(What follows is a very rough version older essay written in the late 80's and revised
in the early 90's, which is being revised for Inner Sage Tao. The first paragraph
is part of the new material and the older essay is marked off to identify it. More
new material follows though it is rough working out of the new ideas which tries
to bring more of the Confucian perspective into the essay. It was being prepared
for a series of lectures planned in 2002, some of which may eventually appear here.)
On Wisdom and Happiness
In this essay we will ask some important questions about Life and Happiness and
investigate some very compelling answers. In ancient Western Philosophy the goal
of life was viewed to be happiness. Now what this was and how it was to be achieved
were at first a bit controversial, but over a course of a few hundred years a remarkable
agreement was reached and it was reached because these ideas were the ones that survived
the test of a thousand arguments and came out victorious. There were a few problems
as we will note and interestingly it is in Eastern Philosophy that the solutions
will be found. The result is a synthesis that in its basic formulations is simple
enough for a child to understand, but is rigorous enough to appeal to the most intellectually
(Beginning of older essay)
What do you want from life? Some people might answer this question easily. Wealth,
power, fame, the right person with whom to share their life. Others may not have
such ready answers, but for our purposes it doesn't matter whether you have ready
answers or not, we simply wish to look in a very general way at what people
want and also how to get it. People often talk of their goals and how they intend
to achieve them. In our discussion we will be talking about means and ends. By
ends we mean our goals and by means the way in which we intend to achieve them.
It’s a funny thing about means and ends. They seem to form chains. Think about
this one for example: someone wants money, to get money they need a job, to get
a job they may need special training so they go to a school. Here's how this might
work in real life. The child of a friend has just graduated from High School.
You might ask them "Well what is your goal now?"
And they might reply "I am going to college"
"What will you do after college?", you might continue.
And you friend's daughter may reply, "Well after I get my MBA I'm going to become
an investment banker on Wall Street."
"Oh really" you say "and why an investment banker of all things?"
"So I can become filthy rich."
You see means and ends. Is the notion of Chains of Motivations becoming
more concrete to you? One goal becomes the means to another and on and on. You
might well ask yourself "Is there an end to this chain? Is there something
that is not a means to some other end?"
Well there could be. Try this little thought experiment. Ask yourself the following
questions (your exact answer is not important so feel free to answer in whatever
way seems best to you now):
Why would someone want to be rich?
Why would someone want to be famous?
Why would someone want to be powerful?
Why would someone want to marry "the right person"?
Why would someone want to be happy?
Did the last one kind of throw you a bit? Did you find that it was relatively easy
to answer the first four questions and the last was different? Take the first
question for example. It's easy to think of reasons to be rich. To have freedom
to do what you want. To have luxuries of one sort or another. To show that nasty
Harvey Littleblott from old Nackrattle High School that you could make it big.
And what about famous? Well to have the Maitre'd at the Chez Onery say as he
sees you approach "Ah Monsieur Strutstuff how good of you to patronize our humble
five star establishment. Andre please move the nobodies at our best table to the
one by the kitchen door and serve Monsieur Strutstuff a Remy, on the house."
Power naturally has many rewards you might say to a subordinate "Large Louis,
there is this little rat back in my home town, Littleblott is his name, yeh
that's right Harvey Littleblott, you remember me talking about him? Well I want
you to go there and break his arms and legs and tell him Don Geeko sent you, he'll
know what you mean, oh boy, will he know what you mean."
Examples are hardly necessary for marrying the right person, after all how else
can you live "happily ever after" as all of the fairy tales tell us is possible?
Well, what about our last question? Why would anyone want to be happy?
Do you get a growing sense that it is a dumb question? Try another thought experiment:
You have just met someone, after the usual cocktail party chit chat you ask
them "What do you want in life?", "Well", they reply rather nonchalantly, "I want
to be happy." Wouldn't you feel rather dumb if you then asked "Oh really, but
why do you want to be happy?", yet you might have little problem with asking
a person who said that they wished to be an investment banker or a veterinarian
or something else just such a question. And you might take a reply that "Oh I just
think that I would be happy being a veterinarian, you know helping the furry
little animals and all that." as perfectly sensible, but what would you think
of "Well I want to be happy so I can be an investment banker"? This might make
sense from a person whose severe bouts of depression were interfering with their
career plans, but that is a very rare exception, and generally speaking you
might wonder about the sanity of a person who would answer a question in such
a way (of course the person who did answer it that way might already think you're
crazy for asking.)
