Background to Confucianism
Before one can begin to study Confucianism, one must have some knowledge of the political and social context out of which it arose. Chinese history is characterized by empire and chaos; the tendency has always been for Chinese society to be highly structured and hierarchical, being ruled by an emperor or a plurality of noble houses, a feudal system of social organization. But when this feudal social structure broke down, as it sometimes did, social and economic chaos resulted. The Chinese always preferred the stability that results from hierarchical collectivism.
The Shang dynasty lasted from 1766 to 1122 BCE; this empire was semi-feudal and agriculturally based located in Northern China. By ancient standards it was quite advanced; they worked with bronze, had a written language, the forerunner of classical Chinese. Around 1122 BCE the Chou, a less "advanced" Chinese race, took control of the Shang empire and replaced the Shang royal family as the rulers; they parceled out the empire to various Chou generals. The Chou dynasty endured until about 771 BCE when some of the feudal vassal kings in alliance with peoples outside of the empire overthrew the Chou royal family and killed the present king. The Chou dynasty moved eastward (known now as the eastern Chou) and re-established its dynasty, but this empire had little power as compared with the former Chou dynasty (770-256 BCE). It was no longer able to control the semi-autonomous vassal states that came into being with the fall of the Chou dynasty. China then entered into a period of chaos marked by discord between the various rival kingdoms left after the removal of the Chou empire. Beginning in the 5th century BCE, warfare among the states became constant, and is known as the period of the warring states (475 BCE to 221 BCE); many Chinese died in warfare or famine resulting from warfare during this period. During this period of social and political unrest in what used to be the Chou empire, certain Chinese began to ask the question of the cause of such social disorder; this led naturally to a consideration of what the ideal human society was and this led eventually to metaphysical questions of what was ultimately real and how human society fits into the structure of reality. Confucius (Chinese name K'ung fu-tzu = K'ung the Master) (551-479 BCE) was one such Chinese thinker (In fact this period of Chinese intellectual history is called the age of the hundred philosophers).
In order to appreciate most
fully Confucianism, it is important to understand Chinese religious belief
and practice at the time of Confucius. The Chinese also had an pantheon
of gods at the head of which was Shang ti, the sky god. A common
feature of Chinese religion at the time of Confucius (and in every other
age with the exception of the modern period) was the veneration or worship
of ancestors; the Chinese would regularly present offerings to their deceased
relatives. The ancestors tended to function as gods, since they could
be consulted using divination and could protect and grant favors to their
kin. In addition, the Chinese believed in gods or spirits (shen)
associated with natural phenomena, such as storms, wind, or things, such
as rivers, mountains, the soil and the heavenly bodies. These shen
were not fully personal gods and were not clearly distinguished from the
natural phenomena or things with which they were associated. This type
of belief religious studies scholars have called animism: the belief that
the natural world in its diversity was animated with spirits that were
inseparable from those aspects of the natural world with which they were
Confucius was born in 552 or
551 BCE, being descended from a noble family in the state of Sung; his
ancestors, however, were forced to flee to the state of Lu, where Confucius
was born. Confucius spent his life either studying / teaching or
serving in various minor official capacities in different states. Book
10 of the Analects seems dedicated to giving a picture of Confucius
the man by relating his habitual practices. After his death his
disciples collected together many of Confucius' sayings (Lun yu),
which is what we know in English as the Analects; presumably
these had been remembered and passed on in oral form until they were written
down. In addition, the sayings of Mencius (Meng-zi), one of Confucius'
more prominent successors, are found the work known as Mencius;
these along with the Analects became part of the "classics" of
Chinese civilization. Confucius
is also credited with writing The Doctrine of the Mean and The
Confucius adopts a skepticism towards matters that exceed the realm of ordinary human experience. In particular, he shows no interest in questions that relate to the existence, nature and will of the gods or to the post-mortem fate of the individual. It is not that he denies the existence of the gods or the reality of life after death, but simply that he assumes that such questions are peripheral to true human existence. In this respect, one could call him a humanist, even a secular humanist. The following passages from the Analects suggest that Confucius tended towards skepticism and humanism.
