Universalism

This post has a lot of overlap with my ‘equality‘ post. The purpose of that one was to find quotes which could be interpreted as placing all humans on a similar footing in terms of worth, moral perfectibility, etc. The question here is of philosophies which indicate a expansive view of the human community and one’s obligations towards it.

So, who would be considered universalistic? I would say Christianity, Buddhism, Mohism, Stoics (and perhaps other Greek philosophies as well, though less explicitly). Confucianism, as it developed, could be considered universalistic but not impartial. Hinduism is questionable because of the stress it places on people’s specific obligations based on caste, and towards those of other castes.

Once again, as noted by jhappolati, the different ontologies of eastern and western philosophies complicate comparisons.

There’s not much debate about Buddhism and Christianity, I think, so I won’t quote anything from them. The Greek tradition experienced a strong turn towards universalism with the conquests of Alexander and the decline of city-states.

The Chinese Tradition – early statements

[See discussion at jhappolati.wordpress.com and resolution: “Confucianism is universalistic but not ‘impartialistic.’”]

Mencius. 7A, 45
Mencius said, ‘In regard to [inferior] creatures, the superior man loves them but is not humane to them (that is, showing them the feeling due human beings). In regard to people generally, he is humane to them but not affectionate. He is affectionate to his parents and humane to all people. He is humane to all people and feels love for all creatures.’

Taoism Chuang Tzu 23
If you step on a stranger’s foot in the marketplace, you apologize at length for your carelessness. If you step on your older brother’s foot, you give him an affectionate pat, and if you step on your parent’s foot, you know you are already forgiven. So it is said, “Perfect ritual makes no distinction of persons; perfect righteousness takes no account of things [wealth]; perfect knowledge does not scheme; perfect benevolence knows no [partiality in] affection; perfect trust dispenses with gold.”

Mohism (Mozi – ‘Love III’)
“If we should classify one by one all those who hate others and injure others, should we find them to be universal in love or partial? Of course we should say they are partial. Now, since partiality against one another is the cause of the major calamities in the empire, then partiality is wrong… Partiality is to be replaced by universality… If we should classify one by one all those who love others and benefit others, should we find them to be partial or universal? Of course we should say they are universal. Now, since universal love is the cause of the major benefits in the world, therefore Mozi proclaims universal love is right.

Later Chinese Tradition
Chinese tradition as represented in standard moral texts in the last millenium shows a great deal of syncretism of the above traditions, as well as influence from Buddhism.

T’ai-Shang Kan-Ying P’ien (which had huge distribution in China, perhaps at levels comparable to the Bible in the West)
“With a compassionate heart turn toward all creatures.
Be faithful, filial, friendly, and brotherly.
First rectify thyself and then convert others.
Take pity on orphans, assist widows; respect the old, be kind to children.
Even the multifarious insects, herbs, and trees should not be injured.
Be grieved at the misfortune of others and rejoice at their good luck.
Assist those in need, and rescue those in danger.
Regard your neighbor’s gain as your own gain, and regard your neighbor’s loss as your own loss.”

See also, “The Tract of the Quiet Way

Greeks and Romans

Socrates (attributed by Plutarch)
I am not an Athenian or a Greek, but a citizen of the world.

Alexander the Great
from Mircea Eliade’s “A History of Religious Ideas”
“When the Macedonians mutinied at Opis – because as one of them put it, “You have made Persians your relatives” – Alexander exclaimed: “But I have made you all my relatives!” The sedition ended in a banquet of reconciliation to which, according to tradition, 3,000 persons were invited. At the end of it Alexander uttered a prayer for peace and wished that all the peoples on earth could live together in harmony and in unity of heart and mind (homonoia). “He had previously said that all men were sons of one Father, and that his prayer was the expression of his recorded belief that he had a mission from God to be the Reconciler of the World.(Tarn, Alexander the Great, p. 117)”

Zeno (from Plutarch)
“The much admired Republic of Zeno … is aimed at this main point, that our household arrangements should not be based on cities or parishes, each one marked out by its own legal system, but we should regard all men as our fellow citizens and local residents, and there should be one way of life and order, like that of a herd grazing together and nurtured by a common law. Zeno wrote this, picturing as it were, a dream or image of a philosopher’s well regulated society.”

