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4 Indirect Approaches Intellectual History Background Our topic is development assistance, the helper-doer relationship when the helper is some individual or organizational promoter of development and the doer is an individual or organization undertaking developmental activities. Since most conventional development assistance or help is actually unhelpful in the sense of overriding or undercutting self-help, our task is to build the intellectual foundation for an alternative philosophy of development assistance—an autonomyrespecting version of the helper-doer relationship wherein help is supplied in an indirect manner that enables self-help. While the organized development assistance business is a relatively recent matter (post–World War II period), similar problems of helping self-help have been discussed since antiquity in other ‹elds of human endeavor. Hence part of our intellectual strategy is to look at the history of thought about the helping self-help problem, or conundrum, from antiquity down to modern times. The reader should not expect to ‹nd the older thinkers talking about development. Their thought is about the subtleties of the helperdoer relationship in other ‹elds (e.g., education or psychology); we have to extract and carry over the lessons to the helper-doer relationship in development assistance. The reader should recall that there are always the volitional and 68 cognitive dimensions of autonomy that we have tried to keep analytically separate, although they are much intertwined in practice. For instance, the cognitive correlate of a heteronomous action controlled by an externally sourced motive is a heteronomous belief based on the unexamined opinion or authority of others, not on the person’s own judgment of weighing evidence and reasoning from other rationally held beliefs. Many of the older thinkers (e.g., Socrates) focused on the cognitive autonomy-respecting helper-doer relationship. Taoist Antecedents Direct approaches usually express a controlling and engineering mentality (stereotypically masculine) often associated with the West, while indirect approaches motivated by organic nurturing and enabling attitudes (feminine) are sometimes associated with the East. Eastern religions , particularly Taoism (dated roughly from 600 B.C.), have some clear early arguments against a direct controlling approach to human affairs.1 For those who would like to take control of the world and act on it— I see that with this they simply will not succeed. The world is a sacred vessel; It is not something that can be acted upon. Those who act on it destroy it; Those who hold on to it lose it. (Lao-Tzu 1989, chap. 29) Taoism has the central concept of wu-wei, which is variously translated as “action by inaction” or “effortless action.” Perhaps wu-wei can be best understood as a general metaphor for the indirect approach. Certainly the inaction implies refraining from direct controlling actions that, as noted above, may defeat their purpose. A proper indirect approach by the helper will enable and enlist the intrinsic motivation and best energies of the doers so that matters will progress effortlessly on their initiative.2 A clear example is in learning. Learning externally imposed lessons requires quite an effort, but “when I study a subject which I love,—no matter how many years it takes me to learn it—I never feel that I am making any effort” (Smullyan 1977, 161). When Indirect Approaches 69 the teacher refrains from teaching a topic (in the sense of “pumping” knowledge into the pupil) and instead awakens the learner’s interest in the topic so that learning becomes self-motivated, then that is the wuwei of the indirect approach on the part of the teacher as helper. Applied to government, an interfering and overbearing government will sti›e and crowd out the initiative and self-activity of the people. The more prohibitions there are, the poorer the people become. The more sharp weapons there, the greater the chaos in the state. The more skills of technique, the more cunning things are produced. The greater the number of statutes, the greater the number of thieves and brigands. Therefore the Sage says: I do nothing and the people are reformed of themselves. I love quietude and the people are righteous of themselves. I deal in no business and the people grow rich by themselves. I have no desires and the people are simple and honest by themselves. (Lin 1948, chap. 57 of the Te-Tao Ching) Thus the best wu-wei of the government is that which best enables the people to help themselves (which is not necessarily laissez faire). The Socratic Method I begin the history...


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