Helloooooooo!!!!!!!!!

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Hiroshi Satow
Posts: 17
Joined: Thu Jun 20, 2019 5:21 pm
Location: Japan

Helloooooooo!!!!!!!!!

Post by Hiroshi Satow »

Hello, guys!

I’m a middle- or old-aged Japanese amateur philosopher planning to give an online lecture on the Golden Mean, or the Middle Way you may call it in Buddhism. Unfortunately, I’m not so good at speaking, let alone speaking English. I think I need some practice. However, I have no one to have a talk with in English in my everyday life. So, would some of you be so kind, or so brave, as to have some talk with me on the Golden Mean? On zoom or google meet or skype?

My idea of the Golden Mean goes like this: The Golden Mean seems easy at first to figure out, but it becomes the more intricate the deeper understanding of it you have; it’s not only the avoidance of the extremes! The idea can be found in the ancient philosophy and religion, such as Buddhism, Confucianism, Judaism, Christianity, and of course Greek philosophy. Buddha named it the Middle way; Confucius led a life in accordance with the Mean, of which Mencius made a detailed explanation; in Judaism can be found a simple reference to the Mean, and in Christianity, in my opinion though, Jesus lived a life of the Mean. Well, I don’t think I need to write about what Aristotle treated in his Nicomachean Ethics, and I just want to add that the life of Socrates shows us what the Golden Mean is about, at least partly. These guys are talking about the same thing! Which means that if you want to work out Aristotelian ethics, it might be better you read Mencius! Do you think I’m crazy? If so, let’s have some talk! You may have a new insight into this seemingly out-of-date concept!

By the way, do keep this in mind: I may stammer or stutter; I may not be able to come up with the right words or technical terms when talking; I may not behave like a professor of philosophy; I may betray my ignorance since I’m just an amateur; I may sometimes look down to look up some words in my dictionary; and I may not be so handsome either :) And always be kind to a poor, lonely, old man… Hope I'm not doing something insane.......

Anyway, if you’re interested, I’m looking forward to your contacting me in my twitter account! Thank you!! And good night!!!!

https://twitter.com/HiroshiSatow
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Immanuel Can
Posts: 11910
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Re: Helloooooooo!!!!!!!!!

Post by Immanuel Can »

Hiroshi Satow wrote: Tue May 11, 2021 6:31 pm I’m not so good at speaking, let alone speaking English.
You're doing fine.
My idea of the Golden Mean goes like this: The Golden Mean seems easy at first to figure out, but it becomes the more intricate the deeper understanding of it you have; it’s not only the avoidance of the extremes!
Well, perhaps. But one of the first problems with the "golden mean" idea is that It quickly becomes implausible, if some values are put into the scheme. For example, what is "too much love," or "too much wisdom"?

It's not obvious that everything actually has a "middle way." Or that everything should have.
in Judaism can be found a simple reference to the Mean, and in Christianity, in my opinion though, Jesus lived a life of the Mean.
I think it's pretty easy to show that "the golden mean" is not what either Judaism or Christianity are about. In both, the distinction is between good and evil, not merely between "too much" and "too little." And as for Jesus Christ, if there is one thing you could certainly say about His life and teaching, it was that it was not moderate, not "in the middle," not compromising in any way. Nobody who really read what he said, did and taught could think he was just saying, "Settle down and be moderate."

I think you'll find that there is a profound difference between the suppositions of your Eastern traditions and the Western ones. And just as it is incorrect to suppose that the Hindu concept of maya is the same as Western "evil," so too it is incorrect to try to think of the Western concept of "good" as merely "the middle way." To get an understanding of the other traditions, you have to be careful not simply to overlay your own tradition's assumptions on theirs. They may actually think very differently; and in fact, I think they do.
Hiroshi Satow
Posts: 17
Joined: Thu Jun 20, 2019 5:21 pm
Location: Japan

Re: Helloooooooo!!!!!!!!!

Post by Hiroshi Satow »

Hi. Thanks for your comment!
But one of the first problems with the "golden mean" idea is that It quickly becomes implausible, if some values are put into the scheme. For example, what is "too much love," or "too much wisdom"?

