The following provides an introduction to some fundamental concepts critical to understanding the Confucian worldview. By that I mean an attempt to rationally and normatively re-construct what Confucius appears to have intended according to the Analects. Because I’m not an expert in Chinese philosophy and am writing as an inspired amateur, I rely strongly on the work of scholars who are leading lights in the field. As an introduction, the discussion and analysis is very basic and does not attempt (for the most part) to explore or highlight specific philosophical questions and controversies scholars engage in when attempting to understand and interpret what Confucius may have believed and taught. And, insofar as this is a rational and normative reconstruction, it is fairly abstract and stylized in a manner that makes it decidedly different in character from what we might call Confucian ideology, be it “on the ground,” among self-described Confucians, or propagated by the Communist Party of China. The BBC’s former Beijing correspondent, James Reynolds, speaks to the selected appropriation of putatively Confucian ideas—as ideology—by the Communist Party:
“For centuries, Confucianism provided the moral foundation for the conduct of life in China. Confucius and his followers designed a system of government and society based on harmony and respect for social order. But during the early years of Communist rule, Confucianism came under attack. Chairman Mao decreed that there was room for only one belief system in China: his own. During the decade-long Cultural Revolution, Red Guards attacked the home of Confucius and tried to destroy all forms of religion and tradition. Many were killed for their beliefs.
Then, at the end of the 1970s, Deng Xiaoping began to introduce capitalism. The certainties of Mao-style Marxism began to fall away. A few years later, the Communist Party started to worry about a growing vacuum of belief in China. Universally-mandated faith in Communism was being replaced by a new belief in money, and also by a growing number of religious movements. One of these movements, the Falun Gong, was seen as a dangerous cult which posed a threat to the Party’s rule. The Party needed an alternative - a faith that might help to guide its citizens through life in a country that was trying to jam several centuries’ worth of change into just a few years. In the end, it chose to do what every political party does when it faces a crisis - it went back to basics. In this case—to Confucius.
After he took office in 2003, China’s President Hu Jintao began to talk of building a ‘harmonious society’—a deliberate echo of Confucius. Communist Party officials talk as much as they can about harmony (conveniently, the need for harmony is often used as a pretext for stopping all forms of dissent). Here in Beijing, the 14th Century Confucian Temple is a popular destination for Chinese tourists. Harmony within the grounds clearly needs a little vigilance. A sign warns that there will be ‘No Admission for Drunkards and People with Mental Problems.’”
Needless to say, the Party’s selective and tendentious appropriation of Confucian ideas does not do justice to the Confucian worldview. Nor, for that matter, does the form of “Confucianism” that historically prevailed in much China’s history among its ruling elites. And one should keep in mind that Confucian ideas and praxis on the ground, at least in China, are often intermingled with beliefs and practices from other traditions, especially Buddhism and Daoism, so Confucianism may not be easily identifiable as a discrete worldview.
Below is a list of basic concepts indispensable to making sense of the Confucian worldview. The list of “references and further reading” should suffice as a guide for those wanting to further explore Confucian traditions (e.g., neo-Confucianism). There are several blogs that cover Chinese philosophy, but the best of the lot is Warp, Weft, and Way (at which you’ll find links to other blogs and relevant resources). If you spend a little time becoming acquainted with its subject matter you’ll appreciate the introductory quality of the material that follows.
dao (tao): ‘way,’ in the sense of path or road. Zhang Dainian writes ‘The concept dao is perhaps the most important concept in Chinese philosophy.’ In the Book of Documents one finds mention of dao with regard to cutting a channel so as to prevent a river from overflowing its banks. Dao occurs some eighty times in the Analects. Other meanings: to explain, to tell, method, art, teachings, doctrines (hence, ‘a way to do something’ or ‘the right way to do something’). Ames and Rosemont state that for Confucius, dao is primarily rendao: ‘a way of becoming consummately and authoritatively human.’ In Confucianism, one is concerned with properly ascertaining the way of life of one’s cultural predecessors (Confucius said he ‘did not forge new paths’). Coming to understand this dao allows one to properly perform li (one might say dao, like ren, is manifest in li) in one’s own life and thereby continue transmission of what is vital within tradition. This might be gleaned from Analects 15.29: ‘It is the person who is able to broaden the way (dao), not the way (dao) that broadens the person.’ Confucius was reticent about the dao of tian, the truth of which he assumes and, accordingly, is largely in the background of the Analects. As noted above, therefore, Confucius focused on the human way, in contrast to the Daoists. Yet the Confucian dao is not without metaphysical significance, as in 4.8: ‘If at dawn you learn of and tread the way (dao), you can face death at dusk.’
de (te): virtue, power, integrity, moral/spiritual charisma, excellence. Originates with tian, and is evidenced in the non-coercive or nonviolent power or effects one has on others as a consequence or by-product of one’s virtues, of one’s personal ethical excellence and exemplification. In short, de is virtuous conduct, with the implication that such conduct can have a magical-like effect (inspirational, motivational, and so forth) on others. This can be seen in 4.24: ‘Excellent persons (de) do not dwell alone; they are sure to have neighbors.’ Cf. 2.1: ‘Governing with excellence (de) can be compared to the North Star: the North Star dwells in its place, and the multitude of stars pay it tribute.’ And 2.3: ‘Lead the people with administrative injunctions and keep them orderly with penal law, and they will avoid punishments but be without a sense of shame. Lead them with excellence (de) and keep them orderly through ritual propriety (li) and they will develop a sense of shame, and moreover, will order themselves.’ In 12.19 we learn that the ‘excellence (de) of the exemplary person (junzi) is the wind, while that of the petty person is the grass. As the wind blows, the grass is sure to bend.’ One bends to the will of or defers to the power of de. From contemporary Anglo-American analytic philosophy, the late Robert Nozick provides us with a compelling and evocative description of the power of de in his book, Philosophical Explanations (1981):
“It is not implausible to think we are elevated by others who are more developed than ourselves in their striving for harmonious hierarchical development and for a valuable life. We are aided and encouraged along our own path of development by their striving for self-development [in Confucian terms, ‘self-cultivation’] and purer feeling; contrast the effects on us of encountering those with a sour mixture of one-upmanship, self-aggrandizement, desire to dominate or destroy, and other festering emotions, the effects of wending our way and bending our attention to their motivations and trajectories. [….] We all know people, I hope, who bring out the best in us, people in whose presence we would be embarrassed to speak or act from unworthy motives, people who glow. In their presence we feel elevated. We are pushed, or nudged further along a path of development and perfection; rather, we are inspired to move ourselves along, in the direction shown. [….] We want to find a way of living whereby our best energies and talents are poured out so as to speak to and improve the best energies and talents of others. We want to utilize our highest parts and energies in a way that helps others to flourish.” (Robert Nozick, Philosophical Explanations. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1981)
