There are two facts about culture that must be known.
First, culture is a new concept to the west, which is only available in modern times but not in ancient times. It is less than 200 years old, but it is an ancient concept to China, which has existed since the beginning of civilization, at least 10,000 years.
The broad concept of culture refers to people’s independent cognition of people’s lifestyle, so the basic premise of the emergence and existence of this concept of culture is that people themselves are independent, so that they can have an independent cognition of lifestyle.
People in any historical period and any social form will have their own lifestyles, but not all lifestyles are independent. When people lack independence, there will be no independent cognition of people’s life and no cultural concept. In fact, animals also have their own way of life, but animals will not have independent cognition of their own way of life, because animals have no independence, so animals will not have cultural concepts.
In other words, having a lifestyle and having an independent understanding of lifestyle are two different things. Only with independence can we have an independent cognition of lifestyle and a cultural concept.
China has the concept of culture since the beginning of civilization, because China had a high degree of independence at that time. The concept of culture didn’t exist in the west until modern times, because only in modern times did the west have independence, and there was no independence in ancient times.
What is human independence? Is the independence of thinking. What is the independence of thinking is to be able to think independently without dogma. In the Fuxi era at the beginning of civilization, China realized the independence of thinking, making thinking free from any dogma, and centered on this independent thinking, formed China’s justice-mind culture.
Before modern times, the west has always been in a religious society, and its thinking has always been imprisoned by religion, but it does not have independence. After entering the modern society, the west overthrew Christianity through the Enlightenment, entered the secular society, realized "rationalization", and then gained independence.
Second, although the modern West has achieved depreligiousization and independent thinking, thus it has a cultural concept, but its depreligiousization is not complete, and religious remnants still remain in its deep thinking, which leads to its incomplete independent thinking and is still restricted by dogmatism and ideology.
However, it is a pity that the modern west, which has realized independent thinking for less than 200 years, mistakenly and dogmatically believes that not only its own independent thinking is thorough, but also it is the most thorough in all historical periods and all civilizations. In fact, this is a kind of ignorance, fearlessness, and arrogance. They know that China not only realized thinking independence 10,000 years earlier than them, but this kind of thinking independence really broke all dogmas and was truly independent.
The basic premise of realizing thinking independence is to realize the independent existence of thinking. At present, only China civilization has truly realized the independent existence of thinking and realized the independence of thinking. The modern west has not really realized the independent existence of thinking, nor has it really realized the independence of thinking.
The reason is that the depreligiousization of the modern west is incomplete, and religious factors still remain, which makes their thinking still dependent rather than truly independent. Modern western thinking dependence is embodied in two aspects: system dependence and knowledge dependence.
Institutional dependence means that the modern west believes that their democratic system is the best and most ideal system for human beings and falls into a kind of institutional worship and superstition. Knowledge dependence means that the modern west thinks that their science is the knowledge system of discovering and knowledge about truth, which, like the democratic system, is the most ideal knowledge system for human beings.
This kind of system dependence and knowledge dependence are rooted in Christianity.
Christianity believes that the laws and systems designed by God for mankind are sacred systems to save mankind, and we must believe in and worship them. These systems are also agreements and contracts between human beings and God, so the Bible is actually a "Covenant" between God and human beings. As long as mankind wholeheartedly believes in and abides by God’s Covenant, it will be saved by God and enter heaven after death.
In Christian theology, God himself is truth. The so-called truth is the power and law with absolute certainty, the creator and supporter of the world, and the backstage boss of the world. Therefore, human beings only have faith in truth, but can’t think. The modern west overthrew Christianity, but it did not overthrew its truth thinking, but reformed and inherited it. The theological truth of Christianity changed into a scientific truth.
In the era of Christian theology, truth is attached to God, and God exists absolutely independently of human beings. After entering modern times, truth is attached to the objective world, which, like God, is also considered to be absolutely independent of human beings. Through scientific research, we can find those truths that exist in the objective world, which are also called objective laws. For these scientific truths, human beings should believe and obey them as they treat theological truths.
