Friday, November 28, 2008

孔子与苏格拉底: 述者与作者 Confucius and Socrates: Transmitter and Maker

孔子 (551-479BC) 和苏格拉底 (469-399BC) 是历史上两个著名的思想家。他们对中西文化各自有重大影响。人们常把苏格拉底说成是西方的孔子。
Confucius (551-479BC) and Socrates (469-399BC) are two of the most important thinkers in History. They have a huge impact on eastern and western culture respectively. People tend to say that Socrates is the Confucius of the western world and vice versa.
But we all know that these two thinkers are very different, and this is so mainly because they lived in very different social, cultural and political environments.
We have noted that Confucius lived during the Chinese Zhou dynasty which had already achieved a highly sophisticated political culture, educational system and social structure. Confucius had the good fortune of inheriting many well documented classical texts, such as the Books of Odes (Poetry), History, Changes, Rites, Music and The Annals of Spring and Autumn. Confucius took them as the basic textbooks to educate his disciples and students. Confucius had therefore proudly declared that he is ‘a transmitter and not a maker, believing in and loving the ancients’.
Socrates was not so lucky to have well accepted texts as his reference in developing his philosophical ideas. One can therefore say that he had no choice but to be a maker.
Confucius as a transmitter of ancient Chinese traditions did not face major resistances in getting his interpretation of ancient works accepted. It is said that he had three thousand students, of whom seventy-two were well-known disciples. His disciples respected or revered him and compared his virtue to the sun and moon. After his death, he was buried near his native town, and many of his disciples stayed there for three years mourning for him, where they planted trees in memory of him. It is believed that the second year after his death, the Duke of Lu took his house as the temple, where the duke made sacrifice to him. This was the beginning of the long history of the Confucianism.
As a maker of new ideas and philosophy, Socrates’ effort had actually raised suspicions about him and he was seen as a critic of democracy. On a day in 399 BC Socrates stood before a jury of 500 of his fellow Athenians accused of ‘refusing to recognize the gods recognized by the state’ and ‘of corrupting the youth.’ After hearing the arguments of both Socrates and his accusers, the jury was asked to vote on his guilt and he was found guilty by a vote of 280 to 220. He was sentenced to death.
The fates of a transmitter and maker are obviously different.

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