Sunday, 26 July 2015

The Jeweler

-The Jeweller-

'I like it, but it is a pretty dangerous thing to do'. Not that focussing on the jewel amidst the darkness is not beautiful, just that to ignore the truth of the context in which that jewel shines is to be absent in truth somehow. It is as if to say, 'all that other stuff, it doesn't matter! we will ignore it and in ignorance it will simply fade away'... but that rarely happens. Not only is it semi delusional, and in a way judgemental, but it also speaks of a kind of travesty of perception, a lack of sincerity and humility, as if you are saying, 'that darker stuff that surrounds you, well, that doesn't matter', but of course, it does matter. It is someone's life, and that matters, all the tawdry little moments matter, all the quirks and hard to bare iniquities matter, they matter because they didn't just come from nowhere, they have a story too, and though that story is hard to hear, though that story may be washed with pain and suffering, still it is life, and for that person, it mattered; It mattered so much, that they took it upon themselves in the guise of a dark shroud, one that is hard to bare and uncomfortable to look at, but still it mattered. Yes that jewel is beautiful, but we are not stone collectors, fashioning the uncut gems we find in others for our own device and pleasure, rather, accepting the darkness too, listening to it's story also, gives context to the jewels we find, and gives honour to the life we share, the whole life, not just the parts we find easy to look at, and in so doing, we give honour to that person we love, giving love, even to the darkness we may find, and the stories that it tells. 'The stars shine brightly within the firmament, set in the night as jewels upon the sky, and never brighter were all those celestial ornaments, than when in darkness the twinkling diamonds caught my eye.' 

© Richard Michael Parker 2015

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

The Balance of Modernity

-The Balance of Modernity-

In this essay I will attempt to sketch the opposing
philosophies of Xunzi and that of Mencius in relation to
their divergent views on human agency. Furthermore, I will
try to show that by adopting the ‘Golden mean’, or balance,
which was elemental in the thought of Confucius, the
philosophical forefather to both these philosophers, a far
more cohesive and syncretic view of human agency, in tune
with the modern reality of genetic predisposition and
environmental influence, is manufactured. Thereby
answering some of the oldest questions, and the most
fundamental in both modern Political and Social philosophy,
not to mention the Ethic adopted in public policy, by
ideologues and politicians alike. It is hoped that by adopting
the Intuitive understanding gleaned by Mencius, and
combining it with the more studious craftsmanship of Xunzi,
a true sage may be brought to light.

Mencius asks us to perform a thought experiment:

“Suppose someone suddenly saw a child about to fall
into a well: everyone in such a situation would have a feeling
of alarm and compassion- not because one sought to get in
good with the child’s parents, Not because one wanted fame
among their neighbours and friends, and not because one
would dislike the sound of the child’s cries.
From this we can see that if one is without the heart of
compassion, one is not human. If one is without the heart of
disdain, then one is not human. If one is without the heart of
deference, then one is not human. If one is without the heart
of approval and disapproval, one is not human. The heart of
compassion is the sprout of benevolence. The heart of
disdain is the sprout of righteousness. The heart of
deference, is the sprout of propriety. The heart of approval
and disapproval is the sprout of wisdom.
People having these four sprouts is like having four
limbs. To have these four sprouts but to say of oneself that
one is unable to be virtuous is to steal from oneself.“

This is quite a long quote, but within it can be found
the heart of Mencius entire assertion that human beings are
innately good. Now the opening premise is a thought
experiment, and leads on to some subtler explanations later
on in the piece. Mencius asks us to consider a situation in
which “suddenly” we are placed in a situation where the life
of a small child is at risk and we have the capacity to do
something about it. The use of the word suddenly is quite
important here I believe here, as does D. C. Lau (2), for in
using this word Mencius has attempted to circumvent those
that would argue the toss with him concerning any form of
mental deliberation. Rather it is an instinctive reaction on the
part of the person seeing this travesty that wells up from the
innate nature of the person. It is a spontaneous reaction.

It is peculiar that today I was presented with just such an
occurrence, and I mention it only by way of a more practical
example of this instinctive feeling. I was wandering back
from the shop when a small white dog bounded across the
road towards me, it was being hailed by its owner, but was
obviously oblivious to the concern that this person had for its
safety. It headed directly toward me with an innocent joy that
young dogs are want to express. I attempted to reach down
to pet the dog, but it was keen to forestall its capture. At this
juncture I noticed that it was heading back towards the road
and at that moment a car was travelling quite quickly up the
road and it appeared to me that a tragic accident was about
to take place. I felt an immediate and unsettling feeling well
up inside me, and all I could do was to yell as loudly as I
could the word ‘No’, in some vain attempt to stop the
catastrophe occurring. The dog obviously surprised by my
voice turned towards me on the verge, and the taxi swerved
slightly so as to miss the dog, a great sense of relief ensued,
and the dog now came towards me wagging its tail, oblivious
to the fact it had almost certainly avoided an untimely death.

