Confucius Analects: Digital Age Edition

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  1. Master of Translation: Simon Leys’ Confucius
  2. An encyclopedia of philosophy articles written by professional philosophers.
  3. The Life and Philosophies of Confucius

The Analects of Confucius. Confucius Sharif George. Chinese Society and Politics. Ambrose Y. Confucius James Legge. Iulian Kostantinovich Shchutskii William L.

Master of Translation: Simon Leys’ Confucius

Analects of Confucius. Analects of Confucius Wisehouse Classics Edition. History of Egyptian Religion. Luzac's Oriental Religions Series, Vol. Professor Kaiten Nukariya. Mengzi Bilingual Edition, English and Chinese. Confucian Analects. Ph D John E Young.

An encyclopedia of philosophy articles written by professional philosophers.

Confucius and Confucianism. The Analects of Confucius Perfect Library. The Analects of Confucius Aziloth Books. A Reader's Companion to the Confucian Analects. Gregg A. Ten Elshof. But he was writing in the Warring States era, which was an age of constant conflict, and he had some principles for warfare—for when warfare is moral or just—which I think are quite well grounded in reality.

To my mind they are quite realistic and feasible, and have much in common with modern ideas about just war. He provides an account of when defensive warfare is justified, namely when one is attacked in an unprovoked way by a neighbouring country. In this situation military force is legitimate if the ruler has the support of the people.

He also has this idea— equivalent to the modern idea of humanitarian intervention—that when there is a ruler who is systematically oppressing the people, there might be a case for using military force to liberate the people. But he is quite clear that certain conditions have to be in place for this to be legitimate. One is that the people have to welcome the invading army, and that the welcome has to be long lasting, not just short-term. Also, there has to be the equivalent of international support for the invasion.

He also investigates what we mean by oppression. And for him, oppression means that the ruler is violating the most basic needs; most notably that of survival.

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If a ruler is systematically killing the people, or systematically starving them, only then might there be a case for humanitarian intervention. The idea of sovereignty was emphasised throughout most of the 20th century in China, which made sense when China was being bullied by foreign powers and it needed to strengthen itself. Now China is a relatively powerful and stable country, with international influence. Mencius was followed about one hundred years later in the 3rd century B.

His view of Confucianism was pretty marginalised in theory but in practice it was quite influential throughout imperial Chinese history. Xunzi is certainly viewed as a realpolitik guy. If you look at the texts, he favours the use of ritual as a way of providing social order. He uses the example of marriage rituals, or burial rituals, even drinking rituals, that would lead to the coming together of people of different classes. So in a way he is saying that ritual—rather than law and harsh punishment—is key to securing solidarity in society, especially a feeling of commonality between the rich and the poor.

The question is: how do we change the motivation of the rich and powerful? Your next book is the Yueji or Records of Music, part of the Record of Rites, various texts that were put together at the time Confucianism became the official state ideology during the Han dynasty. How is music relevant to Confucian society? It illustrates how music is key for producing a sense of harmony. If the ruler pays attention to the uses of music in securing social order, co-operation and harmony, it is ultimately much more effective than using the law, than using punishment to control people.

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Rulers, throughout Chinese history, did pay attention to the function of music in securing harmony. Sometimes they would even send out emissaries to find out what music people were listening to.


If people are listening to harmonious music you can tell things are roughly OK. But if music, to use a modern example, like Punk music is widespread in society then you know that something is wrong. I think some of the earlier roots of those ideas can be traced to those texts, and how they had some sort of political usage throughout Chinese history. The Da Xue is another of the texts that was part of the Record of the Rites. Zhu Xi, who was the most famous interpreter of Confucianism in the Song dynasty, regarded it as one of the four great books of Confucianism.

Basically it provides an account of morality and how to become an exemplary person. It begins with self-cultivation and learning and improvement which is a lifelong pursuit but then it also extends to the family. The family is a site where morality is learned and practised but then it is extended to the country, in a kind of diminishing extent.

