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Why Socrates, Confucius, Buddha, etc., were born in same period?

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Guest FriendofGreece

I have always wondered why the most important thinkers in the world all lived in the same period, and since, there have not been anyone as influential.

 

In his book "Socrates, Buddha, Confucius, Jesus: From The Great Philosophers, Volume I", Karl Jaspers called these four individuals "paradigmatic" because they have "exerted a historical influence of incomparable scope and depth".

 

Per wiki:

 

Buddha (circa 563 - 483 or between 411 and 400 BCE)

Confucius (551 - 479 BC)

Socrates (470/469 - 399 BC)

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Axial_Age

 

"Jaspers presented his first outline of the Axial age by a series of examples:

Confucius and Lao-Tse were living in China, all the schools of Chinese philosophy came into being, including those of Mo TiChuang TseLieh Tzu and a host of others; India produced the Upanishads and Buddha and, like China, ran the whole gamut of philosophical possibilities down to materialismscepticism and nihilism; in Iran Zarathustra taught a challenging view of the world as a struggle between good and evil; in Palestine the prophets made their appearance from Elijah by way ofIsaiah and Jeremiah to Deutero-Isaiah; Greece witnessed the appearance of Homer, of the philosophers - ParmenidesHeraclitus and Plato, - of the tragedians, ofThucydides and Archimedes. Everything implied by these names developed during these few centuries almost simultaneously in China, India and the West.

— Karl Jaspers, Origin and Goal of History, p. 2"

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Not sure why Jesus is included in the same line as the other 3. We don't even know if Jesus really existed, and if he did the historical Jesus had really not much to do with the Jesus we know from the scriptures.

 

Also, saying that they all lived at around the same time is a bit of a stretch. For example, Socrates and Confucius seem to have lived around 100 years apart. It's like saying that Voltaire and Bertrand Russel lived at about the same time (they lived roughly 100 years apart...). 

 

Saying this, there are many important philosophers who did live at about the same time. This doesn't really mean anything. For example Aristotle and Plato, 2 of the most influential philosophers of ancient Greek and European thought were contemporaries, as were more recently Voltaire and Russeau in the 1700s, and as were Russel and Godel in the 1900's, just to name a few. Every period has a number of influential philosopher who happen to live at around the same time. This is not a reason to write a book about it :D  

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Guest FriendofGreece

100 years apart is a short period if you look at the history of humanity. I am surprised he grouped Jesus with the others too, because he is more a religious figure than a philosopher.

 

I actually think Aristotle may have a more important impact on humanity than Socrates. Lots of people don't know about Socrates but Aristotle is taught in school. 

 

In the choice of the 4 individuals, he was trying to find who had the most and broadest impact on humanity. I would not say that the other philosophers that Admin mentioned had such a great impact.

 

Ajaxmonkey - what do you mean at least two are fictional? You must mean Socrates and Jesus, but whom else? You don't believe Buddha and Confucius existed?

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I think Confucius is the only one who is confirmed as a historical character. The rest are dubious. Socrates may well be a historical character too. He didn't leave any works behind him but we know of him because of Plato and Xenophon (there may be other sources too...).

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I think neither Confucius nor Buddha wrote anything by themselves. All that is passed down to us was written by their disciples. But there are thousands of Confucius descendants, it seems.

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I would have to clarify that it is the fact that the 3 individuals (if we exclude Jesus because he is a religious figure, i.e. being the Son of God) lived in completely unrelated far away regions on Earth, had nothing to do with each other, however, achieved such deep and broad influence on humanity and lived in the "same period". 

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well, Jesus and Buddha are fictional characters. Confucius appears rather as a historic figure. Admin pointed already out that the Socrates people think to know has nothing to do with the real historic Socrates but is a creation of Plato.