The point here is quite obvious, when seen in relation to
Mencius’s claim concerning the spontaneous instinctual
reactions that occur within the person confronted with such a
situation. The claim is that in these moments, ones inner
sprouts are thrust to the fore without any due deliberation.
Now it is also important to note that in such moments of
instantaneous decision making no prior deliberation can be
afforded to any supposed rewards that may or may not
ensue following some act of heroism on the part of the
person witnessing the scene. This is all-important for
Mencius, as it illustrates the point that Mencius tried to
convey, namely that man's nature, prior to deliberation, was
good. Now for Mencius, it was enough to show that this
feeling or natural endowment was a beginning, a sprout, but
that this sprout could be corrupted or neglected so as to
‘wither on the vine’ so to speak.

The use of an agricultural term such as sprouts was
an intentional metaphor used by Mencius, to emphasis the
fact that although he believed these four innate hearts were
natural endowments they still required a proper environment
and selective nurturing to come to fruition. As we shall see,
Mencius was quite clear concerning the proper maintenance
of these innate endowments. Mencius stresses that each of
these four sprouts is connected to the four virtues of
benevolence, righteousness, propriety and wisdom.
D.C.Lau makes the insightful point that “the heart of
right and wrong”, which I have rendered as the “heart of
approval and disapproval” has a double meaning here that is
quite important. Firstly, all men are able by nature to
recognize the right and wrong, and secondly, they approve
of the right and disapprove of the wrong.

The point is not just a theoretical one, but one of practical import.
For once the distinction is made one also feels that the right should be
done and the wrong avoided. Shame is an accompanying
feature of occasioning the wrong thing when one is in receipt
of an intuitive grasp of what should and should not be done.
So we can see that there is a sense here also that one can
say that a person is by nature good. For in cases where we
do the wrong thing, we are aware of it and thus feel
ashamed and in a sense disapprove of what we have done,
whilst in cases in which we do the right thing we not only
know we have done the right thing but also approve of it. It is
in this approval and disapproval that we find the arrow of
conscience pointing to the heart that Mencius clearly
believed was innately good. So this assertion has nothing to
do with the actual actions of the person, but points to the
approval or disapproval of the person in relation to what they
intuitively know they ought to do. This again circumvents
arguments that pertain to the actual actions exhibited by
people in relation to virtuous activity.

Now Mencius by no means believed that the
aforementioned sprouts would inevitably grow within the
hearts of each person so as to create sages of each and
everyone of us, far from it, for he recognized that people are
often less than virtuous. For Mencius this had to do with the
corrupting influence of the environment.

“In years of plenty, most young men are gentle; in
years of poverty, most young men are cruel.”(3)

Mencius goes on to say:

“Consider barley. Sow the seed and cover them. The
soil is the same and the time of planting is also the same...
Although there are some differences, these are due to the
richness of the soil, and to unevenness in rain and human
effort. Hence in general, things of the same kind are all

The point here is that as far as Mencius was
concerned the heart of the sage and that of the common
person was one and the same kind. The things that
separated them where not the innate dispositions and nature
but rather the environmental influences, and the toil of the
human effort that was put into maintaining the healthy
growth of the original sprouts. Now for Mencius it was
important in the development of these sprouts to make sure
that one surrounded oneself with the right environment, so
as to ensure that full flourishing occurred. Surrounding
oneself with fellows whom were also on the path was an
important constituent of this environment.

“It is useless to talk to those who do violence to there
own nature, and it is useless to do anything with those who
throw themselves away. To speak what is against propriety
and righteousness is to do violence to oneself. To say that
one cannot abide by humanity and follow righteousness is to
throw oneself away."(5)

Here we can clearly see that Mencius believed that to
surround oneself with people who believed themselves
incapable of being good was a great folly, and in fact a
debilitating influence upon the flourishing of ones sprouts.
Further more one needed to recognize that:

“Benevolence, righteousness, propriety, and wisdom
are not welded to us externally. We inherently have them. It
is simply that we do not concentrate upon them. Hence it is
said seek and you will get it. Abandon it and you will lose

This is an important point for a couple of reasons.
Firstly it is shows us that for Mencius these virtues were
outgrowths of inner sprouts, they grew from the ‘inside out’,
not as we shall later see Xuan Tzu assert from the outside
in. Secondly, and a point that Bryan W. Van Norden aptly
emphasizes (7), concentration is extremely important in the
growth of the sprouts. The person was an active participant
in the development of the sprouts, they did not just happen
along the way. If one wished to become a sage, then one
needed to be an active participant in the development of the
growth process. This is an important point for it accounts for
another often-sited rebuttal towards Mencius. Namely, that if
each person was endowed with an originally beneficent
nature, how was it that some men where able to realize full
flourishing and others were not?