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Eventually it is extended to the whole world. It does involve some sort of concern, almost love for the whole world, not just for the current generation, but for our ancestors and future generations as well. I think to a certain extent, it is a much more realistic psychology than religions or philosophies which call for complete impartial love. The fact that it is easier to practice makes it more attractive to me and to many people who think of Confucianism as having something to tell us today. Well, throughout most of the twentieth century both the Communists and liberal intellectuals in China were very much against tradition.

Now many intellectuals in China view that as an over reaction, not just intellectuals but also many people in the party itself. Duke Ding led an army to lay siege to Cheng and level its walls but he failed to do so and his weakness and ineptitude were made all the more obvious by this failure. What role Confucius played in the duke's plans is difficult to determine. It seems rather that, at least according to the Zuozhuan , his disciple Zi Lu, in the employ of the Ji family, played a more significant part. Whatever the case may be, in the stories that follow this dramatic tale, Confucius, along with Zi Lu and other disciples, departed Lu late in and went into exile.

In the company of his disciples, Confucius travelled in the states of Wei, Song, Chen, Cai, and Chu, purportedly looking for a ruler who might employ him but meeting instead with indifference and, occasionally, severe hardship and danger. Several of these episodes, as preserved in Sima Qian's account, appear to be little more than prose retellings of songs found in the ancient Chinese Book of Songs. Confucius' life is thus rendered a re-enactment of the suffering and alienation of the personas of the poems.

Analects 6. Confronted by Zi Lu's displeasure, Confucius swore he did not do anything wrong with the woman. While it is possible to suspect that the story is a later addition to the Analects , that does not mean that it is less believable than anything else the text says about events in Confucius' life.

Later on, in the state of Song, Confucius just barely escaped with his life from an attack by Marshal Huan, a formidable Song nobleman, who for unknown reasons was intent on killing him. According to passages in the Analects , the duke of She asked Confucius about the art of governing and also asked Zi Lu about Confucius' character. Both passages are meant to suggest that Confucius found the duke lacking in virtue and learning. Followers fell ill and none was able to rise to his feet. Confucius' reply to Zi Lu is not merely a lesson on the distinction between the superior man's endurance of hardship and the tendency of his opposite, the petty individual, to resort to crime.

Confucius is drawing the distinction when all were in straitened circumstances and as such his words should be read as a pointed reminder to Zi Lu and the other disciples traveling with him at the time that, in spite of the difficulties they were facing, they should adhere to the highest standards of ethical behavior. Perhaps it was Zi Lu's indignation that triggered in Confucius a worry that his followers might take extreme and even immoral measures to find food. Either inspired by this story or informed by tales and traditions that are lost to us, a passage in the Mozi —a text that preserves a political and social philosophy greatly at odds with the teachings of Confucius and the Ru school—claims that Confucius, who had a reputation for being scrupulous about his meals, ate pork given him by Zi Lu even though he had reason to believe that Zi Lu had stolen it.

In any case, by most traditional accounts, after a brief second visit to Wei, Confucius returned to Lu in The Ji family was still the most powerful in Lu as they had been when Confucius had departed in the aftermath of Duke Ding's aborted efforts to dismantle the fortresses of the three Huan families. While he had some interaction with the head of the Ji family as well as with the reigning Lu ruler, Duke Ai, Confucius appears to have spent the remainder of his life teaching, putting in order the Book of Songs , the Book of Documents , and other ancient classics, as well as editing the Spring and Autumn Annals , the court chronicle of Lu.

Sima Qian's account also provides background on Confucius' connection to the early canonical texts on ritual and on music the latter of which was lost at an early date. The Analects passage which appears to corroborate Sima Qian's claim seems corrupt and hence unreliable on this point. Our best source for understanding Confucius and his thought is the Analects. But the Analects is a problematic and controversial work, having been compiled in variant versions long after Confucius' death by disciples or the disciples of disciples. Some have argued that, because of the text's inconsistencies and incompatibilities of thought, there is much in the Analects that is non-Confucian and should be discarded as a basis for understanding the thought of Confucius.

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While none of us comes to such an enterprise without deep-laid assumptions about necessary logical relations and compatibilities, we should at least hold before ourselves the constant injunction to mistrust all our unexamined preconceptions on these matters when dealing with comparative thought. Book X of the Analects consists of personal observations of how Confucius comported himself as a thinker, teacher, and official. Some have argued that these passages were originally more general prescriptions on how a gentleman should dress and behave that were relabelled as descriptions of Confucius.