junzi (chün tzu): gentleman; noble person; exemplary person; virtuous individual. Prior to Confucius, junzi meant ‘son of a lord,’ denoting aristocratic rank, the male child of a noble family. Confucius provides us with a transvaluation in meaning: from nobility of blood to nobility of character. The Confucian gentleman is trained (self-disciplined and acculturated) in ritual practice (li), study (xue), and the arts (wen). His proper performance of li exhibits ren (jen) and relies on the power of de (te). The junzi is more than a shi yet less than a Sage (shengren), the latter providing the model of emulation for the junzi. Cf. 4.16: ‘Exemplary persons (junzi) understand what is morally appropriate; petty persons understand what is of personal advantage.’ In the words of Hall and Ames, the junzi ‘serves as the primary agent of sociopolitical ordering. He performs this function by virtue of his role as a model of [self] cultivation.’ Self-cultivation for the junzi entails bringing into harmonious proportion that which is innate (‘nature’) and that which is acquired (‘nurture’), as well as effecting a harmony between his inner state and outer behavior. As regards the former, Slingerland says ‘the goal in ritual performance was to achieve the proper balance between zhi (‘native substance,’ that is, raw emotions and feelings) [what Ames and Rosemont term ‘basic disposition’] and wen (‘acquired refinement’), to avoid being an uncouth brute or an affected pedant…’ (cf. 6.18). The junzi’s performance of li is both creative and spontaneous, evoking the proper participation in li by others and inspiring their cultivation or accumulation of ren. The intrapersonal order attained through training of the junzi’s body and disciplining of the heart/mind (xin²) is a necessary condition of interpersonal order in the expanding circles of human conduct: from the intimate realm of the family, through the small group and community, to larger and more complex forms of social and political organization. It is the human heartedness or goodness of the junzi that gives life or meaning to li, that allows us to see the sacred or holy in everyday gestures and acts, in conventions and social norms, in etiquette and rites of passage. It is the merit and virtues of the junzi that authorize critical reflection on li, that authorize the possible alteration of li, that permit the spontaneous and creative articulation and performance of li specific to the exigencies of a particular time and place. The junzi knows what to do and how to do it, in other words, he is at ease in any situation, without self-consciously deliberating how to act. In the words of Herbert Fingarette, ‘The dao is present in the junzi’s will,’ for the ‘junzi’s will imposes nothing, but it manifests or actualizes the dao.’
li: ritual, rites, etiquette, customs, conventions, social norms, propriety. An early instance of li is in reference to a bronze cauldron used in sacred ceremonies. Later it refers to holy rituals, such as sacrifices to the ancestors or divination practices. Confucius widens and deepens the meaning of li to apply to social norms, conventions, etiquette, rituals, gestures, in short, to the myriad forms of scripted or patterned behavior performed on a routine basis in daily life that is ultimately sanctioned by tian and reflects the proper ways (daos) of living exemplified by one’s cultural ancestors. In the word of Ames and Rosemont, ‘Li are those meaning invested roles, relationships, and institutions which facilitate communication, and which foster a sense of community [and common good]. The compass is broad: all formal conduct, from table manners to patterns of greeting and leave-taking…from gestures of deference to ancestral sacrifices, all of these, and more, are li.’ An animating assumption here is that social behavior should be choreographed according to divine or sacred archetypes (e.g., tian) or models as practiced by the Sages of the past and exemplified by the junzi. Generally speaking, li is the proper or right way to do things given a proper consideration of tradition by the right kind of person. Everyday social interaction can be suffused with a holiness or sacredness that comes with the actualization of dao provided it is correctly—harmoniously and spontaneously—performed by individuals possessed of ren. This results in human behavior being in accord with the rhythms and patterns of tian, with its sacred cosmological and natural processes (or daos). Li performed by individuals lacking in the requisite amount of ren is akin to mindless habit, it is lifeless, mechanical, meaningless, awkward, self-conscious or egocentric and profane. Li without ren, dao and yi accounts for the fetters or shackles of tradition, of the veneration of tradition for tradition’s sake. More specifically, processes of reification or ossification will infiltrate li performed by individuals not committed to self-cultivation, hindering the truly personal and creative appropriation of tradition. Li are a social grammar learned through (1) socialization and acculturation (beginning with the family), (2) through the emulation of the right kind of persons (e.g., the junzi and the Sage), and (3) through informal and formal appropriation of the material found in the ‘Five Classics’ (Odes, Documents, Rites, Changes, and Spring and Autumn Annals). The junzi critically and creatively appropriates the li of tradition assessed in the light of ren and yi (morally right or appropriate), a process that entails making the tradition one’s own. Because of the integral relation between li and ren, it seems one might speak of the moralization of human behavior with Confucius, in other words, the scope of ‘the ethical’ is not confined to infrequent or special situations or acts but refers in some sense to the entirety of one’s conduct, insofar as all of one’s behavior is capable in differing degrees of influencing, shaping, or contributing to an ethical disposition, to ethical character. Ames and Rosemont well appreciate the uniqueness of this view: ‘For Westerners, there is ostensibly a distinction to be made between being boorish and being immoral. For Confucius, however, there are simply varying degrees of inappropriate, demeaning, and hurtful behavior along a continuum on which a failure in personal responsiveness is not just bad manners, but fully a lapse in moral responsibility.’ The writer and philosopher Iris Murdoch comes close to the Confucian perspective on the scope of ethics. Murdoch believed that all our states of consciousness and action presuppose cognitive and affective discrimination and that any such discrimination is subject to moral appraisal, as evidenced here in a passage from her Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals (1992):
“The moral life is not intermittent or specialised, it is not a peculiar separate area of our existence. [….] Life is made up of details. We compartmentalise it for reasons of convenience, dividing the aesthetic from the moral, the public from the private, work from pleasure. [….] Yet we are all always deploying and directing our energy, refining or blunting it, purifying or corrupting it, and it is always easier to do a thing a second time. “Sensibility” is a word which may be in place here. Aesthetic insight connects with moral insight, respect for things connects with respect for persons. (Education.). Happenings in the consciousness so vague as to be almost non-existent can have moral “colour.” All sorts of momentary sensibilities to other people, too shadowy to come under the heading of manners of communication, are still parts of moral activity. (‘But are you saying that every single second has a moral tag?’ Yes, roughly.) [….] [M]uch of our self-awareness is other-awareness, and in this area we exercise ourselves as moral beings in our use of many various skills as we direct our modes of attention.”
