On Education for Morality in Global and Cosmic Contexts: Two Philosophical Models

Chung-Ying Cheng
University of Hawaii at Manoa, USA

What makes a human person human is that he starts his life from learning from the environment and learning from others like him. He has to learn to be part of his environment and a member of his community or tribe. And yet he has to learn to transcend himself for his environment and for his community, and even he may have to transcend his community and his environment in order to do good to his environment and his community. Education therefore is a complex continuing process of self-formation, which is fused, with both intelligent and practical understanding of the self in a context of community and in a context of environment. If we look into the natural history of evolution of species, you find that it is indeed the survival of the strongest among many species or within a species, but how do we understand the strongest and how do we understand the survival? It is obvious that the strength of a species or an individual lies not in his physical power or his technical skill alone but in his ability to adapt to an environmental niche, which no other species could easily invade. The species becomes an expert and yet a part of its environment so that it can act mostly in a natural way with natural protection from the environment. The species and its members survive and even flourish because no other species have those environmental advantages and expertise and also because other species have to be environmentally adapted to their respective niches in the environment without being able to surpass other species in specific and particular areas of the environment. One may therefore see the evolution of the species as adaptation to environment, differentiation and specification according to environment, individual selection and transformation, all of which can be regarded as a process of education which is implicit in the formation of species and species-individuation, including the pre-formation of forms and genes.

In light of this evolutionary model of species development, to survive and flourish is to evolve and to evolve is to educe, and to educe is to induce, to adduce, to conduce, to seduce, and to produce and even to deduce or to reduce for productive and useful ends. Here I am not simply playing words, but I believe that formation of certain set of words has a core or a root which indicate a root action or a root state of human person. Hence the Latin root “duce” is such a root action indicating efficacious transference (leading) of a quality or state from one entity to another, hence indicating the actualization of a relation that fulfills and changes a situation. Hence in light of this primary understanding of a root action, different manners and modes of realization and development become possible due to different contexts and different purposes envisioned by the human agents. Hence we have deduction from a premise to a conclusion. We have induction from experienced instances to a generality. We have seduction under unusual circumstances in terms of attraction. We have adduction when we are able to produce something naturally for support. We have production when we form products under our design and labor. We have conduction that is guiding according to a pre-determined principle or rule. We have reduction when we explain or accept some given situation in terms of certain basic conditions1. Finally, we have education as a form of developing a human mind and human person by all different manners of enabling the human individual to grow and achieve a desirable state of being where he can become a worthwhile and self-responsible human person as well as a reliable and useful member of the society. It is also expected that this educated individual would make a creative contribution to the valuable growth of other individuals and the social community at large. He will be also able to contribute to the greater creativity in a larger context of life such as the whole world and the whole experienced cosmos by creatively changing our conditions of life.

In this sense education must start with the driving force of life to shape itself and place itself in the world from the very beginning of life and must continue until one finds a resting place in a person’s interaction with nature, community and others. But all species do evolve in a process where many species perish due to their lack of abilities and alertness to the change of environment (such as regarding climate, earth movement and some other factors such as meteoritic impact) and many others transforms themselves for a better coping up with environmental crises and become new species and endure. As part of environment, a species goes up or goes down with the changes of the environment. Yet it could overcome difficulties and challenges by preserving or developing its own potentiality. Perhaps, it is in terms of this possibility of transcending environment and yet adapting to the environment that higher animals such as human beings develop and evolve themselves. In this sense evolution of a species and specifically the evolution of the human species is highly educational and our native sense of education must be accounted for in terms of such a basic level in this evolutionary model. Man becomes man because, unlike other animal species, he has learned from environment so that he may transcend and integrate environment to adapt to a larger and changing environment. In a sense he learns to become the master of himself and yet he remains a student of environment. His advance and progress to being human is no accident, because this advance and progress requires efforts in practice and knowledge in understanding his environment. This means that the human species must become constantly conscious of his environment and creatively applies his self to the environment so that he remains both within and without his environment at the same time.

The success story of man in the evolutionary history is truly educational because it is an education from adaptation to transcendence and back to adaptation again. It is a process of man learning to educate himself, in the sense of learning to rise up from the level of the habitual and unconscious to higher levels of existence which require consciousness and knowledge of the world (other people, things in the world and the large cosmos) and reflective consciousness of the self without however losing sight of how it stands to the things in the environment. From this we see how we can reformulate our notion of a primitive and yet primary and hidden sense of education, which emerges from the conscious level of learning. Education is primarily learning and learning from learning so that one becomes both a recipient and an agent than merely a recipient. Not only one has to become an agent apart from being a recipient, but one has to become more and more a creative agent and even a more and more a creative recipient in the sense of creativity, which lies in transcending oneself to become a new self and in adapting to environment to become protecting environment from infliction from the human self. To become creative is the process in which values become envisioned and implemented so that individual well-being and collective harmony among individuals and communities of individuals could be evolved and established.

The evolutionary model of education eventually becomes an interaction-transactional model of education. With both evolution and environment in view and as a background, education has to be regarded as both an unconscious natural instinctive formation and development of a human quality we may call human nature, and a conscious and conscientious effort of the human being to shape, define and refine himself into a human person and a moral being, as humanity must be eventually conceived as morality which involves not only sociality but nobility of individual character. With his evolutionarily ingrained proclivity toward educational change, education is so basic that we tend to forget what it means and consequently tend to ignore its existence as a basic need and fail to tackle its environmental background and evolutionary resources. We have to reconfigure education as a native and inner drive in the individuals that would necessarily lead to a social, cultural and even political program for both the individual and the communal society. We have to re-learn from a reflection on the evolutionary process to refresh our sense of basic education, which is simultaneously individual, specific, generic, interactive, societal, environmental, and cosmic. We have to re-affirm its goal to achieve creative adaptation and creative advance, by discovering or re-discovering its natural and cultural contexts so that we can re-define what the human self is worthy of in such contexts. We have to recognize what earth and heaven, animal life and human life mean to us in an ever-changing and ever-challenging context of being and becoming in which our ability and intelligence for achieving a higher order of life of a higher quality have to be re-developed and recognized. In this sense education is self-awakening to efforts of human self-improvement and the rebuilding of human consciousness of the world and environment as part of its own existence.

Education is therefore in its very nature environmental, global, cosmic and cosmological. The question is whether we can still keep this vision and maintain our consciousness of the human needs and human potential in this open evolutionary process of creative adaptation. The question is whether we can achieve an intelligent freedom of will so that we will not be enslaved by the habits of the niche in which we find ourselves or the arrogance of power which we have acquired and which blind us to crises and challenges arising from our abode and our future. The question is whether we can transcend ourselves and yet care for what we have transcended and do our best to integrate in such a way as to live and let live, to allow open space and open time for higher growth and multi-dimensional development. The question is how to educate our selves for a comprehensive morality, which is rooted in the basic, the earthly and the heavenly at the same time. The question is how to educate ourselves to achieve peace, prosperity and harmony in the world in which each and every human being or human group would contribute to the well-being of the other.

In the rest of the article I shall examine two fundamental models of educational philosophy in light of this new sense of education, which has stressed both continuous engagement with a world of change and contingency and creative growth of the individual in view of an enlarging involvement inclusive of global and cosmic dimensions. These two fundamental models are the Deweyan Model of Contextual Pragmatism of Experience and the Confucian Model of Onto-Cosmology of Self-Cultivation. Both models have great merits of their own, and yet each of them could be improved in light of the other. I shall point out and argue that this improvement must come from simultaneously learning morality from experience and learning experience from morality in light of the basic evolution of the human species in a global and cosmic environment. It is a matter of education for morality in a global and cosmic context so that what is and what ought to be forms a dynamical unity. It is also a matter of reflection on what the global and the cosmic present and provide for the education of the man toward man’s own moral transformation.

The lessons from this examination can be used to illuminate current national and global approaches to inter-human solidarity and world peace in today’s world: namely, to provide an incentive for re-thinking and enlivening of discursive rationalism from modern European tradition, to lead an open reflection for broadening neo-pragmatism from modern America, and to introduce and implement a democratic vision of moral humanism in the spirit of intellectual inter-subjectivity from modern Chinese tradition. It can be seen that a global and cosmic education for morality should integrate the three traditions in order to achieve the goal of inter-human solidarity and inter-cultural integration toward a comprehensive harmony and creatively sustainable order of the globe and the cosmos, in which human beings can live and prosper for a long time. However, I shall not detail and elaborate on these lessons in this article.

The Deweyan Model Based on Human Experience and Eventual Transaction

For John Dewey (1859-1952) , all philosophy in the last analysis is philosophy of education in the sense of education that I try to expound with regard to the transformation of the human person into a more realized state. This means that the human person must develop his own self in relation to other people and world of things so that he can actually relate to them in useful and meaningful experiences. In fact, he can only do this by applying himself to situations involving things and people other than himself. His existence is not a stationary state, but an activity that has to explore into his environment. The environment in the form of nature has inevitably exercised its impact on the people. Hence, as we have explained, there is a demand for adjustment of the human entity to his environment and a tendency of the nature toward absorbing or taming the human entity in its own terms. Thus the human person as a living being has to develop his mental faculty intelligently so that transactions with nature and people become successful2. For Dewey, to be successful is to be successful in overcoming a felt difficulty and problem in dealing with the world and people so that life and well-being can become more enriched and enhanced by experience. This is what a good is for the human being, a desirable end to be realized by experience.

