Cordie Jacob Culp.

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Accepted by the Graduate School of New York University,

in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the

Degree of Doctor of Philosophy.


F. B. C.





I. INTRODUCTION :-The Nature of the Ethical

Problem 7-8

1. The Older View. Life as enjoyment, Epicu-

rean. Life as obligation, Stoic. Consequent
dualism. Hedonism and Rationalism. The
search after a reconciling principle 7

2. The Newer View. Life as realization, Aesthet-

ics. Life as renunciation, Religion. Eudae-
monism and Rigorism. Life in its unity. The
aim of this thesis 7-8


Development 8-46

A. Orientalism.

1. Taoism: The speculative principle of the
Tao, nihilistic. The ethical principle of the
Teh, doing nothing. Non-resentment and
non-resistance 8-1 1

2. Yogaism: Compared with Taoism. The
Universal Self. The practical principle of
worklessness. The basis for non-resentment

and non-resistance 1 1-14

3. Buddhism: Compared with Taoism and
Yogaism. The Buddhistic motive. Annihila-
tion of desire. Nirvanism 14-16

4. Christianity: Compared with other forms of
orientalism. Teaching of Jesus, self-denial
and self-hatred. Teaching of St. Paul, inva-
lidity of good works. Transition of Christi-
anity to the Occident. Conflict with Pagan-





ism. Augustine. "Via negativa" Renais-
sance and the Reformation. The rise of Ra-
tionalism 16-23

B. Modernity: The Rationalistic Withdrawal

from Nature.

1. The problem of Descartes: The dualism of
mind and matter. Interaction of body and
mind 23-24

2. Occasionalism: Geulincx: Virtue u Amor Dei
ac Rationis." u lnspectio sui" "Despectio sui"
"Contemptio sui." Malebranche. Seeing in
God. Loving God. Spinoza and Occasional-
ism, u Amor intellectuals Dei" Pascal, con-
tempt of reason. Exaltation of will 24-31

C. Revival of Renunciation in the igth Century.

1. Schopenhauer: The World as Will and Idea,
The Will-to-live. Life as evil. Denial of
The Will-to-live. Pessimism of Bahnsen.

The contention of Frauenstadt 32-37

2. Hartmann: Compared with Schopenhauer.
Will unconscious but intelligent. Affirmation
of the Will-to-live. Final annihilation of the

will 37-38

3. Wagner: The superman. Nirvanism of
Wotan in u The Ring" The "Black flag" of
Tristan and Isolde. Parsifal 38-40

4. Ibsen: Brand, "All or none." Peer Gynt,
"Barrel of self." Emperor and Galilean,
"Thou hast conquered." Rosmersholm, "The
Rosmer view of life" 40-41

5. Russian Submission and Sympathism: Tol-
stoi, doctrine of non-resistance. Dostoievsky,
egoism and repentance 4 I- 43

6. Opposition to renunciation. Sudermann, in-
dividualism and immoralism. Repudiation of

Contents 5


moral standards. Nietzsche, Will-to-power.
Superman. Ascetic ideals. Contempt for
Christianity 43-46


IDEAL 46-55

A. Negative.

1. Life can not contain nor content man: Per-
sistency and universality of renunciatory
ideals. The lack in human life. Nature and
spirit 46-50

2. The spiritual nature of man: No place in
nature. The historical negation of nature.

The problem of self-hood 49-50

B. Positive.

1. Renunciation as the path to spiritual life. The
more in human life. Man's critical attitude
toward the world. The affirmation of the self 50-51

2. Self-realization through renunciation: The
self and nature. Subdual of the world of
sense. Renunciation as conceived by Russian
thought and Christianity. Metaphysical and
moral grounds. A valid ideal for complete-
ness of life. The home and the work of the