3.1.1. Analects 5.13
It is said that Confucius' views on human nature and the Way (tao) of Heaven were inaccessible, implying a reluctance to speak about topics that transcend the realm of ordinary human experience. Not only is a knowledge of ultimate reality out of reach for human beings, but it seems that what a person really is, human nature, also eludes comprehension; what a person knows is human experience, or to use Kantian terminology, the phenomenal realm. What is beyond human experience is unknown to human beings.
3.1.2. Analects 6.22
Confucius advocates keeping one's distance from the gods and spirits (spiritual beings) while showing them reverence; this is called wisdom. This implies that to inquire concerning what is beyond the human realm is inadvisable; rather one should define oneself by one's relationships with others and one's duties to them. The further implication is that such trans-human knowledge is unnecessary to be fully human, so that a person has lost nothing essential if he or she has little or no involvement with the spiritual world. In fact, it is possible that Confucius sees that involvement in the spiritual world as being a hindrance to leading a good life, which is understandable if sorcery was part of Chinese religion.
3.1.3. Analects 7.21
It is said that Confucius did not speak of "spiritual beings" or the gods, nor did he concern himself with the extraordinary or unusual; rather, his concerns were related to ordinary human affairs: he taught about how to live properly in everyday existence, which presupposes order and predictability. What was beyond ordinary human experience was of little interest to him as a teacher.
3.1.4. Analects 9.1
Confucius is supposed to have spoken of "the decrees of Heaven," i.e., destiny (ming) only rarely, implying a reluctance to speak of things that transcend ordinary human experience. To inquire into what has been decreed by the divine is disallowed to human beings. Likewise, Confucius would seldom speak of virtue (jen), possibly because this is too theoretical and involves inquiry into the nature of a human being. Presumably his focus is on what is ordinary and easily accessible to all human beings.
3.1.5. Analects 11.12
Confucius expresses skepticism about how to serve the spirits, probably meaning the spirits of the dead; he responds by saying that he does not even know how to serve man and that he does not know about life; how much less does he know about death and the nature of post-mortem existence. His point is that knowledge that exceeds ordinary human experience, such as the nature of death and existence after death, is inaccessible to human beings. It is difficult enough to know how to live in this ordinary, everyday world.
Confucius focuses his inquiries
and teaching on ordinary human experience, avoiding topics such as the
gods, spirits, death or any other topic beyond the pale of everyday existence;
he was even known for his reluctance to speak of the Way (tao),
Destiny (ming) and virtue (jen), although these are central
philosophical concepts for him, as will be seen.
you agree with the skeptical and humanistic impulse of Confucianism?
Do you agree that human beings should concern themselves with human affairs
Confucius' Analects consist mostly of social and ethical teachings. This is in keeping with his basic skepticism and humanism. Yet, every so often, there are what we could call ontological allusions: references to philosophical and/or religious ideas that serve to ground philosophically his social and ethical teachings. One could argue that, in spite of his skepticism and humanistic orientation, Confucius could not avoid introducing foundational philosophical ideas into his teaching.
The concept of the Way (tao) is not original to Confucius, but is a traditional Chinese philosophical and religious concept; Confucius uses the concept of Way to ground his ethical and social theory. The Way is an ambiguous term in the Analects, for never is it defined nor is it discussed at length. References to it tend to be in relation to human affairs, either individual or collective. The concept of the Way also occurs in Confucius's The Doctrine of the Mean with more of a philosophical sense.
1. Analects 1.15
The Way (tao) is said to be something in which one can delight. In fact, the man who delights in the way is held up as superior to other virtuous men: "the poor man who yet does not flatter, and the rich man who is not proud." This implies that the Way stands over against the individual as an potential intentional object. In other words, the Way is something that can be pursued and understood. To delight in the Way (tao) is synthetically parallel to observing propriety, which suggests some relation between the two..
2. Analects 4.8
Whatever it is, according to Confucius, the Way (tao) is something that can be told to someone and something that is worth knowing. In this context, the Way seems to represent a body of philosophical truth, teachings about the nature of reality, transmittable from teacher to student.
3. Analects 5.7
Confucius explains that the Way (tao) is something that can fail to prevail in a society; the implication is that this state of affairs results when people do not heed Confucius's teaching. From this context, it seems that the Way is a socio-ethical theory or at least has such implications.
