Friday, May 25, 2007

Book Review: Mozi, Basic Writings, translated by Burton Watson

I had to read this one for my Ancient Chinese History class. Mozi was one of the first philosophers in China, this work being perhaps the oldest piece of Chinese philosophy we have (sections of The Analects may be older).

I choose Mozi out of the other ancient Chinese philosophers because he is the most Christian. His ideas of universal love and the justice of Heaven echo a lot of later Christian ideals. When I actually wrote my essay on him though, the differences between him and traditional Christian thought grew more apparent. For Mozi, universal love is done out of pure utility. You love others without partiality because if everyone did that then the world would be a better place. It is a command of Heaven only because Heaven is interested in utility.

However, Heaven in Mozi’s conception cares about justice in the way that God does in Christianity. Mozi says that murdering a man anywhere brings up the wrath of Heaven who cannot ignore that innocent blood has been shed. “Heaven” for Mozi just denotes the highest standard of order, rather than the Christian conception of a personal God.

Basically, while Mozi’s methodology and reasoning is quite distinctive, his main ideas are very Christian, especially in his conception of universal love. I think this work shows that God is bigger than just the Christian church and has shown bits of his truth to all cultures. In Christ we have the perfect revelation of God, but that does not mean that God left everyone else in the world completely without some sort of witness to Himself.

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