Li has everything to do with what Murdoch refers to here as the proper directing of our modes of attention. Michael Nylan has nicely explained the egalitarian quality in the Confucian conception of li as enshrined in the three Rites canons:
“they promote a kind of egalitarianism in three senses: they assume that everyone can be perfected; they stipulate that a code of manners, aristocratic in origin, be learned by and applied to all humans; they advocate the assignment of social rank according to virtue and merit, defining both in terms of relative contributions to the larger society; and they aim to school each person, through theory and praxis, in the very social skills that facilitate effective interaction. Accordingly, it should come as no surprise that non-elites in early, medieval, and late imperial China were at times more eager than social and political elites to embrace the precepts set forth in the Rites canons.”
Another character for li originally meant the lines running through a piece of jade and came to denote ‘good order,’ ‘principle,’ and ‘reason.’ It became very important in the historical development and philosophical articulation of Confucianism (see Cua in the bibliography).
ren (jen): benevolence; humaneness; goodness; perfect virtue; authoritative conduct; love. Ren is the sum of uniquely human ethical virtues, an all-encompassing ethical if not spiritual ideal, crystallized in the practice of benevolence and compassion. Karyn Lai writes that ren, ‘in its general form…is manifest as a concern for the human condition; in its more specific instances, it is manifest as a concern for specific others.’ Ames and Rosemont define ren as ‘one’s cultivated cognitive, aesthetic, moral, and religious sensibilities as they are expressed in one’s ritualized roles and relationships.’ Ren is even expressed, in part, in ‘one’s posture, and comportment, gestures and bodily communication.’ Ren is the result of self-cultivation, an educational process that commences within the family and continues throughout one’s lifetime, for it is, in the words of Hall and Ames, ‘a process term that has no specific terminus ad quem [endpoint].’ Similarly, Kim-chong Chong notes that ren, ‘like autonomy, is…an achievement concept.’ The exemplary or authoritative person (junzi) is continually self-surpassing, on a perfectibilist moral and spiritual path that ends with the Sage, the ideal spiritual figure of the Golden Age that serves as a lodestar for self-cultivation. Ren, like the Platonic Good, cannot be definitively expressed in propositional language, as it is as much about ‘knowing how’ as ‘knowing that’ (a distinction that goes back to the philosopher Gilbert Ryle; these two modes of knowing are not mutually exclusive), and one reason we know about the presence of ren through li, the latter embodying ‘knowing how.’ Slingerland, however, accounts for the Confucian reluctance to define ren—its ‘indeterminate character’ and ‘apparent vagueness’—to ‘the problematic nature of judgments of character.’ With good reason, Socratic dialectic and dialogue demonstrated that the virtues are not wholly captured in the names, propositions and images by which we have learned to know them, however much such knowledge is integral to coming to know their true nature, a knowledge that takes the form of nonpropositional insight. Replace ‘the good’ with ‘ren’ in the following from Francisco Gonzalez and you can better see the argument here: ‘Propositions are well suited to expressing knowledge of objects or facts; they can no more express knowledge of the good, however, than they can express knowledge-how or self-knowledge, both of which are involved in knowing the good.’ Insofar as li is the codified, external expression of ren (David Hinton), li and ren are similar to the Socratic dialectic as discussed by Gonzalez in Dialectic and Dialogue: Plato’s Practice of Philosophical Inquiry (1998), perhaps one reason the scenes of Confucius and his students depicted in the Analects is reminiscent of Socrates and his interlocutors in the agora:
“[T]he use that characterizes dialectic itself instantiates what it brings us to understand, so that this understanding is always self-understanding (in the sense of a ‘knowledge of knowledge’). This is why this use presupposes an affinity between the subject and the object. One must have and thus be acquainted with virtue and the good, even though only implicitly and confusedly, in order to inquire into them. As a user’s knowledge, knowledge of virtue and the good is acquired and exhibited in the very practice of inquiry, rather than in any propositional results abstracted from that practice.”
Confucius is often asked in the Analects what he means by the word ren, which suggests he no where provides a satisfactory definition or propositional formulation that fully articulates the essence, truth or meaning of ren, however much his examples and references point to some aspects, features or qualities of ren. It is natural for his students to ask such questions, and the collective process of inquiry serves to instantiate and exhibit ren! As Ames and Rosemont state, ‘like a work of art, it is a process of disclosure rather than closure, resisting fixed definition and replication.’ The Analects suggests, to borrow from Nozick, that ‘we are to care about, accept, support, affirm, encourage, protect, guard, praise, seek, embrace, serve, be drawn toward, be attracted by, aspire toward, strive to realize, foster, express, nurture, delight in, respect, be inspired by, take joy in, resonate with, be loyal to, be dedicated to, and celebrate’ the values and virtues that make up ren. Cf. 4.1: ‘In taking up one’s residence, it is the presence of ren (authoritative persons) that is the greatest attraction. How can anyone be called wise who, in having the choice, does not seek to dwell among ren (authoritative persons).’ Chong explains that ren is approached in ‘the language of integrity, self-worth, courage, and right,’ in stark contrast with an egoistic focus on ‘material things, profit, wealth, rank, and the opinions of others.’ In processes of enculturation and socialization it is fair to say, with Kwong-loi Shun, that the ‘ideal of ren is shaped by actually existing li practices in that it is not intelligible and cannot be shown to have a validity independent of them. However, it is not totally determined by li because advocacy of the ideal allows room for departing from or revising an existing rule of li.’ Enculturation and socialization are what shape innate dispositions and tendencies or, put differently, are what awaken our awareness of and attraction toward ren (Confucius did not articulate a theory of human nature as such, although his understanding of same seems, by default, open-ended). In this sense, li might metaphorically be seen as deposits of jen, as concretized jen, which, in turn, serve to facilitate an attraction toward the value of jen. Yet jen transcends li as Shun makes clear, inasmuch as it is the former that allows for critique and modification of the latter. This transcendent quality of jen with respect to li is well explained here by Slingerland:
“Although the training through which virtues are acquired proceeds according to a general set of rules or principles, the actual decisions made by a person with fully virtuous dispositions are both more flexible and more authoritative than the rules themselves. Thus, once a practice has been mastered, in the sense that the requisite virtues have been developed, this mastery brings with it a certain independence from the rules that constitute the practice: the master is able to reflect upon the rules and may even chose to transgress or revise them if, in her best judgment, this is what is required to realize the good or goods specific to that practice. Practice mastery thus brings with it a type of transcendence: the freedom to evaluate, criticize and seek to reform the practice tradition itself.”