Could we have found our end of all ends then? Does an analysis of all of our
chains of means and ends lead us to recognize as the final motive, happiness?
Look a little closer have you ever heard anyone say "I want to be rich
and miserable.", or "I'm going to be famous and wretched.", or perhaps "I
am going to marry the right person so that I can be tormented for ever after."?
Never mind that money seldom buys happiness, or that the famous are often prisoners
of their fame or that some marriages are made in hell, did any of the people
seeking these goals pursue them with the end in mind that they would be unhappy?
Wasn't there always in the back of their minds, an implicit assumption you
might say, the notion that "When I have money I will be happy.", or "when I'm
famous I'll be happy.", or "When I've married the right person I'll be happy."?
Now that you have thought about the notion of happiness as the central goal for
which you are striving, whether you are aware of that fact or not, you may
be wondering what is happiness? For the moment let's leave a detailed answer
to what happiness is to another time. The book which we recommend that you read,
Ten Philosophical Mistakes by Mortimer Adler has a long discussion which is simple,
straight forward and very thought provoking. We think that you will find that
reading this book is a very rewarding way to start thinking about happiness and
your goals in life.
So let's just assume for now that it is a given happiness is the real goal
to your life and go on to another interesting question: How do you get Happy?
In order to examine this we're going to excerpt a long quote from a book of "Ancient
Wisdom". We're sorry that the language is a little old fashioned because it was
translated in the Nineteenth Century, but it is clear enough. We have changed
the names in it because they are hard to pronounce and might distract you from
enjoying the process of thought being sketched out here. So for now this is a discussion
between Bill and George. Bill is an older man and George is probably a teenager,
they got together with some friends and some strangers once to discuss the meaning
In the place and time where Bill and George lived discussing the meaning of life
was an "in" hobby and people got together to do it much as Yuppies these days
involve themselves in Marathon matches of Trivial Pursuits. Bill is recounting
his discussion with George to another person sometime after the event thus the
narrative form. And as was his wont to do Bill starts off with a question:
"... let me put a question to you: Do not all men desire happiness? And yet, perhaps
this is one of those ridiculous questions which I am afraid to ask, and which
ought not to be asked by a sensible man: for what human being is there who
does not desire happiness?
There is no one, said George, who does not.
Well, then, I said, since we all of us desire happiness, how can we be happy?--that
is the next question. Shall we not be happy if we have many good things? And
this, perhaps, is even a more simple question than the first for there can be
no doubt of the answer.
And what things do we esteem good? No solemn sage is required to tell us this,
which may be easily answered; for every one will say that wealth is good.
Certainly, he said.
And are not health and beauty goods, and other personal gifts?
Can there be any doubt that good birth, and power, and honors in one's own land,
And what other goods are there? I said. What do you say of temperance, justice,
courage: do you not verily and indeed think, George, that we shall be more right
in ranking them as goods than in not ranking them as goods? For a dispute might
possibly arise about this. What do you say?
They are goods, said George.
Very well, I said; and where in the company shall we find a place for wisdom--among
the goods or not?
Among the goods.
And now, I said, think whether we have left out any considerable goods.
I do not think that we have, said George.
Upon recollection, I said, indeed I am afraid that we have left out the greatest
of them all.
What is that? he asked.
Fortune, George, I replied; which all, even the most foolish, admit to be the
greatest of goods.
True, he said.
On second thoughts, I added, how narrowly, have you and I escaped making a laughing-stock
of ourselves to the strangers.
Why do you say so?
Why, because we have already spoken of good fortune, and are but repeating
What do you mean?
I mean that there is something ridicules in again putting forward good-fortune,
which has a place in the list already, and saying the same thing twice over. He
asked what was the meaning of this, and I replied: Surely wisdom is good-fortune;
even a child may know that.
The simple-minded youth was amazed; and, observing his surprise, I said to him: do
you not know, George, that flute-players are most fortunate and successful in performing
on the flute?
And are not the scribes most fortunate in and reading letters?
Amid the dangers of the sea, again, are any more fortunate on the whole than wise
And if you were engaged in war, in whose company would you rather take the risk--in
company with a wise general, or with a foolish one?
With a wise one.
And if you were ill, whom would you rather have as a companion in a dangerous illness--a
wise physician, or an ignorant one?
A wise one.
You think, I said, that to act with a wise man is more fortunate than to act with
an ignorant one?
Then wisdom always makes men fortunate: for by wisdom no man would ever err,
and therefore he must act rightly and succeed, or his would be wisdom no longer.