4. Analects 5.13
As already seen, it was said that one could not easily obtain Confucius's views on the Way (tao) of Heaven, and related to the Way his views on human nature. The implication seems to be that he has such views, but is reluctant to share these; such views seem to be something of a esoteric teaching.
5. Analects 7.6
According to these sayings, whatever it is, the Way (tao) is something on which one is set one's will or heart; it is something which one must choose and to which one must conform one's life.
6. Analects 8.4
Three things are enumerated as being in the Way (tao); each is a virtue: non-violence, sincerity and politeness (keep far from lowness and impropriety). It seems that, in part at least, the Way consists of ethical precepts, whatever else is Confucius' teaching on the Way contains.
7. Analects 8.13
Confucius says that the Way (tao) can prevail or not prevail in the kingdom. When it does not prevail then riches and honor are shameful because they are ill-gotten and undeserved; the opposite is true when the Way does prevail. The Way in this context is a standard of justice or a socio-political theory considered to be the only just way of organizing society.
8. Analects 13.25
Paradoxically, Confucius says that it is easy to serve the superior man but difficult to please him; this is in contrast to the "mean man" who is difficult to serve but easy to please. It is easy to serve the superior man because there is only one way to do so: in accordance with the Way [tao]. It is difficult to please him, however, because to act according to the Way is difficult. The "mean man" may be served in many ways, which makes it difficult to serve him because of his arbitrariness; yet, he is easily pleased because he has no ethical standards to meet in one's service to him. In this context, the Way seems to be a system of ethics, according to which one conforms one's behavior; it applies in particular to one's relationships with others.
9. Analects 14.1
According to this saying, the Way (tao) can prevail or not prevail in a state, which seems to describe good government and bad government respectively. Government officials should not work for a salary either when the Way prevails or when it does not; in other words, those who govern should be motivated by something higher than merely earning a living.
10. Analects 14.36
Confucius explains that it is Destiny if the Way (tao) prevails or falls into disuse, which sound historically deterministic. When the Way prevails then justice prevails, and no one does injustice at that time. No one will be able to do injustice to another at this time because they will be prevented from doing so by the prevailing of the Way, as predetermined by Destiny. The relationship between the Way and Destiny is not explained.
11. Analects 15.7
The Way (tao) can prevail in a state or fall into disuse. Again these are means of describing good government and bad government. Confucius commends Yu for maintaining his ethical standards even when the Way did not prevail: he was "straight" as an arrow. Chu Po-yu did not abandon his ethical principles when the Way fell into disuse, but kept them "in his breast," i.e., next to his heart in the sense of holding fast to them.
12. Analects 15.29
Confucius says that a man can enlarge the Way (tao), but the Way cannot enlarge a man. This seems to be a statement affirming the freedom of a man to pursue the Way or not. To enlarge the Way is to live according to it, but the Way does not impose itself on a person and therefore does not "enlarge" a man contrary to his will.
13. Analects 15.32
Confucius explains that the superior man devotes his mind to attaining the Way (tao), not to securing food or other profit. Whatever it is, attaining the Way is more important than meeting physical needs or accumulation of wealth. To attain the Way seems to be to attain to a body of philosophical truth that includes ethical standards.
14. Analects 16.2
Confucius says that when the Way (tao) prevails in the empire, things are done properly, because the emperor ("son of Heaven") is in control of the affairs of state. But when the Way does not prevail necessarily there is decline, because lesser authorities are in charge of the affairs of state, which will lead to chaos and unjust government. Likewise, when the Way (tao) prevails, the common people make no contribution to their government. From this, it is clear that for the Way to prevail is to have a non-democratic, imperial form of government, in which all authority and power are vested in an emperor; this is a type of totalitarianism.
15. Analects 19.19
Rulers can lose the Way (tao), and when this occurs the people they rule enter into a state of confusion; conformity to the Way is essential for good government.
Although there is only a meager
basis on which to draw, the Way (tao) in the Analects seems
to represent a sort of Confucian absolute principle, which is expressible
as a body of philosophical truth (The equivalent in Greek philosophical
tradition would probably be Wisdom [sophia]). It is, therefore,
something that can be known and taught, and has application to the individual
and the state, so that both can be said to be in conformity with the Way. Good
government results when the Way prevails in a state, whereas bad government
results when the Way does not. The Way is that according to which
an individual and society should exist. When the Way prevails in
a state the result is an imperial form of government, a hierarchy with
the emperor controlling all aspects of society.