Mencius answers this quite
aptly in the above passage, and later in 6A15:

“ Gonduzi asked, ‘we are the same in being humans.
Yet some become great humans and some become petty
humans. Why?’ Mencius said, ’those who follow their greater
part become great humans, those who follow their petty part
become petty humans."(8)

And further:

“Gonduzi asked, ‘we are the same in being humans.
Why is it that some follow their greater part and some follow
their petty part?’ Mencius said, ‘It is not the office of the ears
and eyes to concentrate, and they are misled by things.
Things interact with things and simply lead them along. But
the office of the heart is to concentrate. If it concentrates
then it will get virtue. If it does not concentrate then it will not
get it.”(9)

Here we can see that for Mencius, the person must be
an active participant in the flourishing of his sprouts. Now it
may be objected that this simply begs the question, and that
it is implausible to rest upon this premise when one might
ask why some concentrate when others do not. Here I
believe Mencius falls down slightly, but he does at least offer
the somewhat cryptic explanation that Heaven and the
environment have much to do with whether a person will be
in a position to concentrate or not. As for the environment
we can see that the person on the road to sagacity can
actively change the circumstances of his environment at
least as far as his actions allow. Yet Mencius falls back upon
the mandate of destiny emanating from Heaven as a final
backstop to his position, and for some this was simply not
sufficient. This point concerning the will of Heaven, destiny,
is an intriguing one, and I shall return to it later in the essay
in relation to genetic predisposition, and how genetics may
hold the key to some of the answers that Mencius was
somewhat remiss in elucidating. Finally it is an important
point in the philosophy of Mencius that the innate desires of
people are what is meant by the good. It is consistent with
his philosophy that such desires be attributable to an original
state of being. These desires are not selfish, but are natural
seeds from which the sprouts stem. They are the same in all

“The desirable is what is meant by the good”(10)

As we have previously noted, because Mencius
believed the original nature of Humans to be Good, it is
consistent with his thesis that to follow what naturally occurs
through desire is to be true to the initial beneficent impulses
in oneself. It must be noted here though that the
self-interested Hobbesian model is not what Mencius has in
mind when he makes such a remark. Rather as we have
already noted it is the spontaneous innate disposition of
humans as evidenced by the child and the well example that
account for these desires. Mencius explicitly believes that
the Innate disposition of one is to be found in ones primary
desires and that the nurturing of them will reward one with a
natural flourishing of the four sprouts. It is of course at this
point that Xunzi has an entirely different tale to tell, and a
brief discussion of this matter will be most illuminating further
in the essay.

It now behoves us to Look at the position of Xunzi, In
relation to the Nature of man, for as we will see he had an
entirely different perspective on the matter. In this section I
shall lean heavily on the work of T.C.Kline and his paper:
Moral agency and motivation in the Xunzi” and .C.Lau and
his paper entitled “Theories of human nature in Mencius and

For Xunzi the natural state of affairs for each person is
that they are initially in a state of almost a-morality. Xunzi
asserts that Human nature is essentially bad. Xunzi starts
chapter 23 of his treatise by saying as much:

Human nature is bad”(12).

What exactly does Xunzi mean by this statement
however? The answer is probably told by way of a tale that
will allow us to see from where Xunzi’s perspective is
derived. For Xunzi the natural state of affairs for man is that
which abounded before the advent of the sage kings. These
sages where able to create order and harmonious
condition’s out of a chaotic imbroglio, which ensued due to
unrestrained desires and rampant egoistic profit mongering.

For Xunzi then Human beings are born with the rudiments of

The dispositions are the substance of nature. The
desires are the responses to the dispositions to things.”(13)

Now the dispositions are what one might rightly call
the emotions, and Xunzi characterizes them as:

The feelings of liking and disliking, Happiness and
anger, and sadness and Joy, in ones nature are called the

These dispositions are of themselves not entirely
important and are merely attributable to common
dispositions that are common to all people by way of an
accomplishment of heaven. It is only in the extension of
these dispositions for Xunzi that people manifest desires.
These desires are then what Xunzi concentrates upon in his
philosophy, as it is the desires, or the extension of Innate
dispositions that Xunzi claims are at the heart of his definition
of humans as innately bad.

Now Xunzi states that everybody will naturally seek
that which they desire, but because desires are many and
resources are scarce, or desires are infinite and resources
are finite, there will arise strife and disorder, as each person
aims to satisfy their desires for personal profit at the
expense of everyone else’s desires.It is at this juncture
that Xunzi points out that humans are essentially social animals.
We need to commune together, for:

Human life cannot be without community”(15).

So we can begin to see the first part of Xunzi’s
argument about the malefic nature of human beings. It isn’t
that they are necessarily innately bad under this conception,
but that the bad nature arises from the value judgement
placed upon Humanity from without, as they exist as social
animals within a limited environmental existence. There is no
way that human beings could all satisfy their desires within
such a situation, and therefore strife and chaotic disorder
would naturally ensue as each member of this society
attempts to gain the maximum profit to satisfy their desires.

This isn’t too far removed from the current modern situation
as it exists under a capitalist system. For under such a
system personal profit is deemed to be the highest moral
calling of the collective member, and it is only economic
parameters that forestall everyone having the ability to
satisfy there lusts and desires. I shall return to this point a
little later in the closing discussion.