self 51-55



The problem of renunciation arises in connection with the
newer and more profound conception of the moral life, as
it has been developed by modern writers. According to the
traditional view, the ethical decision and moral choice had
to do with one or other of the peculiar functions of con-
sciousness, as feeling or intellect, sensibility or reason. Thus
arose the dualism which occasioned the sharp conflict be-
tween Epicureanism and Stoicism, the ideal of the former
being the enjoyment of life, while the latter made life a mat-
ter of obligation. This dualism persisted in modern think-
ing in the form of Hedonism on the one hand and Rational-
ism on the other with a constant conflict which served in
time to reveal the inadequacy of either conception to meet
the ethical demands of humanity. Hedonism possessed ma-
terial and content in sensibility but lacked form and a regu-
lating principle, while Rationalism had the form and regu-
lating principle but lacked material and content. Consequent-
ly there was a search for a reconciling principle which would
recognize the rights of both Hedonism and Rationalism.
This search resulted in the conclusion that life must be con-
ceived as an unit which took the form of Eudaemonism,
where self-realization through the aesthetical impulse was
the ideal, or Rigorism, where the religious influence was para-
mount. Both views apprehended life as a whole but where
Eudaemonism counselled man to accept life, Rigorism de-
manded that he reject it. Therefore, the distinction which
now obtains in the moral field, instead of forcing the ethical
subject to choose between separate functions of consciousness,
man is called upon to regard his life as an unity and upon
this basis to either assert his life as a whole or deny it. Thus
arises our problem of renunciation. For its proper consid-
eration as an ethical ideal, its place in human thought and


8 The Ethical Ideal of Renunciation

the forms in which it appears, it is necessary that this thesis
be historical and expository with some critical estimate of
renunciation as a problem in human life.


Following the superior conception of ethics as something
concerned with life as a whole, there arises the necessity of
exploring the whole field of historical ethical inquiry, so
that instead of beginning with Socrates or Hobbes, we must
consider the earlier forms of morality as these are found
in the oriental world. For this reason it is expedient that
we examine the subject of renunciation as it appears in
Taoism, Yogaism, Buddhism and Christianity as well as the
various forms of occidental thinking. With Taoism and
Yogaism, the problem concerns itself with activity. Each
system agreeing that all action must be repudiated, the one
ending in nihilism and the other in worklessness. Buddhism
and Christianity are ethical where Taoism and Yogaism are
more metaphysical. These have their seat in the spiritual
life of man and when they counsel their disciples to re-
nounce the world, the result of Buddhism is a pessimism of
a weak and negative sort, while with Christianity, it is a
pessimism of a stronger and more positive character. In
all four of these systems, renunciation is paramount.


i. Both in point of time and development, Taoism of-
fers a fitting field for the beginning of our historical inquiry
as to the subject of renunciation. This early form of Mon-
golian thought is naive, naturistic and individualistic. It
finds its most perfect expression in the writings of Laotzc,
known as the Tao-Teh-King, a paradoxical and unsyste-
matical treatise on metaphysics and ethics. The Tao is the
speculative principle and the Teh the practical principle,
with no clear distinctions between them. The Tao is an-
alogous to the Greek principle of the Aoyos or the natura

Renunciation in Its Historical Development 9

naturans of Bruno and Spinoza. Laotze speaks of it thus:
"There is something undefined and complete, coming into
existence before Heaven and Earth. How still it was and
formless, standing alone, and undergoing no change, reach-
ing everywhere and in no danger (of being exhausted) ! It
may be regarded as the Mother of all things. I do not
know its name, and I give it the designation of the Tao." 1
He further declares that "It might appear to have been be-
fore God." 2 A further examination of the Taoistic prin-
ciple indicates that its real nature is nihilistic. In fact Laotze
anticipates the Hegelian notion that pure being is equivalent
to nothing. He says "The Tao is like the emptiness of a
vessel." 3 It is also likened to the space for the axle in the
hub of a wheel or to the openings for windows and doors in
the walls of a house. 4 The Tao is nihilistic in its operations.
It is impalpable. It eludes the senses. It is the equable, the
inaudible and the subtle. 5 In its method of procedure, the
Tao moves by contraries:

"The movement of the Tao
By contraries proceeds ;
And weakness marks the course
Of Tao's mighty deeds." 6

Its existence is non-existence, its fullness is emptiness, its
brightness is darkness and its progress is retrogression. 7 Such
paradoxical illustrations as these serve to show the nihilism
which lies at the heart of the system, the most definite as-
sertion of which occurs in the 37th chapter of the first part
of the Tao-Teh-King where Laotze declares: "The Tao in
its regular course does nothing and so there is nothing which
it can not do."

