As in Book 2 and Book 3, Confucius dominates Book 4 of the Analects with the curious exceptions of Chapter 15, in which his younger follower Zengzi steps in to clarify the meaning of his words, and Chapter 26, where his follower Ziyou takes the reins. The only plausible explanation for these two anomalies is that they were slipped in by unscrupulous or careless editors.
The supreme Confucian value of goodness (仁/rén) is the most important theme of the book, and is explored from multiple angles by the sage in the first seven chapters. Even Confucius, however, is brought to the point of despair by his ruminations on this highly elusive quality, lamenting in Chapter 6 that: “I’ve never seen anyone who truly loves goodness and truly detests evil.”
Confucius also expounds further on the qualities of a leader in the book. In Chapter 11, using a device commonly found in the Analects, he contrasts a leader’s lofty love of virtue and justice with the mean materialism and deviousness of a petty person (小人/xiǎorén). In the following chapter, he goes on to criticize people (presumably petty ones) who act out of self-interest (利/lì) rather than for the common good.
Filial devotion is the final major topic covered in the book, though the actual term for it (孝/xiào) only makes a single appearance. Confucius focuses his thoughts on how you should act towards your parents. In Chapter 21, for example, he provides some valuable if rather sobering advice for all of us: “Always keep the age of your parents in mind. Let this knowledge be both a source of joy and dread.”