This is all a long way from what either Xunzi or
Mencius deemed to be the pinnacle of achievement, namely,
the ascension to sage-hood. How then, in light of these
competing desires, can a society be structured so as to
remain true to the dictates of man's social nature and yet not
diminish the ties that bind, through crushing the personal
desires of its membership?

This was a question that Xunzi saw as the most
important of his time. It is exactly this question that Xunzi
asserts was answered by the sages in the original position.
For Xunzi then this question is answered through a number
of tiers. He believed that by following the dictates of the
sages as laid down in such works as the Analects, and the
book of Odes, one could come to an enlightened position
concerning one place in society. For Xunzi, an ordered
society was constructed by careful and studious attention to
the rites as set down by the sages, and by the practice of
these rights in conjunction with practical instruction by a
teacher, who was skilled in the works themselves.

T.C.Kline points out quite rightly, it remains a problem
for Xunzi how the sages in an original position, surrounded
by a chaos and barbarism could have arrived at the position
without themselves being part of a tradition. This is indeed a
quandary for Xunzi and one that does not easily dissipate.
However let us set this aside for now, and explore some of
Xunzi other arguments.

We see then that the agricultural metaphor expounded
so often by Mencius to explain the innate sprouts
of human goodness do not hold here. Rather, Xunzi makes
his own metaphors based upon the craftsmen’s ability to
mould the natural substance into a pliable and useful item.
The desires were not to be changed internally but rather
externally. Only by skilled and active intervention is the
finished product made possible. The skilled craftsman of
course would work with the natural product not against it,
and by so doing would ensure that the raw material was
shaped and made useful through manifesting its own innate

Xunzi believed of course, being a Confucian that the
sage was the proper result of any perfecting process and
that if one achieved this one would become the ultimate
Confucian. So by learning the classical texts, studying
music, abiding by ritual and seeking a learned teacher to
inculcate the acquired knowledge and traditions handed
down, one had the capacity to be a sage.

I should like to follow the interpretations of a number
of learned scholars at this juncture, so as to illuminate the
further refinements of The original human from ‘person on
the street’ to sage.

D.C.Lau offers the following insightful description:

“When emotions are what they are, the choosing
between them by the mind is called reflection. When the
mind reflects and puts our capacities to use, this is called
human artifice. What is accomplished through the
accumulation of reflection and the practice of the exercise of
our capacities is called human artifice.”(16)

It is an important point as it marks a clear distinction
between what Xunzi saw as Human nature and Human
artifice. Lau notes that not only, what can be learned by
application and improved upon by careful analysis is Human
artifice, but also, what results by the reflection of the human
Mind can be seen as human artifice. This serves to illustrate
that there are two ways in which the mind can modify our
action. Firstly it can chart out a course of action with the
natural original capacities in mind for any particular situation
and occasion. Secondly, it can accumulate reflections
throughout historical reference that habituate our responses
to a particular plan of action, even though these may run
contrary to our original innate dispositions. By this means we
are able to practice the rites, or the learning of the rites and
in time habituate a response that moulds our dispositions in
such a way that the inculcated rites no longer become
burdensome, but rather become a natural out flowing of our
learnt or acquired dispositions.

Deliberation then becomes a vehicle for transformation,
for it is through the deliberative process that
the mind unifies all the processes into a whole. It must be
remembered here that the Chinese conception of mind was
not distinct from heart. John Knoblock rightly states:

The habituation of custom modifies the direction of
the will and, if continued for a long time, the very substance
of ones original inborn nature will be altered.”(17)

Learning is an essential element of Xunzi’s philosophy
as it was indeed for Confucius, who saw it as the most
important element on the path to enlightened sage-hood:

Loving ren without balancing it with a love of learning
will result in the vice of foolishness.
Loving knowledge without balancing it with the love of
learning will result in the vice of deviant thought.
Loving trustworthiness without balancing it with the
love of learning will result in the vice of harmful rigidity.
Loving uprightness without balancing it with the love
of learning will result in the vice of intolerance.
Loving courage without balancing it with the love of
learning will result in the vice of unruliness.
Loving resoluteness without balancing it with the love
of learning will result in the vice of wilfulness.”(18)

What then of the charge that was levelled at Mencius
earlier, that if all men have the ability to be sages why are
some men great and others vile and mere brutes?

Xunzi quite easily defends his position by making the
distinction between possibility and actuality, and this appears
intuitively reasonable today given the common psychological
understanding of the disparity between thought or intention,
and action. He states:

"Thus, becoming a sage is something people achieve
through accumulation. Someone says, sageliness is
achieved through accumulation, but why is it that not
everyone can accumulate in this way? I say, they could do it,
but they cannot be made to do it. Thus the petty man could
become a Gentleman, but is not willing to become a
gentleman. The Gentleman could become a petty man, but
is not willing to become a petty man. It has never been that
the petty man and the gentleman are incapable of becoming
each-other. However the reason that they do not become
each other is that while they could do so they cannot be
made to do so.”(19)

Hence we see that Xunzi quite clearly avoids the
problem of disparity between those attaining sage-hood and
those remaining vice ridden by way of reference to will, or
the Intentional action on the part of the individual to attend to
the proper course of cultivation.