B. The Doctrine of the Mean
1. Part 1
According to this excerpt, Heaven or the divine "confers" nature, or "what is." This seems to describe the creation of all things by the divine first principle. To live in accordance with the way things are is live in accordance with the Way (tao), or the divinely-ordained structure of reality; this structure cannot be "separated from," which seems to mean that it necessarily is the way it is and nothing can violate or run counter to that structure. To be cultivated or educated is to learn how to live in accordance with the Way (tao), the implication being that to live as such is not natural, but actually unnatural, for one does not have to learn to do what comes naturally. Nevertheless, there is no sense that there is anything hindering a human being from living in accordance with the Way (tao). A person is in a neutral state of consciousness when there has not yet arisen any states of consciousness (joy, anger, sorrow and pleasure); this is called equilibrium or mean (chung). When various states of consciousness do arise they ought to exist in accordance with the chung, which is to say, they should exist in harmony with one another and in proper balance, so that no one state of consciousness dominates. When this occurs the inner self reflects the essential harmony of the outer world. To say that "chung is the great root of all-under-heaven" is to affirm that all things are essentially in an equilibrium or balance of opposites. There is essential harmony because the Way permeates all things; the implicit assumption is that the Way is essential oneness, which explains why all things exist in harmony. He concludes by saying that when there is chung and harmony then everything is right with all things, "Heaven and Earth"; similarly, the many things in Heaven and Earth receive what they need for their existence.
2. Part 26
In this rather obscure saying, Confucius says that the Way's appearance as things or the plurality "is not double," by which he means that things or the plurality experienced by human beings is essentially one. His point seems to be that the many things are not really different from the one Way (tao), although they may appear to be distinct from the Way and one another. He infers from this that "the production of things" or the coming into existence of the plurality is "unfathomable." Presumably, this is because no one can understand how the many can still be the one Way. He concludes by saying that the Way is both without physical limits ("vast and deep, high and bright, far-reaching") and temporal limits ("long-lasting").
Is there an equivalent in Western philosophy of the Confucian concept of the Way (tao)? How does the Stoic concept of Reason (logos) compare with it?
Occasionally, the terms Heaven (t'ien) and Destiny (ming) appear in the Confucius's teaching. These are usually only in passing and are left undeveloped. Nevertheless, certain philosophical views may be inferred from Confucius's undeveloped teaching about heaven (t'ien) and destiny (ming).
1. Analects 2.4
Confucius said that at the age of fifty he understood the decrees of Heaven (t'ien ming). What he means by this is unclear, but presumably his point is that at the age of fifty he came to understand those things that are divinely predetermined or willed. Whether there is an opposite to the decrees of Heaven he does not say, but presumably it is possible for a human being to resist or reject the divine will.
2. Analects 3.24
An official said about Confucius that Heaven (t'ien) is about to use him as "wooden tongue for a bell" (i.e., a clarion), because the empire has long been without the Way (tao). It is as if Confucius is saying that he has received a divine call to be a teacher of the Way, although such an affirmation does not necessarily imply the existence of a personal God who cares about the moral state of humanity.
3. Analects 6.28
Confucius swore by Heaven (t'ien): "May Heaven's curse be upon me." The implication is that Heaven is the divine, by which one swears. There is no indication, however, that Heaven represents one or more of the gods of the Chinese pantheon; rather it is possible that Heaven refers to an non-anthropomorphic divine principle.
4. Analects 7.23
Confucius says that Heaven (t'ien) is the author of the virtue (te) that is within him, which may imply an ethical determinism. His meaning seems to be that the divine or God has been at work in him, which is why he does not fear what a man can do to him. His statement implies interaction between the divine and human beings.
5. Analects 9.1
It is said that Confucius rarely taught about destiny (ming), the implication being that he was reluctant to do so. This is consistent with the humanism of Confucius, as noted above, since destiny would supercede the human will. Nevertheless, this statement implies that he could have spoken about destiny (ming), that there was something he could have said about it.
6. Analects 9.5
It is said that Heaven (t'ien) may intend that the cause of truth (wen) perish or not; this implies a certain universal determinism, even of such things as the departure from the truth. Because of this divine determinism, Confucius does not fear what human beings can do to him, because they are not ultimately in control of their actions.