Cicero (On Ends)
“The mere fact of their common humanity requires that one man should feel another man to be akin to him.”

“There is nothing so like anything else as we are to one another” and to treat foreigners worse than romans would lead to the destruction of “the whole foundation of the human community” and will lead to “the annihilation of all kindness, generosity, goodness and justice.”

Cicero (On Duties 1.50)
“The interests of society, however, and its common bonds will be best conserved, if kindness be shown to each individual in proportion to the closeness of his relationship. But it seems we must trace back to their ultimate sources the principles of fellowship and society that Nature has established among men. The first principle is that which is found in the connection subsisting between all the members of the human race; and that bond of connection is reason and speech, which by the processes of teaching and learning, of communicating, discussing, and reasoning associate men together and unite them in a sort of natural fraternity. In no other particular are we farther removed from the nature of beasts; for we admit that they may have courage (horses and lions, for example); but we do not admit that they have justice, equity, and goodness; for they are not endowed with reason or speech. This, then, is the most comprehensive bond that unites together men as men and all to all; and under it the common right to all things that Nature has produced for the common use of man is to be maintained, with the understanding that, while everything assigned as private property by the statutes and by civil law shall be so held as prescribed by those same laws, everything else shall be regarded in the light indicated by the Greek proverb: “Amongst friends all things in common.”
Furthermore, we find the common property of all men in things of the sort defined by Ennius; and, though restricted by him to one instance, the principle may be applied very generally:
Who kindly sets a wand’rer on his way
Does e’en as if he lit another’s lamp by his:
No less shines his, when he his friend’s hath lit.
In this example he effectively teaches us all to bestow even upon a stranger what it costs us nothing to give.

Cicero (On the Laws – book I)
“But of all the things which are a subject of philosophical debate there is nothing more worthwhile than clearly to understand that we are born for justice and that justice is established not by opinion but by nature. That will be clear if you examine the common bonds among human beings. There is no similarity, no likeness of one thing to another, so great as the likeness we all share. If distorted habits and false opinions did not twist weak minds and bend them in any direction, no one would be so like himself as all people would be like all others. Thus, whatever definition of a human being one adopts is equally valid for all humans… and the things that are impressed upon the mind, the rudiments of understanding which I mentioned before, are impressed similarly on all humans, and language, the interpreter of the mind, may differ in words but is identical in ideas. There is no person of any nation who cannot reach virtue with the aid of a guide… Trouble, happiness, desires, and fears pass equally through the minds of all, and if different peoples have different beliefs, that does not mean that the superstition that affects people who worship dogs and cats is not the same as that
which besets other races. What nation is there that does not cherish affability, generosity, a grateful mind and one that remembers good deeds? What nation does not scorn and hate people who are proud, or evildoers, or cruel, or ungrateful? From all these things it may be understood that the whole human race is bound together; and the final result is that the understanding of the right way of life makes all people better…

It follows, then, that we have been made by nature to receive the knowledge of justice one from another and share it among all people. … All people have reason, and therefore justice has been given to all…

… when he has (so to speak) got a grip on the god who guides and rules these things and has recognized that he is not bound by human walls as the citizen of one particular spot but a citizen of the whole world as if it were a single city…”

Dionysius of Helicarnassus (14.6.1 – adapted)
“The Romans are magnanimous, unlike the Athenians and Spartans who treated people of their own stock with the brutatlity of barbarians. Greeks are to be distinguished by barbarians, not by name or language, but by intelligence and a predilection for decent behaviour that shuns inhumane treatment. Those should be called Greeks whose plans and actions are fair and humane. ”

Epictetus
(Discourses, ii. 5. 26) – “Each human being is primarily a citizen of his own commonwealth; but he is also a member of the great city of gods and men, where of the city political is only a copy.”
(Golden sayings) – “Never, when asked one’s country, [should you answer], ‘I am an Athenian or a Corinthian,’ but ‘I am a citizen of the world.'”

