Confucius (551-479 BCE), according to Chinese tradition, was a thinker, political figure, educator, and founder of the Ru School of Chinese thought. His teachings, preserved in the Analects, which is a collection of thoughtful perceptions attributed to him, were apparently recorded and compiled by disciples of his disciples. Because these collections are brief, unelaborated, unorganized and writing in ideographic form, their exact meaning is not always clear (Spodek 206). Due to this, there exist two different major lines of interpretation. According to one group of interpretations, the key to understanding the Analects is passage 4.15, in which a disciple says that ‘loyalty’ and ‘reciprocity’ together make up the ‘one thread’ of the Master’s teachings. More recently, some interpreters have emphasized passage 13.3, which discusses ‘correcting names’: bringing words and things into proper alignment. According the “The Dao of Kongzi” by Bryan W. Van Norden, both approaches can be mistaken; Confucius is not a thinker who only wants to teach about thing. He thinks that we must develop a number of virtues; humaneness, righteousness, wisdom, courage, loyalty, faithfulness and filial piety.
Confucius remains to be a subject of debate. Likes Jesus, Socrates, and the Buddha, Confucius is one who have had great historical influence by founding profound and important intellectual and traditions. However likes Socrates, his opponents criticized him harshly. According to Bryan, one ancient Chinese philosophical school, the Mohists, describes Confucius as a self-serving hypocrite and followers of Confucius as greedy for food and drink and too lazy to work. Same idea is being expresses in the lecture that not all people welcome teaching of Confucius. In our lecture shows in the early Qin dynasty, emperor adopted legalism and burn the books of Confucius. At that time Confucius was the greatest opponent of China.
Although there are a number of references to Confucius in early Chinese texts, However Analects become one of the most important resource on studying Confucius’ teaching. The Analects believed to be a collection of sayings by Kongzi, better known as Confucius, sayings by disciples of Kongzi, statements about Kongzi by those who knew him, and sometimes brief dialogues between Kongzi and contemporary government officials, disciples, and other individuals. However, Analects are the only text that embodies the thought of Confucius, which we might think it is because in Qin dynasty most of books were burned. People doubt its reliability as historical evidence and believe some part of Analects to be inauthentic. In fact some people believe “only part of book 4, a mere 16 sayings, is authentic.” (Bryan, 158)
What are the thoughts of Confucius? What is main teaching of Confucius? What is the way that Confucius thought that people ought to live? “Most interpreters have focused on one of two passage from Analects could be seen as presenting key of Confucius teaching; passages 4:15 and 13:3.
Analects 4:15 begins with Confucius shouting to his disciple, Zengzi, “There is one single tread binding my way together.” Zengzi responds, “Yes.” without asking anything else of Zengzi, Confucius leave the room. Immediately, the other disciples of Confucius who were present rush up to Zengzi and say, “What did [Confucius] mean?” Zengzi replies, “The way of the Master is zhong.” (Analects 4:15) Zhong can be translates into “loyalty”. Is “loyalty” the “one” thing that binds Confucius way together?
Personally, I do not think that Confucius considers “loyalty” as single most important way of teaching. According to Dr.Lawler’s lecture, that passage in Analects, XIII, 18 show that Confucius concerns family as primary; family is more important than the law. When he said to the governor of She, “In our village those who are straight are quite different. Fathers cover up for their sons, and sons cover up for their fathers. Straightness is to be found in such behavior.” Different from Greece thinker Socrates who thinks law is primary, which views laws are their parents, Confucius places family as primary. Loyalty of a citizen to me means feelings of devoted attachment toward their king, and country. Loyalty of a solider means to have absolute obeisance in their leaders and rules. In both ways, loyalty requires disciplines, there is no treachery. However, as the fathers cover up for their sons, they are already betrayers of their king, an action of disloyalty. If loyalty is what Confucius believes to be the most important way of teaching as many interpreters interpreted, he will not have father trying to cover up for son, and son cover for father.