In the religious era, people have no independence at all, and only God has independence. God can’t think about people, but only believes and obeys. In modern times, although people gain independence, it is limited. What is truly independent is the democratic system and scientific truth. People can’t think about the democratic system and scientific truth itself, but can only believe and obey, and fall into institutional superstition and knowledge superstition.
In China’s culture of righteousness, reason and mind, what is truly independent is thinking itself. Apart from thinking, everything is not independent, but can be thought and is the object of thinking. Therefore, China culture believes that the only thing that really matters and remains unchanged is thinking itself, and everything except thinking is secondary and changeable.
When the ancients in China discovered the independence of thinking, they named it "Heart" for thinking alone. The original meaning of the Chinese character "heart" refers to people’s thinking function, not the physiological heart. The heart meaning of the heart is only the extended meaning and the second meaning. Later generations turned it upside down, thinking that the heart is an pictograph, and its glyph is a pictograph of the heart. Its first meaning is the heart, and the second meaning is thinking. Then, it was said that the ancient people in China were very foolish and thought that people thought with the heart. In fact, it is not the ancient people in China who are really ignorant, but the modern people who think that the ancient people in China are ignorant.
Therefore, mind and righteousness have become the core of China culture, and they are actually one thing, that is, "mind is reason" and "nature is reason" in Song and Ming Neo-Confucianism, which is difficult for modern China people to understand, and even more difficult for foreigners, because the learning paradigm of modern China is also western, and there are no Chinese concepts of mind and righteousness in western culture.
Why do you say that righteousness and human heart are the same thing? Because righteousness is the inherent attribute of human heart, the inherent attribute of thinking and the inherent principle of people’s thinking, judgment and choice. Based on these principles, we can judge right and wrong, good and evil, make the choice of "good and evil" and finally implement it into action. In this way, justice is presented in people’s behavior, which makes people’s behavior "reasonable", polite and proper.
People’s external behavior in accordance with justice is the result of people’s active and independent thinking, judgment and choice, rather than passive compliance and obedience to external dogmatic principles of justice.
Therefore, in China culture, people’s external goodness depends on whether their thinking is truly independent. If they really think independently, and really think, judge and choose according to their natural nature, their behavior will be reasonable and good. Therefore, the Doctrine of the Mean says that "frankness is the Tao" and "sincerity is the Tao of heaven". "frankness" means following one’s own natural nature, and "honesty" and "frankness" are basically synonymous.
Mencius said that "good nature" is also the meaning, and sex is justice, which naturally lies in the judgment criterion of human heart. Therefore, Mencius’ "good nature" is not static good and evil, but contains dynamic thinking, and it is absolutely independent thinking. Only when people think independently can their "goodness" nature be brought into full play and presented in behavior. All people’s evil deeds that deviate from good are the result of thinking independence and losing the independence of thinking.
The reason why people lose the independence of thinking is that they are influenced and interfered by the outside world, and replace their natural nature with wrong prejudices and dogmas from the outside world as the principles of their own thinking, judgment and choice, so that these wrong prejudices and dogmas will appear in his behavior and become evil deeds.
Therefore, the essence of the equivalence between righteousness and human heart is that righteousness and independent thinking are equal. Righteousness is presented through people’s independent thinking. The more independent a person’s thinking is, the more reasonable his behavior will be, and the better it will be.
Therefore, the central issue of China culture is how to realize and maintain the independence of thinking, and it is also a problem of rejecting the influence and interference of external dogma and prejudice on people’s hearts. From Confucius and Mencius to Zhu Xi and Wang Yangming, until the late Qing Dynasty, this issue was being discussed and studied. The traditional Confucian classics centered on the Four Books and Five Classics is actually the study of maintaining the independence of thinking.
Confucius said, "Don’t care, don’t care, don’t be solid, don’t care about me" means breaking all external dogmas and prejudices and ensuring the absolute independence of thinking. Mencius’ saying that human nature is good is not to earn a static name for human heart, but to defend the independence of thinking. Zhu Xi said that "preserving nature and destroying human desires" means getting rid of external dogma and prejudice, breaking the pollution of the outside world, and returning to the state of thinking independently. "Heaven is justice" and human nature, and "human desire" is the desire influenced by dogma and prejudice, that is, those wrong dogmas and prejudices themselves. Wang Yangming’s "unity of knowing and doing" is actually "unity of knowing and thinking", and it also enables thinking to return to a truly independent state based on one’s own conscience.