We all have some implicit awareness of the good or ren as a consequence of our enculturation and socialization through li practices, and further Confucian self-cultivation draws us closer to ren as the essence of our humanity. If ren is ultimately rooted in the dao of tian, and we owe our existence to such cosmological forces and powers, it might even be argued, Socratic-like, that individuals possess an innate knowledge of ren, however dim, and that Confucian self-cultivation and education serves to bring such knowledge into ever-greater awareness and fruition, hence we are not ‘taught’ ren in the conventional sense. This is certainly in keeping with Mencius’ later assertion that human nature is intrinsically or innately good, accounting for how one can come to recognize and appreciate the good through psychological and moral developmental processes. It is traditionally argued that there are two indispensable parts to jen: shu (‘reciprocity,’ or the negative formulation of the Golden Rule: ‘do not impose on others what you yourself do not desire’) and zhong (loyalty). These concepts seem applicable to the various hierarchical roles one is involved in daily life (the argument of David S. Nivison), with the considerations of shu applicable to one in a ‘superior’ position or rank, and zhong applicable to one in a ‘subordinate’ position or rank. Of course one is typically involved in roles of both types, for example, the (superior) relation of the father to the son in the family, while the father at his place of employment may have a manager or boss, in which case he is now in a subordinate relation. Empathy appears to be fundamental to both shu and zhong, and of course both can be no less appropriate to roughly equal relations as well.
ru: prior to Confucius refers, first, to dancers and musicians in religious ceremonies or holy rituals. Secondly, it came to mean those who themselves were masters of religious rituals and ceremonies. Because of the links between such ceremonies or ritual performance and the topical matter in the ‘Six Classics’ (i.e., the Book of Poetry, the Book of History, the Book of Rites, the Book of Music, the Book of Changes, and the Spring and Autumn Annals—the Book of Music was eventually lost, so the Six Classics became the Five Classics), the ru were often teachers, both in official capacity and as private tutors. Ruists were also well-versed in the arts or culture (wen): li, music, archery, charioteering (or carriage driving), mathematics, and calligraphy, for example. By the Warring States period, Confucius was widely acknowledged, when not esteemed, as the leading exemplar of the ru tradition. Later, the ‘Way of Confucius’ and the ru tradition became one, such that every ru was by definition a Confucian and vice versa.
shengren (or simply sheng): sage; in the moral and spiritual hierarchy of ideal figures the sage is closest to, if not the embodiment of, perfection. The sage acts in full harmony with the patterns and processes of nature and tian. In other words, the way (dao) of the sage is one with both the dao(s) of the natural world and the dao of heaven. Traditional Chinese history upholds the model of predynastic and other ‘sage kings’ like Yao, Shun, Wen, and the Duke of Chou who ruled with the Mandate of Heaven (tian ming) and thus in their personal and political behavior displayed an awareness of the harmony, beauty and sublimity intrinsic to natural processes. Nivison has argued that the notion that these were ‘sage kings’ was relatively late in articulation, a position that accords with the fact that the pertinent chapters in the Analects are likely later interpolations in comparison to books 3-7 and 9, what Van Norden calls the ‘core books’ of the Analects. In 7.34 Confucius says that he cannot be considered a shengren, and in 7.26 he laments, ‘I have no hopes of meeting a sage. I would be content if I would meet someone who is a junzi.’ The junzi holds ‘the words of the sage’—along with the Mandate of Heaven and great men—‘in awe’ (16.8). The sage is the one person who ‘can listen to music and discern in it the original details and quality of an age and its culture’ (Hall and Ames). Ignoring the words of their Master, the Confucian tradition soon designated Confucius a sage, indeed, it viewed him as the archetypal sage. Hall and Ames further fill out the portrait of the sage as ‘the rare person [who] elevates the human experience to profound aesthetic and religious refinement, making the human being a worthy partner with the heavens and the earth.’ Moreover, and in keeping with the metaphorical imagery of dao, ‘the shengren have traveled, appropriated and enlarged a longer stretch of the road than the shi and junzi, and they are providing signposts and bearings for the latter as well.’
shi: soldier, scribe, bookkeeper, minor administrator, government official, lower level functionary of a lord, retainer, servant, scholar-apprentice. Michael LaFargue says this ‘relatively new class of men’ was ‘drawn from downwardly mobile, dispossessed nobility, and upwardly mobile, ambitious peasantry.’ From within their ranks emerged idealists of various sorts who contributed to the emergence and consolidation of the ‘hundred schools’ (the Confucians, Legalists, Taoists, Mohists, The Disputers [Mingjia; later known as the ‘School of Names’]). In the Analects, the shi is found endeavoring to emulate or become a jinzi. LaFargue proffers two propositions as fundamental to the shi idealist: first, that ‘good social organization depends on the ruler gaining the voluntary respect and cooperation of the people,’ and, secondly, that ‘the good ruler sets the tone for his society.’ LaFargue explains:
“He does this by his personal good qualities and [moral and spiritual] charisma [de], and by showing genuine care, concern and competence in looking out for their needs. [….] The manner in which he conducts himself both privately and publicly establishes a certain atmosphere that subtly but powerfully influences the way people conduct themselves. It is primarily this tone that the ruler sets, rather than laws, teachings or beliefs authorities teach to people, that is expected to produce a good peasant citizenry and an orderly society. The shi idealists reflected in the Mencius and the Tao Te Ching regard themselves as the chief tone setters of society. The new ‘foundation’ [for the crumbling sociopolitical order] inserts itself into public life primarily in their own person then. In whatever office they hold, they strive to set the proper tone for the social group in their charge, and in this they serve as exemplars for the rulers whom they serve. And when the rulers ask for their advice about particular political problems, hey advise them to address these problems in a way that will also set the tone for the larger society.”
tian (tian): very roughly, ‘heaven.’ With Ames and Rosemont, I think this term is best left untranslated, as there is no satisfactory equivalent term in English. Unlike heaven in the Abrahamic religions, Tian is best understood as both transcendent and immanent, for the natural world is part of heaven, although the fact that this term replaced, in some functional sense, Shang Di, suggests, in addition, that it has a supernatural role. In fact, some of the anthropomorphic qualities associated with the ‘Lord on High’ carried over into tian (e.g., in the Documents, tian ‘hears and sees,’ and we can speak of the ‘will [ming] of tian’), but the latter notion is considerably less anthropomorphic than the former. I am also in agreement with Robert Louden’s position (contrary to the view of Fingarette and others) that the passages in the Analects in which tian occurs ‘form a consistent whole, one from which we can reliably infer both that Confucius was a strong religious believer in a nonconventional sense, and that his moral orientation was itself dependent on his religious outlook.’ Cf. 7.23, in which Confucius is informed that the Minister of War in Sung was attempting to kill him: ‘Tian is the author of virtue [de] that is in me. What can Huan Tui do to me?’ Or consider Confucius’ remark in 9.5, where we learn that, like Socrates, Confucius believed he was on a divine mission: ‘With King Wen dead, is not culture [wen] invested here in me? If Tian intends culture to be destroyed, those who come after me will not be able to have any part of it. If Tian does not intend this culture to be destroyed, then what can the people of Kuang do to me?’ The next passage in the Analects finds Confucius’ student Zigong claiming that ‘Tian definitely set him [Confucius] on the path to sagehood.’ Confucius clearly believed the aspiring junzi should ‘model himself on, and seek moral guidance from, Tian’ (Louden). As Tian is not personal deity of any sort, it cannot speak to us in any way but a metaphorical sense, yet the wise (i.e., those with zh, ‘knowledge,’ ‘wisdom’) can discern meaning in the fact that ‘the four seasons turn and the myriad things are born and grow within it’ (17.19). Louden’s interpretation of this passage suggests Confucius, in this instance at any rate, was not far from the worldview of the Daoists: ‘he is implying that through the harmony, beauty, and sublimity of its natural processes Tian communicates a great deal about how human beings ought to live and act, at least to those who have learned to listen carefully to it.’ Confucius was, comparatively speaking, reticent about things supernatural or metaphysical, but there are myriad reasons to account for such reticence (reasons not dissimilar from those that find spiritual teachers preferring the oral to the written word, or the reason Plato gives us in the Seventh Letter: ‘this subject matter cannot at all be expressed in words as other studies can’) without implausibly turning Confucius into an agnostic humanist. On the other hand, one might plausibly infer from such reticence that Confucius did not countenance metaphysical speculation of any sort and, furthermore, if metaphysical talk distracted in any way from the urgent and practical matters at hand (how to live and act here and now) it was to be avoided.