In light of this understanding, as well-known, Dewey has formulated five stages of mental activities in a human person for overcoming difficulties in situations in which human person has encountered. He calls these five stages as five steps on how to think3. Thinking like any mental activities is a form of experience, but it is a form of experience that reflects on situations that we encounter. That we do encounter difficulties is a fact of life in the evolutionary process of living our life. But the difficulty has to be conceived as both practical and conceptual. It is practical because it is where we experience conflict and obstruction [and it requires actual experience and action for mastering and transforming the difficulty]. It is conceptual because it may reflect a limitation of our thinking, [which calls for reflection to analyze and understand and formulate plans for way-out]. In experiencing difficulties our desires are frustrated and our ends-in-view are thwarted. This should lead us into looking beyond the represent experiences and seek a solution as a way-out. The difficulty is not only a challenge for our thinking and understanding and action; it is also the basis for inquiry and reasoning. Without difficulties we will not be stimulated and activated into thinking deliberatively and examining our past experiences or ideas. This difficulty therefore forms a basis for our genuine self-doubt as Peirce would say. The difficulty calls for an analysis of our experience and the experienced situations so that we become more clear about where the problem lies and how it arises. It is the source of our intelligent inquiry and hence the beginning of our knowledge of both our selves and the world.

In finding a solution we become more focused and clearer about our purposes of life and more awareness of our values and abilities. It is in this process of solving or exploring for a problematic situation that we are able to develop and use our mind and intelligence. All logical rules and reasoning including hypothesis making would have to be developed in this process of exploration and problem solving. The stress of the importance of making hypotheses is not accidental: it is essential to the formation of solutions because it represents a recognition of the present experience and a review of our past experience and a projection of our mind into the future at the same time. For hypothesis is not just to explain the given situation, but to predict the future event which would occur, in consistency with the presentation of the difficult and the explanation of the past experiences. It also implies a way of control. To form a hypothesis hence requires active deep thinking of the mind and intelligence and therefore the basis for developing science and technology. But in order to make the hypothesis acceptable and warranted one has to make sure that it covers its ground in the present experience, coheres with past experiences and is capable of being tested and confirmed. In order to test and confirm or falsify a hypothesis we need to form abstract theories or models so that we can apply to a wide range of experiences. This means that we have to make intelligible interpretations of its conditions of application. We need to construct complex experiments and procedures for making our hypothesis apply and therefore true if confirmed and false if disconfirmed. In this manner theory and action cannot be separated. Both are related in a context of seeking a solution to a difficulty, which is often conceived as seeking a truth in a situation.

From this basic description of Dewey’s five steps of thinking—difficulty felt, problem defined, solution proposed, reasoning developed and hypothesis accepted or rejected—we can see how education must be a process of applying and embodying these ways of thinking, for education is to recognize problems of life and growth and seek solutions of overcoming problems of life and growth so that one’s life could become fulfilling and significant. Without developing these abilities of thinking and reflection education would have no relevance for the development of the individual and loses both its theoretical and practical meaning. These five steps of problem-solving remind us of the five methodic requirements for the Confucian project of self-cultivation in transforming an individual into a person of clear mind and sincere action as stated in the text of the Zhong Yong: “To learn widely, to inquire carefully, to think deliberatively, to make distinctions clearly, and to act whole-heartedly”. For Confucius, learning is the most basic mode of living because we have to learn from old and new things in life. To learn is to experience and confront difficulties in experience and then learn how to resolve them. One has to use one’s mind to find the solution that inevitably involves the Deweyan notion of inquiry and thinking. The final requirement on action is to follow through one’s knowledge and understanding so that ends can be attained, harmony can be achieved and new difficulties can be discovered and further overcome likewise.

Apparently Dewey’s theory of how to think is funded and predicated on his general reflection of experience. For it is on his reflection of what experience involves that he comes to the logic of inquiry as initiated by asking how we ought to think. But his reflection on experience has revealed more than a logic of inquiry for he comes to see experience to stand for a process of how a whole individual person dynamically comes to relate with the world. Although he does not explicitly appeal to the example of evolutionary adaptation and development of a biological organism in an natural environment, the dynamical relationship between the individual being with his environment is clearly one of confrontation, tension, discovery, linkage and potential future adjustment and attunement. It is up to the response and positive action of the individual to make its own achievement that would also represent the achievement of the species. This response and positive action of the individual in a dynamical tension with environment constitutes what experience could mean for Dewey.

In his 1917 essay “The Need for a Recovery of Philosophy”, Dewey has given five characterizations of “experience” of the human person that embodies a perspective on the evolutionary development. First, experience is more than knowledge, because it involves interaction with the environment on many levels. Knowledge is considered to be derived from experience under rational reflection and organization. Second, experience involves both the objective and the subjective because it is the dynamical identity of the subjective and the objective in which the subjective and the objective become juxtaposed or opposed or aligned. In this sense experience has a metaphysical status of discovering or creating the distinction between the two either to the benefit of the experiencing self or to the harm of it. Hence experience can be said to have two hidden polarities, the subjective and the objective that compete and interact with significant consequence. Third, experience is also temporal which involves past, present and future, all of which come into experience in the form of memory, perception and expectation. In this sense of experience, experience cannot but also involve choice of action based on envisioning possible future consequences and comparative evaluation of the past and present in terms of the future real possibilities and vice versa. Fourth, experience contains a stream of overlapping events and relations and this means that there is an underlying connectedness of happening that link all different and apparently discrete things together.

Finally, experience provides a basis for scientific inquiry in which sense, experience, and reason can be separated and yet related in the relation of testing hypothesis. Given these defining aspects, experience becomes creative development of the individual and seems to perform the role of logos as one finds in the idealistic logic of Hegel. But a more interesting comparison would be again the Confucian notion of learning (xue). As we shall see, learning for Confucius is precisely what experience for Dewey as it involves all the five characteristics of the Deweyan experience: It is the encounter of the human self with the world. It is a discovery of the new in both the subject and the object. It is temporary and open to time. It is to establish relations among things as the way. It is to have knowledge and action.

What is implicit in Dewey ‘s notion of experience is a metaphysics of experience for the development of an individual human person or a human community, which would realize the values of openness, self-adjustment, mutual adjustment and adjustment with the enlarging and changing world. Similarly, what is implicit in the Confucian notion of learning is a metaphysics of self-cultivation for the growth and transformation of the human person which would lead to the achievement of the human morality and human freedom in the web of relationships of people and things. As we can also see, this metaphysics is also premised on the onto-cosmology of creative change of the world in which change is pervasive and creativity is ever present and required. Learning is the process of human self-change and creative transformation of both the human and the world. This philosophy of creative change has been well formulated as the basis and the beginning of Confucian philosophy of man as well as the Daoist understanding of the reality.

Given this comparative understanding of Dewey, it is clear that for Dewey education for morality for a human person becomes both necessary and sufficient. In the first place, both humanity and morality have to be conceived and defined in the context of experience. Humanity has to be moral if it wishes to become human or sustain its humanity. Morality has to be human if it wishes to remain concrete and dynamical for its meaningfulness and usefulness. The inner logic of experience of a human person makes it necessary that we must grow morally and we must grow in sharing and exchange of experiences among human individuals. Morality also becomes ways of seeking fulfillment of our purposes of life in connection with other people that constitute our immediate environment. Morality again is not confined to people alone. It has to be holistic to enclose considerations of larger environment and longer future. To learn from one’s own experience and experiences of others so v we become concerned with what is to be desired for the community and the future is what education for morality requires. Experience as learning therefore cannot confine itself to one level or one dimension, but must involve action and interaction with regard to reason and thought. The ultimate goal of education for morality is to achieve abilities and habits of action for the benefit and well-being of all. But as a process of learning it is also to create a desirable character of a human person and this is made possible and fruitful only when the conditions of learning are optimized and no limit or no ultimate external end is imposed. Nor is there any internal limitation as we can see in so far learning is regarded as a process of self-cultivation. This is because education for morality must be the unfolding of experience from intrinsic need and interest of the learning person or learning organization or community in actions and transactions as it must be the enfolding or embracing of experiences to form virtuous dispositions and moral wisdom. Education for morality therefore needs both an intrinsic direction in the human self as well as an openness of a society of intelligent people. At the same time, finding direction of life, assuring growth of mental ability to achieve values and to keep society open and becoming intelligent all require education for the morality in the sense described. It is with this understanding we see how Dewey in his book Democracy and Education (1916) Dewey introduced education as a necessity of life, as a social function and as direction and as growth.

We can further see how the Deweyan metaphysics of experience and logic of inquiry must conceive education as inevitably inter -wined with formation of a democratic society and the practice of democracy. As we have pointed out, Dewey’s idea of experience is a dynamical force that requires growth of an individual into a community and the embodiment of community in the individual. Because it is in the nature of experience and in the interest of inquiry that we as individuals become integrated in a society of people whose experiences we can share and develop for the benefit of both the individual and the society. Such efforts toward integration and sharing are the essence of education, or put in another word, such efforts of experience to achieve a larger society of people to make intelligent and responsible decisions for the benefit of the society are what education essentially requires. How to organize and design the best way of achieving this social end is dictated by such a conception of education as undergoing experience and moral growth. This means that people must rule by themselves and democracy must be developed and relied upon. In so far as we must conceive education as having a inner moral end, there is no difficulty to further see that education in democracy eventually leads to the realization of fundamental values of individual freedom, communal care and social justice.