D.C.Lau succinctly summarizes Xunzi’s position in
relation to human nature. the position we have illustrated
above can be summarized as follows. Human nature
consists in emotions, which manifest themselves as desires
in interaction with outside things. These desires lead to one
seeking the thing desired. Man is a social animal, but in any
society, there are limited resources. If everyone chaotically
manifested their wanton desires, then strife and discord
would naturally flourish. Fortunately the sage kings came
along and created an ordered and structured society in
which everyone had a place and there was a place for

Morality in such a society is possible because of:

1) Our minds can control the actioning or extension of the desires.

2) We are creatures that can accumulate practices and thus habituate
the correct procedures through careful following of rites that
are laid down by traditions and teachers who espouse these
rightful practices.

3) Morality is intelligible to the common man as it is to the gentleman
so that it threads itself throughout the entire structure of
society, and no one is left outside the possibility of becoming
a sage. Hence it is Inclusive.

Xunzi’s position then can be seen as heralding the
proposition that man is innately bad, based upon the 'chaotic
ramifications', desires left unchecked, would have upon
society and the environment around him. Not as some would
have us believe, because he/she harbours natural vices or
virtues, but rather it is in the extension of these unchecked
dispositions that humans can be said to be bad. Xunzi then is
most definitely pessimistic about the outcomes for a society
where proper rites and customs are not followed given that
he believes that at base, humans are creatures driven by
wanton profit, profit of self gratification.

It would seem correct to see the relative strengths and
weaknesses of the competing philosophies so that we might
come to some comfortable mean that lies somewhere
between the two philosophies of human nature.

I am of the opinion that both have their important
place in the initiation, development, and progressive
flourishing of the moral Human being. In a way, these two
arguments can be paralleled in the more modern debate
between nature and nurture. The question is whether
genetic predisposition or environmental influence has the
greatest bearing on the expression or morality in a human
being. As is true of the modern debate many genetic traits
appear to be subject to developmental timing mechanisms.

Mencius would be on very shaky ground to support a thesis
in which an infant had an innate sense of right and wrong at
birth. For it appears that this particular trait of personality is
indoctrinated, impressed upon the developing infant by
subtle forms of socialization, within family structures. Babies
will often play happily with their peers and then the very next
moment be hitting their playmates with the nearest available
toy. This doesn’t bode well for Mencius’s proclamation that
we have an innate sense of right and wrong. However
conversely it is also true that genetic predisposition has an
enormous influence on the way that babies interact with their
community, as is evidenced by numerous twin studies.

Now obviously neither Xunzi nor Mencius had any understanding
of genetics. They both took there lead from previous
traditions, and both used the concept of Heaven to account
for variable fluctuations. Xunzi may well have been correct in
his understanding of learnt dispositions, but he most
certainly wasn’t correct in asserting that everyone has the
same innate capacities, instilled in them at birth, for there is
an enormous variety of genetic drift in such variables as
learning of specific intelligence’s. It may well be the case
that morality falls within the auspices of a specific genetic
tendency, socially acceptable within a temporal dimension,
and the ability to ‘learn’ this morality is subject to
the same population fluctuations as other more specific
intelligence’s, such as visuospatial, motor co-ordination, and
the like.

Now it is certainly true that some people are born
with a greater capacity to feel emotions than others, at the
far end of the spectrum we have such anomalies as those
who suffer psychotic disorder's, or those with deep emotional empathy,
but leaving these aside for now let us focus upon the more normative.

The point is that each person is born with there own unique
perspective from which to see the world. No person’s
experience is like any other. Rather they become
conditioned to function within the social system through a
process of inculcation and en-culturation. It appears from
this stand point that neither Xunzi nor Mencius got it right.
For both emphasized the fact that all humans are born the

Mencius emphasizing the fact that we are all born
with the 4 sprouts, and through a process of neglect or
attendance we are able to either lose them or create a
virtuous flourishing.

Conversely Xunzi stated that by artifice we learn to
comport ourselves with our newly acquired learnt habitations.

Neither however recognized that Human beings may in
fact have innate ‘differences’ in proclivity, and ability for
moral learning born of the genetic predisposition’s we now
know go into making up our unique structural perspective.
This argument might be levelled as the genetic existential
phenomenological argument, and it is a position I think both
philosophers would have an enormous difficulty
incorporating into their theories.

Let us place this argument aside for a moment, and
look at a number of others complaints that can be levelled at
the two philosophies. Xunzi seems to be in the unenviable
place of having to defend his position from those that would
question how it was,  given his original position, in which life
was in chaos, and there was no tradition to hearken back to,
that a sage arose to ford the way? Now this need not be a
terribly intractable problem, for it could well be the
case that all one would need to be, is slightly more morally
aware than the next fellow, and given this slight morality
shift, a tradition could be formed along the lines presented
by Xunzi. David.S.Nivison defends just such a position (21).
Where he believes Xunzi might be able to appeal to the
concept of creation and still remain faithful to his original
position. He quotes from Xunzi:

The sage gathers together his thought and ideas,
‘experiments’ with various forms of deliberative activity, and
so produces ritual principles and sets forth laws and
regulations”{adapted from Watson 160}.

