The Great Transformation: Chap 09 - Empire
300 - 220 BCE
As I mentioned before, Chinese history is really growing on me. Another attempt to enforce order on a war-wracked region: the Legalists. These guys seemed like hard nosed realists. Forget ethics, forget the spiritual quest. We've got a state to get in order and you do it with stern but fair laws. For them the idea of a sage king was oxymoron. And like them or no they did bring stability to an entire empire. Taoism also makes an entry during this time. I'll admit off the bat that I have had a soft spot for Taoism ever since read Smullyan's "The Tao is Silent". If nothing else I admire the way the Daodejing seems to say nothing but always gets my brain buzzing with speculation. It was interesting to learn that this fundamental Taoist text was originally written for rulers and that somewhat confusingly was absorbed by these hardheaded realist the Legalists. I'm not sure I have any better understanding of Taoism but at least I have a better understanding of the context in which it was created.
The Greeks are long past their Axial Age but still doing interesting things. Alexander the Great has conquered the known world. The various schools of Greek philosophy are really just echoes of their former greatness and never really reach the heights that the other cultures reach (at least with respect to morality and golden rule type thinking).
A passing mention of the Jews is made basically as a reminder that everyone in the region just seems to tromp on these guys over and over.
The Indians produce the Bhagavad Gita. This actually sounds like a halfway interesting story (but only halfway). Basically Arjuna and Krisha have a debate about how to be moral and be a warrior. The answer to this stumper is that as long as you are just doing your job and aren't attached to the results of your work you can so what ever the universe directs you to. If ever there was a philosophy custom tailored for the manipulation of the masses, this is it.
Yeah, only one more chapter to go!