Profit (利/lì) was a dirty word for Confucius. He strongly opposed the pursuit of personal gain or advantage, arguing that it tempted people into wrongdoing and led to social instability. Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 4: Confucius on profit
Filial devotion doesn’t require blind obedience to your parents – at least not the version of it that Confucius taught. In 4.18, he says that you may “gently remonstrate” with your mother and father if you think that they are not conducting themselves in the right manner. He does go on to caution, however, that if they choose to ignore your advice, you should “remain respectful” and not let “your efforts turn to resentment.” In the final analysis, maintaining harmony within the family is more important than being right.
Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 4: Confucius on filial devotion
Taipei’s still pretty quiet even though the Lunar New Year holiday finishes tomorrow. I suspect that a lot of people will take Thursday and Friday off and return to work next Monday.
I’ve been spending most of my break pounding the pathways of the Four Beasts Scenic Area while working my way through the wonderful back catalog of In Our Time podcasts hosted by the inimitable Melvin Bragg. I know I’m not the first person to remark on this, but the AirPods that came with my new iPhone have given me a greater appreciation of the power of the spoken word and led me to read less and listen more. Continue reading Notes from the field: pounding the pathways of the Four Beasts
Confucius made regular use of the device of comparing the lofty values of a leader (君子/jūnzǐ) with the base instincts of a petty person (小人/xiǎorén). In 4.11, for example, he comments that while the former pursues virtue and justice, the latter only cares about the accumulation of material possessions and gaining favors. Leaders thus focus on improving themselves in order to better contribute to the common good of society, while petty or small-minded people are only concerned with extracting as many personal benefits as possible from it. Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 4: virtue never stands alone
Goodness is such an ambiguous concept that even Confucius shied away from attaching an exact meaning to it. He found it much easier to describe the benefits that the cultivation of a strong internal sense of goodness can bring to people rather than defining its precise features. Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 4: the benefits of goodness
Confucius can certainly never be accused of sugarcoating the difficulties that any would-be student would face if he chose to follow his path. He promises no seven-step plan to guaranteed success or shortcut to fame and fortune with his approach to learning. Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 4: Confucius’s approach to learning
The ability to assess a given situation objectively and take the most appropriate action based on the facts of it is one of the key leadership qualities that Confucius highlights in Book 4 of the Analects. Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 4: Confucius on leadership qualities
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. Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 4: by numbers
The Analects of Confucius Book 4 begins with an exploration of the meaning of goodness. Only people who practice it constantly in their daily lives without a desire for personal profit are able to enjoy true satisfaction and contentment.
Even though Confucius claims that he has never seen “anyone whose strength is insufficient” to devote themselves to goodness for a single day, he despairs that he hasn’t ever seen anyone who “truly loves goodness and truly detests evil” either. The path to goodness that he urges everyone to follow is indeed a lonely and difficult one! Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 4: overview