Here it is enough to point out that the word
'experiments' is of critical import. For it affords the sage the
ability to create new forms of practices and rites in
accordance with the times. It might here be said that this
ability of the sage to co-create the tradition that he is
perpetuating might make Xunzi’s philosophy plastic enough
to deal with the advent of new technologies such as
genetics. However, the point is that in the original position
the first sage may well have been a man barely above the
norm morally, but just enough to make the first step forward.
With each subsequent generation a further step was taken
until at some point a fully enlightened sage manifested to
sign post the way for others to follow. It is not at all clear
whether Xunzi would have gone for such an argument, as
the emphasis placed upon ritual and law within his text lends
one to believe that here was a philosophy non-too plastic in
its nature. Given his influence upon both Han Fei and Li Ssu
of the Chin court, and the Chin's subsequent harsh doctrinaire
it is difficult to believe that Xunzi harboured such liberal concepts.

The major difference though between the two is in the
area of Moral education. For Xunzi this education is
achieved from 'without', and is crafted onto the subject in a
process of drill and habituation. He emphasizes that the only
hope for the human is to drill enough morality into one that it
finally becomes second nature. Mencius, not only saw this as
a violation of ones human nature present at birth but perceived
it as antagonistic to the pursuit of a moral being.

We can see moral parallels in the modern age in
which we might wish to place both these philosophies as a
template and see which one is more to the point. Now it is
the case that we live within a closed ecosystem, and that
modern multinational companies are at present operating
under a capitalist schema, in which the bottom line is profit.
This fits nicely onto Xunzi’s schema, for in an environment in
which resources are scarce it cannot be the case that profit
is the only morality that is allowed to operate within the
global community. With a growing awareness of the
interconnectedness of ecosystems within the environment,
comes the subsequent responsibility of those multinationals
to act in a ethical manner that respects the other players in
that market place. Any failure to do this will result in the strife
torn society envisaged by Xunzi under a regime of rampant
egoism where profit was the only motive force. However,
Just as I believe it is wrong to say that Xunzi philosophy is
wholly indicative of the human condition, so to it may well be
claimed that capitalism is just as out of balance in its egoistic
pursuits, and is merely the dominant philosophy of the day
by way of historical accident.

Balance, has long been the key to understanding
many Chinese texts. It is fundamental to the philosophies
of Taoism, and the I Ching, a major Confucian text. As capitalism heralds the ideologies of rampant egoism, out of kilter with social concerns, and environmental limitations, and is focused solely upon personal and collective profit, it may be said to contravene the very balance that these philosophies appeal to. So to do the two philosophies espoused here. For either, given free reign, would be out of ‘Balance’ with the Confusion Ideal, and given that they both purport to be the natural out growth of Confucianism, it would indeed be alarming to see this occur. Perhaps the clarity of Confucius was in recognizing the necessity to open both eyes, so as to see the world clearly, for if either eye alone predominates at the expense of the other, both lose something. Stereoscopic vision only occurs when both are utilized harmoniously and in equilibrium. For this reason, balance in ones approach, whether it be the nature verses nurture debate, or the politics of intentional action, or the simple manifestation of the sage, is the best way forward when seeking right action. Any philosophy that denies this balance runs afoul of both ignorance and arrogance, both in intent and action, and for this reason, an open minded and open eyed approach, that envisions a collaboration, not as antithetical to it's prospects, but as the best way to achieve the full flourishing of them in a responsible and sustainable manner is to be preferred. Maybe in balance, one can achieve the requisite harmony that is the starting point for any progressive social morality.

The last word falls to Confucius:

“When native substance overwhelms cultural
refinement the result is a crude rustic. When cultural
refinement overwhelms native substance, the result is a
foppish pedant. Only when culture and native substance are
perfectly mixed and balanced do you have a


1) Knoblock, john: Xunzi A translation and study of the complete
works. Volumes 1,2,3. (Stanford university press, 1990)

2) Chan, Wing-Tsit: A source book in Chinese philosophy.
(Princeton University press,1963)

3) Kline, T.C &Ivanhoe, Philip.J: virtue, nature, and moral agency
the Xunzi. (Hackett publishing company, 2000).
Editors as above.

4) Ed: Ivanhoe, Philip.J &Van Norden, Bryan.W: Reader in
Chinese philosophy (Seven bridges press, 2000).