Author Bryan in article tries to prove that passage 4:15 is not key of Confucius’ teaching by stating, the passage is inauthentic. Bryan had given several evidences to prove his point. First, “there is considerable textual and circumstantial evidence that 4:15 is an apocryphal interpolation” (Bryan 162). In other words, 4:15 was inserted into the text of Analects book 4 long after the death of Confucius. “The Chinese text of 4:15 is lexically anomalous, in that it includes the only occurrence in all of the Analects of the character hu being used vocatively” argued by Bryan. (162) this suggests that the author of 4:15 spoke a slightly different dialect of Chinese than did whoever originally recorded the rest of book 4.
Not only the writing, but the story recounted in 4:15 is “historically implausible” continues Bryan. Zengzi was one of the younger disciples. There is no record in the Analects, outside of 4:15, of him even having a direct conversation with Confucius. Furthermore Zengzi is described in the Analects as stupid. (Bryan 162) We have to ask ourselves, since Zengzi is stupid, why would Confucius toss a cryptic comment on him, and why he was the only one who understood it and all others rush up to him and ask for an explanation? The only way to explains it is that passage 4:15 is later added to Analects by someone.
Well, if 4:15 doesn’t explain to us what Confucius concern the most, then which passage does? According to author Bryan, that more recently, some interpreters have suggest that the key to the Analects is book 13, chapter 3 which Confucius states importance of “correcting names” in his dialogues with his disciple, Zilu:
Zulu asked, “If the lord of Wei were to employ you to serve in the government of his state, what would be your first priority?”
Confucius answered, “It Would is, of course, to assure that names were being applied correctly!”(Analects 13:3)
Many interpreters suggest that “names” has much boarder meaning. For example a name like “father” can simply means biological sire of offspring. However with a “thick” understanding as argues by interpreters can also means male caregiver, nurturer, role model and protector of his children. According to the article, the “correcting names” that Confucius has been talk about means two things: (1) the names only be applied to things that actually live up to the relevant thick descriptions; (2) that people live up to the thick descriptions that should apply to them (Bryan 163).
For example, a ruler is only says to be a rule when he lives up to his obligations as ruler.
However, more than 50 years ago, Arthur Waley has presented a speech against the historical reliability of 13:3 as a representation of Confucius’s thought, claims by Bryan:
Analects 13:3 is written in a distinctive “chain argument” style; if A, then B, if B, then C. If “This style is found nowhere else in the Analects itself, and is not characteristic of early Chinese texts. This style is, however, reminiscent of the opening of The Greater Learning, which was probably composed no earlier than the third century BC (Bryan 165).
Bryan suggests that there is no one passage that wraps all the teaching of Confucius into a nutshell. Confucius is a thinker who thinks we must develop a number of virtues such as humaneness, righteousness, wisdom, courage, loyalty, faithfulness and filial piety.
I agree with Bryan, that Confucius teaching of many virtues. In our lecture, we learn essential ideas of Confucian philosophy, jen and li. Jen is teaching of humaneness, and li is respectfulness. However, I also agree with the interpreters who think that “correcting names” can be concludes as all of Confucius’ teaching. When a son is living up to his obligations, isn’t it a filial piety? When a solider living up to his obligations, isn’t it a courage, and loyalty? When people are living up to their obligations, the society will function well. When a society is functioning well, then we are developing the virtues as Confucius argued that everyone should possess. Confucius will agree a regicide; (killing one’s king) is justified when he is a tyrannical king. Because he no longer lives up to the obligations implied by term “ruler”, nor is he entitled to any of the privileges or immunities associated with a ruler. Indeed he is entitled to be a “thief” or a “mutilator” since he violated benevolence (jen) and righteousness. If we can interpret “correcting names” in such as deeper way, it can be the “one” thing that binds Confucius way together.
Although in late nineteenth centuries, teaching of Confucius had be abandoned when China saw itself fall behind the technological and military achievement of the Western world, Confucius teaching remains to have great influences on Chinese society. Today, children in China are still rising up with the ideas of Confucius. They are being taught to have respect to his elders abroad, to be circumspect and truthful. They still believe that a young man’s first duty is to be filial to his parents. They still view Confucius as a Man of God.
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