Turning to the Teh, the ethical principle of the system,
we are met with the assertion that "Man takes his law from
the earth; the earth takes its law from heaven; heaven takes

1. Tao-Teh-King, tr. Legge, pt. I, ch. 25.

2. Ib., ch. 4.

3. Ib., ch. 4, sec. I.

4. Ib., ch. n.

5. Ib., ch. 14.

6. Ib., pt. II, ch. 40.
7- Ib., pt. I, ch. 21,

io The Ethical Ideal of Renunciation

its law from the Tao." 1 Therefore, the law of man's life
is a form of quiescence which has its root in the metaphysical
nihilism of Taoism. Many and various are the ways in
which this quiescent state is portrayed. The man of Tao
is declared to be "Vacant like a valley and dull like muddy
water." 2 Water is a favorite emblem of Laotze for both
the Teh and the Tao: u There is nothing in the world more
soft and weak than water and yet for attacking things that
are firm and strong there is nothing that can take precedence
of it; for there is nothing (so effectual) for which it can
be changed." 3 It is the yielding character, stillness and ap-
parent weakness of water which make it such an attractive
figure for the way of human conduct. 4 The ideal state for
humanity is one of listlessness and stillness where all desire
ceases to exist. Man must be "Like an infant which has not
smiled." 5 To attain to this ideal of "doing nothing" is
man's most sublime achievement and greatest enjoyment.
Kwang-sze says: "I consider doing nothing to be the greatest
enjoyment." 6 Laotze in portraying this ideal is careful to
point out the road for its attainment which is the renuncia-
tion of all forms of activity, whether of the inner or the
outer life of man. He must constantly diminish his doing
until "He arrives at doing nothing." 7 All desire must be
stilled until it absolutely ceases. 8 All human wisdom, be-
nevolence, righteousness and learning must be renounced.
By following such a path man will discover the principle
of all successful government, solve all social problems and
free society from all disorder. 10 Thus the real Utopia, ac-

1. Tao-Teh-King, pt. I, ch. 25.

2. Ib., 15.

3. Ib., pt. II, ch. 78.

4. Ib., pt. I, ch. 8; pt. II, ch. 66 et al.

5. Ib., pt. I, ch. 20.

6. Writings of Kwang-sze, tr. Legge, Bk. 18.

7. Tao-Teh-ing, pt. II, ch. 48.

8. Ib, ch. i.

9. Ib, ch. 19.

io. Ib, pt. I, ch. 3 ; pt. II, ch. 57.

Renunciation in Its Historical Development 1 1

cording to the Taoistic system is the u Land of the great
vacuity" where after the manner of Heaven and Earth,
man sinks into the state where

"With no desire, at rest and still
All things go right as of their will." 1

In Taoism, renunciation also appears in the forms of
non-resentment and non-resistance. It is said of the Taoistic
sage: "Because he does not strive, no one finds it possible to
strive with him. " 5 Speaking of war the sage declares: "I
do not dare to advance an inch; I prefer to retire a foot." 3
Non-resentment is counselled even more definitely. The sage
makes the mind of the people his mind and declares: u To
those who are good to me, I am good; and to those who are
not good to me, I am also good." 4 The teachings of Jesus
and Tolstoi are anticipated in the unexpected declaration:
"It is the way of the Tao to recompense injury with kind-
ness." 5 The foundation of non-resistance and non-resent-
ment lies also in the nihilism of the system of Taoism with its
symbols of emptiness and non-action. If nothing exists and
nothing needs to be done, naturally all reaction on the part
of humanity is not only out of place but entirely useless.
Renunciation, as the life ideal of Taoism, can not permit
activity even under the forms of non-resistance and non-
resentment. To the thorough-going Taoist, man's ordinary
life is valueless and to be negated as completely as the
nihilism of the system negates the world.

2. The doctrine of Yogaism while agreeing with Taoism in
counselling non-activity as an ideal for human life, differs
from that system in being more intellectual but scarcely more
systematic. Where Taoism investigated nature and found
it empty, the Yoga affirms the absolute self in opposition
to the external world, therefore, the Yoga has a more sub-