wen: originally, line or pattern; to inscribe, to embellish; the arts or culture; generally speaking, wen makes reference to the patterned regularity or symmetry, harmony and beauty found in (the dao of) tian (Heaven), in (the dao of) the natural world, and (the dao of) a properly humane culture. With regard to tian and the natural world one might say, by way of illustration, that wen is evidenced in the physical laws (or normative regularities) of nature (cf. Anthony Zee’s Fearful Symmetry: The Search for Beauty in Modern Physics, 1999), or the mathematical and aesthetic elegance of the Golden Ratio—Phi—throughout human history (see Mario Livio’s The Golden Ratio, 2002). For Confucius, wen entailed, at the very least, the ‘six arts,’ namely, rites, music, archery, charioteering, mathematics and calligraphy. Of course, given Confucius’ commitment to the Five Classics, we can assume poetry and dance were likewise essential. In 7.6 Confucius says, ‘Set your sights on the way (dao), sustain yourself with virtue (de), lean upon benevolence (ren), and sojourn in the arts (wen).’ Confucius’ position on the role of tradition in an appreciation of the arts is gleaned from 3.14: ‘The Chou [Zhou] dynasty looked back to the Hsia [Xia] and the Shang dynasties. Such a wealth of culture! I follow the Chou [Zhou].’ In the Book of Rites (one of the Five Classics) we are reminded that ‘the perfection of virtue is primary, and the perfection of art follows afterward.’ Put differently, the arts are enlisted in the Confucian project of moral and spiritual self-cultivation (perfectibilist growth and education). They serve to integrally and holistically discipline or train the body and heart-mind (xin²) of the would-be junzi. As Edward Slingerland reminds us, ‘music was considered by the early Confucians to be one of the most powerful tools for shaping the emotions, and the metaphor of musical perfection also served for Confucius as a metaphor for the perfected state.’ Xunzi understood wen as essential to harnessing or disciplining the ‘natural and irrepressible’ emotions that ‘burst forth in words, poems, songs, and dances’ (Goldin):
“There is a danger, however, that this effusion of passion may overstep its proper bounds by violating the principles of the Way, and what began as a natural human tendency may metamorphose into a source of chaos. But the Sage Kings took steps to address just that problem: they established rituals of artistic expression, ensuring that poems and song conform to the Way. For when the people of a state sing and hear proper music, they are influenced by its power to bring themselves in line with the Way as well.” (Goldin)
Confucius and his followers were well known for reciting the three hundred odes, playing them on strings while singing and dancing to them. His devotion to the Odes exemplifies his understanding of wen. The Odes had variegated epistemic, political, ethical, aesthetic, psychological, and cultural functions in ancient China, only some of which we’ll mention here (see the excellent treatment in Nylan’s The Five ‘Confucian’ Classics, 2001). Not surprisingly, ‘all traditions portray the Odes’ vital importance as a cultural repository of eminent utility and as a teaching tool for the social graces’ (Nylan). The Odes could arouse the emotions of others, allow for the acute perception of others’ feelings, enhance a fraternal sense of community, ‘diplomatically’ express grievances or critiques so as not to offend or humiliate their targets, serve as a display of character and erudition. Formally or stylistically speaking,
“the inherent ambiguity and the multivalence of the odes allowed songmakers and audience alike to thrill to witty displays of learning, imparting a single meaning to lines quoted with a specific context. In effect, then, an ingenious, flexible, yet guided response, reaching ever higher levels of insight, became both the prerequisite for and the end product of Odes’ learning.” (Nylan)
We might see the Confucian project of self-cultivation itself in aesthetic, or more broadly, artistic terms, as Hall and Ames did in Thinking Through Confucius (1987) and Nylan does here:
“Moral self-cultivation is itself a kind of exquisite taste: the truly cultivated have learned to delight in the moral Way and to appreciate the beauty and utility of ritual. Such sophisticated powers of discrimination keep them on the path of full humanity (jen), painstakingly refining their initial impulses toward sympathetic understanding, like the jade cutter who cuts and files, chisels and polishes the precious material. People who know enough to take pleasure in the Way find that the end products of their efforts, their lives or their jades, have become exquisite works of art.” (Nylan)
Little noticed, the Confucian conception of wen has much in common with the Platonic if not classical Greek understanding of the role of music and dance in paideia (moral education; aretē, or the moral habituation to virtue; education directed toward ‘the Beauty and the Good;’): ‘As an instrument of paideia, ritual dancing, in which the customs of the group are encoded, implied the acquisition of moral virtues and a sense of civic responsibility, of mature allegiance to the community, an espousal of its traditions and virtues’ (Steven H. Lonsdale, Dance and Ritual Play in Greek Religion, Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993). For Plato, music and dance were, in Lonsdale’s words, ‘the first and fundamental steps of education,’ constituting a form of ‘unwritten laws’ that complement or sustain the written laws of the polis. These unwritten laws might helpfully be identified as a subset of Confucian li. Substitute heart-mind (xin²) for ‘soul’ in the following and the identification is transparent: Plato believed music and dance contributed to moral education and civic virtue, in other words, to ends motivated by an intimate knowledge of the Good, ‘because rhythm and harmony penetrate most easily into the soul and influence it most strongly, bringing with it decorum and making those who are correctly trained well-behaved’ (Lonsdale). Music and dance in ancient Greece, like the composition and performance of the odes in classical China, ‘made moral learning at once the most natural and so most delightful of all human activities—far more than a polite accomplishment, a significant source of gratification [or, in Greek terms, eudaimonia]’ (Nylan).