7. Analects 9.6
It is said that Heaven (t'ien) has qualified Confucius to be a sage by giving him the necessary abilities. This implies the notion that Heaven grounds and controls all things.
8. Analects 11.9
It is said that Confucius attributed the death of Yen Yuan to Heaven (t'ien): "Heaven (t'ien) is destroying me." This suggests that life and death are predetermined by Heaven, which seems to imply a divine determinism. Confucius blames Heaven for his distress..
9. Analects 12.5
It is said that life and death are a matter of Destiny (ming), and riches and honor depend upon Heaven (t'ien). In this statement Destiny and Heaven function as synonyms, meaning something like fate or the divine will. This means that the two clauses in the proposition "Death and life are a matter of Destiny; riches and honors depend upon Heaven" are in synonymous parallelism. The general point is that all events in human history have been predetermined by the divine will.
10. Analects 14.35
Confucius complains that no one understands him and says that he does not blame Heaven (t'ien) or man; he adds that if he is understood at all it is by Heaven (t'ien). In this passage, Heaven (t'ien) is the oposite humanity, probably denoting the divine, although the divine is not portrayed in a personal way as the gods in Chinese religion such as Shang-Ti, the sky god.
11. Analects 14.36
As already seen, Confucius says that it is Destiny (ming) if the Way (tao) prevails or falls into disuse. It seems that no human being or any other being can act in defiance of (Destiny) ming. Even events that are viewed as negative by human beings, such as the non-prevailing of the Way, are determined by Destiny.
12. Analects 16.8
The morally superior man is said to be in awe of the decrees of Heaven (t'ien ming). This suggests that he has some reverence for the divine and the divine will; such a statement impies some knowledge of the divine and the divine will is possible. The morally inferior man has no knowledge of the decrees of Heaven; it would seem that it is within the power of a human being to know the decrees of Heaven, so that those who do not are judged to be morally inferior.
13. Analects 17.19
Confucius proposes that he cease speaking and therefore cease being a teacher. When his disciples protest, it seems that he says that he should model himself on Heaven (t'ien), which does not speak. He seems to mean that Heaven (t'ien) regulates nature (the four seasons), but does so unobtrusively, so that no one but the sage perceives the indistinct Heaven behind the regularity of nature. To speak is to communicate directly and thereby to draw attention to oneself and away from what one is doing. By analogy, Heaven makes itself known by what it does, nit by what it communicates directly through speech. It is possible that Confucius assumes that Heaven is unknowable in itself and can only be understood by what it does.
14. Analects 20.3
Confucius says that a man has no way of becoming a superior man unless he understands the decrees of Heaven (t'ien ming). To be superior is to be connected somehow with the divine and to understand the ways of the divine.
In these passages, the terms
Heaven (t'ien), Destiny (ming) and decrees of Heaven (t'ien
ming) occur. Heaven (t'ien) seems to be the equivalent of God
or the divine, standing in contrast to humanity; nevertheless, Heaven
tends to be de-personalized. (Previously, t'ien was identical with
the supreme god of the Chinese pantheon, Shang ti.) Heaven predetermines
all events, including whether the Way (tao) will prevail in the
empire. Destiny (ming) seems to represent what Heaven or the divine
(t'ien) has determined not only will occur but ought to occur (ethical
requirements); if so, then Destiny as ethical requirements is a synonym
for the Way (tao). The decree of Heaven (t'ien ming) seems
to have the meaning of what Heaven has determined will take place, which
human beings can know; it no doubt includes the ethical requirements for
human beings, as determined by Heaven, in which case it means what ought
to occur. Paradoxically, Heaven predetermines what will happen but also
holds human beings responsible freely to conform their behavior to the
Tao. What Confucius means when he says that Heaven (t'ien) is silent
is unclear, but could mean that nothing can be said about it, that its
nature is inexpressible by words (17.19). The same passage may imply
that nature is regulated by Heaven.
B. The Doctrine of the Mean
1. Part 1
As already indicated, Confucius attributes the existence of "nature" or simply "what is" (or being) to Heaven [t'ien], or a divine principle. This implies some view that the divine is the creative and sustaining force behind all reality; whether it also implies a beginning of nature is not clear.
