Analects Book 4: virtue never stands alone


Confucius made regular use of the device of comparing the lofty values of a leader with the base instincts of a small-minded man. In Chapter XI of Book 4, for example, he comments that while the former “cherishes virtue” the latter only cares about the accumulation of material possessions. A leader thus focuses on improving himself in order to better contribute to the common good of society, while a small-minded man is only concerned on extracting as many benefits as possible from it.

In Chapter XXIV, Confucius once again reiterates the transformational nature of virtue. “Virtue never stands alone” because it automatically attracts “neighbors” like a magnet as a result of its intrinsic moral power. To use a more contemporary analogy, it is akin to a modern-day cloud-based platform that is constantly expanding its user base through smart new applications and services that enable people to transform their thinking and behavior.

Given the rapid developments in connectivity, big data, and IoT technologies, perhaps the idea of a virtue-based cloud platform is not entirely fanciful. Indeed, if it were grounded in the right moral principles and values, the transformational effect of one could be enormous.


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