Seneca (Epistles, xlvii. 10)
“Kindly remember that he whom you call your slave sprang from the same stock, is smiled upon by the same skies, and on equal terms with yourself breathes, lives, and dies…
“The World is the mother of us all, and the ultimate origin of each one of us can be traced back to her, whether the steps in the ladder of descent be noble or humble. To no one is virtue forbidden; she is accessible to all; she admits everyone, she invites everyone in; free men and freedmen, slaves, kings, and exiles…
There is one short rule that should regulate human relationships. All that you see, both divine and human, is one. We are the parts of one great body. Nature created us from the same source and to the same end. She imbued us with mutual affection and sociability, she taught us to be fair and just, to suffer injury rather than to inflict it. She bids extend our hands to all in need of help. let that well-known line be in our hearts and on our lips: I am a man. I deem nothing pertaining to man foreign to me. ”

Marcus Aurelius
(Meditations, II) “Begin the morning by saying to thyself, I shall meet with the busy-body, the ungrateful, arrogant, deceitful, envious, unsocial. All these things happen to them by reason of their ignorance of what is good and evil. But I who have seen the nature of the good that it is beautiful, and of the bad that it is ugly, and the nature of him who does wrong, that it is akin to me, not only of the same blood or seed, but that it participates in the same intelligence and the same portion of the divinity, I can neither be injured by any of them, for no one can fix on me what is ugly, nor can I be angry with my kinsman, nor hate him, For we are made for co-operation, like feet, like hands, like eyelids, like the rows of the upper and lower teeth. To act against one another then is contrary to nature; and it is acting against one another to be vexed and to turn away. ”
(Meditations III) “For the lot which is assigned to each man is carried along with him and carries him along with it. And he remembers also that every rational animal is his kinsman, and that to care for all men is according to man’s nature”
(Meditations IV) “If our intellectual part is common, the reason also, in respect of which we are rational beings, is common: if this is so, common also is the reason which commands us what to do, and what not to do; if this is so, there is a common law also; if this is so, we are fellow-citizens; if this is so, we are members of some political community; if this is so, the world is in a manner a state. For of what other common political community will any one say that the whole human race are members?”
(Meditations VIII)”He does not forget the brotherhood of all rational beings, nor that a concern for every man is proper to humanity; and he knows that it is not the world’s opinions he should follow, but only those of men whose lives confessedly accord with Nature.”

Hierocles (2nd century AD – fragment from Stobaeus)
“Each one of us is as it were entirely encompassed by many circles, some smaller, others larger, the latter enclosing the former on the basis of their different and unequal dispositions relative to each other. The first and closest circle is the one which a person has drawn as though around a centre, his own mind. This circle encloses the body and anything taken for the sake of the body. For it is virtually the smallest circle, and almost touches the centre itself. Next, the second one further removed from the centre but enclosing the first circle; this contains parents, siblings, wife, and children. The third one has in it uncles and aunts, grandparents, nephews, nieces, and cousins. The next circle includes the other relatives, and this is followed by the circle of local residents, then the circle of fellow-tribesmen, next that of fellow citizens, and then in the same way the circle of people from neighboring towns, and the circle of fellow-countrymen. The outermost and largest circle, which encompasses all the rest, is that of the whole human race… Once all these [circles] have been surveyed, it is the task of a well tempered man, in his proper treatment of each group, to draw the circles together somehow toward the
center, and to keep zealously transferring those from the enclosing circles into the enclosed ones… It is incumbent upon us to respect people from the third circle as if they were those from the second, and again to respect our other relatives as if they were those from the third circle. É The right point will be reached if, through our own initiative, we reduce the distance of the relationship with each person.”

Dio Chrysostom (ca. 40 – 120 AD) Discourse 7.133 – 133
In dealing with brothel-keepers and their trade we must certainly betray no weakness as though something were to be said on both sides, but must sternly forbid them and insist that no one… shall pursue such a business, thus levying a fee, which all the world condemns as shameful, upon brutality and lust… Neither barbarian women, I say, nor Greeks – of whom the latter were in former times almost free but now live in bondage utter and complete – shall they put in such shameful constraint… It is our duty, therefore, to give some heed to this and under no condition to bear this mistreatment of outcast and enslaved creatures with calmness and indifference, not only because all humanity has been held in honour and in equal honour by God, who begat it, having the same marks and tokens to show that it deserves honour, to wit, reason and the knowledge of evil and good…”

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One thought on “Universalism

  1. Pingback: Father Knows Best: Holy Week Edition « Patriactionary

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