Ancient History & Civilisation


The two hundred years that followed upon Confucius were centuries of lively controversy and raging heresy. Having discovered the pleasures of philosophy, some men, like Hui Sze and Kung Sun Lung, played with logic, and invented paradoxes of reasoning as varied and subtle as Zeno’s.147 Philosophers flocked to the city of Lo-yang as, in the same centuries, they were flocking to Benares and Athens; and they enjoyed in the Chinese capital all that freedom of speech and thought which made Athens the intellectual center of the Mediterranean world. Sophists calledTsung-heng-kia, or “Crisscross Philosophers,” crowded the capital to teach all and sundry the art of persuading any man to anything.148 To Lo-yang came Mencius, inheritor of the mantle of Confucius, Chuang-tze, greatest of Lao-tze’s followers, Hsün-tze, the apostle of original evil, and Mo Ti, the prophet of universal love.

1. Mo Ti, Altruist

An early logician—Christian—and pacifist

“Mo Ti,” said his enemy, Mencius, “loved all men, and would gladly wear out his whole being from head to heel for the benefit of mankind.149

He was a native of Lu, like Confucius, and flourished shortly after the passing of the sage. He condemned the impracticality of Confucius’ thought, and offered to replace it by exhorting all men to love one another. He was among the earliest of Chinese logicians, and the worst of Chinese reasoners. He stated the problem of logic with great simplicity:

These are what I call the Three Laws of Reasoning:

1. Where to find the foundation. Find it in the study of the experiences of the wisest men of the past.

2. How to take a general survey of it? Examine the facts of the actual experience of the people.

3. How to apply it? Put it into law and governmental policy, and see whether or not it is conducive to the welfare of the state and the people.150

On this basis Mo Ti proceeded to prove that ghosts and spirits are real, for many people have seen them. He objected strongly to Confucius’ coldly impersonal view of heaven, and argued for the personality of God. Like Pascal, he thought religion a good wager: if the ancestors to whom we sacrifice hear us, we have made a good bargain; if they are quite dead, and unconscious of our offerings, the sacrifice gives us an opportunity to “gather our relatives and neighbors and participate in the enjoyment of the sacrificial victuals and drinks.”151

In the same manner, reasons Mo Ti, universal love is the only solution of the social problem; for if it were applied there is no doubt that it would bring Utopia. “Men in general loving one another, the strong would not make prey of the weak, the many would not plunder the few, the rich would not insult the poor, the noble would not be insolent to the mean, and the deceitful would not impose upon the simple.”152 Selfishness is the source of all evil, from the acquisitiveness of the child to the conquest of an empire. Mo Ti marvels that a man who steals a pig is universally condemned and generally punished, while a man who invades and appropriates a kingdom is a hero to his people and a model to posterity.153 From this pacifism Mo Ti advanced to such vigorous criticism of the state that his doctrine verged on anarchism, and frightened the authorities.154Once, his biographers assure us, when the State Engineer of the Kingdom of Chu was about to invade the state of Sung in order to test a new siege ladder which he had invented, Mo Ti dissuaded him by preaching to him his doctrine of universal love and peace. “Before I met you,” said theEngineer, “I had wanted to conquer the state of Sung. But since I have seen you I would not have it even if it were given to me without resistance but with no just cause.” “If so,” replied Mo Ti, “it is as if I had already given you the state of Sung. Do persist in your righteous course, and I will give you the whole world.”155

The Confucian scholars, as well as the politicians of Lo-yang, met these amiable proposals with laughter.156 Nevertheless Mo Ti had his followers, and for two centuries his views became the religion of a pacifistic sect. Two of his disciples, Sung Ping and Kung Sun Lung, waged active campaigns for disarmament.157 Han Fei, the greatest critic of his age, attacked the movement from what we might call a Nietzchean standpoint, arguing that until men had actually sprouted the wings of universal love, war would continue to be the arbiter of nations. When Shih Huang-ti ordered his famous “burning of the books,” the literature of Mohism was cast into the flames along with the volumes of Confucius; and unlike the writings and doctrines of the Master, the new religion did not survive the conflagration.158

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