1. Tao-Teh-King, pt. I, ch. 37.

2. Tao-Teh-King, pt. II, ch. 66.

3. Ib., ch. 69.

4. Ib., ch. 49.

5. Tb., ch. 63

12 The Ethical Ideal of Renunciation

stantial metaphysics and while repudiating action, its form
of renunciation is of a higher and more logical nature than
that of Mongolian thought. The speculative basis for the
Yoga doctrine is the Brahman or universal self of the Ve-
danta philosophy, the Yoga being the practical aspect which
finds its clearest expression in the Bhagavadgita. Where
the Vedanta counsels the ideal of contemplation, the Yoga
of renunciation proceeds to realize the ideal, hence its con-
cern has to do with the emancipation of the individual self
from the delusion of the immediate and external and the
junction with the Absolute Self which is declared to be the
"Brahmic Bliss." 1 The Yoga is closely related to the Sankya
doctrine of knowledge as the path to the "Brahma-nirvana."
In fact they are declared to be one and the same; u He sees
truly" says Deity, "who sees Sankya and Yoga as one." 2 Ac-
cording to the Sankya, the path of knowledge is secured by
renunciation in the form of a thorough-going asceticism. (The
Hatha Yoga), and by the mortification of all desires and the
absolute abandonment of all action, (The Raja Yoga), until
the mind attains to a state of undisturbed meditation. 3 The
renunciation required by the Sankya doctrine, so far as it
pertains to activity, is as nihilistic as that of Taoism. How-
ever, in the Yoga, renunciation has to do with the purpose
and the motive of activity, rather than with activity itself,
thus yielding a kind of worklessness, in which man repudiates
all desire, ends and fruits of action. 4 The Yoga recognizes
a practical difficulty which seems to be entirely ignored by
Taoism and the Sankya and declares that "A man does not
attain freedom from action merely by not engaging in ac-
tion, for nobody ever remains even for an instant without
performing some action." Therefore, the Yoga counsels:
"Action is better than inaction." 5 In this the Sankya doc-
trine is not so much repudiated by the Bhagavadgita as it is

1. Bhagavadgita, tr., Telang, ch. 2.

2. Ib., ch. 5.

3. Ib., ch. 2.

4. Ib. ch. 3.
5- Ib , ch 3

Renunciation in Its Historical Development 13

considered inferior. Deity says: "There is a two-fold path,
that of the Sankyas by devotion in the shape of true knowl-
edge; and that of the Yogins by devotion in the shape of ac-
tion," 1 however, Deity further says: u But of the two, pur-
suit of action is superior to the renunciation of action." 2 It
is quite evident, therefore, that the renunciation of the Yoga
passes from that of action itself to the motive for action and
thus reduces the ethical subject to a position where the rule
of work is the absence of all expectation of reward and the
complete detachment of all desire from activity, or as Deity
declares : "I will speak to you about action, and learning that,
you will be freed from this world of evil. He is wise among
men who sees inaction in action, and action in inaction. For-
saking all detachment to the fruit of action, always con-
tented, dependent on none, he does nothing at all, though he
engage in action." 3 The principle underlying this ideal of
worklessness is that life itself must be one great act of re-
nunciation by which the whole is dedicated to Brahman. To
Arguna's plea for direction in attaining the highest good,
Deity answers by saying: "Dedicating all actions to me with
a mind knowing the relation of the supreme and individual
self." 4 In chapter five of the same work, Arguna is troubled
with what seems to be a confusion between renunciation and
the pursuit of action, to which Deity replies: "He, who cast-
ing oft all attachment, performs actions dedicating them to
Brahman, is not tainted by sin, as the lotus-leaf is not tainted
by water." We have in this form of Hindoo thinking a
world abandonment as a life ideal which is attained by re-
nunciation in the form of worklessness. This, however, is
not the only form in which renunciation appears in the Yoga
doctrine. As in Taoism, non-resentment and non-resistance
are definitely advocated but upon different grounds. If in
the Taoistic system, resentment and resistance must be re-
nounced because they are useless, in the Yoga they must be

1. Bhagavadgita, ch. 3.

2. Ib., Ch. 5-

3. Ib., ch. 4.

4. Ib., ch. 3.

14 The Ethical Ideal of Renunciation

abandoned because they are injurious to the individual and
serve only to frustrate his attainment of Brahmic bliss.
While the Bhagavadgita does not draw any such direct con-
clusion, any consistency between its speculative and practical
principles, demands that non-resentment and non-resistance
be fundamental to a system where the Universal Self is all
and the individual self can only say, aham brahma asmi! "I
am Brahman." Deity not only claims to be the source of
forgiveness 1 but demands it of the Yogin : u That devotee of
mine, who hates no being, who is friendly and compassionate,
who is forgiving, is dear to me." And again : "He who is
alike to friend and foe, as also in honor and dishonor, who
is alike in cold and heat, pleasure and pain, who is free from
attachments, to whom praise and blame are alike, is dear to
me." 2 While the Bhagavadgita thus promulgates a more
active form of negation than Taoism by its Yoga of renuncia-
tion, it makes man distrustful of existence and destroys his
sense of selfhood by taking from him the consciousness of
individuality and all desire for personal action. However,
such an ideal goes counter to man's native sense of selfhood.
Man is not content to believe that he has no business to exist
or that he has no value in the world. It is not strange,
therefore, that over against the negation of the individual
personality of the Vedanta with its practical Yoga of re-
nunciation, there arises a reaction in which the self becomes
positive and while not possessing satisfactory value, its real
problems are recognized and dealt with in the positive fash-
ion of Buddhism and Christianity.