It's not obvious that everything actually has a "middle way." Or that everything should have.
You're right. That's why Aristotle wrote that there are some things that shouldn't stick to the rule of the golden mean, Mencius said that just being in the middle is not enough, Buddha mysteriously identified the middle path with the eight noble ways, which totally differ from the middle.
I think it's pretty easy to show that "the golden mean" is not what either Judaism or Christianity are about.
I think you'll find that there is a profound difference between the suppositions of your Eastern traditions and the Western ones.
In Ecclesiastes, there is a teaching that says, "Don't be greatly righteous, and don't be too much wise." In the book Doctrine of the Mean Confucius said, "I know why the Way is not practiced. The intelligent go beyond it and the dull do not reach it. I know why the Way is not disclosed. The ‘good’ go beyond it and the unworthy do not reach it." And we all know Socrates repeated that he knows that he knows nothing. Which can mean, in a sense, that he does not know too much nor too little. This is in my opinion one of the similarities in World Philosophy!

It is true that the main point Judaism and Christianity makes is not the Golden Mean, but since the golden mean is universal truth, the idea can be found everywhere if only we read carefully, I think. As I said before, it's more than just being in the middle or moderate. Just as you rightly point out, Jesus was not moderate, which I believe is one of the aspects of the Mean.
To get an understanding of the other traditions, you have to be careful not simply to overlay your own tradition's assumptions on theirs.
You are totally right. But what is western tradition? Isn't it Greek philosophy plus Christianity? But aren't they different? If so, then we can say that western tradition is one and the same and at the same time has different aspects in itself. Maybe tradition allows for heterogeneity. Maybe we can talk about World Tradition!

It's fun to talk about some philosophical ideas with a person like you who is knowledgeable about the theme, kind man! Well, now I don't have much time to give a detailed account of what the Golden Mean in its essence is. Maybe later, if some of you should want to know what the Golden Mean is all about, and what we should think about the difference and similarity between East and West. My wife's waiting for me, now I've got to go to the library with my wife to return and borrow books!

Hasta la vista, if you wish!!!


Ecclesiastes
https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Translat ... #Chapter_7
Doctrine of the Mean
http://www.acmuller.net/con-dao/docofmean.html
I know that I know nothing
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_know_th ... ow_nothing
Middle Way
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Middle_Way
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Immanuel Can
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Re: Helloooooooo!!!!!!!!!

Post by Immanuel Can »

Hiroshi Satow wrote: Wed May 12, 2021 2:08 am In Ecclesiastes, there is a teaching that says, "Don't be greatly righteous, and don't be too much wise."
Yes, it does. But you need to read the whole book to put that saying in context.

The author, Solomon, is talking about how things look "under the Sun," ( a phrase he uses repeatedly). That is, he's saying, "If you only think about the world, but not about God, then this is how things look to you." So there's a kind of wisdom in it, but it's limited, because it fails to take into account the heavenly perspective.

And that's why you'll find that that's about the only verse in the whole 66 books in the Bible that says anything like that. It's the reflection of a discouraged man.
...since the golden mean is universal truth...
Well, it's not. You've already recognized that it's not, because as you pointed out, it doesn't apply to all things. At most, it's a scheme that only works for things in which there is a gradient of too little to too much, with the middle being the just right point. Not everything is like that, just as you say.
To get an understanding of the other traditions, you have to be careful not simply to overlay your own tradition's assumptions on theirs.
You are totally right. But what is western tradition? Isn't it Greek philosophy plus Christianity?
Well, we certainly would have to include Judaism, which is even more fundamental to the West than the Greek tradition. Then, of course, there were the Romans, who were very influential. And actually, a case can be made that it includes Islam. For although Muslims think of themselves as Eastern, their religion is really a late cult based on the misunderstandings of Judaism of an illiterate desert man, and his limited theology which he took from the Nestorians. And I don't know how much you know about Christianity, but that is a whole complicated topic in itself, because many traditions get (both legitimately and illegitimately) thrown into that category.

All of those things are part of the Western tradition.
I don't have much time to give a detailed account of what the Golden Mean in its essence is.
You won't need to. I'm very familiar with it, and have done a lot of thinking about it.