 

Nevertheless, the Term Philosophy was coined in Ionia and it has a very specific meaning. None of the characters mentioned by name in the book's title fit the definition of the Term "Philosopher". Socrates for example was a "Sophist" which is as far as one can get from being a "Philosopher". In fact, you would have a hard time finding anyone to fit the bill of the "Philosopher" obnce you go beyond the Ionians. Lao Tsu is in my opinion the only representative of Eastern Thought that fits the bill.

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If you wonder as to why Buddha and Jesus had such deep influence on humanity then the answer is rather simple. People love pie in the sky. That's why snake oil salesman such as Jesus, Buddha, Mohamed, Joseph Smith, L. Ron Hubbard and their likes find always a following.

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Very interesting, what you said, Ajaxmonkey, thanks for pointing out. I would have to look what means philosophy actually. Who would have thought that Socrates is not a philosopher? One tends to lump together as Greek philosophers many ancient Greeks.

 

I think Confucius is not a philosopher too. He taught morality, ethics, and how a good king should behave. Nothing as philosophy here. As for Laozi, is it philosophy? It seems that what he said can be applied to many things: Tao of business, Tao of leadership, etc. Can philosophy be so applicable to everyday's life. 

 

Food for thought about Confucianism and Taoism:

 

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/07/helmut-schmidt-china_n_5089011.html

 

"SCHMIDT: The political civilization of China differs in one way from the rest of the civilizations. Chinese Confucianism does not seek to establish the belief in one religion. Confucianism is a philosophy, or an ethical system, but not a religion. You do not believe in God. In what do you, as a Confucian, believe?

WANG: Confucius himself said that we should respect ghosts and spirits while keeping some distance from them."

 

"SCHMIDT: At the time of Confucius, there was another outstanding Chinese philosopher, Laozi. Did Mao also attack Laozi?

WANG: No, at least he was not the main target. He was considered a master of dialectical thinking. Mao regarded Laozi as a strategic thinking above all. You may read Laozi from the perspective of military strategy."

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I am not so sure about Buddha. It seems that what he taught can be applied at different levels, an average person can follow the principles at a lower level than a monk, for example. I consider Buddhism as simple guidelines on how to live life without fetters, envy, violence, etc. You are not punished by a god if you don't follow, nor do you reach Nirvana, unless you are enlightened like Buddha. 

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Let me clarify,

 

The ancient Greeks counted Sokrates among the sophists, later, when what some call "Christian Philosophy" emerged in Europe, he was counted as a Philosopher. But as Martin Heidegger puts it the phrase "Christian Philosophy" is as meaningfull as the phrase "Wooden Iron". Heidegger didn't count Sokrates, or Kant for that matter, among the Philosophers. Since the days of Nietzsche there has been something of a back to the roots movement in European Philosophy that adhers to the strict Ionian application of the term and this has led to the deconstruction of Socrates, and Platonic thought in general, in favor of the Ionian Hylist approach that is rooted in observational naturalism. The reemergence of new Age Pseudo Humanism does of course counter the rationalist assesment which I happen to embrace.

 

Observational naturalism is also the basis for Lao Tsu at least that's the impresion I get from reading the Dao De Jing thus my reasoning for counting Lao Tsu as a Philosopher. Confucianism on the other hand is a code of conduct steeped in traditionalist inertia and has nothing philosophical about it.

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I am not so sure about Buddha. It seems that what he taught can be applied at different levels, an average person can follow the principles at a lower level than a monk, for example. I consider Buddhism as simple guidelines on how to live life without fetters, envy, violence, etc. You are not punished by a god if you don't follow, nor do you reach Nirvana, unless you are enlightened like Buddha.

Buddhism is the biggest pile of crap ever assembled. From the "Eightfold Path" to the "Four Noble Truths" to "Dependent Origination" its all snake oil, well Sophistry if I use the Greek technical term. I admit, there was a time where the buzz about Buddhism tingled my curiosity. So i went through the trouble to read up on Buddhism. It was a big disapointment.

