“Almost nothing is known about the life of Mo Ti, or Master Mo, the founder of the Mo-ist school of philosophy. A number of anecdotes in which he figures are found in the Mo Tzu, the book compiled by his disciples to preserve the teachings of their master, and other late Chou and early Han works contain scattered references to him and his school. But they tell us little about the man himself. He seems to have lived some time between the death of Confucius in 479 B.C. and the birth of Mencius in 372 B.C., flourishing probably in the latter half of the fifth century B.C. He is identified by some writers as a native of the state of Sung, by others as a native of Lu, the birthplace of Confucius.”
“He was particularly anxious to spread his doctrine of universal love and to persuade the rulers of his day to cease their incessant attacks upon each other. The Mo Tzu, for example, relates that, when he heard that Ch’u was planning an attack on Sung, he walked for ten days and ten nights to reach the court of Ch’u, where he succeeded in persuading the ruler to call off the expedition”
“Mo Tzu and his followers believed that such attacks could be stopped not only by preaching sermons on universal love, but by strenghtening the defenses of vulnerable states so as to diminish the chances of a profitable victory for aggressors. This they hastened to the aid of beseiged states, and in time became experts on methods of warfare.”
“The doctrine of universal love is the most famous and original of Mo Tzu’s contribution to Chinese thought. We have already noted his condemnations of offensive warfare, condemnations which could just as well have been made by thinkers of the Confucian or Taoist schools. But Mo Tzu alone of all Chinese thinkers was not content merely to condemn acts that are harmful to others. He went a step further to proclaim that men should actually love the members of other families and states in the same way that they love the members of their own family and state, for all are equally the creatures and people of God.”
Excerpts from “Basic Writings of Mo Tzu, Hsün Tzu and Han Fei Tzu” by Burton Watson.
Indeed Mo Ti is one of the more interesting of all classical Chinese philosophers and I remember seriously questioning his idea of universal love where he proclaimed that everyone should love everyone equally. Is there really such a thing as loving everyone equally? Surely people would love their parents more than they love other people’s parents, would love one’s child more than someone else’s child? This must be true and is basic human nature.
But surely the Chinese philosopher is beyond this obvious logic as we found, and in my case, with Fung Yu-lan’s help via his exceptionally great work on Chinese philosophy, “A History of Chinese Philosophy”, and the following is an excerpt of him:
“In Mo Tzu, there are three chapters devoted to the subject of all-embracing love (universal love). In them, Mo Tzu first makes a distinction between what he calls the principles of “discrimination” and “all-embracingness.” The man who holds to the principle of discrimination says: It is absurd for me to care for friends as much as I would for myself, and to look after their parents as I would my own. As a result, such a man does not do very much for his friends. But the man who holds to the principle of all embracingness says, on the contrary: I must care for my friends as much as I do for myself, and for his parents as I would my own. As a result, he does everything he can for his friends. Having made this distinction, Mo Tzu then asks the question: Which of these two principles is the right one?”
“Mo Tzu thereupon uses his “tests of judgment” to determine the right and wrong of these principles. According to him, every principle must be examined by three tests, namely: “Its basis, its verifiability and its applicability”.
Of course my now resurging interest in the Mo Tzu is due to me watching “A Battle of Wits” last night. I think it is a very well made movie in all aspects and demonstrated the Mo Tzu spirit very well. My wife really disliked the love-romance part but I think it is part of the Mohist dilemma, i.e. if you love everybody as you love yourself, where is the place for male-female love (which, by nature, must be selfish)? Should that be excluded as part of universal love? In this, Ge Li (Andy Lau’s character), must discover for himself and I thought that was very well done.
The costume, battle scenes, historical accuracy (not only the sets that I am talking about but the whole “mood” during the Warring States era), as far as I know and can see, is flawless. It is also technically superb and is a very smart movie. Maybe the only great flaw is that the actors looked too polished and modern for their roles but I think I can get past that. If all the key characters looked more like the peasants, then it would be perfect, but also, then this film will not get made as well. The actors and actresses did a fine job, and yes, including Andy Lau this time but particular bravado must be given to Wang Zhiwen’s portrayal of the King of Liang.
I will watch this movie again.