Confucius recommends

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季康子問:「仲由可使從政也與?」子曰:「由也果,於從政乎何有?」曰:「賜也可使從政也與?」曰:「賜也達,於從政乎何有?」曰:「求也可使從政也與?」曰:「求也藝,於從政乎何有?」
Ji Kangzi asked: “Is Zilu fit to be appointed to government office?” Confucius said: “Zilu is resolute. Why isn’t he fit to be appointed to government office?” Ji Kangzi asked again: “Is Zigong fit to be appointed to government office?” Confucius said: “Zigong is intelligent. Why isn’t he fit to be appointed to government office?” Ji Kangzi asked again: “Is Ran Qiu fit to be appointed to government office?” Confucius said: “Ran Qiu has many talents. Why isn’t he fit to be appointed to government office?”

The first few chapters of Book 6 of the Analects may not contain any particular pearls of wisdom or insight into the human condition, but they do provide an interesting picture of how Confucius felt about some of his closest disciples.

As their leader and mentor, Confucius is naturally keen to emphasize their respective talents and suitability for an official position. But he is very judicious in how he does this, highlighting only their particular strengths and refraining from showering them with excessive praise. Like any good mentor, he certainly doesn’t let his emotional bonds with them effect his objective assessment of their character and abilities.

The only exception to this rule is his quasi-sanctification of his deceased young protégé Yan Hui. Perhaps for once Confucius allowed his grief at the untimely death of the young man at the age of just 32 to cloud his judgment.

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