We contrived at last, somehow or other, to agree in a general conclusion, that
he who had wisdom had no need of fortune. I then recalled to his mind the
previous state of the question. You remember, I said, our making the admission
that we should be happy and fortunate if many good things were present with us?
And should we be happy by reason of the presence of good things, if they profited
us not, or if they profited us?
If they profited us, he said.
And would they profit us, if we only had them and did not use them? For example,
If we had a great deal of food and did not eat, or a great deal of drink and did
not drink, should we be profited?
Certainly not, he said.
Or would an artisan, who had all the implements necessary for his work, and did
not use them, be any he better for the possession of them? For example, would
a carpenter be any the better for having all his tools and plenty of wood, if he
Certainly not, he said.
And if a person had wealth and all the goods of which we were just now speaking,
and did not use them, would he be happy because he possessed them?
No indeed, Bill?
Then, I said, a man who would be happy must not only have the good things, but
he must also use them; there is no advantage in merely having them?
Well, George, but if you have the use as well as the possession of good things,
is that sufficient to confer happiness?
Yes, in my opinion.
And may a person use them either rightly or wrongly?
He must use them rightly.
That is quite true, I said. And the wrong use of a thing is far worse than the
non-use; for the one is an evil, and the other is neither good nor an evil. You
Now in the working and use of wood, is not that which gives the right use simply
the knowledge of the carpenter?
Nothing else, he said.
And surely, in the manufacture of vessels knowledge is that which give the
right way making them?
And in the use of the goods of which we spoke at first--wealth and health and
beauty, is not knowledge that which directs us to the right use of them, and
regulates our practice about them?
Then in every possession and every use of a thing, knowledge is that which gives
a man not only good fortune but success?
He again assented.
And tell me, I said, O tell me, what do possessions profit a man, if he
have neither good sense nor wisdom? Would a man be better off, having and doing
many things without wisdom, or a few things with wisdom? Look at the matter
thus: If he did fewer things would he not make fewer mistakes? if he make fewer
mistakes would he not have fewer misfortunes? and if he had fewer misfortunes
would he not be less miserable?
Certainly, he said.
And who would do least--a poor man or a rich man?
A poor man.
A weak man or a strong man?
A weak man.
A noble or a mean man?
A mean man.
And a coward would do less than a courageous and temperate man?
And an indolent man less than an active man?
And a slow man less than a quick; and one who had dull perceptions of seeing and
hearing less than one who had keen ones?
All this was mutually allowed by us.
Then, I said, George, the sum of the matter appears to be that the goods
of which we spoke before are not to be regarded as goods in themselves, but the
degree of good and evil in them depends on whether they are or are not under the
guidance of knowledge: under the guidance of ignorance, they are greater evils
than their opposites, inasmuch as they are more able to minister to the evil
principle which rules them; and when under the guidance of wisdom and prudence,
they are greater goods: but in themselves they are nothing?
That, he replied, is obvious
What then is the result of what has been said? Is not the result--that other things
are indifferent, and that wisdom is the only good, and ignorance the only evil?
Let us consider a further point, I said: Seeing that all men desire happiness,
and happiness, as has been shown, is gained by a use, and a right use, of the things
of life, and the right use of them, and good fortune in the use of them, is
given by knowledge,-- the inference is that everybody ought by all means to try
and make himself as wise as he can?
Yes, he said."
Well that seems to be relatively straight forward doesn't it? There are a few
sticky points. One wishes, for example, that Bill had declared how exactly they
had managed to identify Wisdom and Good Fortune, but I think a little thought
will clarify the matter. Almost everyone must have heard the old saying about
a fool and his money and how they quickly part company. And it should be fairly
obvious that a wise man will make better use of good fortune then a fool and
that in averse circumstances a wise man will be able to make the most of them,
whereas a fool will be overcome by them. However, I think that the key to the
matter is the "good" in "good fortune" for remember that Bill, has basically
shown that Wisdom or Knowledge is the only good and ignorance the only evil and
that anything else is only good or evil depending on how it are used. If that
is the case then wisdom by itself can be considered good fortune because it is
the only thing which by itself can be considered good fortune, but anything else
which we may try to call good fortune such as wealth, power or whatever, is
only good fortune if it is accompanied by Wisdom, for as Bill noted anything else
if used foolishly may turn out to be a curse in disguise.
