was a Chinese philosophy
Chinese philosophy is philosophy written in the Chinese tradition of thought. The majority of traditional Chinese philosophy originates in the Spring and Autumn and Warring States era, during a period known as the "Hundred Schools of Thought", which was characterized by significant intellectual and...
developed by the followers of Mozi
Mozi |Lat.]] as Micius, ca. 470 BC – ca. 391 BC), original name Mo Di , was a Chinese philosopher during the Hundred Schools of Thought period . Born in Tengzhou, Shandong Province, China, he founded the school of Mohism, and argued strongly against Confucianism and Daoism...
(also referred to as Mo Tzu
(Master Mo), Latinized as Micius
), 470 BC–c.391 BC. It evolved at about the same time as Confucianism
Confucianism is a Chinese ethical and philosophical system developed from the teachings of the Chinese philosopher Confucius . Confucianism originated as an "ethical-sociopolitical teaching" during the Spring and Autumn Period, but later developed metaphysical and cosmological elements in the Han...
Taoism refers to a philosophical or religious tradition in which the basic concept is to establish harmony with the Tao , which is the mechanism of everything that exists...
and Legalism, and was one of the four main philosophic schools
The Hundred Schools of Thought were philosophers and schools that flourished from 770 to 221 BC during the Spring and Autumn period and the Warring States period , an era of great cultural and intellectual expansion in China...
during the Spring and Autumn Period
(from 770 BC to 480 BC) and the Warring States Period
The Warring States Period , also known as the Era of Warring States, or the Warring Kingdoms period, covers the Iron Age period from about 475 BC to the reunification of China under the Qin Dynasty in 221 BC...
(from 479 BC to 221 BC). During that time, Mohism (墨 Mo
) was seen as a major rival to Confucianism (儒 Ru
). The Qin dynasty
The Qin Dynasty was the first imperial dynasty of China, lasting from 221 to 207 BC. The Qin state derived its name from its heartland of Qin, in modern-day Shaanxi. The strength of the Qin state was greatly increased by the legalist reforms of Shang Yang in the 4th century BC, during the Warring...
, which united China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...
in 221 BC, adopted Legalism as the official government philosophy and suppressed all other philosophic schools
Burning of the books and burying of the scholars is a phrase that refers to a policy and a sequence of events in the Qin Dynasty of Ancient China, between the period of 213 and 206 BC. During these events, the Hundred Schools of Thought were pruned; legalism survived...
. The Han dynasty
The Han Dynasty was the second imperial dynasty of China, preceded by the Qin Dynasty and succeeded by the Three Kingdoms . It was founded by the rebel leader Liu Bang, known posthumously as Emperor Gaozu of Han. It was briefly interrupted by the Xin Dynasty of the former regent Wang Mang...
that followed adopted Confucianism as the official state philosophy, as did most other successive dynasties, and Mohism all but disappeared as a separate school of thought. Mohist books were later merged into Taoist canon.
Mohism is best known for the concept of "impartial love" or "universal love" . Mozi's philosophy was described in the book Mozi
, compiled by his student
A student is a learner, or someone who attends an educational institution. In some nations, the English term is reserved for those who attend university, while a schoolchild under the age of eighteen is called a pupil in English...
s from his lecture notes.
Mozi believed that the norm of handing out important government responsibilities to one's relatives
Nepotism is favoritism granted to relatives regardless of merit. The word nepotism is from the Latin word nepos, nepotis , from which modern Romanian nepot and Italian nipote, "nephew" or "grandchild" are also descended....
, regardless of capabilities, was the root of poverty in society. Mozi taught that as long as a person was qualified for a task, he should keep his position, regardless of blood relations. If an officer were incapable, even if he were a close relative of the ruler, he ought to be demoted, even if it meant poverty.
A ruler should be in close proximity to talented people, treasuring talents and seeking their counsel frequently. Without discovering and understanding talents within the country, the country will be destroyed. History unfortunately saw many people who were murdered, not because of their frailties, but rather because of their strengths. A good bow is difficult to pull, but it shoots high. A good horse is difficult to ride, but it can carry weight and travel far. Talented people are difficult to manage, but they can bring respect to their rulers.
Law and order was an important aspect of Mozi's philosophy. He compared the carpenter
A carpenter is a skilled craftsperson who works with timber to construct, install and maintain buildings, furniture, and other objects. The work, known as carpentry, may involve manual labor and work outdoors....
