The concept of harmony and human rights

By Mohamed Noaman Galal
0 CommentsPrint E-mail CSHRS, November 5, 2009
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There are various philosophical concepts explaining the inter-human relations through the march of human history. Prominent among them are two concepts: the concept of conflict and the concept of Harmony.

Maurice Duverger (1917- ), the French political and legal scholar focused his studies on the concept of conflict as a basis that governs the relations between societies and states at the international arena.

Karl Marx (1818-1883) and many others of the German philosophers including Ludwig Feuerbach (1804-1872), Friederich Hegel (1770-1831) were conflict-oriented thinkers to explain the relations among individuals and nations. The most famous thinker is Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) in his book "Leviathan" in which he explained the state of savagery, brutality and lawlessness among people, which he called the state of nature that is equivalent to the state of war which led to the establishment of civil society governed by absolute or omnipotent sovereign to control this state of insecurity.

The people, according to Hobbes, due to the savage state of nature and the evil human nature, resorted to absolute sovereign to save them from such barbaric and lawlessness state to be able to live in security, safety and peace.

In the Chinese culture the two concepts i.e. conflict and harmony prevailed. The legalist school particularly "Han Fei" focused on the concept of conflict while "Confucius" paid a great attention to promote the concept of Harmony. The dichotomy between them is similar to that between Thomas Hobbs and John Locke. While the Taoist school advocated the concept of love.

It is pertinent at this juncture to elaborate little bit on the roots of the concept of Harmony in Chinese culture and in Chinese philosophy one can trace these roots in four ideas:

First: The idea of the "yin and yang" the negative and positive or the female and male, or the darkness and light. The "yin and yang" concept proves the complementarities of the life as well as its balance, thus harmony could be achieved.

Second: The idea of the "Tao". The Chinese philosopher "Lao Tzu" (b.600 d.470) believed that human life, like everything else in the universe, is constantly influenced by outside forces. He encouraged his followers to observe and seek to understand the laws of nature, to develop intuition and to build up personal power, and to use that power to lead life with love and without force.

The core of Taoism is the concept of "Wù Weí" that involves knowing when to act and when not to act. It is a natural reaction, as planets revolve around the sun but without doing it. It means doing things naturally without effort. One saying of "Lao Tzu": "The truth is not always beautiful, nor beautiful words the truth". The main book of Lao Tzu is called "Dao De Jing (DDJ). It is compared to Confucius's "Analects" or Sun Tzu's "Art of War". It is compared also with the New Testament and "Lao Tzu" is compared with Jesus Christ as some scholars find that Jesus and "Lao Tzu" feature astonishing examples of these two spiritual masters leading their followers down the same path despite vast differences in time and geography.

Third: The legalist school (legalism: Fă Jia i.e. school of law). It was one of the main philosophic schools during the spring and autumn period and the warring states period (770-221 BC). It was a period of great cultural and intellectual ferment in China and gave rise to the important Hundred Schools of Thought. China under the political leadership of "Li Si", his form of legalism became predominant. Some scholars consider Li Si's form of legalism to have been one of the earliest known totalitarian ideologies. Legalism was a pragmatic political philosophy that does not address higher questions like the nature and the purpose of life. The school's most famous proponent and contributor "Han Fei" believed that ruler should govern his subjects by the following trinity:

a) Fă: Law or principle. All people under the ruler are equal before the law.

b) Shù: Method, tactic or art. These should not be known and should be employed by the ruler and if successfully enforced even a weak ruler will be strong.

c) Shì: (legitimacy or power). It is the position of the ruler, not the ruler himself, that holds the power. The early thought of the legalism was first formed by "Shang Yang" and was further developed by "Han Feizi" and "Li Si". It meant to strengthen the government and reinforce the adherence to the law. The legalism fully emerged during the "Warring States Period" and preceding "Spring and Autumn Period" was marked by frequent violence and war. This school believed that a lone individual had no legitimate civil rights or any personal freedom but to strengthen the ruler. It considered the people and their actions evil and foolish thought it allowed common people to gain even noble rank on merit. The school played a very important role in King Zhuang Xiang of Qin's rise to power. It could be called a Realpolitik school. It was discredited later on as it focused on use of force. Though some of its ideas were revived now and then, particularly when "Mao Zedong" approved some of its methods.

Fourth: Confucianism (Rújiā). It is the philosophy of ethics and morals developed by Confucius (Kong Fuzi or Master Kong 551-479 BC). It had advocated totally opposite concepts to legalism. It stressed the importance of education for moral development of the individual so that the state can be governed by moral virtue rather than by the use of coercive laws. Mencius who is the second exponent of this philosophy said that "Ever since man comes into this world, there has never been one greater than Confucius". Confucius believed that people live their lives within the parameters firmly established by "Heaven" which means the "Supreme Being" as well as "nature" and its fixed cycles and patterns though he argues that men are responsible for their actions and especially for their treatment of others. Confucius, social philosophy largely revolves around the concept of "ren", compassion or loving others. While, his political philosophy is rooted in his belief that a ruler should learn and practice self-discipline and govern his subjects by his own example i.e. if the ruler is good the subject will be good. He advocated the conformity between names and deeds in his theory of "Zhengming" i.e. a proper use of language or rectifying the behavior of people so that it exactly corresponds to the language with by which they identify and describe themselves. The "de" or virtue is the moral power that allows one to win followers without recourse to physical force.

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