Some readers may have been wondering what Bill's real name was and who wrote this
book of Ancient Wisdom. Well Bill's real name was Socrates, and this material
was written by Plato. It's from a dialogue that Plato wrote called "the Euthydemus",
as translated by Benjamin Jowett in the 19th Century. We will be talking more
about Plato in future lessons, but some people may be surprised that we use him
and call his dialogues Ancient Wisdom. They may also be surprised that Plato's
thinking is so easy and straight forward. Well, not all of it is, but much of
it is just a rigorous examination of everyday things which are available to
anyone who will simply examine their own life, which process of examination
leads to certain conclusions, some of which are very "far out" as they used to
say. This process of self-examination and questioning Plato called Philosophy,
which is simply Greek for the Love of Wisdom.
Now we should make one thing clear, what Plato meant by Philosophy and what
most moderns mean by Philosophy are not the same things! The following from Raphael
Demos may give you a better picture:
"The public likes to paint for itself a picture of the philosopher as living in
Olympian detachment from human affairs. But Plato's philosophy did not arise in
a vacuum; it was occasioned by his contact with immediacy. And his ideal
of a philosopher is that of the philosopher-king..."
"... for Plato, philosophy was not merely an intellectual exercise but
a cleansing of the mind from error and the freeing of the soul from conceit...
"We are apt to separate thought from practice, and technical study from personal
problems. Plato does not. Furthermore, we are apt to separate reason from emotion.
Plato does not. Reason is not merely detached understanding; it is conviction
fired with enthusiasm. The highest rapture possible to man is the rapture of the
contemplation of the ideas. The pursuit of knowledge is animated by the eros for
the ideas; and the final truth cannot be conveyed by concepts. So Plato has
recourse to myths and allegories and vivid unforgettable images, in order to
convey the ultimate truths. His thought is both technical and mystical; his
style both abstract and poetical." (From Demos' introduction to The Dialogues
of Plato translated by Benjamin Jowett, Random House, 1937)
Many people have very erroneous ideas about Plato and his influence, not the
least of these is your average college professor of philosophy! Unless you
have taken graduate level courses on Plato you can safely forget anything that
you believe you know about the man and his work, it is probably wrong anyway.
What Plato advocated might almost be characterized as "Mystical Humanism",
to contrast it to the "secular humanism" about which we hear so much. What
could we mean by "Mystical Humanism"? The idea that, in its essential character,
human nature was divine and that the highest and most truly human life was a life
of divinely inspired wisdom. And what would be the result of this life of divinely
inspired Wisdom? Of course a truly happy life.
Some people may wonder what the relation of happiness is to "Enlightenment". Well
have you ever heard anyone say "I am searching for enlightenment so that
I can be unhappy."? Of course not. "Enlightenment" like every other goal in
human life is for happiness. Still there is always the vexing question of what
is Enlightenment? We will be examining that in some upcoming lessons.
For right now I want to look at the question of what Wisdom might be. I propose
to you that Wisdom is doing the right thing at the right time in the right
circumstances for the right reason. Now this definition is a little repetitive,
obviously doing something at the right time, under the right circumstances can be
included under the notion of "doing the right thing", but I wanted to make those
aspects very explicit. If you want to you can think of wisdom simply as doing the
right thing for the right reason.
Why do I define Wisdom that way? It seems fairly obvious that Wisdom must have
something to do with the notion of doing things right, after all we call
someone who is always doing things the wrong way foolish or stupid or ignorant,
but why the insistence on "for the right reason"? Well have you ever heard someone
when responding to the news of someone's success say "Oh, they were just lucky"?
Could we possibly compare the wisdom of an investment banker who made millions
on wall street to someone who won the lottery? Could we ever say, with a straight
face that is, that they were both equally wise in the ways of money, just because
they now had the same net worth? Of course we couldn't. So wisdom seems to
imply knowledge, though perhaps it is not identical with knowledge.
Well then knowledge of what and to what purpose? Could it be knowledge of anything?
Could it be knowledge of your Aunt Tilly's birthday for example? Well, while
it might be wise to remember your Aunt Tilly's birthday (especially if you want
a good birthday present yourself!) that knowledge itself cannot be called wisdom.
We did say, however, that remembering Aunt Tilly's birthday could be wise,
why is that? Well it's because you know that if you forget her birthday she will
be very hurt. So it is this knowledge that your forgetting her birthday can be
hurtful to her that makes your remembering it wise. Could this special knowledge
for which we are looking then be a knowledge of causes and their effects? Certainly
that is a major part of it, maybe all of it, for certainly the "doing the right
thing" part of our definition means causing the desired effects. And certainly
we may say about something that has undesirable effects that it was a "stupid" or
a "foolish" thing to do.