xiao: filial piety, meaning a strong sense of loyalty and respect toward one’s parents. This ethical obligation or moral duty, in the words of Liu, “is one that has penetrated Chinese culture the most.” The duty, as Liu also notes, extends beyond the lifetime of one’s parents insofar as Confucius prescribes a proper length and attitude for mourning the death of one’s parents (1.11). Filial piety does not entail blind—unthinking—obedience, as both children and parents alike are bound by the rule of proper conduct or propriety. And part and parcel of respect and loyalty is a corresponding mental attitude: reverence (or devotion). Filial piety is especially important in as much as the family is the moral embryo of the larger society and thus where one first learns the meaning and value of the varieties of virtuous behavior (e.g., gratitude or love) that form the backbone of ethical character and thus are absolutely necessary to proper performance one’s roles outside the family. In other words, it is within the family—the setting of one’s first relationships—that the process of lifelong moral development begins.
xin¹ (hsin¹): faithfulness; trustworthiness; ‘living up to one’s word’ or ‘making good on one’s word;’ one of the necessary conditions for personhood (Analects 2.22). xin¹, as a character trait, assumes, in the words of Hall and Ames, ‘that one has acquired the ability, acumen and resources to enact and make real what one says.’ It is integral to the achievement of personal integrity and, because it is essential to establishing interpersonal credibility, it is viewed as indispensable to the relation of friendship. Entailing the ‘commitment of the benefactor’ and the ‘competence of the beneficiary,’ xin¹ is ‘the consummation of fiduciary relationships’ (Ames and Rosemont). In Analects 1.8 Confucius says, ‘Take doing your utmost and making good on your word (xin¹) as your mainstay. Do not have as a friend anyone who is not as good as you are. And where you have erred, do not hesitate to mend your ways.’
xin² (hsin²): mind and/or heart but probably best as ‘heart-mind;’ also, thoughts and feelings, as Chad Hansen explains, ‘the common translation of xin as “heart-mind” reflects the blending of belief and desire (thought and feelings, ideas and emotions), into a single complex dispositional potential.’ Discussions of the heart-mind in Confucianism touch upon issues associated with human nature, and our capacity for human development, transformation, and self-transcendence. Anyone can aspire to be a Sage, for the peasant and Sage King alike possess xin², and yet the heart-mind of the Sage has become like an exquisite piece of jade: cut, chiseled, and polished to perfection. The fact that, in theory or principle anyone might become a sage does not of course speak to the question of how many individuals actually become sages or even aspire to be sage-like. Consider, for instance, the following from Paul Rakita Goldin’s explanation of Xunzi’s belief that “however vile their initial dispositions, if people attune themselves to the Way unceasingly, they may become Sages themselves:”
“Small men can become noble men, and noble men can revert to being small men. [….] In his antonomastic style, Xunzi writes that even a person in the street can become the equivalent of Yu, a famous sage, although such a transformation would require an accumulation of learning which would be difficult to accomplish. [….] At this point Xunzi elaborates: it is possible to walk across the world, although no one has done it; but the fact the no one has done it does not mean that it is impossible. Likewise, it is possible for a person in the street to become the equivalent of Yu, although, ostensibly, no one has done it recently; but the fact that it is difficult does not mean that it is impossible. It is difficult because it requires unceasing self-cultivation and vast accumulation of learning.” (Paul Rakita Goldin, Rituals of the Way: the Philosophy of Xunzi. Chicago, Il: Open Court, 1999)
Many Confucians believe that tian (t’ien) has endowed humanity with the heart of the Way (daoxin), with the inherent potential and inclination to strive for the good. According to Hansen, both Confucius and Mozi (Mo-tzu or Mo Di) ‘assume that we actualize the [xin’s²] disposition by internalizing culture, by language.’ For Mencius (Mengzi), on the other hand, xin’s² dispositions are innate, intrinsic to human nature and as such, distinguish us from ‘beasts.’ Moreover, these dispositions can grow and flower as from a seed, provided they prove capable of trumping interference from certain bodily desires, baser passions, or selfish motivations. It is through the heart-mind that one realizes the specifically Confucian cluster of virtues: filial piety (xiao), loyalty (zhong), empathy (or the negative formulation of the Golden Rule: shu), humaneness (ren), propriety (li), that which is just and proper (yi), and wisdom (zhi). According to Mencius (Mengzi), it is our xin² that entertains, weighs and decides between competing courses of action in its role as the ‘natural governor of the self’ (Philip Ivanhoe). But this situational exercise of judgment becomes, for the Sage, a spontaneous act ‘without ambivalence or indecision. His intuition is reflexive and inevitably motivates him’ (Hansen). The ability to spontaneously respond to situations in an ethically sensitive and appropriate way reflects the possession of ‘precise practical knowledge and infallible self-control’ (Hansen). These, in turn, are the by-product of cultivated powers of concentration or meditation, what Mencius calls the ‘unmoved heart-mind.’ Finally, qi fills the empty space, as it were, of the stilled or emptied mind, in Hansen’s words, providing ‘the metaphysical underpinning of this idealized moral psychology.’ In Mencius’ words: ‘If one cultivates it [i.e., qi] with uprightness and does not harm it, it will fill up the space between Heaven and earth. It is a qi that unites yi [moral intuition] with the Dao.’ Xunzi (ca. 310-210 BCE), the last great exponent of Confucianism before the close of the classical period of Chinese philosophy, did not share Mencius’ conception of the intrinsic goodness (as a capacity or potential to be realized, signified by the four ‘incipiences’ above) of human nature. As Goldin notes, for Mencius, human nature can grow and change, ‘for xing embodies the unique characteristics of human beings, while in Xunzi’s work, it signifies only the characteristics that all people share from birth.’ Xunzi famously argued that this shared original nature (i.e., what we have from birth: xing) is bad or evil , what is good, rather, is ‘artifice,’ for example, the transformation wrought by a teacher well-versed in the Dao of li and morality, or the norms and conventions of conduct established by the Sage Kings of prehistoric times (a Golden Age, if you will). It is artifice, in the form of trying and exhaustive self-cultivation, ‘that completes one’s nature’ (Goldin), as a kind of (moralized) ‘second nature.’ For Xunzi, it is the heart-mind is capable of knowing the Dao owing to its possession of three (paradoxical yet not mystical) qualities: emptiness, unity, and tranquility. It is the heart-mind that is capable of arriving at the deliberative conclusion that it is in our self-interest in the best sense—enlightened self-interest—to follow the rituals: ‘The mind…must be able to observe dispassionately the conduct of the self. It observes that xing is self-destructive because it does not conform to the rituals, and directs the self to begin the arduous process of transformation’ (Goldin). So, while morality is external in Xunzi’s conception, insofar as it is equivalent to proper practice of the right rituals, the motivational force to be moral is internal, located in the powers of the heart-mind. Hence, it is fair to say that ‘a person is ultimately a union of xing and artifice (wei)’ (Goldin). Despite Xunzi’s deep disagreement with Mencius, his philosophy remains very much in the letter and spirit of the Master in as much as a predominant refrain throughout the Analects is the importance of learning, the love of learning being one of the criteria used to separate the junzi from the ‘small man.’ The heart-mind, according to Xunzi, is what motivates this love of learning.