To reinforce the relation of experience to education, education to education for morality and education for morality to democracy, we must emphasize that for Dewey, experience is to be commonly shared and commonly explored. It is hostile to dictatorship and authoritarianism whereby a society is made to follow an imposed rule. The openness of human experience requires communication and participation for problem solving and reaching the best solution that could survive the critique and criticism of the public. Hence experience intrinsically demands a learning organization that is democratic. In this sense we also have to see that for Dewey democracy is more than a form of government. He has the following to say: “A democracy is more than a form of government: it is primarily a mode of associated living, of conjoining communicated experience. The extension in space of the number of individuals who participate in an interest so that each has to refer his own action to that of others, and to consider the action of others to give point and direction to his own, is equivalent to the breaking down of those barriers of class, race, and national territory which kept men from perceiving the full import of their activity. Those more numerous and more varied points of contact denote a greater diversity of stimuli to which an individual has to respond; they consequently put a premium on variation in his action. They secure a liberation of powers which remain suppressed as long as the incitations to action are partial, as they must be in a group which in its exclusiveness shuts out many interests.”4

From this it is clear that democracy should refer to an open society allowing plurality of points of view that can be culturally, philosophically and practically simulating. Such a society should be regarded as resulting from an open and orderly development of experience which is educational and which would naturally lead to a mutuality of plurality of positions. To reverse, it is the duty of a democratic society to encourage and sustain an educational process that would refresh and invigorate the democratic understanding and practice. There exist a circle of presupposition and requirement between the education process and the democratic institution just as there is a circle of presupposition and requirement between process of experience and the process of education for morality.

But the intrinsic goal of education and the intrinsic goal of democracy should coincide in providing individuality rooted in society and society centered in individuality and the consequent sense of freedom that emerged from the individualized society and the socialized individual. To envision such a result one must follow Dewey in seeing experience as a general trait of existence. This point of view is developed in his book Experience and Nature 1925. 5

However, for seeing the general pervasiveness of experience in all forms of existence, it is useful to substitute the human-oriented term experience for the neutral term “transaction” we mention above. In a transaction the components of all entities are also subject to change and transformation. In this sense transaction means intra-action and sub-action and hence organic interaction among different levels and across different levels of an organic complex system at work. 6

In describing the transactions among all things in nature, Dewey also brings out the situation and context as basis for identifying single wholes of unique qualities. That things do form single wholes and therefore achieve individuality is a matter of our experience and observation. For Dewey it is through a process of transaction and natural coherence that an individual single whole of existence comes into being with an emerging and self-realizing unique quality.

For Dewey the unique quality of an entity is not imposed from outside. They come into existence by the formation of a context and situation in which elements come to belong to each other. In this sense the unique quality of a whole is a novelty from a situating context. Once it emerges, it is pervasive among all the components of an individual and yet distinguishes the individual as an individual. It is hence creative and unifying. It is inherent in the nature of things or elements of things that the transaction or intra-action and interaction would bring about under appropriate conditions.7

In his work Art as Experience (New York: 1934), Dewey has refined his concept of experience into the concept of an experience, namely into a consummation or fulfillment of a integral quality which pervades an emerging single whole of thing or art work. In this sense the quality is formed from underlying the elements of a thing to be formed, it is a realization of an intrinsic value that is aesthetic in fulfillment but creative in nature. It is because anything that comes into existence must have a quality that can be described as aesthetic or simply as felt. This again means that nothing comes into existence without an aspect that is comparable to our subjectivity as a human person. Yet this formation of subjectivity (or in Whiteheadean terms the subjective aim) is not separate or separable from the whole formation of the entity, which is objective in the open. Perhaps in this sense we must see experience as ontological and ontology as creative and formative. 8

In view of this deeper understanding of experience and transaction, we may see how transaction and formation of things with qualities are interrelated and embody basic creative elements that make experience possible. As such the creative is also contingent and the contingent can contain precarious elements that challenges human experience. There can be different levels of transactions from the physical to soma-psychological to purely mental. Synchronically, there are transactions within an individual to between individuals and between an individual and a group and between group and group. All the transactions have the creative potential to bring new organic entities into being with their pervasive and unique qualities. The whole universe can be considered and seen as a whole of existence with its diachronic and synchronic complexes of transactions that would lead to novel developments. It is on this ground that Dewey has argued that the social is a unique category just like the individual because it is defined as a quality that is social. Similarly we can see how the world or the globe and the cosmic forms unique categories in terms of which transactions and formations of qualities could be detected as the latter gives actually defines the content of these categories. One can also see that the transactions like existence of things have an enlarging scope that is composed of overlapping levels and dimensions and hierarchies of experiences and transactions. As human beings we come across these transactions by our experience that are transactions themselves. We come to know and experience nature as nature becomes modified and impacts on us so that we could make creative advance or became caught in nonproductive stagnation. In this sense we come to experience the interpenetration between man and nature.

For Dewey quality of existence defines the individuality of an entity. Similarly, when our life becomes a whole with a unique quality we achieve our individuality. Since individuality is always founded on the integration of experience, it is predicated on and leading to preferential choice of possibilities open to the experience in relation to things and the world. We are situated in a situation and confined by our situation, and yet as no situation is an enclosure, we are able to exercise our mind as a felt quality for creativity to make the choice of development into a future that we can perceive and acquire as a form of active experiencing. As human beings we can respond to the world situations even though conditioned by our past experiences and history. In being able to exercise our selection and choice we achieve freedom. To be free is not to deny that we are caught in the past as it is the creative action that makes a difference to our future development that we become free. Nor does it suggest violation of natural laws in making choice. This is because with our experience and knowledge we can make use of our knowledge of laws of nature in making our choice toward the future.

Given the above understanding of Dewey’s philosophy of experience and transaction in human and nature and his views on individuality and freedom, we may now draw three main conclusions regarding the Deweyan model for education for morality:

First, it is clear that education as we have described is a process which would lead to the achievement of humanity as a full human person and to become a full human person is to achieve individuality in society and to experience society, which can be creatively integrated in the form of morality and democracy for the development of the individual. With individuality we achieve freedom and with freedom we can look forward to a future that is a both a value and a challenge for continuing realization of humanity and morality for generations to come. Education assures that this process would continue and continue creatively.

There is also the second point: as experience and transaction are universal and pervasive which are integrative activities toward formation of significant wholes and meaningful individuals, we can see education for morality as a process not to be limited to a local or regional or national level. We have to see it to be expandable onto inter-personal, inter-regional, international, and eventually global and cosmic levels. Because on each level we shall witness a process of experience and transaction, and on each level we could also make ourselves available for developing and exploring a process of experience and transaction. Education has to be thus become global and cosmic so that human beings could be not only locally free but globally and cosmically free and so that a more significant world of wider horizon could be achieved which will not overcome conflict but will achieve the essentially aesthetic quality of beauty and goodness. Although Dewey has not discussed or suggested such an expansion of his philosophy of experience and transaction, the spirit of his open and creative thinking on experience makes this expansion not only a possibility but a necessity.

Finally, we may ask why his philosophy of experience and transaction has anything to do with education for morality. What makes the experience moral ? Why is morality most relevant here? Here the reply is, as has been stressed in the above, that morality is inherent in our experience and transactions with other people and our environment leads to moral reflection and moral normalization. Morality is experience, and transaction as experience that leads to individuality rooted in society and society centered in individuality is morality. There are no moralities apart from contexts and situations of actual human experiences, and there are no significant human experiences that cannot be seen as efforts to achieve socialized individuation and individualized social solidarity. Morality is therefore simply our action and motivation toward achieving individuality in society and socialization in the individual self. It is to achieve both individual freedom and social harmony. In this sense any education is a matter of education for morality. There is no moral education apart from education for morality. In fact, when we speak of moral education, we reify morality and forget the context in which morality is moralization and moralization is an experience that makes moral qualities such as integration, freedom and aesthetic experience possible. Dewey has recognized this and has made the most insightful statement in this connection:

“All education which develops power to share effectively in social life is moral. It forms a character which not only does the particular deed socially necessary but one which is interested in that continuous adjustment which is essential to growth. Interest in learning from all the contacts of life is the essential moral interest.” 9

The Confucian Modal Based on Onto-Cosmology of Self-Cultivation

Before I characterize the Confucian model of education, it is important to emphasize the distinction I wish to make between education for morality and moral education. Whereas moral education has an explicit moral objective and moral lessons for educating students accordingly, education for morality is much broader notion than moral education in that it is an education for becoming a human being capable of sustaining and fulfilling his humanity and creating a social context of inter-human relationships of trust and respect, which assures development and fulfillment of the human person.

A human being ‘s becoming moral is a natural consequence of his becoming human. Education for morality therefore includes moral education in the conventional sense, but goes beyond in identifying individual fulfillment and social development as guiding principles. In this sense it focuses on the refinement and cultivation of the human person that would lead to his moral refinement. As a matter of fact, without such a process of education for morality there could not be any context for defining morality of the human person. For it is the human qualities of a person which give rise to his moral qualities such as we could find in the practice of moral virtues, just as it is his moral qualities which lead to moral actions which fulfill the moral requirements for human relationships or membership of a human community. In this sense we can see that the Confucian notion of education is primarily an education for morality, not just moral education, and Confucianism is a philosophy of man and his self-achievement, not just a moral philosophy or moral teaching as earlier Western scholars have conceived.