2. Part 14
Confucius teaches that the
superior man will correct himself morally and not relate to other people
as if they owed him something. As a result, he will be without resentment
towards Heaven [t'ien] and human beings. To have resentment towards
Heaven implies that one blames the divine or God for one's unwanted circumstances.
3. Part 17
Confucius explains that Heaven [t'ien] is responsible for events in this world that are ready to occur ("develops each thing according to its preparation"). So, for example, Heaven [t'ien] gives continued life to the newly-living ("the growing sprout"), so that it can become what it is potentially; likewise, Heaven [t'ien] causes the dying tree to fall to the ground, where it will gradually disappear from existence. In other words, Heaven [t'ien] is an imminent force in existence causing all things to become what they are potentially, being the impulse behind all ordered change; Heaven also brings dynamic processes to an end when a thing has reached its potential. The view of Confucius is a type of vitalism: that the processes of life are ultimately explicable by appeal to a vital principle distinct from biochemical reactions.
4. Part 20
Confucius connects the ethical
task of cultivating one's character ultimately with understanding Heaven
[t'ien]. Intermediate is serving one's parents and understanding
other people. His point is that one cannot cultivate one's character without
a complete understanding of reality, which includes an understanding of
Why would Confucius be reluctant to speak at length about the topics of Heaven (t'ien), Destiny (ming) and decrees of Heaven (t'ien ming)? Does Confucius believe in a personal God, or is his God more of a depersonalized first principle? Do you agree with how Confucius describes Heaven's role as a creative principle? Is Confucius a determinist, or does he leave room for free will?
There are many terms used by Confucius to denote human virtues, and his use of such terms tends to be unsystematic, so that it is not clear always how each virtue relates to the others. Nevertheless, there are two key ethical terms that predominate in his writings: jen (wren or ren) and li. An investigation of these yields an insight into Confucian ethics, which is a type of virtue ethics: the emphasis is on the character of the moral agent rather than on duty expressed as rules of actions (deontology) or consequences of the actions (consequentialism). For the proponent of virtue ethics the motivation of the moral agent determines whether the actions are morally right or wrong, with the result that opposite actions may be justifiable at different times.
It is clear from the Analects that Confucius seeks to instruct the nobility on the cultivation of ethical perfection, which he calls following the Way (tao). When the nobility conforms to the Way, so will all the others in the empire, in particular the common people. For Confucius to have jen is the ethical goal. The term jen is difficult to translate, having various nuances of meaning. The English word "virtue" is an appropriate euivalent term so long as it is understood that the stress is on the character of the moral agent as intending good to others, which is why jen is sometimes translated as benevolence or goodness. Although Confucius can be imprecise in his terminology in his sayings, one could say that virtue (jen) is not one virtue among other virtues but is the essence of all other virtues: it is what all other virtues share in common, and is expressed by each of the other virtues. Virtue (jen) is inherent as a potentiality in human beings, but needs to brought to actuality by cultivation or education. The notion that human beings are innately evil is not espoused by Confucius, although human beings need to learn how to be virtuous. The Confucian ethical ideal is the "superior man" (chün tzu) who is characterized "virtue" (jen). It is better to be in poverty rather than obtain wealth improperly, i.e. by violating virtue (4.4-5).
According to Confucius, one should be willing to give up one's life if to continue living results in violating virtue (jen), the central ethical principle (15.8). There are several key passages in the Analects that specify further the nature of virtue.
4.1.1. Analects 12.1, 2
In general, virtue is said
to be the overcoming of self, which means overcoming all behavior that
is motivated solely by personal interest: "To subdue one's self and
return to propriety is virtue" (12.1). When further asked about virtue,
Confucius's reply is: "Not to do to others as you would not wish done
to yourself." Virtue is to treat others as you would want to be
treated, which will leads to treating people as if they were very important
to you, even people whom one does not know: "to behave to every one
as if you were receiving a great guest; to employ the people as if you
were assisting at a great sacrifice" (12.2).
4.1.2. Analects 6.30
Confucius says that the superior man is the one who helps establish another using himself as a means of knowing how to behave towards others: "To be able to judge of others by what is nigh in ourselves." This is another version of the ethical principle of reciprocity, better known as "the golden rule." To establish another is to benefit that person.
