History as the Final Judge
01 May 2006
This is part three of my professor’s lecture on speech acts. This part is even more of a digression than the thoughts on race and “the weak,” but it’s related to the Confucian quote, and, more specifically, ideas about history.
My professor was saying that he thought that social order required there to be a “final judge” (最后审判者). For the West, that “final judge” has been the Judeo-Christian God and the accompanying system of morality. However, China’s “final judge,” my professor argued, was certainly not religious in nature. So what was it?
According to him, through the ages the Chinese have feared not the judgment of some god or moral system, but rather history. He felt that for China, history is the final judge.
What did China’s emperors have to fear? Certainly not the wrath of anything divine. The only thing they feared was how historians recorded them.
Similarly, parents toil their entire lifetimes because their vision is firmly locked on the future. Their children will have better lives, and they are willing to accept a role in the history of that better future.
I’m not going to write too much about this… This is the kind of thing that doesn’t get written down in my notebook (since it’s almost completely irrelevant to speech acts), but it certainly captures my attention and imagination a bit more.