The Confucian notion of education concerns a core development of the human person toward both individuality and sociality. It is to enable the individual to embody sociality of society and to enable the society to fulfill individuality of the individual. Hence the development of the individual cannot separate itself from different forms of sociality on different levels from parental-filial relationship, family, community, society at large, nation, and globe, world and eventually the whole universe. Nor can the realization of any genuine social affiliation and community be separable from different forms or different stages of individuality on different levels from the natural person, the cultivated person, the sagacious and the sagely. Whereas we can see how relationships grow and extend in scope of perceivable world of space, we must understand and experience how an individual person grows and configures in terms of the quality of his actual ability and behavioral performance in revealing and creating those relationships both within a span of limited time and beyond such a span of limited time. An individual can establish an inspiring model for posterity to emulate and cherish. What an individual can achieve in such a context of development is an individual-in- society or/ and an individual-in- world that embodies values and visions that endow meaning and spirit to the human life.

Many times scholars only see the harmony of social relationships as the hallmark of the Confucian education, and fail to appreciate the freedom and creativity of the individual. Moreover, scholars often interpret the Confucian notion of the individual self as merely a set of social relationships and fail to see the virtuous depth of the individuality, which is both socially and onto-cosmologically significant. Perhaps we must highlight the social harmony that co-exists with the moral freedom and cosmic creativity of the individual as the moral harmony envisioned by Confucius (551-479 B.C.E) and his School. 10 It is the morally desirable social harmony that Youzi speaks of as “he” in the First Chapter of the Analects. As such “he” or moral harmony is “the valuable function from the functions of the li- relationship whereby small and large things are permitted and yet there are still things which would not be allowed.” 11 Such a state of harmony is distinguished by a unity of social reason and individual freedom in which both society and individual reach a state of mutual restraint and mutual support. This of course is what Confucius has conceived to be the goal of the education of the individual and development of society under such education of the individual. The li (translated as ritual, rite, propriety and ceremony) is a difficult term to grasp: but if we see it as collective expression of inner harmony of care and respect achieved or to be achieved within each individual in a society we shall not be far from realizing its intended meaning and reference, which can be extended and enlarged by reflection.

The introduction of li into he is important: li reflects a community in agreement and this agreement although social in nature is rooted in the depth of the human heart or human feelings. Humans can be seen as having human feelings, which can be classified into two kinds: the natural feelings of joy, anger, sorrow and pleasure as conceived by the Zhong Yong. In the Yueji the natural feelings of human person also enclose love, fear and desire. A human individual will exhibit his natural feelings in his encounter and dealing with life matters in connection with other people. He may also respond to nature with these feelings as well. For the Confucian philosophy, feelings are states of hearts which are dispositional and given by nature. Feelings are either aroused or remain un-aroused. When our feelings are not un-aroused, there is a state of equilibrium that is referred to as “central-heartedness”. It is the heart at peace and in rest. But it is still a state of awareness that could be cultivated into a mental alertness of attention and control as Zhu Xi has himself come to see after three years’ reflection on this issue. This means that heart at rest is still mind in awareness. It is perhaps due to the efficacy of this mental awareness that our feelings could be aroused by things and people or even images in our minds.

Although Confucian psychology had not been fully developed in the time of Zhong Yong in 4th Century BC, one can still see how a person could become indignant at injustice and how he could become joyful or happy in being successful. Right feeling for right object is considered a matter of harmonization that is a natural resonance between man and nature such as aesthetically appreciating a beautiful landscape or between one person and another such as receiving a friend. Harmony is therefore conceived as an affective response of the inner with a stimulus of the outer. It is the natural expression and fulfillment of a relation between encounter and experience or the transaction between the inner and the outer. In achieving the harmony of the inner with the outer, the original state of central-mindedness becomes harmonious- minded. This process and end result is considered positive and value-creating. It is a state where an individual becomes realized in a world. There are three points to be made about this achievement of harmony.

First, one may not respond to the right object or in the right situation or one may not respond right to a given situation. One must therefore make efforts to assure a right response in the right context or situation. This means that one needs to come to know and experience the situation correctly. This also means that one needs to control and discipline oneself correctly so that he will naturally and appropriately respond to a situation to avoid negative consequences and harmful effects. This means that harmony is a matter of self-cultivation that requires efforts to achieve a state of freedom and insight. Consequently harmony is not only a matter of social relationship governed by li, but a state of one’s heart-mind which confronts life situations and which has a rich bundle of underlying dispositions.

Second, for the inner harmony to be properly realized as outer harmony one needs to see how central-mindedness is itself a desirable state of harmony just as right resonance with right things is desirable harmony. To be able to act with both at different occasions or time is the wisdom of timeliness of action which by itself exhibits a higher order of harmony which is later described by the Neo-Confucian philosophers Zhang Zai and Zhu Xi as “xin tong xing qing” which will not be explained here. What is important to see is that self-disciple and freedom are two aspects of the same power of the heart-mind. It is on the basis of this unity of the mind that li becomes possible. A subtle point involved here is the generation of ren (humanity, benevolence, love). In so far as one is capable of achieving conscious centrality within a harmony, one must already achieve a feeling state called the ren: the feeling for others in terms of my self-understanding of heart. It is especially experienced when we feel unbearable about the harm to be done to an innocent. It is a feeling for care and love.

It is also to be noted that once ren becomes topically and centrally experienced, one is able to experience other moral feelings that are sources for morality because in any instance of ren one can see roots of other virtues. There is then the feeling for modesty that leads to the development of the rules for li or ritual conduct. There is also the feeling for dignity and self-respect that would lead to development of the virtue and ability to fulfill righteousness and justice. There is also the feeling for distinction between right and wrong that would lead to the virtue of moral wisdom or moral knowledge. Mencius has brought all these four feelings and called them the roots of morality because he sees that the human mind could cultivate them by holding them in mind and make them rules of conduct, reinforced as the basis of human action. It is in this process of developing the roots of morality in one’s feeling hear that Mencius comes to speak of the human nature as the natural abode for human moral feelings. In contrast the basic natural feelings are natural responses to things and events for oneself and hence self-centered. Although they have been classified as two categories of feelings, they are actually intimately connected that they are essentially activities of heart mind and share the same content although the objects and directions of feelings are different. To have inner harmony and outer harmony apparently we need to consider both as important and to be cultivated. The moral harmony is founded primarily on the moral feelings whereas individual harmony within is founded primarily on the natural feelings.

There is one final point about the notion of achieving harmony: by analogy Zhong Yong speaks of the state of centrality and the state of harmony as leading to the formation of the principles of centrality and harmony for the large universe. It says that “In reaching centrality and harmony the heaven and earth become well-positioned and the ten thousand things nourished.” It is important to see how the personal harmony could link to the cosmic harmony and how the cosmic harmony could work in the same way personal harmony works. The harmony of heaven and earth is realized as the two interact to give rise to life as the Book of Changes (Yijing) has described. It is because of the harmonization of the heaven and earth that all lives become possible. Hence we see how onto-cosmology of creativity is implicated in the understanding the Confucian notion of harmony. Harmony now has three levels: the personal and individual, the social and moral, and the onto-cosmic and onto-cosmological. Each illuminates the other and the three form a Confucian vision of the trinity of heaven, earth and man, which is the utmost harmony to be pursued and achieved. This is the ultimate goal for the Confucian education to attain. This goal is no doubt an onto-cosmology founded on onto-ethics and vice versa.

Now the question is: How does the Confucian education reach for such an ideal state of the human development and why? The answer lies in the realization that a human being is an existent endowed with feelings and capacity to think, to know, to reflect, to wish, and to desire. It is a given fact that we have to recognize in ourselves and in others by our feelings and reflection and observation. This is what is given to us: we have a mind to feel and a body to act. We are given to be not totally determined by what are given, for we are given what is not presently realized in the given. The given and the determining is what Confucius called the ming (the commanded, determined, order and restraint) whereas what is not given and the indeterminate is called the xing (nature, disposition, creative force, the deep order and the commanding). Confucius does not speak of the nature too often in the Analects. But in the Great Appendix of the Yizhuan or the Commentaries of the Yijing the development of which is inspired by Confucius in his old age, it is said that “What has succeeded from the source is good and what has completed is the nature or xing”. 12 Hence xing (here we called the human nature in the Confucian philosophy) has two aspects: it is rooted in the deep reality of the world and hence an expression of the dao (the way of truth) and it is the disposition to create and complete. It is in this sense that Mencius came to elaborate on the xing of the human person: xing as natural expression and natural activity of the self or the human person as befitting a human person.

This understanding of the xing is to contrast with Mencius’s recognition of the well-formed functions of the human body such as his sensation and his desires and appetite of food and sex together with their limitations. This aspect of human life, which he called the ming, is also an elaboration of the Confucian idea of the ming. Ming is given, cannot be easily changed, yet it is necessary for maintaining our life and living out our life in the world. Ming as the determining factor of human life is also subject to limitations and causal influences of the physical world and human actions of other people and hence a contingency of conditions.

For both Confucius and Mencius, ming may not be easily changed. But for Mencius ming can be contained by our knowledge of our conditions of existence and with our nature seeking realization of our potential as a human person. This means that we can “rectify our destiny” (zhengming) and not to lead a life of wantonness and irresponsibility.13 The idea of zhengming perhaps could be also extended to include how to nourish our life and to do nothing which is warranted by our nature to seek realization of the good. On the other hand, the xing is not only experienced as a desire and ability to realize the potential ability of the individual person, it is experienced as to feel for the good (like the good) and to feel against the bad (dislike for the bad). Both good and bad are to be experienced and known as actions and creations which would benefit others not just the self, and in so benefiting extend and fulfill the self toward establishing a solidarity of family and community.