, who uses standard tools to do his work, with the ruler, who might not have any
standards by which to rule at all. The carpenter is always better off when depending on his standard tools, rather than on his emotions. Ironically, as his decisions affect the fate of an entire nation, it is even more
important that a ruler maintains a set of standards, and yet has none. These standards cannot originate from man, since no man is perfect; the only standards that a ruler uses have to originate from Heaven, since only Heaven is perfect. That law of Heaven is Love
Love is an emotion of strong affection and personal attachment. In philosophical context, love is a virtue representing all of human kindness, compassion, and affection. Love is central to many religions, as in the Christian phrase, "God is love" or Agape in the Canonical gospels...
In a perfect governmental structure where the ruler loves all people benevolently, and officials are selected according to meritocracy, the people should have unity in belief and in speech. His original purpose in this teaching was to unite people and avoid sectarianism. However, in a situation of corruption and tyranny, this teaching might be misused as a tool for oppression.
Should the ruler be unrighteous, seven disasters would result for that nation. These seven disasters are:
(1) Neglect of the country's defense, yet there is much lavished on the palace.
(2) When pressured by foreigners, neighbouring countries are not willing to help.
(3) The people are engaged in unconstructive work while useless fools are rewarded.
(4) Law and regulations became too heavy such that there is repressive fear and people only look after their own good.
(5) The ruler lives in a mistaken illusion of his own ability and his country's strength.
(6) Trusted people are not loyal while loyal people are not trusted.
(7) Lack of food. Ministers are not able to carry out their work. Punishment fails to bring fear and reward fails to bring happiness.
A country facing these seven disasters will be destroyed easily by the enemy.
Rather than standards of national wealth which are rationalized in terms of first-world development, industrialization, capital and assets appreciation, trade surplus or deficit; the measure of a country's wealth in Mohism is a matter of sufficient provision and a large population. Thriftiness is believed to be key to this end. With contentment with that which suffices, men will be free from excessive labour, long-term war and poverty from income gap disparity. This will enable birth rate to increase. Mozi also encourages early marriage.
Morality and impartiality
Mohism promotes a philosophy of impartial caring; that is, a person should care equally for all other individuals, regardless of their actual relationship to him or her. The expression of this indiscriminate caring is what makes man a righteous being in Mohist thought. This advocacy of impartiality was a target of attack by the other Chinese philosophical schools, most notably the Confucians, who believed that while love should be unconditional, it should not be indiscriminate. For example, children should hold a greater love for their parents than for random strangers.
Mozi is known for his insistence that all people are equally deserving of receiving material benefit and being protected from physical harm. In Mohism, morality is defined not by tradition and ritual, but rather by a constant moral guide that parallels utilitarianism
Utilitarianism is an ethical theory holding that the proper course of action is the one that maximizes the overall "happiness", by whatever means necessary. It is thus a form of consequentialism, meaning that the moral worth of an action is determined only by its resulting outcome, and that one can...
. Tradition is inconsistent from culture to culture, and human beings need an extra-traditional guide to identify which traditions are morally acceptable. The moral guide must then promote and encourage social behaviors that maximize the general utility of all the people in that society.
Mohist ethics are considered a form of consequentialism, sometimes called state consequentialism. Mohist ethics evaluates the moral worth of an action based on how it contributes to the stability of a state, through social order, material wealth, and population growth. According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy is a freely-accessible online encyclopedia of philosophy maintained by Stanford University. Each entry is written and maintained by an expert in the field, including professors from over 65 academic institutions worldwide...
, Mohist consequentialism, dating back to the 5th century BC, is the "world's earliest form of consequentialism, a remarkably sophisticated version based on a plurality of intrinsic goods taken as constitutive of human welfare."
Unlike utilitarianism, which views pleasure as a moral good, "the basic goods in Mohist consequentialist thinking are... order, material wealth, and increase in population". During Mozi's era, war and famines were common, and population growth was seen as a moral necessity for a harmonious society. The "material wealth" of Mohist consequentialism refers to basic needs
Maslow's hierarchy of needs is a theory in psychology, proposed by Abraham Maslow in his 1943 paper A Theory of Human Motivation. Maslow subsequently extended the idea to include his observations of humans' innate curiosity...
like shelter and clothing, and the "order" of Mohist consequentialism refers to Mozi's stance against warfare and violence, which he viewed as pointless and a threat to social stability. Stanford
The Leland Stanford Junior University, commonly referred to as Stanford University or Stanford, is a private research university on an campus located near Palo Alto, California. It is situated in the northwestern Santa Clara Valley on the San Francisco Peninsula, approximately northwest of San...
sinologist David Shepherd Nivison
David Shepherd Nivison is a sinologist in the United States. His Chinese name is Ni Dewei .-Biography:Nivison received his Ph.D. in Chinese from Harvard University. Although less known, his first Chinese teachers were Lien-sheng Yang and Hong Ye . Nivison learnt most of the subjects from them...