So it would seem that Wisdom has something to do with knowing "how things
work", since knowledge of cause and effect is the basis of understanding how things
work. And knowledge of how things work is very useful. I mention this because
some people have the notion that wisdom is something very esoteric and removed
from everyday life. Granted certain aspects of wisdom may be very removed
from ordinary experience, others like remembering Aunt Tilly's birthday are
at the very core of everyday life.
Wisdom could be called knowledge translated into action so as to achieve results,
but if our intent is happiness can these be any results? No, because any result
might not lead to happiness. Here we must distinguish between knowing what can
be done in a situation and knowing what should be done in order to bring about
a particular result, in this case happiness.
So we must distinguish between mere technical knowledge, the knowledge of what is
possible in a situation from wisdom which would tell us not only what the many
outcomes are in a situation, but which one is the most desirable in light of our
Some of you may wonder if ancient wisdom whether Plato's or anyone else's is of
use today. The book by Mortimer Adler which we mentioned above helps to clarify
that point and in the next few lessons we will explore some of these issues also.
Some may wonder why we only go back a mere 2500 years to Plato, why not to "Ancient
Egyptian Wisdom" or the "Wisdom" of ancient India or the Far East, perhaps even the
channeled "Wisdom" of ancient Atlantis or Lemuria? For the moment we will leave
the question of the "Wisdom of the East" for treatment at some other time. And to
be frank we don't consider "channeled" material to be of much use except in very
circumscribed circumstances, such as when it can be verified in a practical fashion.
As for ancient Egyptian, Sumerian, Jewish or whatever "Wisdom" the simple
truth is that, for good or ill, when you go back too much before Plato you don't
find much wisdom. You find a lot of mythology, you find texts of religious rites,
you may even find some ancient astronomical observations, but what you don't find
is a coherent Philosophy, just fragments. Religious rites don't tell you explicitly
what the performers of them believed, you have to interpret the rites. What
standards do you use to interpret them? Mythology doesn't tell you how the people
who told and retold these stories interpreted them, you have to do it yourself.
How do you do this? It is very easy to come up with pseudo interpretations based
upon a process of reading myths or rites anachronistic elements from our own
time and thinking. This very tendency to see, not merely, the ancient world
but the middle and far east through very tainted "tinted glasses", is hard to
avoid and requires a disciplined mind and a fertile imagination.
Our purpose is to provide you with the most reliable material and to show
you where this material comes from so that you can investigate the matter for
yourself if you are not happy with the way we deal with the material. So far as
we can find the earliest significant body of reliable material is the dialogues
of Plato and as you will find out it was just these dialogues and the teachings
in them which were to provide inspiration to generations of "mystics”
practically from Plato's time to the end of the Eighteenth Century. How
it is that the importance of Plato to understanding the Western Tradition of Religion
and Mysticism has been lost and forgotten at the end of the Twentieth Century is
an interesting story in itself and one which we will examine in greater detail
in the next few lessons.
So to review what we have said so far. Happiness is the end for which we do all
things. Every goal which we pursue is for the sake of ultimately achieving happiness
and if we forget that fact and concentrate too much on sub-goals we may find
that we cannot achieve Happiness. The way to achieve happiness is through
wisdom. The fool may stumble upon momentary satisfactions, but he cannot
live a happy life. Wisdom is knowledge translated into action so as to
achieve results, but not any results will do, for Wisdom must not only ask what
can be done but what should be done. As far as we are concerned one of the
best guides to Wisdom are the dialogues of Plato and the writings of his followers
and those inspired by him (this includes Aristotle). You will find as you go through
the next few months that Plato's thought inspired not merely a noble ethics and
moral code but also provided the fundamental insights into the nature of the
universe which were to form the basis for the theory and practice of Religion and
“mysticism” for centuries. Indeed it could be very cogently argued (and we
will shortly) that without Plato or someone like him, the religious, scientific and
moral history of the Western world, and possibly the world in general would have
been vastly different.
(End of Older essay)
Material for the new ending of the essay, mostly a series of extended notes.
Confucianism and Platonism
Why focus on Confucianism and Platonism? Where is Indian thinking in all of this?