Even a human being is not born with ready-made ideas and knowledge, he has the subtle ability and capability to learn and transmit what is learned as a way of living and survival. The idea of adaptation I mentioned earlier has suggested the meaning of seeking a state of reconciliation of the inner abilities with outer conditions so that life can flourish. Human intelligence develops as a result and human condition improves as a result. This can be construed as a change of the human condition which is ming by the human power of creativity which is xing. In making change of the ming by xing we must come to distinguish good from bad, right from wrong, true from false, beautiful from ugly, just from unjust, fair from unfair.

All these terms signify the way in which the xing overcomes the ming, the indeterminate modify the determined and re-determine the determined. Morality is simply an aspect of this re-determination and creative modification of the destiny and human condition by the human creativity whereas what is determined would always pose as a restraint and restriction for the free application of one’s creative power. Yet any change of the human condition or ming means a new condition coming into being and at the same time a new creative power to be developed to face this new condition.

Morality, knowledge and values of aesthetics become meaningful in this context of xing-ming mutual interaction and functions as guides and goals for the human person to pursuer and follow for developing his creative capability of the xing. Hence for Mencius the human life is not just a natural event devoid of self-consciousness of values and directions. On the contrary, the bland fact is that human life is given with mental abilities such as consciousness, perception and desire and will. To educate is to become aware of one’s ability and consciousness of what one naturally is like and what it is good to like. It is a process to develop and cultivate oneself toward more self-control and more self-creative activities in achieving a larger self in relation to others and in reference to the source of one’s existence that is also the ideal goal for emulation and incorporation.

It is important to note that the rectification of one’s ming by one’s xing not only leads to the recognition to the creativity of the human person, and not only leads to the establishment of the morality as an inner dimension of one’s relation to the world, but it leads to the recognition of the ultimate source of one’s nature or xing which is also the source of one’s limitation or the human condition. This unity of xing and ming in the ultimate source of the two is the ming of the heaven (tianming or the mandate of heaven). Although the idea of tianming comes from an earlier source of seeking justification of political rule over people by a ruler, it acquires a meaning that is deeply ontological, cosmological and even religious in the texts of Confucian discourse.

Confucius speaks of knowing the tianming (zhi tianming) in the sense that one comes to know what one’s mission in life is despite one’s given limitations in life. The tian (heaven) as the source and the goal of life gives justification and meaning to one’s life so that one may live one’s life with self-assurance and with enthusiasm and will toward what one can do and what ought to do despite limitations. The idea of tianming overrides the simple idea of ming. One accepts one’s destiny and condition without subjugating oneself to it. It suggests a dimension of the self, which is a realization of the identification of oneself with one’s source of creativity. It is on this basis of self-justification and self-understanding that Confucius is able to proceed to the stage of creative flexibility toward things in the world, and to the stage of sustaining freedom of action and freedom of spirit within the bounds of righteousness and self-discipline. It is in this sense that the moral education of Confucianism comes to an ideally desirable end.

With this framework of development of the human person, we can go back to the very beginning of the development in terms of self-cultivation in the Confucian philosophy of man. Self-cultivation (xiuji or zixiu) is a process whereby the human self comes to recognize three things in itself: namely to recognize itself as having the creative power to seek a desirable end, to recognize itself as having limitations to be overcome, and to recognize itself as having resources and abilities to be shaped and developed. Hence self-cultivation is a process of self-development, self-integration and self-application in the process of living and relating to other people as one’s life cannot be separate from other people from the very beginning of human life. Human life and human nature are inevitably social and society-rooted.

For Confucius, it is natural for a human being to develop himself and his life on a society-oriented basis. But in order to consciously develop one’s life in this social direction, one must be attentive to one’s feeling for others in contrast with the instinctive feeling for oneself. To feel for others is to regard and care for others and it is to treat others as myself so that I would not do things to others that I would not do to myself under natural circumstances. It is in this sense Confucius comes to speak of the ren (translated as good-heartedness, humanity, inter-humanity, love, benevolence) as essence of my being.

This realization of the feeling for others can be deepened and expanded to apply to those people close to me to people less and less close to me. It may be also applied and extended to living beings and things in the world, not just people. For living and sentient beings one may recognize the sacredness of life in such a way that any destruction of life is considered as a destruction of something akin to me and hence not desirable on my own part. For inanimate nature a sense of purposiveness and feeling of natural harmony and beauty in me would prevent me from causing any harm and disturbance in nature. This is an instance of the application and deepening of the sense of ren not only because it shows how ren could be a sentiment to be extended to achieve a sense of unity and harmony of all things but because it is a result of my self-realization of a natural sense of beauty and harmony from one’s heart-mind devoid of selfishness and obscuration, a heart mind of bright virtues and heart mind to reflect the ideal all- comprehensive harmony and creativeness of the heaven and earth and their source-end. It is in this deepened and expanded sense of ren that Zhou Dunyi (1017-1073) does not even wish to cut the grasses in his courtyard and that Wang Yangming (1472-1529) considered breaking the rock would create harm. This also shows how ren for Confucius is such a subtle and fundamental power within the bosom of men that we must take it seriously so that it defines our life in general and gives meaning and depth to each of our individual lives.

To have self-cultivation is to develop this quality of feeling of ren in oneself. It is the quality that also determines the abilities to do the right and to achieve the good. In the first place, ren as a feeling is a basis for human action, which, under proper circumstances will bring about good. The motivation toward good by ren feeling in the human person needs to be supported by knowledge and other considerations in order to bear the fruit of beneficence. It is because the world is both concrete and complex which is composed on various relationships across time or history and across space.

We need a way to lead to the right result or desirable end from one’s good will and ren-motivation. To know one’s way is to have understanding of the common values and desirable ends, which human beings have envisioned. It is to know the culture (wen) and the language (yan). To know one’s way is also to have understanding of specific contents of one’s emotions in relation to under normal circumstances or under unusual circumstances. It is to know the way of how to relate to people. Hence it is to know the rites or proper behavior (li) and proper music (yue) for the promotion and preservation of the best human sentiments of sharing and responding, which are manifestations of the sentiment of ren. It is to know how to treat others with fairness and righteousness (yi) so that things will maintain a desirable order of rank and file for the benefit of all in the society. It is to know how to rule and govern as a leader and to influence people so that maximum benefit and long term good could obtain. But to know all these one must keep learning and one must learn from a teacher to facilitate, to initiate and to reinforce the learning. It is clear then that education for Confucius is a matter of learning and keeping learning and learning from a teacher which will serve the in-depth need of self-cultivation, which in turn develops and nourish the formation and fruition of the humanity in a human person.

Learning (xue) and teaching (jiao) are the most fundamental abilities that human beings have acquired in the human evolution. Both characters of xue and jiao have to do with educating the young and the child, because it is in the young and the child that we see how the indeterminate creativity of the self could be cultivated and how the conditions of limitations could be overcome. Education starts with xue on the part of the young and with jiao on the part of the older generation. It is both natural and dutiful that the old generation must stimulate and provision the process of learning for the young, and this is the jiao in the basic sense. But there is a deeper sense of the jiao, namely jiao as a transmission of cultural values and moral visions of humanity from generation to generation. Education as jiao is hence regarded as a sacred mission to initiate learning and to transmit a valuable content. It is Confucius who started to treat teaching as such a sacred mission of teaching the young to be human and transmitting the dao for fulfilling humanity. He has never felt tired with learning or bored with teaching. 14

Although we need not to argue that Confucius starts the tradition of teaching the dao as Han Yu (768-824) argued and Zhu Xi (1130-1200) expounds, it is quite clear the in the development of Confucianism to teach is to transmit the Confucian Classics as the valuable content of the dao. Hence to learn is essentially to continue the Confucian culture that the tradition has preserved through the history. This no doubt has the counter-effect of a backward-looking rigidity, which freezes the Confucian spirit of education. The Confucian spirit of education as learning and teaching is one of understanding, valuating human culture as forms and vehicles for humanization in order to create new forms and nourish new life and new vision. Hence, regard for and attention to human culture and civilization from history is always regarded as a matter of preserving standards and reasons for justification which are the jumping board for new standards and new reasons of moral behavior of understanding to be derived from the impact of the new on the old. This aspect of Confucian education on culture and civilization is actually embodied in the concept of education as learning and teaching in the words of Confucius. 15 It is in this sense that the li-rites as rules governing our social life and social interaction among people can be also seen as symbols and high marks of the achievement of culture. Confucius says that “ If a person does not know the li, he is not to find his place in the world” (buzhili, wuyili). 16 To educate hence is to teach and learn the li. It is at the same time to restrain oneself in one’s regard for others that is ren in order to perform and sustain the li as social order and social values. But as one has the initial feeling for others, to teach and to learn to awaken this basic feeling of ren so that one becomes self-conscious of his social bonding and at the same time achieve his self-autonomy as a moral person.