4.1.3. Analects 12.22
When asked about virtue, Confucius says that it is to love all human beings. Coupled with this is knowing all human beings, which is necessary if one is love them, since one must know what will benefit them..
The idea that one's principal duty is to love others by treating them as you would like to be treated yourself also occurs in The Doctrine of the Mean.
To be sincere and fair is said not to be far from the Way (tao). Presumably, this means that to be sincere and fair is an imperfect or incomplete expression of the principle of reciprocity, which is the ethical principle implied in conforming one's behavior to the Way (tao): "not doing to others what you don't want done to yourself." To be sincere and fair is an expression of the principle of not doing to others as you do not want done to yourself, but are not the totality of one's ethical obligation. Confucius then specifies four fundamental relationships in which this ethical principle is put into practice: father and son; ruler and ruled; older and younger brother; friend and friend; other important relationship would include husband and wife as well as elder and younger. Virtue is relational, being an intention to do good to those with whom one is relationship. It is also important to note that a person's obligation "not doing to others what you don't want done to yourself" is not the same to all people, contrary to Mohism (the teaching of Mo Tzu) that a human being should love all equally, regardless of his or her relationship to them. Rather in the case of a conflict between one's obligation not to do to others what one does not want done to oneself, certain people with whom one is in relationship will have priority over others.
4.1.5. The Principle of Shu
Confucius also speaks of the principle of reciprocity (shu), which seems to be synonymous with virtue (jen) or at least a statement of the ethical principle underlying the behavior of the superior man, characterized by virtue.
A. Analects 4.15
Confucius explains that there is a single thread binding his way together, i.e., a single ethical principle: doing one's best (chung) and using oneself as a measure to gauge others (shu). To use oneself as a measure to gauge others (shu) is to do to them what you want done to yourself.
B. Analects 15.24
When asked for a general ethical
principle, Confucius said that one ought not to impose on others what
one does not desire; this is expressed by the word "reciprocity" (shu).
Is Confucius's teaching about virtue (jen) identical to Jesus' teaching that the Law and the prophets can be summarized by the directive: "Do to others as you would want them to do to you" (Matt 7:12 = Luke 6:31) and "The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil (Luke 6:45)? If so, how do you account for the similarity?
explicitly than Confucius, Mencius asserts that human nature is essentially
good, rejecting the view that human beings are innately evil or even morally
neutral: "Man's nature is not indifferent to good and evil. Its proper
tendency is to good" (Mencius Bk. 6, pt. 1, 2.1). Proof
of their original moral goodness is the fact that human beings naturally
commiserate with others when they witness their sufferings. He concludes,
"From this case we may perceive that the feeling of commiseration
is essential to man" (Mencius Bk. 2, pt. 1, 6.4; see Bk.
6, pt. 1, 6.7) Mencius identifies this innate tendency to commiserate
with others with virtue (jen) (6.5). So long as this natural tendency
to the good, or to be virtuous, is not impeded, human beings will be characterized
you agree that human beings naturally are inclined towards virtue (jen)?
Confucius defines virtue as overcoming the self and observing li (propriety or the rites); in this context he includes observing li as part of virtue. As already indicated, overcoming of the self is the overcoming of self-centered and self-interested behavior. In overcoming the self, however, one conforms one's behavior to propriety (the rites) (li), which are a set of rules that governs life in all its dimensions.There are three types of actions that fall under the purview of "the rites": ceremonies associated with sacrifice to ancestors and deities of various types, social and political institutions, and the protocol of daily behavior, especially related to interactions with other people. The assumption is that past wisdom relating to correct behavior is encapsulated in the rites, so that conformity to the rites in part is the actualization of virtue. Although it sometimes refers specifically to religious or political rituals, the word li has a broader meaning: good manners. In Confucianism, propriety or the rites (li) is that to which one must live in conformity; to live according to li is to recognize and accept one's place in society and fulfill the obligations concomitant with that place. It is to do the right thing in the right way at the right time in the right way. Only when one has overcome a self-centered orientation will one be in a position to conform one's behavior to the accepted standards (propriety or the rites [li]). For example, children must respect their parents and parents must provide for their children; a wife must submit to her husband and a husband must treat his wife decently. Part of conforming to propriety (or the rites) was to worship the ancestors, for this is the duty of the living to the dead.