yi: right (in the sense of correct or proper); duty; morality; righteousness; the quality of an action that makes it fitting or appropriate; the quality of a person disposed to such acts. Yi is what enables one to act in a proper and fitting manner in tune with the exigencies of a particular situation and in harmony with extrinsic and intrinsic natural and heavenly forces (e.g., qi) and patterns. More mundanely but relatedly, it can refer to the obligations and responsibilities in virtue of one’s various social roles and positions. For Mencius, yi is one of the five basic principles that guide the basic forms of human relations, in this case, that obtaining between the ruler and subject. In general, however, yi is associated with the junzi whose self-cultivation or self-realization serves to enhance the common good. Either the Sage or the junzi, in other words, bring to a situation or state of affairs spontaneous and creative ‘acts of signification [as] meaning-disclosing actions [that] “extend the Way”’ (Hall and Ames). As Van Norden has explained, while Mencius emphasized the context-sensitivity of virtuous actions and the fact that different (virtuous) individuals may do different things in different contexts, ‘nonetheless, there are (in particular contexts) objectively right and wrong reactions. Thus, Mencius insists that if virtuous individuals “exchanged places, they all would have done as the others.”’ Yi is infrequently found in the Analects, and is like ren insofar as Confucius leaves us without a definition or theoretical elaboration of its meaning. Mozi (Mo Di) and the Mohists, however, proffered a succinct formulation of yi as entailing a consequentialist reckoning or utilitarian calculation of what benefits everyone on the whole (what provides for the common—or, as we say today, the public—good). For Xunzi, the aptitude for yi is owing to our linguistic ability to make distinctions, which, in turn, allows for us to subscribe to this or that convention or norm, this or that ritual code. For all Confucians, the extent that li is construed as a sort of moral sensitivity to or moral intuition of what is right, it can serve as a critique of li, providing a (reasoned or moral) point of departure from li in a particular case (cf. Analects 15.17 and 18).
zhi: knowledge; wisdom; to know or to realize; the term connotes some continuity or indissoluble connection between knowledge and action: ‘to know is to authenticate in action,’ that is, one’s knowledge is tried or tested in the crucible of experience. Of the four cardinal virtues of the Greek tradition (wisdom, justice, courage, and temperance), only wisdom is found in Mencius’ list, alongside ren, yi, and li. Mencius calls upon the analogical model of the craft person’s skill to illustrate the process of acquiring practical wisdom, thus zhi is more akin to acquiring—and mastering—a skill rather than information processing. It is a kind of ‘know-how’ or ‘know-to’ rather than simply to ‘know-that,’ hence it has a non-propositional quality as well: ‘knowledge by acquaintance’ in the Platonic sense. In Hansen’s words, ‘we know a dao when we make it real in our xin².’ There is no corresponding implication that the knowledge captured by words, images and propositions is not still a species of knowledge, for (with apologies to Gonzalez) words, images and propositions can give us the properties of, say, ren or yi, inform us, in other words, of how such virtues are qualified, but they cannot express what ren or yi is, the essence of ren or yi, their ‘true being’ (the assumption here, of course, that there is such a thing). And, at least in the Platonic account, formulations of the qualities or properties of ren and yi, for example, presuppose at least some (however dim or inchoate) intuition of what a thing like ren or yi in fact is. We might suggest this as one possible reason Confucius was reticent with respect to a definition or theoretical explanation of ren or yi. The dialogic settings found in the Analects are not unlike that of Socrates in the agora, and thus it is not implausible to imagine that Confucius used such settings to engage in a dialectic similar to Socrates’ (cf. Analects 9.11), thereby apprising his students (interlocutors) of their partial perspectives on such things as ren and yi (and li, etc.), while exemplifying (as zhi) in his person the very nature of yi, of ren:
“[E]ven though names, images, and propositions do not succeed in expressing or “offering” the true nature of a thing, they must nevertheless, in expressing the thing’s qualities, refer to or presuppose its nature. This is what makes possible a particular way of dealing with these means that, by exposing them in refutation, opens them to the nature which they presuppose but conceal.” (Gonzalez)
With both Socrates and Confucius it would seem to be the case that the knowledge of the true being of a thing is at the same time self-knowledge (hence 2.4). And with both Socrates and Plato, nonpropositional insight must nevertheless avail itself of the knowledge associated with everyday experience, of knowledge captured in words, images and propositions, of knowledge evidenced in discursive reasoning (the dialogue, the conversational setting):
“The dialectician…does not fool himself into thinking that the flaws of ordinary experience can be overcome through the construction of an ideal language or the systematization of formal logic. In our everyday use of words, propositions, and images, the true nature of things already stands revealed to us, however darkly (doxa). [….] [W]hile the ultimate goal of dialectic is nonpropositional insight, the only means of attaining (and I would add, sustaining) this insight is a form of discursive reasoning. [….] The insight that transcends words cannot be obtained except by means of words; what cannot be spoken becomes manifest in the very process of speaking. Thus what we have in dialectic as Plato understands it is the wedding of discursive and nondiscursive thought. Only through the process of examining and refuting propositions—a thoroughly discursive process—can we just barely obtain knowledge that is nonpropositional. [….] Dialectic, the primary object of which is the good, is essentially a “know-how.” It is the identification of dialecticwith knowledge of use that prevents it from being solely “knowledge by acquaintance” (direct, unmediated intuition) or solely propositional knowledge and makes it instead that process in which insight and discourse are reconciled.” (Gonzalez)
It would appear, therefore, that Slingerland (2001) has more than sufficient reason for acknowledging a similarity between the maieutic (dialectical method) of Socrates and the pedagogical method of Confucius.
References & Further Reading:
An extensive bibliography of secondary literature on Confucianism is appended to Van Norden (2002) below. I have included a few works outside this tradition (largely from ‘virtue ethics’) because they provide (arguably) provocative ports of entry for those without prior training in Chinese philosophy into this or that idea or practice found in the Confucian worldview. My English-language (books only) bibliography for “Classical Chinese Worldviews” is available for download at the Ratio Juris blog.
- Adams, Robert Merrihew Adams. (2006) A Theory of Virtue: Excellence in Being for the Good. New York: Oxford University Press.