Confucius takes teaching and learning seriously to the extent that one must see the formation of moral virtues in oneself as a result of learning as well as a result of self-cultivation. To learn is to learn from something outside, but to learn could also be understood to learn from learner’s oneself when one becomes aware of oneself. To learn is therefore an integral part of the self-cultivation process which link to the outside world by learning from experience of the world and things through help of teaching. In this sense of learning, learning is not to learn knowledge, but to learn how to act and how to think and how to adjust oneself to the world and to learn how to transform oneself according to an end and to achieve a goal for the society. In these sense learning and teaching are creative activities of the human heard-mind whose results are to make changes of the world and oneself. Hence it is said in the Analects that “The superior man learns in order to reach the Way ”. 17 It is also said in the Zhongyong that “What is given by heaven is called the nature, to follow the nature is called the way, and to cultivate the way is called the teaching.” 18 It is obvious from these two sayings that learning and teaching share the same core values and the same goal; they are respective paths to make an individual harmonized with the society and the world. The Way is the way of creating harmony in the world, not just knowledge but power and ability of practice. Hence Confucius says that “The superior man in learning the Way comes to love people.” 19

In the same vein of education for the self-cultivation of the individual person in relation to the world, the Daxue’s list of eight steps from investigation of things and extension of knowledge to bringing peace to the world is a summation of the reflection on the learning process as well as the teaching program. It is an agenda for self-learning and self-teaching. To say this I wish to stress the fact that in learning we accumulate our experiences and we need to integrate them into forms of knowledge and understanding so that we may act on them toward changing our selves and the world. But in organizing our experiences into forms of knowledge and principles of action we should reflect and teach ourselves with regard to formation of rules and principles. We need also adopt an external point of view so that the heart mind of oneself could come to see the importance of discipline and organization. On the other hand, in learning we must have an internal point of view from which one has to relate what we have learned to the core of values we have embraced and learned or relied on so that we may grow in terms of re-organizing and reconstituting ourselves. We need both external and internal points of view in order to achieve a state of emotional equilibrium and holistic development of structure and principles. It is in the sense that learning and teaching are important for the unification of the inner and the outer as the Zhongyong has said. 20

It is in light of this unification of the inner and outer we can also see how Zhu Xi and Wang Yangming has each made a respective contribution to the process of self-education and self cultivation. For Zhu Xi we should start with investigating things outside us so that our understanding will be stimulated and eventually thoroughly awakened to achieve a state of illumination that is also an ability to see reason and ground for making judgment for action and relation. It is on the basis of this knowledge and self-understanding that one can become truly aware of what one wants and how to achieve what one wants. For him the zhengyi (the sincerity of one’s intention) and zhengxin (rectifying one’s heart-mind) follows from such an inquiry into the principles of things and attainment of knowledge. On the other hand, Wang Yangming takes the sincerefication of one’s heart and self-determination of one’s will as the basis for achieving good and transforming knowledge into action. Hence he comes to reinterpret the text of the Daxue in an innovative way for which some scholars may regard as a distortion of the meaning of the words such as kewu and zhizhi. 21 For him investigation of things is to rectify affairs of man and to zhizhi is to reach out for the innate awareness of the truth and good one seeks. His disagreement with Zhu Xi could appear drastic. One may end up in seeing a debate and dispute without ending.

But if we put the interpretation of texts aside, one can see that each philosopher looks only on a point of beginning in a circle of connected ending and beginning and forgets to see that our heart mind actually works in both unifying or integrative and diversifying or differentiating fashion. Why could the human mind both know things from outside and at the same time become aware of one’s desire for good from inside? Jut as learning and teaching could happen at the same time, so knowing and deciding to act could happen at the same time as they have been always the two aspects of a holistic entity which we call the heart-mind. There is co-concurrence of the two and there is also the interaction or transaction between the two so that we could come to genuine understanding of both what and how. Moral knowledge is a form of knowledge which is both understanding of what and how. One cannot know the end without knowing the means to the end and vice versa as Dewey has argued. It is in this dynamical interaction that knowledge and action becomes unified, and specifically it is in this intimate transaction that morality and wisdom become formed as one. If we go back to Confucius and Mencius, we see this dynamical unity and creative interdependence of knowledge and action, morality and wisdom as this is the ultimate end for the development and education of man which Confucius calls self-cultivation.

It must be also pointed out that this Confucian view of education as self-cultivation has many consequences. It has made man the center of education, namely man is both the object and subject, both end and means. It is thoroughly a humanistic in orientation. But it is not to confine education to the human self: it is to cultivate the human self into an awareness of the larger reality from one close relations of the family to the whole university. Nevertheless, all the learning and education are around the relationships. It is in this sense that man can be united with the heaven and earth by extending his feelings and disposition to act in great emphasis of ren which is the highest achievement of becoming a person. Daxue stresses bringing order and peace to the whole world, while Zhongyong stresses participating in the creative activities of generation and transformation of the cosmos. But all these must be rooted in the heart-mind of the individual. It must flow and be developed from the innermost of the person to the outer and the outmost of the world, to then return back to the inner and the innermost of the person. This means that we should beware of the inner harmony of the self in order to achieve harmony of the world by enlarging this harmony and preserving the creative efforts behind it.

The question may be raised whether this expansion of the heart-mind feeling of ren will bring us knowledge of the objective world as the world as object. My answer is no. On the contrary it is to bring value to the world in the world. It is not to detach the human from the world and thus achieve knowledge of the world independently of human feelings as one does in strict scientific inquiry. To say this however is not to undermine the great significance of the Confucian model of education but to see how it could be complemented with a model of scientific inquiry in which scientific knowledge could be attained. Once we have the scientific knowledge we could then incorporate it into a program of benefiting humanity with our good will. This suggests that the Confucian model could be integrated with the Deweyan model in acquisition and application of the knowledge of the world.

Toward Complementation of the Two Models: Self-Cultivation on Experience and Practice

At this point it is relevant to inquire how these two models of education stand in relation to one another. While the Confucian model could be enriched in the area of scientific knowledge of objects by the Deweyan model of education, it serves as a reminder to the Deweyan model that the human person needs a process of self-cultivation as an internal aspect of human development. It has been pointed out that the exclusive engagement with scientific inquiry could lead to an alienation of the human self from the world of value and self-integration. It could leave the self aside as an emotionally impoverished and unordered entity deprived of internal link to other people. It may also lead to a state of value neutrality or a vacuum of moral values and moral vision. Even though the Deweyan model is set up to overcome such modern dualisms in Western Culture and mental habits, the lack of a central idea of self-cultivation would lead individuals to pursue mere possession of great knowledge and technology of science at the expense of developing an internal strength and moral vision for the world of humanity. Hence a Confucian reminder of the humanistic understanding in education is most needed and desirable as a new base for human growth before one is carried away by the objective knowledge of the world. We simply need to recognize the importance of the integration of humanity from family to community and from community to the world and even to the whole universe based on human self-understanding.

It is also important to point out that while Dewey’s model has stressed the importance of transaction as a universal action and process in the world of things, not only in the human experience. It is equally necessary to point out that the Confucian model of education has implicitly based itself on the philosophy of the Yijing, which may be said to provide an insight into the nature of reality and first promote the importance of experiential encounter and transaction. It is known now for sure that Confucius came to study the Yijing in his later age and he regarded this ancient work as providing the basis for understanding of human nature and nature of things. One may see from the Yizhuan how Confucius and his disciples came to see a world of onto-cosmology in terms of which not only things and life of people are interpreted and understood as results of creative changes of the heaven and earth, yet also to see how morality of care for others and morality of self-cultivation rises. The cosmic process and picture becomes a basis for moral and political improvement and transformation toward good because it is in the universal change of things and in the formation of harmony and disharmony among things and people that one comes to see how creativity and contingency are related. For the education of man, one must pay special attention so that he would not be wont to bring harm and destruction to the world and his own self. The emphasis on harmony for continuous renewal and transformation is the final message one must learn in learning to become oneself. It is in this final grounding one may come to see how Dewey’s philosophy of experience and transaction could be linked to the Confucian interpretation of the philosophy of the Yijing. In fact, the very notion of transaction could be simply described as an activity and relation of creative change in terms of exchange and differentiation in unity and integration in difference.

In this connection it is important to point out how the experience of self-understanding and self-cultivation in Confucianism functions in a world which is objectively real and which is constantly changing as described in the Yizhuan, the Confucian Commentary of the Yijing. This experience could be analyzed in five steps. In this first place (1), the changes of the world are observed, categorized and described in the symbolic representation of natural changes known as yin and yang forces, which forms the system of trigrams and hexagrams in the Yijing. This system of representation corresponds to complex events and processes of change in the nature by interpretation, which arises through reflection on the integration and differentiation of forces of change. Or to put in a different way, complex events are interpreted by human mind to correspond to complex organizations of the yin-yang forces through experience and understanding. Then comes the experience of the pattern and order that emerges holistically from organized experiences of the individual or the collective of individuals. This is the second step (2).

Given this naturalistic dynamic account of the reality as an order, the third step is to see human meaning and practical significance based on human needs for purposive action and pursuit of rational understanding. This third step (3) would then consist of drawing human and normative conclusions based on analogical and intuitive, yet holistic projection of human feelings. Human minds would work by way of “semantic ascent” which not only reaches for theoretical meaning but works toward a practical valuation and formation of norms and rules for action towards ends in view. This is vividly exemplified in the formation of the Xiang Commentary from the Tuan Commentary in the Yizhuan of the Yijing whereas Tuan gives an onto-cosmological account of the change-reality, the Xiang sees in this account how the human person applies to himself in both describing his situation in human terms and prescribing a way of action for the good or end in view of the person. The world of onto-cosmology is then transformed into the world of moral and practical axiology. The good example is the re-description and prescription of the Qian Hexagram described as creative activity of the heaven. The Xiang prescription is that “The heaven is moving strongly, therefore, the superior man must act toward self-strengthening without cessation.” 22

The fourth step (4) is the sharing of experience with other people in achieving inter-subjectivity or objectivity of his experience of change in the onto-cosmological description and practical normative prescription. This is to be achieved by what Quine has called “semantic agreement” which reflects a common use of language in identifying experiences (subject-object relations) and things in the world. 23 Once the agreement is achieved, the norms and rules for action would acquire moral meaning in so far as they pertain to the benefits and harms, order and disorder, uplifting and lowering of life quality. Finally (5), it is Confucius who brings inner strength of human self in terms of its care and devotion to others and life in general to bear on the timely achievement of the human world of culture and moral values as basis for future development of the humanity. He has come to see a unity of the human and the heaven in an ideal end in which the human factor would be naturalized and the natural factor would be humanized. This no doubt pertains to the transformation of the human world and human person in the context of relating to the world of changes on many levels.