But here's my concern: I think you're maybe trying to see the Western tradition through the Eastern eyes. But the Western values are actually quite different from the concepts as they are understood in the East. What the West understands by words like "good" or "evil," how they weigh up the individual versus the society, how they regard moral values like shame or truthfulness, what they think meditation is, and what they understand by the concept "God,"...these sorts of things are radically different from the Eastern views. And it is these sorts of differences that cause a lot of misunderstanding between East and West.

You will need to prepare yourself to consider that, I suggest, if you plan to understand Western thinking.
Hiroshi Satow
Posts: 17
Joined: Thu Jun 20, 2019 5:21 pm
Location: Japan

Re: Helloooooooo!!!!!!!!!

Post by Hiroshi Satow »

Hi, Immanuel. Thanks for your detailed comment.

Ecclesiastes, as you points out, does not concern the mean. So you are right. I just wanted to say that the idea of the mean can be found in it, though partly.

When I say the golden mean is the universal truth, I mean the following.

The mean is hard to get, as Aristotle and Confucius both said. Sometimes we go beyond and we come back; at other times, we stop before it and so we resume going, until at last we get farther than where we should be. We go to and fro, looking for the best point to stop. Which movement I think is one of the essential aspects of the Golden Mean.

Eating too much and too little both do damage to our body, both extremes should be avoided, and it's the golden mean when we eat the right amount, which is not that easy. Some may tend to have more, others less. When I have more than enough, I try next time to eat less, having less than enough. Then I try to have more, ending up having more than enough. This is everyday human affairs.

When human body gets hotter than it should be, it sweats and makes the body temperature lower. In times of coldness, it trembles, warming itself. The body tries to get the best point, avoiding the extremes by sweating and trembling. This is what is called homeostasis. Doesn't this look like the example mentioned just above? Living things that have the system of homeostasis are good examples of the golden mean. It may be that every living thing keeps to the mean. This is biology.

When the price of a good gets higher, then there gather many sellers increasing the price. Then the time comes when people don't buy the product, causing the sellers to lower the price. This cycle goes on and on. The price is constantly trying to get to he best point. When the price gets higher than it should be, it begins to get lower; when lower, higher. This is economics. And I suppose we can find this cycle in most of the spheres of being. That's why I say the Golden Mean is universal. Since the mean can be seen in many spheres, it is very likely that the mean is philosophically dealt with in every place, every age, though implicitly most of the time.

We can say, "Now it's higher than it should be; it's time to get lower. Now it's lower than it should be; it's time to get higher." That's why in Ecclesiastes is written, "To everything there is a moment, a time for all that's sought under the sky." There is a time to get higher, and there is a time to get lower. The Golden Mean is another name for Timeliness. And that's why Mencius referred to Confucius, one of the embodiments of the Golden Mean, as "the timeous one."

And one more thing to add. Aristotle, in his Nicomachean Ethics, wrote, "...one can be frightened or bold, feel desire or anger or pity, and experience pleasure and pain in general, either too much or too little, and in both cases wrongly; whereas to feel these feelings at the right time, on the right occasion, towards the right people, for the right purpose and in the right manner, is to feel the best amount of them, which is the mean amount—and the best amount is of course the mark of virtue." In short, timeliness also matters in Aristotle when talking about the Golden Mean.

So the Golden Mean is more than just being in the middle. And it covers most, or perhaps all, of the domains of being.

I may have talked with a lisp, I may not have answered all the questions you might have posed, but it's TIME to go to work :) I'll write again if needed later. Anyway, you are very kind to give me a detailed comment concerning the Golden Mean. It makes me think more deeply than I did before. And writing about it in reply also makes me doubt whether what I've been considering is really true or not, which is good for philosophy! And I deadly hope I have made myself clear enough for you to understand my English!!


Mencius
https://ctext.org/mengzi/wan-zhang-ii
Nicomachean Ethics
https://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/te ... 99.01.0054
uwot
Posts: 5252
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Re: Helloooooooo!!!!!!!!!