The Answer is simple. A person who understands the Plotinian version of Platonism
will have no difficulty understanding the details of either Hindu or Buddhist thought,
for whatever reason the late Platonists have so much in common with Indian thinking
that cultural influences moving one way or another are often suspected. More importantly,
in the Greek formulations the element of rational discussion is explicit and the
writings much more approachable for that reason. Classicism reaches the same conclusions
with more rigor and less appeal to authority.
Regarding Buddhism Wallace in NP and Indian Thought, p. 115 says that they: “...
generally state their views dogmatically and appear to regard them simply as following
from the nature of the Absolute, Plotinus generally argues his position at length
and usually takes as his starting point the arguments of earlier Greek philosophers.”
And with Greater clarity:
Regarding Hindu scriptures Wallis says P. 115 “... the Bhagavadgita is obscure in
the extreme, Plotinus’s (sic) meaning can be grasped without undue difficulty.”
Why not Taoism? Confucianism is Taoism. The texts of Laotze and Chuangtze are criticism
from another wing of Taoism and are, in the case of Lao a political critic and in
the case of Chuang a critique from the perspective of individualism. The meditational
disciplines of the religious taoists have merit, but like the high disciplines of
Buddhist or Hindu yoga, or for that matter the Egyptian Theurgy of Iamblichus, are
matters for specialists willing to spend years in training. Confucianism turns life
into training and does so in a way that most people will not find a burden, but rather
To be Rational means to use logic as a tool for clarifying issues, to make explicit
ones presuppositions and also ones evaluative procedures that are not strictly logical,
i.e. Occam’s razor is an evaluative principle not a logical principle. Idiosyncratic
elements must be identified and clearly labeled as such and where faith is required,
such as faith in scientific progress, it must also be identified and its probabilistic
nature examined and clarified, i.e. does belief in the possibility of artificial
intelligence require such a leap of faith as to be more properly classed with say,
belief in the possibility of perpetual motion machines? To be rational all leaps
of faith must be kept at a minimum at the risk of the whole structure being classified
as an “irrational” belief structure.
To be Mystical means to assume and evaluate everything from a transcendental perspective.
Rational mysticism implies using reason not as a confining box, but rather as a tool
for erecting a conceptual scaffolding which allows one a larger and more comprehensive
view, it is the traditional mode of Western philosophy from the late Roman Empire
Romanticist mysticism is a type of irrationalism that grew out of the German Romantic
school of the early 1800's. It is a radical departure from classical mysticism which
is rational, but following a philosophical version of Gresham’s law has forced classical
mysticism out the running.
It may seem strange at the beginning of a new millennium to be putting forward the
wisdom of Confucius, but I hope that by the end of the short essay the reader may
share some of the authors enthusiasm for this ancient philosophy. What do I believe
that Confucianism offers the reader and the modern world? Right now we are in a
worldwide crisis, a crisis that manifests in many ways from political unrest, civil
strife and crime to ecological problems and one of the things that is needed most
is an approach to all of these things which can reach across religious and cultural
barriers and into the hearts of all people. I believe that a new Confucianism can
offer just this possibility to the world.
In part Confucianism can do this because in spite of how it has been interwoven with
the traditional religious practices of China, Confucianism is fundamentally not a
religion, but rather an existential philosophy which is capable of speaking to any
one right where they are now. It is relatively free of Metaphysical baggage and
can thus appeal to the modern agnostic, yet at the same time it is fundamentally
religion friendly and has been the root training of deeply religious Chinese for
centuries and just as it has been the basis of creating sincere, capable Buddhists
and Taoists for centuries it can help Christians and Jews and Muslims and people
of any particular religious persuasion agree on moral values outside of a particular
By the same token Confucianism offers a philosophy of personal growth and development
which is at the root of a lot of the success of the Asian world today.
What do I mean by Platonism? It is the doctrines of Plato as understood by the middle
and Late Platonists, and by late Platonists I mean the thinkers usually called Neo-platonists,
and as particularly exemplified in the writings of Plotinus. I fully realize that
from the academic perspective of the past 200 years this means that I am talking
about Neo-platonism, but Neo-platonism was a pejorative term invented in the early
1700's in order to isolate and stigmatize the late Platonist as both decadent and
irrational. I reject it for that reason and because it tends to hid the real relationship
between Plato and his late interpreters. The term Neo-platonism is not wholly uncalled
for because in a lot of ways Neo-platonism is a powerful synthesis of Plato and Aristotle
with the best doctrines of the Stoa assimilated also, but in this regard the Neo-Platonists
were only following through the lead established by the middle platonists, who were
not stigmatized as decadent or irrational for their efforts to harmonize Plato and