chapter  4
13 Pages

Harmony in government

Harmony has been a profound theme in Chinese thought since earliest times, profound in ontological, ethical and religious senses. Issues of harmony and disharmony affect nearly every philosophic discussion in East Asia.1 Harmony has not had that kind of importance in the West however. For Aristotle and his massively influential tradition, harmony has had a subsidiary position relative to his more central structural approach to value. For Plato however harmony is as central as it has been in Chinese thought, although most commentators on Plato have been Aristotelians who have missed that point.2 The first section below will contrast Plato’s theory of harmony with Aristotle’s teleological approach to value. The second will present a formal analysis of harmony, deriving from Plato but just as well resonant with Chinese ideas. The third will move directly to harmony in government and explore the limits of leadership and the need for rule by law.