arguing that individuals should determine what is right and wrong based on the person who is expected to receive the outcome of an action.

More importantly, it is possible to agree with Zhuangzi’s proposition considering that it allows everyone to choose their moral foundation. Often, people obtain moral guidelines from various sources such as religion, philosophy, and personal principles among others. by allowing people to choose the basis of their morality, the proposed ethical position makes sure that one understands and strengthens their morality. Further, the position requires individuals to assess their environment before making any decisions on what is right or wrong. The proposal implies that human beings allow themselves to be completed by the aspects that divide them. Accepting that everyone is different but equal makes sure that there is no bias in human societies and everyone’s needs are taken care of when required. For instance, developing respect for other people’s points of view allows one to develop a sense of acceptance of their characteristics. In such cases, it becomes possible to consider other people’s needs equal to that of an individual. Eventually, the mentality develops a society in which people care about each other and are willing to do what is good for not only themselves but for other people.

Conclusion

Ethics form a basic element of decision-making in any setting of human life. As a result, it becomes essential to understand approaches to ethics, which help in guiding good behavior. Zhuangzi develops a guide to ethics that considers the differences existing in individual interests and preferences. He proposes that something should only be considered ethical when the receiver thinks that it is. The person executing the action, therefore, needs to put aside their perspectives and make sure that the other person would accept the outcome associated with the action. Confucianism, on the other hand, tends to universalize ethics and demands that a person can only do to another person what they would want to be done to them. The approach creates the most significant difference between both ethical approaches in that Zhuangzi encourages respect for individual differences while Confucianism recognizes the universal approach to ethics.

References

Moeller, H. G., & D’Ambrosio, P. J. (2017). Genuine Pretending: on the Philosophy of the Zhuangzi. Columbia University Press.

Nelson, E. S. (2018). Kim-Chong Chong, Zhuangzi’s Critique of the Confucians: Blinded by the Human. Frontiers of Philosophy in China13(2), 286-290.

Stephens, D. J. (2018). Confucian Ethics and The Practical Value of Roles. Philosophy East and West68(3), 909-928.

Van Norden, B. W. (2016). Zhuangzi’s ironic detachment and political commitment. Dao15(1), 1-17.

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