1)Bibliography (4) page 95
2)bibliography (3) Lau. D.C: Theories of human
nature in Mencius and Xunzi. Pages 195-6
3) Bibliography (4) page 110, 6A7
4) Ibid.: Page 110, 6A7
5) Bibliography (2) page 74, 4A1010) Bibliography (4) Page 110, 6A6
6) Bibliography (3) Van Norden, Brian W: Menzi and Xunzi: two
views of human agency. PP. 103-134
7) Bibliography (4) Page 113, 6A15
8) Ibid. page 113,6A15
9) Bibliography (1) volume 3, page 140, 7B25
10) Bibliography (3) Kline, T.C: Moral agency and motivation in the
Xunzi. Pages 155-175.& Lau.D.C: Theories of human
nature in Mencius and Xunzi. PP.188-219.
11) Bibliography (4) Page 231
12) Ibid. page 230
13) Ibid. page 227
14) Ibid. page 213
15) Bibliography (3) page 202
16) Bibliography (1) page 143
17) Bibliography (4) page 34
18) Ibid. page 235
19) Bibliography (3) page 174
20) Ibid. page 174
21) Bibliography (4) page 14,A6.18

Friday, 29 May 2015

Swallow Tail

Swallow Tail

Velvet butterflies brushing their gossamer wings,
tremulous fluttering's inside my soul,
lifting from the hearth to the whole.
I feel them rise from the pit,
swirling through incandescent skies,
filling my heart with the warmth of your breath,
slipping like silk ribbons caught in a breeze,
the gentle ease, of all you have become to me.

Tickling sensations,
these trembling emanations of light,
surging through these rice paper gates,
erupting upon my face with a smile.
A brilliant star, in joyous release.

I sat in blue corners once,
masked in the mourning of some mottled solemnity,
wondering what it was that you might have been to me,
seeking that which was before my unsighted eyes,
before my heart, the chase inside,
blind to its light, in the depths of its hide.

To cease the search, and in being, simply love.
To curtail the endless courtship, the chase,
the hunt from above, and in risen heart,
watch the doe bound within the open meadow,
free from her forest retreat,
the supple greeting of each loving gracious fellow,
the swallow tail swimming in the breeze,
kissed between the sunlight's balmy phlox,
and those distant oaken trees.

Love steals my heart, and floods the plain,
and on my tongue and in my ear, I hear
this gentle wind whispering your name.
The fluttering diaphanous flight,
of these butterflies of love,
caught between the chrysalis,
and your bless'd light, above.

© Richard Michael Parker 2012

Saturday, 23 May 2015

There Is A Light

-There Is A Light-

"I don't know what to tell you" he said.

"I only know it gets harder every time. The world grows a little darker, and the wind a little colder, and there comes a moment when you wonder whether you ever felt at all. So dark and numbed by it all.

Perhaps your standing at a check out, staring blankly at the head in front of you, waiting for your turn to dance with the plastic bags and fake food you have bought for dinner, and there comes a moment, in the drab monotony of that emptiness, a simple moment when all the pain in your heart and the blocks in your head are forgotten, lost in the mist of that nothingness, when someone says something, or you do something quite spontaneously, and for an instant the light that is within you breaks through.

Seize that moment. Know it for what it is, the truth of the light within you.

For that light is never extinguished. Though it be dulled by scars that have built upon your heart, with every betrayal, every sunken hope, though it be obscured by the towers and walls you have built in your mind to protect your heart from the withering assault of that pain, it burns still. It's light kindled in the depths of the deepest darkness. It is just that, as time passes, and the tarnishing's of love set down their slow decay, it gets harder to remember. So hard in fact that at times, the blocks and the scars, the pain and the masks we build to forestall it, halt the light, until, seated on the throne of our own turbid mind, we can no longer see it's glory. No longer feel the warmth of it's ray, as it passes inspection, obscured by all the tissues and walls that lay between awareness and the truth.

So, in those moments, those simple moments in which love, or communion, laughter, or a simple gesture erupt out of you, quite beyond your conscious control, understand that this is your soul breaking through, this is the truth of you, the light that shone so brightly before the world and all it's infinite betrayals got a hold of you, and twisted your vision into blindness. Know that you are more beautiful than you might ever have suspected, and that though you can no longer see it, still, it remains, and in those moments of emptiness, love has a way of opening a new door.

All that remains, is for you to walk through."

© Richard Michael Parker 2015

Saturday, 9 May 2015

-Pyromania- a story in 2 paragraphs...

-Pyromania- a story in 2 paragraphs...

'Silently he slipped his fingers into his denim pocket and fumbled for the stolen match-book. There was a moment, between the low hum of the power cable, and the distant trill of a sonorous songbird, teasing his memories with it's bright tones and honeyed call, that he hesitated. The sweet sucker of spring blossom filling him with sun-baked portico's and lush grass, crushed beneath the rushing waves of children's toes, dashed in heady laughter amongst shining eyes and lemonade. But it was just a moment, and moments pass, as do memories, like flaking paint on stucco walls, tattered curtains falling glibly over shattered windows and burnt out halls. He had been away so long, long enough to forget, and everyone was gone.

The match sputtered in his fingers, as the gas soaked curtain took hold, and as quickly as that moment had passed, as quickly as the years had rolled over the smoke filled memories of his youth, it was aflame, and he remembered again. He remembered how they had gone, with screams and fire, the tortured vestments of his shattered years incarcerated in that prison cell, his very own funeral pyre. The licking flame danced along the hall, as he disappeared into it's orange glow. The coddled warmth of all that sorrow, embracing him in a blanket of cinders. A bird sang sweetly upon the bough of the old oak, it's heart shot upon the breeze and eased between the braids and slats of the broken swing. There was a pause, and he was gone.'

