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Analects of Confucius Essay

“…our own analysis of the semantic properties of classical Chinese is not meant to tell the reader how to impose a logical ordered reading on the Chinese texts, but merely to point out that they are not illogical and irrational, very different from our own patterns of language and thought though they might be.” P.310

Confucianism is a philosophy that was developed by Confucius between (551 BCE to 479 BCE). Confucius was born in the state of Lu in the province of China. He would later become a magistrate in the local courts. Confucius travelled across the country teaching people. For almost 2000 years, Confucianism was the most important force in Chinese life. It affected virtually every facet of life including government, education, and personal behavior. During his peak, Confucius had about 3000 teachers all surrounding him. The Confucian ideal of a superior individual is one who lives a righteous life of rightness, virtue, and propriety. Confucius realized that his ideas were varied to those of the clergy that felt that greatness is a function of birth. You are either born great or not. In his view, greatness was a question of conduct and character. Confucius taught people of varied background including nobilities as well as regular people.

In books 14- 15, there is a mixture of subject materials using broad selections of sayings and discussions. Many scholars believe that the books in 14- 15 come from different schools. Scholars believe that the core of the The Analects is book II and IV. In book 14, items that had already been discussed in the previous books such as way, goodness, and conduct of knights is discussed. In book 14, a question from Yuan Sssu is documented where he asks about compunction. Confucius responds by saying that the gentleman can accept reward if the country is ruled according to the Way. This echoes that same argument posted in chapter 3. While reading this text, we must understand that The Analects, is composed of about five hundred independent passages, divided into about twenty books. The books are authored and overtime divided into bundles according to prevailing themes. While reading the book, one notices the order of the books have been broken overtime, by disarrangement. For example, book 15-20 are always agreed to be late entrances.

Let’s take the case of Book 14:1. It must be understood that Xian was the personal name of the disciple Yuan Xian. In the early literary convections, use of the personal name in a narrative context was usually a sign of first person voice. Because of this reaction, many scholars have argued that this passage and most of the subsequent passages in the chapter were not written by Confucius but by the disciple Yuan Xian. Using historical data, it is revealed that Yuan Xian was Confucius’ successor after his death. Yuan Xian was thus his reclusion in dangerous times when his wisdom was very much needed. Still, the writings still exhibit some form of timelessness that his unique and relevant to the human life.

Edward Slingerland (2003) argued that Yuan Si is also the same Yuan Xian who appears in 6:5. In 6: 5, Yuan Si is appointed a steward, later he is asked to decline his official salary as stated on the writing about shame in 14:1. (p. 246). Still, it is argued by many scholars Yuan Xian was one of the most excessively pure or fastidious men of Confucius’s time. Confucius disapproved of this behavior. It is also indicated that he led quite an authoritative and harsh reclusive lifestyle that earned him followings even after his dismissal in the The Analects.

Perhaps while examining this chapter, one must reckon with Confucius held believes. Confucius believed that people worked best on standards or rules for life. Because of this understanding, he developed rules for many social activities. While using rules to provide guidelines for human beings, he also believed that the self should not come before the society because people usually have overriding obligations to parents, ancestors, and society as a whole. Confucius belief was an individual’s self well-being usually depends on the well-being of others. Perhaps this set of beliefs explains why 14.1 is a controversial piece on the relationship between the leader and the servants. The chapter basically states that an underperforming leader must be fired to guarantee the safety, pride, and integrity of other people.

 

 

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