Benjamin Hammer: Modesty leads to longer happiness

Benjamin K. Hammer, Executive Chief Editor of the
Journal of Chinese Humanitiesan English version of
Journal of literature, history and philosophy published by Shandong University [Photo provided to]

Q: You have studied the Chinese language and ancient Chinese documents for many years. How has your knowledge of China influenced your values ​​and attitude towards life and the world?

A: Studying Chinese philosophy and culture for a long time has definitely helped shape and develop me into the person I am today.

In a way, Confucian philosophy taught me about the importance of our social roles and responsibilities, how we need to look at our specific relationship with those around us, and what that relationship requires of us. Confucianism can teach us that.

I would also like to think that Taoism taught me a lot about humility, the opposite of selfishness or greed, so to speak. That daodjing (or Tao Te Ching) has many metaphors from the natural world about how we should conduct ourselves in life.

One of the big ones is water. The course of water can only follow the laws of nature and physics. But one of the reasons water is such an apt metaphor in the daodjing is that water always flows down, while we humans naturally want to go up. We have this natural tendency to compete and compare ourselves to others and try to always put ourselves in a position in front of the next person or above the other person, which can cause a lot of conflict, greed and needless problems. Water, on the other hand, is the opposite. Water always chooses the lowest path.

So when we follow the example of water, instead of always trying to compete or compete with other people, we allow other people to rush forward, and then we settle for a more natural and normal path for ourselves , a more modest and humble way. and that could lead to longer happiness.

Q: How do you think spreading Confucianism would help build a community with a shared future?

A: Confucianism has been studied in the West, even in mainstream academia, in Europe and America for several decades.

Lately, it’s becoming popular even among people outside of this science. One of the reasons is that we all see certain problems in conflicts that have arisen in Western society – many of them are the result of Western philosophy, be it political philosophy or ethical philosophy. I believe that Western philosophy is very good and very valuable, very helpful and worth studying on their way. But every philosophy in the world has its limits and every philosophy could have its course. It seems that political philosophy in the western world has reached an impasse. There may come a dead end along the way where Western philosophy or political philosophy itself cannot offer its own internal solution, and so many people turn to Eastern philosophy and Eastern wisdom in the hope that something like Confucianism or Taoism or Buddhism may be able to resolve some of the social conflicts and political problems we encounter that Western philosophy cannot resolve.

Q: How do you think the Nishan Forum will promote Chinese Confucianism internationally?

A: The more international the Nishan Forum is, the more efficiently it will be able to achieve its goal of promoting Confucianism outside of China.

When you have many international figures and scholars attending, it means two things – first, they will bring their foreign ideas and backgrounds to this discussion of Chinese philosophy, which is good for the growth of Chinese philosophy. The other thing it means is that these overseas participants will then bring back to their respective countries what they have shared and collected and learned from the Nishan Forum and hopefully share what they have learned and some of the benefits from the Confucian wisdom impart philosophy with their own foreign cohorts, peers, friends and citizens.

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