These five steps represent five levels of experience of the human person in relation to reality of change: the experience of the change, the experience of order, the experience of the norm, the experience of the social and the moral, and the experience of creativity in unity. In light of these five steps of experience of the human self-understanding, the experiences of change as represented in a naturalistic phenomenological symbolism give rise to an onto-cosmological system of reference to reality by human mind’s interpretative integration and differentiation of the human experiences, which in turn are transformable into a world of values and moral actions of the human person in the social world. This forms a hierarchical system of experiences in the Confucian philosophy of humanity, which can be easily seen to resonate with Dewey’s proactive account of experience and transaction as the basic mode of existence of human person and nature.

However, at this point we may make a very important observation, namely, although Confucius and Dewey may share the same language of experience with regard to reality, there is a divergence of focus, orientation and articulation. Whereas for Dewey’s experience of change would lead to an empirical and objective inquiry into the world of change which gives rise to scientific theories and gives us control of nature by way of design of technology, for the Confucian, the world of change leads one to concentrate on his own behavior and reflect in one’s mind on what a human person needs to do in order to avoid disasters and blunders. This search leads to the project of self-cultivation and development of morality of self-discipline. What is even more philosophical to note is that the language of change transforms itself into the language of moral psychology and active mind for the Confucian model, whereas the language of change reduces to language of physical laws in science for the Deweyan model. The Confucian language is first-person and descriptive of the feelings of the human self in action whereas the Deweyan language is third-person and describes human experiences as temporal events in a corporeal world. Both languages are needed as we need to refer both the world of things and the world of human mind. Both are needed for relating what is, to what ought to be, nature to man, subject to object, and outer to inner. In this sense both the Deweyan and the Confucian model are two sides of the same coin. They start from the same origin and they aim at the same result and end.

Following the tradition of naturalism and pragmatism started by Peirce and continued by James in America, Dewey has conceived human life as a challenge to overcome problems he encountered in his interaction with the environment that is characterized by change and precarious elements. It is a challenge to his judgment and intelligence so that he may understand those problems in life and manage to solve them by organizing his own resources and act toward a foreseeable end in view. The relevance of Confucianism for this view is that the world is indeed a world of change as Confucius has taken the onto-cosmology of the Yijing as the basis of his worldview, as we also see being presupposed in the Analects.

There are no doubt many points of difference between these two models with their different philosophical traditions, but those differences only serve to make these two approaches more interesting and attractive as they overlap and yet enrich each other. Perhaps we can see how Confucianism makes it possible for Dewey’s philosophy of experience and transaction to relate to the Confucian social-moral values of many sorts such as xiao (filial piety), di (brotherly respect), zhong (loyalty), xin (integrity) and ren (co-humanity) and perhaps a natural piety (jing) toward to human origins and human destiny (in terms of religious sentiments) and how Deweyan pragmatism and experimentalism could makes it possible for Confucius’s onto-cosmology of change and moral-political to relate to science, democracy and even religion in a modern context.

Professor Joseph Grange in his recent book Confucius, Dewey and the Global Philosophy (Albany, 2004) has raised the question on how to understand and deal with terrorism which arises from absolute terror from a Deweyan stance. In a world of terror we have no love, no trust and respect among men and nations. To avoid such a dissolute prospect of the human for the human future, we have to face the question on how to dissolve absolute terror by dissolving absolute freedom and restore a world order governed by good will, love, trust and respect for others. To answer this question is to come to see the relevance of both Confucianism and John Dewey, and to see their mutual relevance and mutual reinforcement. It is to come to see the relevance of development and embodiment of ethics of humanity and ethics of harmonization, which is Confucianism. It is to make a new departure from open-mindedness and dynamic engagement, which is Deweyan pragmatism. 24

Grange comes to his deep insight: terrorism arises from loss of freedom because some people come to believe in “absolute freedom”. A terrorist would be an individual devoid of Confucian ren, harbors no respect for law and order and sets his mind on nothing but total destruction, including destruction of himself. He acts on an agenda of ruin and violence that knows no limits and no bounds, not to say no self-restraint and no regard for others. Such an individual shows utter loss of the power of self-reflection and self-examination and because of his hatred or selfishness has become blind to the impulse of life that contains seed of love. It is true that hatred brings hatred and small hurt when not absolved by self-reflection and love would accumulate to heavy blows. In this process absolute freedom toward destruction is a result of many causes, the main one of which is rooted in lack of self-cultivation of the human person in the beginning. Without such a beginning in self-cultivation, even an original freedom of good will in man could be lost because selfish desires and greed and sense of arrogance of power could rise randomly which would eclipse the original humanity of ren toward the world.

To say we could have and perhaps we should have an original freedom of good will is to say the obvious: for all lives there is none which in its normal state would wish self-destruction nor destruction of others as a way of ending life. Yet we may absolutize this freedom of good will which we may detect in our designing of a social system such as the market economic system in the West and the system of political and social individualistic values, which is the basis for the economic theory. Absolute freedom would therefore evolve from lack of self-examination and self–restraint, leading to an overbearing of our sense of power and an overwhelming of our better senses due to our selfishness and lack of consideration and wisdom. It is present in a system which we forget to examine from time to time and where we do nothing to improve even in new contexts of life. In this way we gradually become entrenched in a system of slow deterioration, which may, in virtue of its accumulative effects, lead to a catastrophic subversion of the absolute freedom in the positive and creative sense.

With this understanding, even though we may believe in the original freedom of good will, we may still collapse in a state of corruption without warning that will destroy the system as a whole. It is because we lack continuity of supervision and an effort to cultivate our will and renew our commitment to a program of self-discipline for order and reason. Without such effort on our part, it is totally possible that the positive freedom of a will will engender and bring out negative freedom by producing evil or harm, not consistent with the original good will of the self. In short, absolute will, due to deficiency of self-discipline, self-regulation and self-cultivation, could fall into a state of selfishness, which would lead to harm and destruction. It will further degenerates into the formation of anti-moral or anti-ren feelings which know no restraint and no limitation. It will eventually generate its opposite, the absolute will of evil intentions, which of course is absolute terrorism.

How are Confucius and Dewey relevant for a global philosophy of education for morality, or for that matter, a global ethics for treating each other in the world of many traditions and many peoples?

To expound on the part of Confucius, Grange takes the norm of action called silver rule “Do not do to others what you do not want others do to you” seriously and call its transgression hypocrisy. This reminds us of the use of the word xiang-yuan in the Analects. A xiang-yuan is the thief of the virtue (dezhizei), because he pretends to be virtuous and then uses appearance of virtues to serve his anti-virtue desires and selfish interests. This is a case of conscious self-deception (ziqi). We might as well point out the case of unconsciousness of self-deception on the part of one who may not be conscious of his self-deception because he lacks self-examination or self-introspection on his motives for action. It is relevant here to point out that it is because of this possibility, Zengzi in the Analects speaks emphatically of the importance of examining (xing) oneself three times a day: ‘’I examine myself three times a day: In dealing with others, have I been faithful? In associating with friends, have I being honest? In learning and transmitting, have I done any reviewing and reflection?“25 It is also because of his recognizing the importance of this inner restraint that Zisi, the author of the Zhongyong, stresses the need for sincerity of intention (chengyi). It is in the self-aware effort to maintain a feeling of sincerity (cheng) that one can generate the genuine good will, a will which is directed to the enlargement of the human self, and which is directed to the good of the world which would lead to harmony by mutual understanding, mutual respect and mutual support. This is the starting point which will lead to the understanding of the world as our home in which all people deserve my care and love.

With sincerity as a starting point and with dedication to a process of self examination and self-cultivation, one then come to speak of ren as an act of self-discipline giving rise to the order of the society and world. This is called “disciplining oneself and practicing the right (kejifuli). 26 In Confucianism, therefore, these are two components of the cardinal concept of ren (I rendered co-humanity). They can be respectively described as the component of self-integration (being thoroughly sincere and integral, zhong) and the component of others-caring (shu). The first component is important in the first place because it would wipe out the roots of deterioration and self-deception, conscious or unconscious, in preparing for care for others, the requirement in the second component. As Zhongyong says, it leads to mind illumination (ming), which is basis for acquiring genuine knowledge of the world and people. This is then the beginning of the moral or virtuous self that is the foundation of the ethical action. There cannot be genuine ethical action without an ethical self that thinks ethically or with the sincere heart and sincere desire to care and benefit others.