3. In Buddhism the Universal Self of the Yoga becomes
the subjective self of the individual. The metaphysical prin-
ciple of the Tao and Yoga practically disappears and in its
place, the individual alone exists. Ethics becomes everything
and the self the center of all problems. If the Yoga found
something wrong with the individual, Buddhism finds every-
thing wrong with the individual life and catching up the weap-
on of renunciation it wields it with more deadly power than

1. Bhagavadgita, ch. 10.

2. Bhagavadgita, ch. 12.

Renunciation in Its Historical Development 15

either Taoism or the Yoga. Where they were content with
negation and inactivity, Buddhism must secure the complete
annihilation of the individual self and thereby of all things.
Further Buddhism differs from these older negative forms
of thought in seeking the final redemption of man. The
nihilism of Taoism and the worklessness of Yogaism
are only temporary measures which will not satisfy the
Buddhist. Human life is too painful, sorrowful and de-
lusive; evil too persistent, the rebirth of the soul too terrible,
for any thing to be sought but the complete extinguishment
of the spark of the soul as "Fire goes out for want of grass."
The motive for Buddhistic renunciation is purely pessimistic.
"Birth, decay, death, the unpleasant and unsatisfied craving,
are all painful," but these are the condition of the existence
of the individual. 1 To escape this suffering, it is necessary
to destroy its root which is the desire for the gratification of
passion, for future life and for success in the present life. 2
This craving or desire is overcome by means of a series of
renunciatory acts summed up in the "Eight fold path." By
this path the chain of causation, so fundamental to the
Buddhistic system, is counteracted and finally overcome.
When this chain is broken, man is free from the earthly
bonds and from the re-birth of the soul and attains to the
desired end of Nirvana or extinction which is likened to the
blowing out of a candle. Buddhism in marshalling its forces
against desire, attacks the very stronghold of the life of
man and in reality seeks to save him by destroying him. This
paradoxical procedure is not all concealed but rather set
forth in the spirit of exultation. It is recorded in the "Book
of the Great Decease" that when the Blessed One "Delib-
erately and consciously rejected the rest of his alloted life"
he broke out in this hymn of rejoicing:

"His sum of life the sage renounced,
The Cause of life immeasurable or small;
With inward joy and calm, he broke,
Like a coat of mail, his life's own cause." 1

1. Ppanattana Sutta, sec. 5.

2. Ib., sees. 6, 7, 8.

3. Ib., ch. 3:10.

1 6 The Ethical Ideal of Renunciation

This breaking of the cause of life is the attainment of
Nirvana which is not annihilation but a living Arahatship, a
condition of human existence where the fires of lust, hatred
and delusion have gone out by a process of contemplation
and asceticism combined. The Arahat has reached Nirvana
but continues to live in a state of bliss, like the "Gods who
feed on happiness." 1 In this state the seeds of existence are
destroyed, desire and the sense of individuality are no more
and like a dying lamp, the Arahat gradually flickers out of
existence into complete and absolute annihilation. 2 Like
Taoism and Yogaism, Buddhism counsels non-resentment
and non-resistance but upon a more practical basis, in fact
they are the natural corollaries of the system. To practice re-
sentment or resistance only adds to the strife and pain of life
from which it is the whole end of man to escape. u Angry
speech is painful, blows for blows will touch" says the Dham-
mapada. 3 The teachings of Jesus are anticipated by the
declaration that "Hatred does not cease by hatred at any
time: Hatred ceases by love." 4 The Path to Nirvana is
further described as one where anger is overcome by love,
evil by good, the greedy by liberality, the liar by truth and
where no one is injured by another. 5 Buddhistic renuncia-
tion is thorough-going in all its aspects. Its foundation is
laid deeply in the weakest sort of pessimism. If Taoism can
find neither a home nor a work for man and the Yoga robs
him of all purpose and motive, Buddhism finds his life al-
together evil with no hope but utter extinction and annihila-

4. Christianity, the last form of orientalism to be con-
sidered in this historical survey, like the systems already re-
viewed, has a passion for renunciation but in other respects
it differs very fundamentally from these systems. Where
both Mongolian and Indian thought make light of the in-

1. Dhammapada, sees. 197-200.

2. Rattana Sutta, sec. 14.

3. Sec. 133-

4. Ib., sec. 5.

5. Ib., sees. 223-225.

Renunciation in Its Historical Development 17

dividual and depreciate his worth, Christianity literally dis-
covers the individual and posits the soul over against the

1 3 4 5

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