, in the The Cambridge History of Ancient China
The Cambridge History of Ancient China: From the Origins of Civilization to 221 BC is a book edited by Michael Loewe and Edward L. Shaughnessy, published by Cambridge University Press in 1999....
, writes that the moral goods of Mohism, "are interrelated: more basic wealth, then more reproduction; more people, then more production and wealth... if people have plenty, they would be good, filial, kind, and so on unproblematically." In contrast to Jeremy Bentham
Jeremy Bentham was an English jurist, philosopher, and legal and social reformer. He became a leading theorist in Anglo-American philosophy of law, and a political radical whose ideas influenced the development of welfarism...
, Mozi did not believe that individual happiness was important, the consequences of the state
A state is an organized political community, living under a government. States may be sovereign and may enjoy a monopoly on the legal initiation of force and are not dependent on, or subject to any other power or state. Many states are federated states which participate in a federal union...
outweigh the consequences of individual actions.
Mozi posited that the existence of society as an organized organism reduces the wastes and inefficiencies found in the natural state. Conflicts are born from the absence of moral uniformity found in man in his natural state, i.e. the absence of the definition of what is right (是 shì) and what is wrong (非 fēi). We must therefore choose leaders who will surround themselves with righteous followers, who will then create the hierarchy that harmonizes Shi/Fei. In that sense, the government becomes an authoritative and automated tool. Assuming that the leaders in the social hierarchy are perfectly conformed to the ruler, who is perfectly submissive to Heaven, conformity in speech and behaviour is expected of all people. There is no freedom of speech in this model. However, the potentially repressive element is countered by compulsory communication between the subjects and their leaders. Subjects are required to report all things good or bad to their rulers. Mohism is opposed to any form of aggression, especially war
War is a state of organized, armed, and often prolonged conflict carried on between states, nations, or other parties typified by extreme aggression, social disruption, and usually high mortality. War should be understood as an actual, intentional and widespread armed conflict between political...
between states. It is, however, permissible for a state to use force in legitimate defense. Mohist ideology has inspired some modern pacifists
Pacifism is the opposition to war and violence. The term "pacifism" was coined by the French peace campaignerÉmile Arnaud and adopted by other peace activists at the tenth Universal Peace Congress inGlasgow in 1901.- Definition :...
In addition to creating a school of philosophy, the Mohists formed a highly structured political organization that tried to realize the ideas they preached. This political structure consisted of a network of local units in all the major kingdoms of China at the time, made up of elements from both the scholarly and working classes. Each unit was led by a juzi
(literally, "chisel"—an image from craft making). Within the unit, a frugal and ascetic lifestyle was enforced. Each juzi
would appoint his own successor. However, there was no central authority beyond the writings of Mozi. Mohists developed the sciences of fortification
Fortifications are military constructions and buildings designed for defence in warfare and military bases. Humans have constructed defensive works for many thousands of years, in a variety of increasingly complex designs...
and statecraft, and wrote treatises on government, ranging in topic from efficient agricultural production to the laws of inheritance. They were often hired by the many warring kingdoms as advisers to the state. In this way, they were similar to the other wandering philosophers and knights-errant of the period. They were distinguished from others, however, in that they hired out their services not only for gain, but also in order to realize their own ethical ideals.
Mohists believed in heaven as a divine force (天 Tian
Tian is one of the oldest Chinese terms for the cosmos and a key concept in Chinese mythology, philosophy, and religion. During the Shang Dynasty the Chinese called god Shangdi or Di , and during the Zhou Dynasty Tian "heaven; god" became synonymous with Shangdi...
), the celestial bureaucracy and spirits which knew about the immoral acts of man and punished them, encouraging moral righteousness
Righteousness is an important theological concept in Zoroastrianism, Hinduism , Judaism, Christianity and Islam...
. Due to the vague nature of the records, there is a possibility that the Mohist scribes themselves may not have been clear about this subject. Nevertheless, they were wary of some of the more atheistic thinkers of the time, such as Han Fei
Han Fei was a Chinese philosopher who, along with Li Si, Gongsun Yang, Shen Dao and Shen Buhai, developed the doctrine of the School of Law or Legalism...
