Asian philosophies have proven extremely influential in the United States, but are they being interpreted correctly? Frequently not, says Harvard China historian Michael Puett, who focuses on two main ideas in this video: one transported relatively recently to the United States, and another that sheds new light on the so-called naturalistic fallacy.
First up is mindfulness meditation: a practice that has become all the rage for anyone looking to live calmer, more focussed lives. It sounds innocent enough, says Puett, but the goal of distancing yourself from negative emotion presents real risks. If you find a way to cope with negative emotion without changing the material circumstances around you — focusing on internal sources of stress to the exclusion of external ones — you may begin to accept harmful treatment.
This is likewise the case with "finding your true self," which Puett claims is little more than accepting your circumstances and normalizing potentially destructive patterns of behavior. When we search for ourselves, we search for some authentic, natural self. But putting nature on a pedestal ignores the very real call to action that Chinese philosophy presents.
Puett's latest book is "The Path: What Chinese Philosophers Can Teach Us About the Good Life"
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