The wisdom of the crowd

子曰:「眾惡之,必察焉;眾好之,必察焉。」
Confucius said: “When everyone hates someone, you should investigate that person further. When everyone loves someone, you should investigate that person further.”

Beware of the wisdom of the crowd. Just because someone is popular, it doesn’t mean that they are capable; and just because someone is unpopular, it doesn’t mean that they are incapable. Indeed, the reverse is often the case. Continue reading The wisdom of the crowd

A foreign country

子曰:「吾猶及史之闕文也。有馬者,借人乘之,今亡已夫!」
Confucius said: “Even when I was young scribes would leave a blank space if they were unsure of what to write and people who owned horses would lend them to others to ride. Nowadays such practices have disappeared.”

For Confucius, the past was a foreign country: they did things differently there. Rather than risk screwing up an important manuscript by writing down the wrong character, young scribes were always sure to check with someone who knew better before committing brush to bamboo strip; and rather than let their unused mount while away its time in a field, people offered it to their friends and neighbors to carry out productive labor. Continue reading A foreign country

Due praise

子曰:「吾之於人也,誰毀誰譽?如有所譽者,其有所試矣。斯民也,三代之所以直道而行也。」
Confucius said: “In my dealings with people, do I ever praise or blame anyone excessively? If I praise anyone, it is only after they have been put to the test. It is because the common people acted in the same way that the Three Dynasties kept to the straight path.”

I think it’s safe to say that Confucius wouldn’t have much truck with modern-day efforts to boost “self-esteem” among young people by lavishing them with praise. He would fall more into the “tough love” category. Continue reading Due praise

The Golden Rule reprised (again)

子貢問曰:「有一言而可以終身行之者乎?」子曰:「其怒乎!己所不欲,勿施於人。」
Zigong asked: “Is there one single word that can guide you through your entire life?” Confucius said: “Should it not be reciprocity? Do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself.”

This is a reprise of the so-called “golden rule” of reciprocity first expounded by Zigong himself in Book 5, Chapter XII: Continue reading The Golden Rule reprised (again)

Leadership attributes

子曰:「君子義以為質,禮以行之,孫以出之,信以成之,君子哉!」
Confucius said: “A leader takes rightness as his essence, practices it in conformity with the rites, enacts it with humility, and faithfully brings it to fruition. This is how a leader behaves.”

子曰:「君子病無能焉,不病人之不己知也。」
Confucius said: “A leader is distressed by his own lack of ability; he is never distressed at the failure of others to recognize him.”

子曰:「君子疾沒世而名不稱焉。」
Confucius said: “A leader hates the thought of leaving this world without having made a name for himself.”

子曰:「君子求諸己,小人求諸人。」
Confucius said: “A leader makes demands on himself; a petty person makes demands on others.”

子曰:「君子矜而不爭,群而不黨。」
Confucius said: “A leader is proud without being contentious and sociable without taking sides.”

子曰:「君子不以言舉人,不以人廢言。」
Confucius said: “A leader doesn’t promote someone simply because of what they say, nor does he dismiss what is said because of the person who said it.”

Chapters XVIII to XXIII of Book 15 provide a long list of attributes that a leader should possess. Continue reading Leadership attributes