It is my great honor to be invited once again to this timely and important dialogue. This dialogue takes as its mission the promotion of mutual understanding among those cultures that together make up the rich and diverse civilizations of humankind. What I would like to focus upon in my brief remarks is to try clarify the underlying value that animates this mission. The theme of the dialogue that brings us together today is “Upholding the Ideal of Civilizational Pluralism in Promoting the Shared Values of All Humankind.”
Sometimes important meaning is lost when we move among our different natural languages. A good example is when we conventionally translate the term he 和 in the subtheme, “peace and development,” into English as “harmony.” But does “harmony” as it is understood in modern English do justice to the traditional Confucian understanding of this term? The term harmony derives from the Greek harmonia, meaning “joint, agreement, concord,” from the verb harmozō, “to fit together, joined.”
《Harmony》有很强的比率含义：正确的数学校准，就像它们在音乐中表达的那样。如此理解的《Harmony》反映了一种世界观，就像数学一样假设有合理的必要性,一个单一秩序的世界。相比之下，儒家思想在其自身的过程宇宙学中实现了“最佳和谐”，这是一种开放式和涌现的审美成就, ratio 和oratio.寻求这种“最佳和谐”不是必然性的，而是要在任何情况下最大限度地利用创造性的可能性。
Harmony has a strong sense of ratio: the proper mathematical calibrations as they are expressed in music. Harmony thus understood reflects a worldview that like mathematics assumes rational necessity, a single-ordered world. By contrast, the Confucian idea of an achieved “optimal harmony” within its own process cosmology is an open-ended and emergent aesthetic achievement, ratio and oratio. The striving for such optimal harmony is not a matter of necessity, but rather an attempt to make the most out of the creative possibilities in any situation.
For me, this Confucian understanding of brings to mind two of my earliest teachers, Tang Junyi and Lao Siguang. Tang Laoshi insisted that in understanding the Confucian way of thinking we must respect the postulate of “the inseparability of one and many.” And Lao Laoshi would always say to me: Roger, we do not want to talk about “Chinese philosophy;” we want to talk about “Chinese philosophy within its context of world philosophy,” also “the inseparability of one and many.”
This “optimizing symbiosis” uses the historical past as its resource for analogy and projection, and draws upon human resolve and imagination to forge an always new way forward. Our human capacity for design, purpose, and direction assumed in this Confucian sense of harmony gives humankind a prominent role in the shaping of an always evolving cosmic order. This Confucian understanding of achieved “harmony” is not simply the mutual accommodation of difference that would attenuate dissonance. More importantly, it refers to the creative and productive consequences of coordinating such differences to optimum, superlative effect. Harmony so conceived is the search for a human and cosmic contrapuntal “musicality.”
The etymology of the standard character is culinary, combining the graphs for “grain” (he 禾) and “mouth” (kou 口). Throughout the early corpus, the preparation of food is appealed to as a gloss on this sense of elegant,integrative harmony. Harmony entails the art of combining and blending two or more foodstuffs so that they mutually enhance one another without losing their distinctive flavors.
The structure of the earlier, more complex Chinese character for “optimizing harmony” (he 和) found on the oracle bones and on the bronzes is composed of a 龠 flute constructed out of reed pipes, with “grain” (he 禾) as the phonetic element. This alludes to the playing of music as one metaphorical way of understanding this highly aesthetic sense of harmony. He 和 as an optimizing symbiosis is a value found everywhere in the culture.
Family is the governing metaphor of the Confucian cultural tradition: country, everybody, humanity. Xiao 孝 as family reverence is its prime moral imperative. Such an emphasis on family relations is because this is the one social institution to which persons will give everything they have. Family feeling is perhaps the minimalist morality that can bring solidarity to humankind as a species.
論語 1.12 有子曰：「禮之用，和為貴。先王之道斯為美，小大由之。有所不行，知和而和，不以禮節之，亦不可行也。」
Master You said:“An optimizing harmony is the most valuable function of achieving propriety in our roles and relations. In the ways of the Former Kings, this optimization of harmony by achieving such propriety made them refined, and was a guiding standard in all things large and small. But when things are not going well, to pursue harmony just for its own sake without regulating the situation through achieving propriety in family and community relations will not work.”
The menu in a European restaurant is usually only two pages: appetizers, main dishes, soup and salad,with drinks on the back. The menu in this Chongqing Chinese restaurant is a thick book. By combining foodstuff in terms of taste, color, season, texture, and even sound, the goal is to get the most out of the ingredients. And next door in the Cantonese restaurant they have their own very different book. He 和 as an optimizing symbiosis is a value found everywhere in the culture.
Then in the term hehe和合 also translated as “harmony” there is the second character he 合. The character he 合 is often translated as “to join” or “to combine” two or more things together. But in a Confucian ecological cosmology that begins from the primacy of relationality, relations rather than things are first order. Philosophical claims such as "the inseparability of humankind and the cosmos" or "the inseparability of knowing and doing," is not putting two separate things together. Rather, it is trying to find the greatest depth in, and get the most out of, the “human-cosmos” and “knowing-doing” relationship itself.
When we bring this understanding of "harmony" as an optimizing symbiosis to the exchanges and mutual learning among civilization, the mission becomes clear. Our civilizations are a living social, political, and cultural ecology. Civilizations are one and many at the same time, and is thus a win-win or lose-lose model of development. If your neighbor does better, you do better. The mutual understanding and accommodation we can achieve is the ultimate source of a shared flourishing.