Using historical records, Mohists argued that the spirits of innocent men wrongfully murdered had appeared before to enact their vengeance. Spirits had also been recorded to have appeared to carry out other acts of justice. In fact, the rulers of the period had often ritually awarded punishments and rewards to their subjects in spiritually important places to garner the attention of these spirits and ensure that justice was done. The respect of these spirits was deemed so important that prehistoric Chinese ancestors had left their instructions on bamboo, plates and stones to ensure the continual obedience of their future descendants to the dictates of heaven. In Mozi's teachings, sacrifices of bulls and rams were mentioned during appointed times during the spring and autumn seasons. Spirits were described to be the preexisting primal spirits of nature, or the souls of humans who had died.
The Mohists polemicized against elaborate funeral
A funeral is a ceremony for celebrating, sanctifying, or remembering the life of a person who has died. Funerary customs comprise the complex of beliefs and practices used by a culture to remember the dead, from interment itself, to various monuments, prayers, and rituals undertaken in their honor...
ceremonies and other wasteful rituals, and called for austerity in life and in governance. On the other hand, spiritual sacrifices were not deemed wasteful.
Mozi disagrees with the fatalistic
Fatalism is a philosophical doctrine emphasizing the subjugation of all events or actions to fate.Fatalism generally refers to several of the following ideas:...
mindset of people, accusing the mindset of bringing about poverty and sufferings. To argue against this attitude, Mozi used three criteria (San Biao
) to assess the correctness of views. These were:
- Assessing them based on history
- Assessing them based on the experiences of common, average people
- Assessing their usefulness by applying them in law or politics
In summary, fatalism, the belief that all outcomes are predestined or fated to occur, is an irresponsible belief espoused by those who refuse to acknowledge that their own sinfulness has caused the hardships of their lives. Prosperity or poverty are directly correlated with either virtue or sinfulness, respectively; not fate. Mozi calls fatalism a heresy which needs to be destroyed.
By the time of Mozi, Chinese rulers and the wealthier citizens already had the practice of extravagant burial rituals. Much wealth was buried with the dead, and ritualistic mourning could be as extreme as walking on a stick hunchback for three years in a posture of mourning. During such lengthy funerals, people are not able to attend to agriculture or care for their families, leading to poverty. Mozi spoke against such long and lavish funerals and also argued that this would even create resentment among the living.
Mozi views aesthetics
Art is the product or process of deliberately arranging items in a way that influences and affects one or more of the senses, emotions, and intellect....
as nearly useless. Unlike Confucius, he holds a distinctive repulsion towards any development in ritual music
Music is an art form whose medium is sound and silence. Its common elements are pitch , rhythm , dynamics, and the sonic qualities of timbre and texture...
and the fine arts. Mozi takes some whole chapters named "Against Music" （《非乐》） to discuss this. Though he mentions that he does enjoy and recognize what is pleasant, he sees them of no utilization in terms of governing, or of the benefit of common people. Instead, since development of music involves man's power, it reduces production of food; furthermore, appreciation of music results in less time for administrative works. This overdevelopment eventually results in shortage of food, as well as anarchism. This is because manpower will be diverted from agriculture and other fundamental works towards ostentations. Civilians will eventually imitate the ruler's lusts, making the situation worse. Mozi probably advocated this idea in response to the fact that during the Warring States period, Zhou King and the landlords spent countless time in the development of delicate music while ordinary peasants could hardly meet their subsistence needs. To Mozi, bare necessities are sufficient; resources should be directed to benefit man.
One of the schools of Mohism that has received some attention is the Logicians
The Logicians or School of Names was a Chinese philosophical school that grew out of Mohism in the Warring States Period 479–221 BCE....
school, which was interested in resolving logical puzzles. Not much survives from the writings of this school, since problems of logic
In philosophy, Logic is the formal systematic study of the principles of valid inference and correct reasoning. Logic is used in most intellectual activities, but is studied primarily in the disciplines of philosophy, mathematics, semantics, and computer science...
were deemed trivial by most subsequent Chinese philosophers. Historians such as Joseph Needham
Noel Joseph Terence Montgomery Needham, CH, FRS, FBA , also known as Li Yuese , was a British scientist, historian and sinologist known for his scientific research and writing on the history of Chinese science. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1941, and as a fellow of the British...
have seen this group as developing a precursor philosophy of science
The philosophy of science is concerned with the assumptions, foundations, methods and implications of science. It is also concerned with the use and merit of science and sometimes overlaps metaphysics and epistemology by exploring whether scientific results are actually a study of truth...
that was never fully developed, but others believe that recognizing the Logicians as proto-scientists reveals too much of a modern bias.