The debate on "the debate between mind and matter" is also designed to safeguard the independence of people’s hearts and thinking. "Heart" is thinking, and "thing" is the external environment outside the human heart and thinking function. At the same time, "things" are also the result of people’s thinking and cognition, and the product of people’s thinking and cognition ability.
Therefore, Wang Yangming said that "there is nothing outside the heart." Any foreign objects presented to people are displayed directly or indirectly through the thinking and cognitive function of people. At the same time, there is a distinct essential difference between "mind" and "thing". This difference is that the mind is the thinking function itself, while the thing is the solidified and fixed result and conclusion of people’s thinking that has been divorced from people’s hearts.
As the thinking itself, the heart is alive and empty, and as the result of thinking, it is dead and real. The living and empty nature of the heart makes it able to accommodate everything, taking everything as its own thinking object, and everything can be thought of, and there is nothing that cannot be thought of. The dead and real nature of things makes them mechanical and can’t hold things.
The fundamental purpose of "the debate between mind and matter" is to clarify the attributes of mind and matter, establish a correct relationship between mind and matter, and make the mind free from the influence and interference of things, not obsessed with and superstitious about things, but keep independent thinking. Once the heart is persistent and superstitious about something, it changes from living to death, from virtual to real, it becomes materialized, and it loses its independence of thinking. Once the human heart loses its independence of thinking, it will change from good to evil.
Note that people’s heart is the thinking function itself, while things are all external things besides the thinking function, and they are also the result of thinking. Since things are the result of people’s thinking and cognition, they include not only "objective" tangible things, but also all "subjective" intangible things: some conclusions and judgments are things, all systems and laws are things, all theories and knowledge are things, all religious and theological designs are things, and all technological inventions and ideological innovations are things …
Therefore, the democratic institutional system and scientific knowledge system that the modern west believes in belong to things. This means that the modern west is centered on democracy and science, not on people’s hearts and thinking. Therefore, modern western culture is also superstitious about things, and it has not achieved the independence of people’s hearts and thinking.
From the perspective of the debate between mind and matter, there is no essential difference between modern western superstitions on democracy and science and ancient western superstitions on God and God.
Once again, culture is not only a way of life, but also an independent cognition of life style. And this independent cognition depends on the degree of independent thinking. Although, after getting rid of religion in form, the modern west has the independence of thinking, but this independence is not complete, and it is still shackled by democracy and scientific dogma. Therefore, the cultural concept of the modern west is not true culture, but specious pseudo culture.
Only the ancient concept of China’s culture is true culture, because China really realized the independence of thinking.
In the western cultural concept, culture is equated with people’s way of life, and the advantages and disadvantages are judged according to foreign standards such as economy, technology and system, which is really a foreign cultural view.
Therefore, in English, the words expressing culture are respectively culture and civilization. Obviously, for the west, in some periods in history, agriculture and city are considered advanced and used to refer to advanced lifestyles. After entering modern times, people get rid of religion and become independent, and these related words have independent cultural meanings. If we go to the word early culture now, its root must be related to democracy and science.
In China, the core of culture and civilization is "Wen", and the essence of "Wen" is "Wen carries Tao". Literature is the carrier of Tao, and Tao is justice and human heart. Literature in a broad sense refers to all "reasonable" behaviors of people, while "literature" in a narrow sense refers to classics and articles.
Therefore, in China’s culture, the core of "culture" lies in Tao, but not in words, while Tao is righteousness, and the essence of righteousness is thinking about independence. Thinking about people’s behavior under independence is the real culture. Without independence, there will be no real culture and no real culture.
Or, China culture is a "spiritual culture" based on righteousness, human heart and thinking, while western culture is a "material culture" based on foreign things, and God, democratic system and science are all things. Only the "heart culture" is the true culture, and the "material culture" based on democracy and science in the modern west is the pseudo culture.