your time thank you.
Please generate five discussion threads, each addressing a different one of the following five Discussion Prompts [generating 5 threads total, while giving each thread a clear title (e.g. ‘Discussion Topic 1’)]
Discussion Prompt 1:
How traditional societies function, according to Smith:
(a) There are tribes among the Eskimos and the Australian aborigines that do not even have words for disobedience.
(b) Tradition exerts its influence tacitly – spontaneously and unthinkingly. No laws are formulated or penalties affixed; no plans for moral education are intentionally devised. Group expectations are so strong that the young internalize them automatically. (Smith, 162)
What about our society? To what extent do you see ‘tradition’ at work in our time and place? What parts of daily life operate ‘tacitly’ according to ‘group expectations?’ Or might aspects of a society’s tradition be discernable only after they are lost?
Discussion Prompt 2:
According to Smith, education was key to Confucius’ plan for reinstating the role of tradition in society through instillation of deliberate tradition:
“Moral ideas were to be driven into the people by every conceivable means – temples, theatres, homes, toys, proverbs, schools, history, stories – until they became habits in daily life… Even festivals and parades were [in this sense] religious in character. By such means, even a society constituted of individuals can (if it puts itself to the task) spin an enveloping tradition, a power of suggestion, that can prompt its members to behave socially even when the law is not looking.” (Smith, 170)
Was this method of deliberate tradition confined to a context of merely ‘long ago’ and only ‘over there’?
“The United States has its story of George Washington and the cherry tree… […] The stories express national ideals, and shape peoples to their image.” (Smith, 171)
What part do morals or ‘national ideals’ play in your own education? Why is education mandatory up to a certain point in the United States? Why have we subsidized higher education to the point that some amount of college is expected from almost everyone? Can it be explained solely in economic terms (e.g. training the workforce to ensure prosperity)? Or are we all the product of an educational system designed to impart a deliberate tradition? Could we account for changes in our collective morals under this view?
Discussion Prompt 3:
Confucius appears to have thought that the quality of a class or collective (e.g. the state of a society) was entirely determined by the attributes of its members or individuals (e.g. the character of each citizen) and their relations with each other:
“‘If there is righteousness in the heart, there will be beauty in the character. If there is beauty in the character, there will be harmony in the home. If there be harmony in the home, there will be order in the nation. If there be order in the nation, there will be peace in the world.’” (Smith, quoting Confucius, 173-4)
What do you think of this sort of a worldview? Is the presence or absence of peace in the world due entirely to our personal triumphs or failings? Why or why not? What role does religion play in forming individuals and by implication, entire societies?
Discussion Prompt 4:
According to Smith, “the family is the basic unit of society” in China, where “legend…credits the hero who ‘invented’ the family with elevating the Chinese from animal to human level.” (Smith, 176) This attitude is particularly evident in the thought of Confucius:
“That three of the Five Relationships pertain within the family is indicative of how important Confucius considered this institution to be. […] Within the family, in turn, it is the children’s respect for their parents that holds the key; hence the concept of filial piety. […] ‘The duty of children to their parents is the fountain from which all virtues spring.’”(Smith, quoting Confucius, 176)
What is our society’s view of the importance of the institution of the family? Does family play as crucial a role in our society as Confucius thought it must? Is family as important today in America (and the West) as it was in the recent past? Has any other institution taken its place as central to the health of other relationships in our society? Dowe see children as having duties to their parents?
Discussion Prompt 5:
The Confucian view of self, according to Smith:
“apart from human relationships there is no self. The self is a center of relationships. It is constructed through its interactions with others and is defined by the sum of its social roles.” (180)
e.g. metaphor of an anemone in the sea
e.g. metaphor of an eagle on the wind
“The expansion [of one’s sympathy and empathy indefinitely] proceeds in concentric circles that begin with oneself and spread from there to include successively one’s family, one’s face-to-face community, one’s nation, and finally all humanity. In shifting the center of one’s empathic concern from oneself to one’s family one transcends selfishness. The move from family to community transcends nepotism. The move from community to nation overcomes parochialism, and the move to all humanity counters chauvinisticnationalism.” (Smith, 182)
What do you think of the Confucian account of ‘self’?
Do you feel that there is something essential missing from this conception of self?
If so, what do you think is missing?
Where and how do you think you arrived at this idea?
–Culture (the arts)?
–Religion (overt doctrine or practices)?
–Religion (covert elements which persist within our culture)?