Innate knowledge

孔子曰:「生而知之者,上也;學而知之者,次也;困而學之,又其次也。困而不學,民斯為下矣!」
Confucius said: “Those who are born with innate knowledge are the highest class of people. Next are those who acquire knowledge through learning. After them are those who learn from the trials and tribulations of life. The lowest are the common people who go through the trials and tribulations of life without ever learning anything.”

Innate knowledge could also be translated as “intuitive wisdom” or perhaps even “natural genius”.

Confucius didn’t consider that he himself had that gift. Indeed, in Book 7 Chapter XIX he candidly admits:

子曰:「我非生而知之者,好古,敏以求之者也。」
Confucius said: “I was not born with innate knowledge. I am just a man who loves the past and who is assiduous in investigating it.”

The only person he deemed to have it was his favorite disciple Yan Hui, going as far as to tell Zigong in Book 5 Chapter IX: : “You are certainly not his equal, and neither am I.” (弗如也,吾與女,弗如也。)

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