Sunday, 14 August 2016

XUNZI'S WAY (DAO)

One of András Pető's 'oriental philosophies'?
Learning proceeds until death. Only then does it cease... Its purpose cannot be given up for even a moment. To pursue it is to be human, to give it up to be a beast (Xunzi)


荀子

What 'Oriental philosophy'?

One of the oft-stated understandings of András Pető is that both in his personal life and in his later life-work as a rehabilitationist he was highly influenced by 'Oriental philosophy'.

We have his own word for it, as reported by Mária Hári and others who knew him. But specifically, which Oriental philosophies influenced him, which Oriental philosophers? There were after all many such, spanning a range of cultures, traditions and societies over a considerable period of time, and not necessarily mutually compatible!

Like much else to do with the origins of what is presently called Conductive Education, there has been no relevant scholarship on this question. Moreover, there has always to be with András Pető the sneaking suspicion that was laying down a smokescreen, for whatever reason, perhaps to direct attention away from his real thinking, perhaps just to mock and mystify.

A certain something

Meanwhile, conductive pedagogy and upbringing still appear to bear a certain essence (or essences) handed down through its peculiar professional preparation (for which the word 'socialisation' might be a more appropriate term than the more usual 'training'). Just maybe the powerful, implicit contribution of the dominating founding figure, through the Zeitgeist that he bequeathed to what has been a pretty closed community (his institute and its conductors) may have been a powerful factor in the survival of this undefined but perhaps vital certain something.

As the range of trainings widens worldwide, then there are potential questions that that are as yet not being publicly discussed.

And there is also of course, there is still that other elephant in the room – China, and specifically what elsewhere I have termed Oriental Conductive Education. What are the relevant societal and cultural bases active there in teaching and education? And if these can be made explicit and articulated within the West, might Western Conductive Education benefit from understanding more of them?

But who, what, when?

Xunzi

I recently stumbled upon Xunzi 1, who lived in the third century before the Christian era. Xun looks like one likely candidate.

I came across him through reading the words paraphrased at the the head of this posting. Bearing in mind the colossal cultural and historical gulf that separates Xun from ourselves, and more than two thousand years, a superficial look further finds a lot that may seem so very familiar to conductivists. For example, the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy writes –
...according to Xunzi the primary aim of education is to master a Way that is the artificial product of human invention. It implies that education is a lengthy endeavor that requires a great deal of effort and dedication from the student; it is not something that comes naturally to us. It also implies that education adds something new to the student; it does not simply develop pre-existing tendencies... education provides a necessary addition to people's natural capacities, which alone are not sufficient for virtue. 
Xunzi's understanding of education and its importance reflects both his pessimism about human nature and his faith in the perfectibility of human beings. He believed that human nature provides a significant barrier to moral improvement, but a barrier that can be overcome, and that people's characters ultimately depend on the habits and customs they acquire as a result of socialization and education, not on their natures. Even 'people in the street' have the capacity to become sages—if they are raised well and they work hard enough to acquire the right sort of education.
...this required the presence of a teacher. Xunzi seems to have placed little or no emphasis on learning general rules of behavior, apparently assuming that we learn better from particular examples.
There are other things that are less familiar (and less palatable) and of course Xun was dealing with a very different kind of education, in a world very different from our own And he was most certainly not dealing with the particular human concerns that occupy Conductive Education!
Xun himself wrote –
The
 learning 
of
 the
 noble 2 person
 enters
 his
 ear, 
is 
stored 
in
 his 
mind,
 spreads 
through
 his
 four
 limbs,
 and
 is
 made
 visible
 in 
his 
activity 
and in
 his 
tranquility.
 In
 his 
smallest
 word,
 in 
his
 slightest
 movement,
 in 
everything, 
he
 may 
be 
taken 
as a 
model
 and
 a
 standard.
 The 
learning 
of 
the 
lesser
 man
 enters
 his
 ear
 and
 comes
 out
 his 
mouth... With 
only four 
inches
 between
 ear
 and 
mouth,
 how
 can
 he
 possess
 it
 long
 enough
 to
 beautify
 a
 seven-foot
 body?

http://afe.easia.columbia.edu/ps/cup/xunzi_encouraging_learning.pdf
And is not something of the stern, demanding András Pető as transmitted by Mária Hári recognisable here...
One
 who 
misses 
one
 shot
 in
 a
 hundred
 does 
not
 deserve
 to
 be 
called
 a
 good
 archer;
 one
 who
 does
 not
 take
 the 
last
 half
 step
 in
 a
 journey of a thousand li 3 does 
not
 deserve
 to
 be
 called
 a
 good
 carriage-driver;
 one
 who
 does 
not
 comprehend
 moral relationships
 and 
categories
 and
 does
 not
 become
 one
 with
 humaneness
 and
 rightness
 does
 not
 deserve
 to
 be
 called
 good
 in
 learning.
 Surely
 learning 
is 
learning
 to 
unify
 oneself 4. Someone
 who 
on
 departing
 does
 one 
thing 
and 
on
 entering 
does 
another 
is 
a 
person
 of
 the
 roads 
and 
alleys;
 one
 who
 does 
a 
small
 amount
 of
 good
 and 
much 
that
 is 
not 
good 
is
 a Jie, a Zhou Xin, a Robber Zhi5Complete
 it, 
realize 
it
 to the 
fullest
 — only 
then
 will
 you
 be 
learned.
 
Ibid. (my emphasis)
Looking this up online on quick guides is hardly scholarship! Just random thoughts during an odd time of the year. Perhaps though these thoughts do move just a little closer to András Pető's 'Oriental philosophy' than do those wretched fish 6. 

Others in Conductive Education, Western or Eastern, might one day explore this question properly, and share it publicly.

Notes

1   Xunzi, or Xun Zi and other spellings, meaning 'Master Xun'
2 'noble': 'educated', or perhaps I should risk substituting 'ortho-functioning'
3   li: Chinese mile
4   my emphasis here
5  Jie, Zhou Xin and Robber Zhi: the three great villains of Chinese history, utterly and irredeemably depraved and wicked
6   http://www.conductive-world.info/2013/07/1.html  授人以鱼,不如授之以渔






No comments:

Post a Comment