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OK, Ajaxmonkey, all that is above my understanding.  :)  I don't bother with "names" really and I would not count on what an author said about philosophy or not. If it reads and sounds like philosophy, whatever philosophy is, then it is philosophy I guess. 

 

Yes, I agree, the Tao Te Ching seems to me to contain many observations of Lao Tsu about nature. I guess since he lived alone up the mountain, it helped him to observe nature and think about its laws.

 

I read about Buddhism out of curiosity too. I find it is a little repetitive, but apparently that is because how the disciples could remember what Buddha taught.

 

As for Buddhism and Confucianism, I would not just find all to be bad. I pick what is good and leave the rest.

 

Some favorite quotes from Confucius:

 

1. Fine words and an insinuating appearance are seldom associated with true virtue.

2. When we see men of worth, we should think of equalling them; when we see men of a contrary character, we should turn inwards and examine ourselves.

3. The superior man wishes to be slow in his speech and earnest in his conduct.

4. Do not impose on others what you do not wish for yourself.

 

Quotes from Buddha:

 

1. If one man conquer in battle a thousand times thousand men, and if another conquer himself, he is the greatest of conquerors.

2. As a solid rock is not shaken by the wind, wise people falter not amidst blame and praise.

3. A man is not learned because he talks too much; he who is patient, free from hatred and fear, he is called learned.

4. An evil deed is better left undone, for a man repents of it afterwards; a good deed is better done, for having done it, one does not repent.

5. Be not thoughtless, watch your thoughts! Draw yourself out of the evil way, like an elephant sunk in mud.

6. Let a man overcome anger by love, let him overcome evil by good; let him overcome the greedy by liberality, the liar by truth!

7. He who holds back rising anger like a rolling chariot, him I call a real driver; other people are but holding the reins. 

 

What is not good about those?

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You can find those soundbites also in Islamic and Christian scripture all there is at the core of Buddhism though, and every other pseudo religion, is utter darkness. Won't elaborate on the pseudo-religion part here. For the sake of brevity I'll get right to the core of Buddhism.

 

Noble Truth nr 1: Life is Dukkha.

Meaning pain, dispair, suffering. Buddhism does not allow for ifs and buts. Life is Dukkha and the ultimate goal of Buddhist practice is the cessation of Dukkha meaning the cessation of life. But since Buddhists also believe in rebirth that cessation can only be acchieved by breaking the circle of death and rebirth. Which essentialy means that to be alive is to suffer punishment for wrong doings in a previous live. And those who suffer more than others do so because they commited more serious offenses in their past live. This is the Budhist concept of Karmic justice.

 

In practical terms this leads to an attitude of indiference towards Human suffering. I have seen this first hand in South East Asia. The only ones who realy care for the outcasts in that region are Christian, mainly Catholic, missionaries. Buddhists are content to "Philosophize" and blame the afflicted for the affliction.

 

This started, fortunately, to change as the societies of the region become more westernized but the indiference is still stagering. Quess this indifference is also a consequence of the Buddhist concept of detachment as the means to reach nothingness (aka Nirvana).

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Really, you went in South East Asia? If you don't mind saying it, which countries did you visit, just to put in context? (Btw, I am nicely surprised to see you so knowledgeable about different areas of the world.)

 

But is it the Buddhist concept that makes people indifferent towards human suffering, or is it because in South East Asia, it is very crowded? Too many people, so in everyday's fight for survival and cutthroat competition, who can even afford to be compassionate towards others? It is each one for his own.

 

I am not sure but don't think there are Buddhist organizations to help the poor and afflicted like we see Christian organizations, like Mother Teresa or the Christian missionaries like you mention. The Buddhist monks, instead, go around the cities to be for food for themselves, since they don't own anything, having renounced worldly trappings. 

 

One question I have often asked myself is would the world have been better without any religion at all. We all know that religious wars had probably killed more people than all other wars. Yet, when you see some people, like Mother Teresa, being so kind, you can wonder maybe religion has its own good after all. But the sad thing is there are so few Mothers Teresa in the world.