© Richard Michael Parker 2015

Friday, 1 May 2015

The Perigee Of Early Spring

-The Perigee of Early Spring-

The moon, she shines,
without favour or disguise, both,
upon the joyous and the bitter sunken eyed.
The weeping pools,
seeping between the corpulent shadows,
tree wrung gargoyles,
hung upon the bough of the midnight queen.
Seldom seen, upon the fleck of cherried air,
heavy in a dream, bare upon the sacred hill,
where the drum and tambourine, beat upon the wind.
'I'll meet you there'! - 'I'll meet you there'! '
Where the golly goblins sprawl,
between the orange scented call; 'There'!
Where your hair, all tangerine,
flounced upon your green eyes, moonstruck,
glared into the fires feckled hue,
and plucked the rosy suckle bare,
to shuck the huckleberry blue.
Dancing on the naked hill,
the parchment and dishevelled quill,
dipped into the inky well, pounced,
between your painted toes, and silver bell,
all crackling groans of an ancient toll;
The swollen dips, the sunken lips.
We learnt it well;
We learnt it well.

The moon, she shines,
without favour or disguise;
The road is long, and the way is dark, without her.

© Richard Michael Parker 2014

Monday, 13 April 2015

No Heart Is Lost

'I ne'er felt more a spare part,
a wayfaring tramp, a pendulant stray,
nor for all the world a lonesome heart,
than e'er I did on Valentines Day.'

The 3rd Volume of Poetry by poet and digital artist Richard Michael Parker, explores the often dark subject matter of 'love lost'.

"Let light shine out of darkness"


Other Devices:

Saturday, 29 March 2014



The opalescence of your eyes,
shimmers in Novembers pale sun,
and all the world is stolen,
still, in the glint of this silver thread,
woven between us.

The tethered serenade of a nightingale,
swims through the midnight branches,
an overhang of tenderness,
a canopy of moonlight,
dancing amongst the shadows,
the dipping lip,
creased in languid motions,
the teasing oceans of your warm breath,
swept upon the somnolence of this summers breeze.

How solemn the death.
The madness and insanity,
the shattered revelry,
broken in the crepuscular awakening
of this suns shrill call.

How fateful the fall of that larks sweet note,
the swollen throat of the broaching dawn.

And still... I love you still,
though all the sea's lay between us,
and time jealously guard our secret.

I close my eyes, and in that instant,
your summer moon invades the winter snows,
and all the frozen world about,
cannot keep me out of paradise.
The warmth of your touch,
an oasis of moonlight,
stark, against the harsh sun of reality.

And still... I love you still,
and being still, you are with me.

© Richard Michael Parker 2014

Friday, 14 February 2014

The Kiss

The Kiss

'The Kiss' is the second volume of poetry by the internationally renowned poet and digital artist Richard Michael Parker. This work is specifically collated for lovers the world round, with 40 delicate and sensitive romantic poems, and digital works of art specifically created for this volume of poetry. Richards first volume was received with critical acclaim, and the timing of this work for Valentines Day is particularly apt, as the work is full of romantic poems that both come from the heart and touch the heart in equal measure. Eros touches us all with his arrows, and the universal nature of romantic love makes this volume of poetry particularly poignant in a world that increasingly grows closer, recognizing those qualities of human character that unite and define us. These works remind us that those defining qualities are often deeply sensitive and though they be intensely personal, still there is a universal understanding that we are all subject to the arrows of love, no matter where we are or what the difference of our circumstance. Perhaps Richard says it best, and so I shall once again, leave him the last word:

'We are mortals in frail skins, but we have immortality within, it flows through every vesicle and vein, whenever we are in the mesmeric grip of that dazzling cherubim, and it is as well to remember those first heady moments whenever doubt, or the deceit of manipulating minds, calls with the card of forgetfulness. Never forget, always remember, Love glows anew, when you blow on it's ember.' - Richard Michael Parker

This Book is Available for Kindle from Amazon

Or for Apple readers and other portable devices and phones from Smashwords.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Love is a Gift

'Love Is A Gift' is the first volume of poetry by the renowned poet Richard Michael Parker. He has been a voice for many years on the internet, and his particular artistic gifts have been noted with such collaborative works with well known artists around the world, such as Leonid Afremov, Carola E. Thiele, and Lorraine Sumners, to name but a few. This eagerly awaited volume of poetry is accompanied by 28 sumptuous digital artworks, created specifically for this book. The artwork is of a singular subject, taken over a period of three years, in various conditions and weathers and is indicative of the changeable nature of love, where the aspect may change but not the essence.

'Love is a gift, unwrapped in the giving, a revelation without demand, a sweet intoxication of the spirit, infused with the perfume of its tenderness.' - Richard Michael Parker

Available for Kindle and also for Apple products, from Smashwords, with downloads available for most portable devices.