Página inicial > Oriente > Waley (WP:Intro) – moralidade = ‘i’

Waley (WP:Intro) – moralidade = ‘i’

domingo 4 de setembro de 2022


The last of these ‘moral’ words with which I propose to deal is ‘i’ [1] ‘morality’, perhaps the most important of them all. ‘i’ means what is right, proper, fitting, decent; what one would expect under the circumstances; what is, as we should say, ‘in order’. In 542 B.C. a noble lady was burnt to death in a palace   fire owing to the fact that she would not leave the house until a chaperon could be found   to escort her. Such conduct, says the historian, would have been proper in the case of a young girl; but a married woman (in this case a quite elderly one) would certainly not have been blamed for acting as was ‘reasonable under the circumstances’ (i) [2]. Or again, ‘To drink only as much as is necessary to fulfill the rites and not to continue the feast till it becomes a riot—that is i’. [3]

But in the period centring round 300 B.C. the question [Mencius, VI. 1. 5] was asked, is not the conduct that we call i (moral) merely the outward expression of a feeling about what is right and wrong, and is it not this feeling, rather than the outward manifestation of it, that we ought to call morality? Thus just as the words for soul, spirit  , etc., had begun their career as names for outside things, and ended by being names for parts of man’s interior, psychological equipment, so the word i, which at first meant little more than sensible  , reasonable conduct, came in the end to mean something very like ‘conscience’. Man, indeed, was discovering that he was a much more interesting creature than he had supposed. There dwelt inconspicuously within him a strange thing called a soul, which was of the same nature as the venerated Ancestors in Heaven, as the spirits of the rivers, hills and groves. There was moreover, buried in his heart, a mysterious power which, if he would but use it, enabled him to distinguish between these two new classes into which he now divided everything—the morally-good and the morally-bad—to discriminate with a sense as unerring as that which enabled him to tell the sweet from the bitter, the light   from the dark. Never in the most ancestor-fearing days, when Heaven had an eye that saw all, an ear that heard all, had it been suggested that the whole universe lay, concentrated as it were, inside the Supreme Ancestor or any one of the Dead Kings. Yet this was the claim that Mencius made for common man. ‘The ten thousand things’, he says, meaning the whole cosmos, ‘are there complete, inside us.’ [4]

Man on earth, then, so far from being a pale shadow of the Ancestors, possesses within himself all the attributes that in ancient times made the cult of the Former Kings the supreme end of all tribal activity.’ It was to himself, as the possessor of ‘heavenliness’, of ‘spirit’, of the mysterious sense called i which enabled him, without consulting yarrow-stalks or the tortoise, to discriminate between right and wrong—it was to himself that each man owed the worship and veneration that had once been accorded to Heaven, the home of the Dead Kings. And since the cult of the Ancestors was the main common activity of the State at large, it followed that the transference of this cult to the individual left the State with a sphere of action greatly limited, indeed, according to one School, [5] reduced to nil. A perfect community, these philosophers argued, implies perfect individuals. Let each man perfect himself. If the State asks from him one single act that interferes with this process of self-perfection, he should refuse, not merely on his own account, but out of regard for the community which corporately suffers in as far as one of its members is ‘imperfect’. ‘The men of old [6] would not have given one hair of their bodies to help the State. Nor if every one in the State (hair by hair and joint by joint) had sacrificed themselves for them, would they have been willing to accept such a sacrifice. For it is only when every one in the State is whole and perfect down to the last hair and each individual attends to himself and stops thinking about benefiting the State, that the State is itself sound.’ [Lieh VII. 9]

But the divine faculties of man, which make it a sacrilege to demand from him die surrender of even ‘one hair from his leg’, maintain a precarious existence. The shen   (soul) is like a grandee on his travels. [Kuan Tzu, P’ien 36, beginning] If the inn is not well   managed and tidy, he will not stay there. How, then, can the body be made a fit dwelling-place for the soul  ? Or if we regard the soul not as something that comes and goes   but rather as a faculty fettered and impeded by the stress of daily life, [As in Mencius] how can we ensure its freedom? Traditional experience concerning the behaviour of shen, of divinities, suggested that the first essential was abstinence and fasting. In the old sacrificial life [7] it had been regarded as useless to expect the Royal Guests (the dead kings) to descend in their spirit (shen) form and partake of the sacrifice  , unless the sacrificer had first prepared himself by three days abstinence and fasting. [8] [WaleyWP  :Intro]

Ver online : Arthur Waley - The Way and its Power

[1Giles: Nos. 5354 and 5454, which are merely two different ways of writing the same word.

[2Tso Chuan, Dhke Hsiang, 30th year.

[3Tso Chuan, Duke Chuang, 22nd year.

[4For the connection of Mencius with the Ch’i school of Taoism, see below. Such passages have of course been explained away by the Confucians. Legge, though he follows the official interpretation, does so with some misgiving, remarking that the passage seems ‘quite mystical’.

[5That of Yang Chu. See Lieh Tzu VII, which is however not an official account, by the Yang Chu school itself, of the master’s teachings, but a late hearsay account in which the original teachings of Yang Chu are mixed up with the hedonistic doctrine which grew up in one branch of his school. The polemic references to Yang Chu in Mencius are mere parody.

[6New theories were always put forward as revivals of ancient practice. See Appendix I.

[7I do not of course mean that sacrifice had totally disappeared, but only that it had lost its significance to the thinking classes.

[8The original purpose of fasting was of course not self-purification (which is a relatively late, moralistic idea) but the desire to ‘move the hearts’ of the Ancestors. Carried to its logical conclusion it can include self-mutilation and self-disfigurement of all kinds. It was in the same spirit that suppliants to earthly potentates disfigured themselves, poured ashes on their heads, etc.