This is also the normative component of others-caring in Confucius’s thinking for ren, for this maintains the genuine desire of self-restraint and regard for others as a constant requirement for action. In this sense one can both act and refrain from action in so far as what one acts on is a sincere desire of oneself toward self-cultivation and self-improvement and a desire to help others just as one helps oneself. This is what Confucius has said as “If one wises to establish oneself, one needs to establish others (just like what others would like to establish themselves), and if one wishes to reach for an end one needs to help others to reach for their ends of life”. 27 This presupposes an extension of one’s heart-mind to others, so that one can come to feel and respect what others feel and wish. Not only simply to understand and respect what others feel and wish, but to actively help others to achieve their ends is what ren eventually comes to be. For Confucius, ren is no doubt to be found in oneself in so far one would engage in looking into oneself. It is naturally given to us as we see the rotating of day and night is naturally given to earth. Later Mencius came to speak of humanity (ren) as nature (xing) : ren is the nature of man because in the nature of man we find an act of free will which is also an act of good will, unbounded by selfish desire, but instead guided by one’s continuous self-limitation, self-examination, and self-cultivation. Ren in this sense is a natural feeling unpolluted by bias and environmental factors: it has its root and source in Nature, the overall reality revealed in the creativity of the universe, which we could come to envision and identify in our consciousness of the heaven and even in our consciousness of the “mandate of the heaven” (tianming).

To expound on the part of Dewey, Grange stresses that the key approach is openness. He says that openness is the cure for hypocrisy. What he means by that is that we should open ourselves to what reality teaches and to facts and their causes. Apparently there is also the unsaid openness of reason that harbors no fear and no bias. He asks us to examine “how our conduct has damaged others. “ He asks us to use a “wider moral imagination” in order to find the “right fit between strained relations” and to let “greater balance and growth develop out of conflicted experience”. Here we have an essential Deweyan point: There is always the precarious, the unstable and the unsettled in our experience of the world. We need develop our “felt intelligence” to find solutions which must consist of a fittingness which we could also call fair and just. There is no one set of ideological principles that will settle all problematic situations. Besides, we need not confine ourselves to one fixed set of values at the expenses of other sets of values. Here Grange is explicit with his criticism of the American mentality that is fixed on free market economy and primacy of individualism as a possessive profit-seeker. He even suggests that we revamp our educational curriculum so that we would be educated to be able to respond with tact and effectively to various needs of life in our experience with the world. The Americans have to learn love of freedom “ in concert with others.” (italics his). In this we no doubt read a deep Confucian message: “If you wish to establish yourself, establish others; if you wish to attain an end, allow others to attain their ends.” (jiyuli er liren, jiyuda er daren). 28

Again the Deweyan point is that we have to preserve freedom of ours in preserving the freedom of others. When we seek freedom and interest of ours at the expense of others, there will be undesirable consequences. For Dewey the desirable, not the desired, is the norm for our action and there cannot be recognition of this desirable without opening oneself to experience in a context of interaction and transaction with others. This is of course also the Confucian point: If we seek our own success without regard for successes of others and even at the expense of others, we cannot be truly successful and truly free, for there will imbalance of opportunities, resources and consequences disharmony of relations.

Finally, we should say a word about the mutual relevance between Confucius and Dewey with regard to human relationships. As pointed out by Grange, both Confucius and Dewey have taken social relations as the core of their thinking. Whereas Confucius wishes to achieve an order of li, namely an order founded on mutual human regards for each other and institutions and customs dedicated to achieve the right and the righteous, Dewey also wishes to encourage development of ends and means as values and norms which would guide our actions toward a larger and fitting social order which would resolve conflicts and open our common horizons of life. Both would ask us to be responsive and responsible for our actions so that we could lead a creative and progressive life toward order and harmony in which all individuals would have a place and feel satisfied. This order and this harmony are the whole of our experience that should include our history, our present and openness to the future. This means that our mind must be kept open and we must feel ready to renovate ourselves when new conflict and new problem arises. Dewey’s idea of the precarious in the experience serves as a warning to us for keeping with careful thinking and considerate action when others are involved.

In the case of Confucius, I like to say, we must not forget the observation on the precarious in the human heart-mind in the ancient sage-king Yu’s sixteen words motto, which runs as follows: “The heart of the dao is imperceptible whereas the heart of man is dangerous. Hence one should be careful not deviate from the righteous and the appropriate, and always holds the central point of balance “. 29 This motto emerges to become the basis for self-cultivation of any one who wishes to strive for balance and appropriateness in life. The great transforming power of ren holds the key to the solution of conflicts and the development of a new horizon of humanity, consisting in enhancing creative harmony and advancing freedom among men. Dewey’s sharp observation on experience becomes extremely relevant for the Confucian ethics of humanity and righteousness that is matter of developing the “felt intelligence” in daily practice. The openness of experience for all men would also herald for mutual respect for all people regarding traditions and systems of values (including world religions), which would lead to more openness and more consistency of comprehension. This means again that democracy like justice must be a fundamental value for both Deweyan philosophy and Confucian philosophy, which eventually converge and enhance and enrich each other for a better and more peaceful world and a more enlightened humanity. The value of ren will prevail as a consequence of our experience of the world and life if we take our experience of life and our humanity truly seriously, that is, if we truly care for an education for morality in the global and cosmic context.


1 Charles Peirce has introduced a form of reasoning called “abduction”, which is to accentuate the necessity or probability of making a relevant hypothesis for explaining and predicting a given phenomenon stated in a statement This statement would be a conclusion of the abductive reasoning. It is obvious that abduction, in opposition to adduction (or deduction) and induction, is a bold move away from a given scene but a powerful move for saving and “mastering” the given scene. We may define “abductive education” as a form of education toward free play of mind for imaginative creation in arts and science.

2 It has been pointed out that Dewey has characterized what he has previously called an organic interaction as a transaction, see his “Interaction and Transaction” in Knowing and the Known in Boston: 1949, written with A.F.Bentley.

3 See his book “How to Think”, 1910.

4 See John Dewey, Education and Democracy, page 87.

5 One sees here the possible influence of Dewey on Whitehead in latter ‘s formation of the notion of process of actual events as reality and on the formation of the notion of “prehension” as a universal experience of all entities. See Whitehead’s work Process and Reality 1934.

6 Confer his “Experience, knowledge and value: A rejoinder”, in The Philosophy of John Dewey, ed. Arthur Schilpp: New York: 1939.

7 Dewey has described how a painting is formed with a style and a special quality (in Logic : Theory of Inquiry, New York: 1938.

8 In using his term quality as a primary category, Dewey has shown his affiliation with Peirce for it is in the primary category of firstness in Peirce, quality and feeling of quality are both recognized as belong to each other and also as characterizing the most basic feature of reality in the sense of existence. But unlike Peirce and Whitehead, Dewey ahs stressed the intrinsicness of quality in a situation and formation of a thing and therefore he has come to see qualities as the resultants , endings, or emergents of natural transactions, not as prior conditions. It is pointed out by Richard Bernstein that, “Empirically we experience things as poignant, annoying, beautiful, harsh, fearful, etc. We do not experience these qualities as projections of a “subjective” mind on a colorless “objective” reality.” See his editor’s introduction in John Dewey on Experience, Nature and Freedom, New York: Liberal Arts Press, 1960, xliii.

9 See his article “ Theories of Morals” in Democracy and Education, op.cit. page 360. In this article Dewey speaks of the overcoming the dualism between the inner and the outer, the dualism between the duty and interest, and dualism between intelligence and character, and finally the dualism between the social and the moral.

10 By the Confucian School I mean primarily the Classical Confucianism which covers writings of the Analects of Confucius, the Yizhuan of the Yijing, the Mencius, the Liji inclusive of the chapters distinctively known as the Great Learning (Daxue) and the Doctrine of the Mean (Zhong Yong), and the Xunzi in an era from Confucius’s life time to the end of Warring States Period (403-222 BCE) .

11 The Analects, 1-12..

12 See the Yizhuan, Xici, Part 1, 5.

13 See the Mencius, 7a-1,2.

14 For example, Confucius says that “I am not bored of learning. I am also not tired of teaching other people.” The Analects, 7-2. He also says: “I teach without discrimination against any class of people.” The Analects, 15-39.

15 Thus Confucius primarily teaches four items of the dao, the culture and the language which he refers as wen, the practice of moral virtues (xing), the virtues of loyalty (zhong) and trust (xin). Cf. the Analects, 7-25.

16 See the Analects, 16-13.

17 See the Analects, 19-7.

18 This is the first sentence of the Zhongyong.

19 See the Analects, 17-3.

20 See the Daxue Changju (Zhu Xi), chapter 25.

21 Confer my article “The Daxue at Issue: An Exercise of Onto-Hermeneutics”, in Chinese Classics nd Interpretations, edited by Tu Ching-I, Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction Publishers, 2000, 23-44.

22 See any standard translation of the Yijing, but the translation is mine for the sentence “tianxingjian, junzi yi ziqiangbuxi”.

23 See W.V.Quine, From Stimulus to Science, Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1995, Chapter VII, 69-83.

24 This point and thesis have been well stated and argued for in a recent concise and lucid writing of Professor Joseph Grange, a book titled Confucius, Dewey and the Global Philosophy, Albany: SUNY Press, 2004. Grange has shown how the American tradition of pragmatism and the Chinese tradition of Confucianism could be correlated and integrated to achieve a better understanding between the two traditions. This also shows how intercultural communication is not only possible, but also most fruitful and rewarding. It also shows how comparative philosophy in this manner could provide the mediation for bringing two historically different cultures closer in understanding and in synergy.

25 See the Analects, 1-4.

26 There are two interpretations of this word fu, to restore and to practice. I think that the second interpretation is the correct one as it is theoretically more sense-making.

27 See the Analects, 6-30.

28 See the Analects, 6-30. Here I make a slight modification of my earlier translation.

29 See the Book of History, Chapter on Dayumo (Strategy from the Great Yu).