- Ames, Roger T. and Henry Rosemont, Jr., trans. (with intro.). (1998) The Analects of Confucius: A Philosophical Translation. New York: Ballantine Books.
- Angle, Stephen C. (2009) Sagehood: The Contemporary Significance of Neo-Confucian Philosophy. New York: Oxford University Press.
- Bell, Daniel A. and Hahm Chaibong, eds. (2003) Confucianism for the Modern World. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
- Berthrong, John H. (1998) Transformations of the Confucian Way. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.
- Berthrong, John H. and Evelyn Nagai Berthrong. (2000) Confucianism: A Short Introduction. Oxford, UK: Oneworld.
- Bicchieri, Cristina. (2006) The Grammar of Society: The Nature and Dynamics of Social Norms. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
- Brooks, E. Bruce and A. Taeko. (1998) The Original Analects: Sayings of Confucius and His Successors. New York: Columbia University Press.
- Chan, Alan K.L., ed. (2002) Mencius: Contexts and Interpretations. Honolulu, HI: University of Hawaii Press.
- Chong, Kim-chong. (2007) Early Confucian Ethics. Chicago, IL: Open Court.
- Chong, Kim-chong, Sor-hoon Tan, and C.L. Ten, eds. (2003) The Moral Circle and the Self: Chinese and Western Approaches. Chicago, IL: Open Court.
- Cua, A.S. “Reason and Principle in Chinese Philosophy: An Interpretation of li,” in Eliot Deutsch and Ron Bontekoe, eds. (1997) A Companion to World Philosophies. Malden, MA: Blackwell.
- Cua, A.S. (2005) Human Nature, Ritual, and History: Studies in Xunzi and Chinese Philosophy. Washington, DC: Catholic University of America.
- Dawson, Raymond, trans. (2000) Confucius: The Analects. New York: Oxford University Press.
- de Bary, William Theodore. (1989) The Message of the Mind in Neo-Confucianism. NewYork: Columbia University Press.
- de, Bary, William Theodore. (1991) Learning for Oneself: Essays on the Individual in Neo-Confucian Thought. New York: Columbia University Press.
- de Bary, William Theodore. (1998) Asian Values and Human Rights: A Confucian Communitarian Perspective. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
- Eno, Robert. (1990) The Confucian Creation of Heaven: Philosophy and the Defense of Ritual Mastery. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.
- Fingarette, Herbert. (1972) Confucius: The Secular as Sacred. New York: Harper Torchbooks.
- Foot, Philippa. (2001) Natural Goodness. Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press.
- Fraser, Chris. (2002) “Mohism,” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2002 Edition) Edward N. Zalta (ed.), http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2002/entries/mohism/.
- Gardner, Daniel K. (2003) Zhu Xi’s Reading of the Analects: Canon, Commentary, and the Classical Tradition. New York: Columbia University Press.
- Goldie, Peter. (2004) On Personality. London: Routledge.
- Goldin, Paul Rakita. (2005) After Confucius: Studies in Early Chinese Philosophy. Honolulu, HI: University of Hawai‘i Press.
- Goldin, Paul Rakita. (1999) Rituals of the Way: The Philosophy of Xunzi. Chicago, IL: Open Court.
- Gonzalez, Francisco J. (1998) Dialectic and Dialogue: Plato’s Practice of Philosophical Inquiry. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press.
- Graham, A.C. (1989) Disputers of the Tao: Philosophical Argument in Ancient China. La Salle, IL: Open Court.
- Hall, David L. and Roger T. Ames. (1987) Thinking Through Confucius. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.
- Hansen, Chad. (1992) A Daoist Theory of Chinese Thought: A Philosophical Interpretation. New York: Oxford University Press.
- Hansen, Chad. (no date) “The Metaphysics of Dao,” available: http://www.hku.hk/philodep/ch/Metaphysics%20of%20Dao%20doc.htm
- Hansen, Chad. “Taoism (Daoism),” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2003 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2003/entries/taoism/.
- Hansen, Chad, trans. (2009) Tao Te Ching: Lao Tzu on the Art of Harmony. London: Duncan Baird.
- Hursthouse, Rosalind. (1999) On Virtue Ethics. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
- Hursthouse, Rosalind, “Virtue Ethics,” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2003) Edward N. Zalta, ed. http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2003/entries/ethics-virtue/.
- Ivanhoe, Philip J. (2nd ed., 2006) Confucian Moral Self-Cultivation. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett.
- Ivanhoe, Philip J. (2nd ed., 2002) Ethics in the Confucian Tradition: The Thought of Mengzi and Wang Yangming. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett.
- Ivanhoe, Philip J. (2009) Readings from the Lu-Wang School of Neo-Confucianism. Indianapolis: Hackett.
- Jensen, Lionel M. (1997) Manufacturing Confucianism: Chinese Traditions and Universal Civilization. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
- Jullien, François (Sophie Hawkes, trans.). (2000) Detour and Access: Strategies of Meaning in China and Greece. New York: Zone Books.
- Knoblock, John, trans. (1988-1994) Xunzi: A Translation and Study of the Complete Works, 3 Vols. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
- Kupperman, Joel J. (1991) Character. New York: Oxford University Press.
- Kupperman, Joel J. (1999) Learning from Asian Philosophy. New York: Oxford University Press.
- LaFargue, Michael. (1992) The Tao of the Tao Te Ching: A Translation and Commentary. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.
- Lai, Karyn. “Confucian Moral Cultivation: Some Parallels with Musical Training,” in Chong, et al., eds. (2003) above.
- Lai, Karyn L. (2008) An Introduction to Chinese Philosophy. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
- Lau, D.C., trans. (1979) Confucius: The Analects. New York: Penguin.
- Lau, D.C., trans. (1970) Mencius. New York: Penguin.
- Lewis, Mark Edward. (1990) Sanctioned Violence in Early China. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.
- Lewis, Mark Edward. (1999) Writing and Authority in Early China. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.
- Li, Chenyang, ed. (2000) The Sage and the Second Sex: Confucianism, Ethics, and Gender. Peru, IL: Open Court.
- Liu, JeeLoo. (2006) An Introduction to Chinese Philosophy: From Ancient Philosophy to Chinese Buddhism. Malden, MA: Blackwell.
- Lonsdale, Steven H. (1993) Dance and Ritual Play in Greek Religion. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.
- Lu, Jiyuan. (2007) The Ethics of Confucius and Aristotle: Mirrors of Virtue. New York: Routledge.
- Lupke, Christopher, ed. (2005) The Magnitude of Ming: Command, Allotment, and Fate in Chinese Culture. Honolulu, HI: University of Hawai`i Press.
- Makeham, John. (2003) Transmitters and Creators: Chinese Commentators and Commentaries on the Analects. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center.
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