Reading: Mozi

  • Mozi: Basic Writings, selected and translated by Burton Watson (8 Apr 2009)

Mozi is the anti-Confucius. Some of the main points of his philosophy are:

  • Benevolence should be universal and absolutely impartial. Even one’s own countrymen and family members should not receive preferential treatment. Confucius, in contrast, taught people to “treat relatives as relatives.”
  • Music, elaborate funerals, and anything else that consumes resources but is of no utilitarian usefulness to the people, should be suppressed. Music and ritual are of course central to Confucian thought.
  • The people should be actively encouraged to believe in and fear ghosts, because such a belief will motivate right behavior. Confucius refused to discuss ghosts or other supernatural entities.

In a lot of ways, Mozi was the proto-liberal, and while nearly everything about his philosophy feels wrong, it’s not always easy to figure out exactly why. I have a lot of notes and reflections on Mohism stored away on my computer, and one of these days I’ll put them together into a coherent post. I consider it a very important, very relevant philosophy.

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