Thursday, July 29, 2004

Confucius was no Adam Smith

This post on the delightfully named Marginal Revolution discusses whether Confucianism or Taoism is more free-market friendly. They seem to come down on the side of Confucianism because of the deep Luddite stance of the Tao.

I studied a fair amount of Chinese philosophy in school, and in my humble opinion Confucius is the most overrated philosopher out there. His Analects are mostly a collection of ritual and minutiae outlining things like how many days of mourning there should be for each different rank of relative, and how the appropriate number of days of mourning could be extended or reduced based on the quantity of genuflect one made, and how the number of appropriate genuflect could change based on when they were performed, and with how much sincerity. It struck me as being less a philosophical treatise on life, and more a manual of human civilization, but a manual written by someone really dumb who didn't understand very much about people, or really, anything. Oh yeah, and the writing was as stiff as the thought.

The best distillation I have found of Confucian thought was in the Sword & the Citadel by Gene Wolf. In it, there is a race, obviously modeled (kinda sorta) on the Chinese, where people speak only in "Confucian" sayings. I felt that that captured the insane conformity and rigidity in the Analects

Lao-tzu, on the other hand, is really fun to read.


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