Atheist Frontier - Questioning what's Real

People - General Sun Zi

Statue of General Sun Zi in Bin Zhou, Shan Dong, China Sun Zi's name presented as Chinese characters (vertical):

(Simplified) (Traditional)

Sun Zi (or, more famously known as "Sun Tzu" or "Sun Wu") was an accomplished four-star General serving under the Wu Dynasty with a speciality in military strategy (beyond just tactical considerations).  One of General Sun Zi's greatest values was that finding an alternative to war was of paramount importance, for it does not lead to casualties or otherwise wasteful acts of destruction.  If there must be war, then one of the key goals of military strategy still aims to avoid loss of life (particularly of troops and innocent civilians), while also minimizing the overall effects of destruction.  Such an approach in developing military strategy is not always possible, however, and Sun Zi was also practical in this regard, hence successfully maintaining and practicing these ideals as a high priority reflected his sense of honour, compassion, and the value he put on life that also earned him recognition as both a trusted leader and a great philosopher.

Particularly famous for his profound contributions to military philosophy that are influential in modern military operations throughout the world, due not only to his success as a practicing first class general during the crucial period of The Warring States, his authorship in his famous literary works heavily impacted asian history and culture in particular.  Sun Zi's highly respected military treatise, The Art of Warfare, has been translated to English on numerous occasions, and although many suffer from mis-interpretations the most objective translation published by Richard Ames, which is notable not only for including the untranslated Chinese text throughout the book as well as for its absence of opinion-influenced interpretation, is also more extensive because it incorporates the recently discovered Yin-ch'üeh-shan texts.

Although world-famous philosophers traditionally tend to avoid or ignore military matters, Chinese philosophers are unique in this regard because military matters are thoroughly considered, examined, and questioned.  This doesn't neccessarily mean that one philosophy is categorically better than any other, rather it's more likely a reflection of the general expectations of which areas are appropriate for philosophical exploration.  In the case of the Chinese, there seems to be a sense of practicality throughout nearly all aspects of life (perhaps because life has historically been very difficult, sprinkled with profound tragedies, for many people), and so philosophy may also need to be practical to be useful to its society.

Although Sun Zi is difficult to quote in short sentences (because the context usually needs to be quoted as well), here is one that is atheistic:

  • "Foreknowledge cannot be elicited from spirits."

That quotation emphasizes one of the key practical requirements of strategic military planning.  Essentially, Sun Zi was emphasizing the importance of rationally evaluating a given scenario based on facts rather than assumptions (he has also elaborated numerous times on the value of using spies to acquire crucial information).

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