Traditionally, Book X has been regarded as providing an intimate portrait of Confucius and has been read as a biographical sketch. The following passages provide a few examples of why, more generally, it is difficult to glean from the Analects a genuinely biographical, let alone intimate, portrait of the Master. Confucius, at home in his native village, was simple and unassuming in manner, as though he did not trust himself to speak. But when in the ancestral temple or at Court he speaks readily, though always choosing his words with due caution.

Lunyu When at court conversing with the officers of a lower grade, he is friendly, though straightforward; when conversing with officers of a higher grade, he is restrained but precise. When the ruler is present he is wary, but not cramped. On entering the Palace Gate he seems to contract his body, as though there were not sufficient room to admit him.

If he halts, it must never be in the middle of the gate, nor in going through does he ever tread on the threshold. When fasting in preparation for sacrifice he must wear the Bright Robe, and it must be of linen. He must change his food and also the place where he commonly sits. He does not object to his rice being thoroughly cleaned, nor to his meat being finely minced. When sending a messenger to enquire after someone in another country, he bows himself twice while seeing the messenger off.

In bed he avoided lying in the posture of a corpse … On meeting anyone in deep mourning he must bow across the bar of his chariot. Analects passages such as these may not satisfy a modern reader looking for some entry into understanding the connection between Confucius the man and Confucius the thinker, but they did succeed in rendering Confucius the model of courtliness and personal decorum for countless generations of Chinese officials. By the fourth century, Confucius was recognized as a unique figure, a sage who was ignored but should have been recognized and become a king. Confucius also figures prominently as the subject of anecdotes and the teacher of wisdom in the writings of Xunzi, a third century follower of Confucius' teachings.

Indeed chapters twenty-eight to thirty of the Xunzi , which some have argued were not the work of Xunzi but compilations by his disciples, look like an alternative, and considerably briefer, version of the Analects. Confucius and his followers also inspired considerable criticism from other thinkers. The anecdote quoted earlier from the Mozi is an example. The authors of the Zhuangzi took particular delight in parodying Confucius and the teachings conventionally associated with him.

But Confucius' reputation was so great that even the Zhuangzi appropriates him to give voice to Daoist teachings. Confucius' teachings and his conversations and exchanges with his disciples are recorded in the Lunyu or Analects , a collection that probably achieved something like its present form around the second century BCE.

The Life and Philosophies of Confucius

We can do little or nothing to alter our fated span of existence but we determine what we accomplish and what we are remembered for. Confucius represented his teachings as lessons transmitted from antiquity. Confucius pointed especially to the precedents established during the height of the royal Zhou roughly the first half of the first millennium BCE. Such justifications for one's ideas may have already been conventional in Confucius' day.

Certainly his claim that there were antique precedents for his ideology had a tremendous influence on subsequent thinkers many of whom imitated these gestures. But we should not regard the contents of the Analects as consisting of old ideas. Much of what Confucius taught appears to have been original to him and to have represented a radical departure from the ideas and practices of his day.

Confucius also claimed that he enjoyed a special and privileged relationship with Heaven and that, by the age of fifty, he had come to understand what Heaven had mandated for him and for mankind. Lunyu 2. Confucius was also careful to instruct his followers that they should never neglect the offerings due Heaven. Lunyu 3.

Rather they show that Confucius revered and respected the spirits, thought that they should be worshipped with utmost sincerity, and taught that serving the spirits was a far more difficult and complicated matter than serving mere mortals. This meant being sure to avoid artful speech or an ingratiating manner that would create a false impression and lead to self-aggrandizement.

Lunyu 1. He regards devotion to parents and older siblings as the most basic form of promoting the interests of others before one's own. Central to all ethical teachings found in the Analects of Confucius is the notion that the social arena in which the tools for creating and maintaining harmonious relations are fashioned and employed is the extended family.

Among the various ways in which social divisions could have been drawn, the most important were the vertical lines that bound multigenerational lineages.