Post by uwot »

Hi Hiroshi. I don't know how familiar you are with European folklore, more than I am with Japanese, I imagine. There are several stories we are brought up with that warn against excess. Most people will know the story of Icarus and Daedalus, which if you don't is about a father and son escaping an island and its tyrannical leader by making wings from wax and feathers. Daedalus, the father warns his son not to fly too low, in case the sea clogs his wings, nor too high, but Icarus, the impetuous youth ignores the warning, flies too close to the sun, melts the wax in the wings and falls to his doom. Silly boy should have taken the middle path. This idea of too much and too little passes into the story of Goldilocks and the three bears. Essentially three bears, mummy, daddy and baby make some porridge which is too hot to eat, so they go for a walk in the forest while it cools down. Meanwhile Goldilocks finds their door open, wanders in and tries the porridge. Daddy bears porridge is too salty, mummy's too sweet, but baby bear's porridge is just right.
Western philosophy is to a large extent dialectic. There have traditionally been two ways that people have explained things - either by looking at them or thinking about them: empiricism and rationalism. The roots of this go back to the Milesian and Eleatic schools of ancient Greece. I wrote an article that goes into a bit more detail: https://philosophynow.org/issues/104/Ph ... d_Branches Empiricism and rationalism came to be identified with British and Continental philosophy respectively. It was reading David Hume that shook Immanuel Kant out of his "dogmatic slumber" and caused him to seek the middle way which became his idea of thesis, antithesis, synthesis. Karl Marx (via Hegel) incorporated that into economics, communism was intended as a middle way whereby instead of rich factory owners and poor workers, everybody had an equal share of the profit - an idea the rich factory owners have poo-pooed ever since.
There is still a debate about the relative merits of empiricism and rationalism, largely because religious philosophers lacking any evidence for their gods insist that thinking about god will magic him into existence. In science, ideas can come from anywhere, but the evidence comes from experiment.
I hope something of that might be useful, and good luck with your lecture.
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Immanuel Can
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Re: Helloooooooo!!!!!!!!!

Post by Immanuel Can »

My pleasure, Hiroshi.
Hiroshi Satow wrote: Wed May 12, 2021 6:17 amWhen I say the golden mean is the universal truth, I mean...the best point to stop....Eating too much and too little...having less than enough. Then I try to have more, ending up having more than enough...homeostasis. Doesn't this look like the example mentioned just above?

These examples do, Hiroshi; but when we use the word "universal" we mean "always." And, as we've both seen, the Golden Mean does not always apply. There are a significant number of important things that are just all good or all bad, and the middle ground for these is not better than the extremes. We consider things like love, or intelligence, or kindness, or truthfulness...If we try to force these things into a Golden Mean scheme, then our explanations become awkward and implausible right away.

So the Golden Mean is sometimes a good idea. But it is not "universal." It is not even always good.
The Golden Mean is another name for Timeliness.

That doesn't sound right to me, Hiroshi. It seems to me that timeliness is a question of "when," and the Golden Mean is directed to the question "what?"
And one more thing to add. Aristotle, in his Nicomachean Ethics, wrote, "...one can be frightened or bold, feel desire or anger or pity, and experience pleasure and pain in general, either too much or too little, and in both cases wrongly; whereas to feel these feelings at the right time, on the right occasion, towards the right people, for the right purpose and in the right manner, is to feel the best amount of them, which is the mean amount—and the best amount is of course the mark of virtue." In short, timeliness also matters in Aristotle when talking about the Golden Mean.
Yes, I've read and thought about The Nichomachean Ethics. I wonder if you have heard of its recent influence in the West? You find it again in Aquinas, and much more recently, in Alasdair MacIntyre. The West is trying to figure out how to apply Aristotelianism to public ethics, and has been doing that for a couple of decades now. And in the process, certain problems have appeared to us. You might find that literature interesting.

As for "timeliness," I' would not say it is not a good thing in its own right, nor would I say that it is unnecessary; but I would suggest that timelines is not the same as the Golden Mean itself. The Golden Mean, as I say, is about "what," and timeliness about "when." Both essential and both related, of course; but not precisely addressing the same question.
I may have talked with a lisp,

Not at all. You're quite clear.
And writing about it in reply also makes me doubt whether what I've been considering is really true or not, which is good for philosophy! And I deadly hope I have made myself clear enough for you to understand my English!!
You have. Your English is actually excellent.

My pleasure to have this chat with you.
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