The Mohist canon of the Mo Jing
described various aspects of many fields associated with physical science, and provided a small wealth of information on mathematics
Mathematics is the study of quantity, space, structure, and change. Mathematicians seek out patterns and formulate new conjectures. Mathematicians resolve the truth or falsity of conjectures by mathematical proofs, which are arguments sufficient to convince other mathematicians of their validity...
as well. It provided an 'atomic' definition of the geometric point, stating that a line is separated into parts, and the part which has no remaining parts (i.e. cannot be divided into smaller parts) and thus the extreme end of a line is a point. Much like Euclid
Euclid , fl. 300 BC, also known as Euclid of Alexandria, was a Greek mathematician, often referred to as the "Father of Geometry". He was active in Alexandria during the reign of Ptolemy I...
's first and third definitions and Plato
Plato , was a Classical Greek philosopher, mathematician, student of Socrates, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. Along with his mentor, Socrates, and his student, Aristotle, Plato helped to lay the...
's 'beginning of a line', the Mo Jing
stated that "a point may stand at the end (of a line) or at its beginning like a head-presentation in childbirth. (As to its invisibility) there is nothing similar to it." Similar to the atomists of Democritus
Democritus was an Ancient Greek philosopher born in Abdera, Thrace, Greece. He was an influential pre-Socratic philosopher and pupil of Leucippus, who formulated an atomic theory for the cosmos....
, the Mo Jing
stated that a point is the smallest unit, and cannot be cut in half, since 'nothing' cannot be halved. It stated that two lines of equal length will always finish at the same place, while providing definitions for the comparison of lengths
and for parallels
, along with principles of space and bounded space. It also described the fact that planes without the quality of thickness cannot be piled up since they cannot mutually touch. The book provided definitions for circumference, diameter, and radius, along with the definition of volume.
Jin Guantao, a professor of the Institute of Chinese Studies at the Chinese University of Hong Kong
The Chinese University of Hong Kong is a research-led university in Hong Kong.CUHK is the only tertiary education institution in Hong Kong with Nobel Prize winners on its faculty, including Chen Ning Yang, James Mirrlees, Robert Alexander Mundell and Charles K. Kao...
, Fan Hongye, a research fellow with the Chinese Academy of Sciences
The Chinese Academy of Sciences , formerly known as Academia Sinica, is the national academy for the natural sciences of the People's Republic of China. It is an institution of the State Council of China. It is headquartered in Beijing, with institutes all over the People's Republic of China...
' Institute of Science Policy and Managerial Science, and Liu Qingfeng, a professor of the Institute of Chinese Culture at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, have argued that without the influence of proto-scientific precepts in the ancient philosophy of Mohism, Chinese science lacked a definitive structure:
From the middle and late Eastern Han to the early Wei and Jin dynasties, the net growth of ancient Chinese science and technology experienced a peak (second only to that of the Northern Song dynasty). . .Han studies of the Confucian classics, which for a long time had hindered the socialization of science, were declining. If Mohism, rich in scientific thought, had rapidly grown and strengthened, the situation might have been very favorable to the development of a scientific structure. However, this did not happen because the seeds of the primitive structure of science were never formed. During the late Eastern Han, disastrous upheavals again occurred in the process of social transformation, leading to the greatest social disorder in Chinese history. One can imagine the effect of this calamity on science.
- A Battle of Wits
A Battle of Wits is a 2006 Hong Kong film based on a Japanese historical novel, written by Ken'ichi Sakemi. A manga series was written by Hideki Mori, also based on the novel. Directed by Jacob Cheung, the film starred Andy Lau, Ahn Sung-ki, Wang Zhiwen, Fan Bingbing, Nicky Wu and Choi Siwon...
, a historical film themed around Mohism
Agape is one of the Greek words translated into English as love, one which became particularly appropriated in Christian theology as the love of God or Christ for mankind. In the New Testament, it refers to the fatherly love of God for humans, as well as the human reciprocal love for God; the term...
- Logic in China
In the history of logic, logic in China plays a particularly interesting role due to its length and relative isolation from the strong current of development of the study of logic in Europe and the Islamic world, though it may have some influence from Indian logic due to the spread of...
- Graham, A.C., Disputers of the TAO: Philosophical Argument in Ancient China (Open Court 1993). ISBN 0-8126-9087-7