Keep on hammering away

CDXRiceMillStone1

子曰:「吾有知乎哉?無知也。有鄙夫問於我,空空如也;我叩其兩端而竭焉。」
Confucius said: “Do I possess knowledge? No, I don’t. Even when a humble peasant asks me a question, my mind goes blank; but I keep on hammering away at the two sides of the question until I work out the answer.”

It’s difficult to determine the exact meaning of this passage without any additional context. Presumably Confucius is saying that you should give careful thought to any question that someone poses to you, no matter how lowly their social station. Such an interpretation would fit in with the description of him in Chapter IV of Book 9: “Confucius avoided four things: preconceptions, arbitrariness, stubbornness, and egoism.”

He’s also making the point that when it comes to learning there’s no substitute for persistence. Whenever you are faced with a difficult question, you simply have to “keep on hammering away at it” until you work out the answer!

 

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