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well,

 

I do have a multiple entry visa for China and I've been to Shenzhen twice. The last time I also spend a week in Hong Kong. I'm doing biz with a couple of manufacturers in the region. I also lived for years with a Thai lady, she was born and raised in the States but she was a practicing Buddhist and was still connected to relatives back home. I visited Thailand once with her. Spend a few weeks around some back water town called Udon Thani got there driving from Bangkok through some stretch of Thailand. Getting used to left hand driving and Thai drivers was a nightmare but I realy like the people and the country. So my observations in regards to Thailand and Buddhism are by no means a sign of hostility. It is a strange place. For the greater part strangely beautyfull and enjoyable but sometimes strangely cruel and bizarre. Anyhow, Southeast Asia is very diverse and I realize that the two places I got to know better are not representative for the whole region.

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That is very interesting, Ajaxmonkey. From what I can see, Thailand seems to be a very Buddhist country, more so than other South East Asian countries. I heard the Thai beaches are very beautiful.

 

Why do you say that Thailand is sometimes strangely cruel and bizarre? If I remember well, I think they used to practice voodoo in Thailand (or was it in Malaysia?). The thing I don't like about Thailand is that it has a reputation of pedophile tourism, which is unfortunate for the children there.

 

I don't take as a sign of hostility your comments. Undoubtedly, everyone has the right to express his ideas. That is what a forum is for, for discussion and exchange of ideas. But sometimes, and I talk in general, I think we have to put ourselves in the other people's shoes to try to understand them and not judge them with our standards.

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Why do you say that Thailand is sometimes strangely cruel and bizarre? If I remember well, I think they used to practice voodoo in Thailand (or was it in Malaysia?). The thing I don't like about Thailand is that it has a reputation of pedophile tourism, which is unfortunate for the children there.

I say that because the most vicious forms of exploitation doesn't seem to register with Thai people. And the sexual exploitation of minors is only one but a very visible aspect of this. It is not something that happens hidden away and in the dark. It happens in broad daylight all over the place but nobody seems to care much about it.And what's even more bizarre is that if you talk to locals about it they will tell you that the victims of expoitation don't know any better, it is just a consequence of bad karma. This is kind of disturbing.

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Yes, I would say it is disturbing to believe in bad karma like that rather than you are the master of your own destiny. Certainly karma is derived from Buddhism. 

 

One thing I must say though, to be honest, is that the Thai people are often portrayed as being more ferocious among the South East Asian countries. When you look at martial arts movies for example, and I understand it is movies, but the portrayal sometimes reflects stereotypes that are based to a certain extent on reality. Even Thai martial arts are more violent, if you know what I mean. 

 

Of course, that is a generalization that does not apply to every Thai person, as there are always good and bad people in every country. 

 

When I read what you said, I can't help to compare to India which is Hindu. Could it be that the Thai customs, in addition to karma, make that they don't see the exploitation as exploitation and maybe even look down to the victims in that they "deserve" what they get?

 

What about China, what did you observe? 

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I found the Thais to be rather gentle and mild mannered in contrast to the Chinese who, in my opinion, are rather rude. Anyhow I had the notion that Asians are standoffish but after being there I have to say that compared to Europeans they are brutaly direct.

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Interesting what you said about the Thais and the Chinese. 

 

I think Asians don't know what means to be politically correct, that is why they are direct. They can ask you about your age and the salary you make in the same blink of the eyes.  :D

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Interesting what you said about the Thais and the Chinese. 

 

I think Asians don't know what means to be politically correct, that is why they are direct. They can ask you about your age and the salary you make in the same blink of the eyes.  :D

They ask you about more than just your age and your salary. They are all over your most private matters 30 sec after you met them.

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I think that is part of getting to know the other person. As you know, since you do business in China, that you must first establish personal relationships to establish trust before getting into business relationships.

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