The Analects (I)

Confucius, and D. C. Lau. The Analects (Lun Yü). Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1979. Print.


“Philosophers who are interested in morals can generally be divided into two kinds, those who are interested in moral character and those who are interested in moral acts.” 10

“Benevolence (jen) is the most important moral quality a man can posses.” 14

“in dealings with others one should be chung (XIII.19)… chung means ‘doing one’s best'”. 16

“tsung fa… Under this system, succession passes to the eldest son by the principal wife. Younger sons or sons by concubines become founders of their own noble houses.” 18.

“If being a good son makes a good subject, being a good father will also make a good ruler.” 18

“Geographically, one loves members of one’s family more than one’s neighbours, one’s neighbours more than one’s fellow villagers, and so on. Socially, one loves members of one’s own social class more than those of another class.” 18

“the observance of of the three-year mourning period is, in some sense a repayment of the love received from one’s parents in the first years of one’s life.” 19.

“the practice of benevolence depends on oneself aline, and not on others.’ )XII.I._” 19.

“Of all the things that are likely to distort a man’s moral judgment and deflect him from his moral purpose, self-interest is the strongest, the most persistent and the most insidious… at the sight of profit one should think of what is right (XVI.12, XVI.10 and XIX.1).” 20

“But although Confucius emphasized the difficulty of practising benevolence, he also made it abundantly clear that whether we succeed or not depends solely on ourselves.” 21

‘The man of wisdom is never in two minds’ the man of benevolence never worries; the man of courage is never afraid’ (IX.29). 22

“Another attribute of the wise man is that he has knowledge of men…. he is a good judge of character. In the Chinese view, the most important fact contributing to the difficulty of predicting the future lies in the unpredictable nature of man.” 22

“‘Those who are born with knowledge are the highest. Next come those who attain knowledge through study. Next again come those who turn to study after having been vexed by difficulty. The common people, in so far as they make no effort tot study even after having been vexed by difficulty, are the lowest’ (XVi.9), but he made no claim to be amongst those born with knowledge.” 23

“To say you know when you know, and to say you do not when you do not, that is knowledge’ (II.17).” 23

“neither great goodness nor great wickedness can be accomplished by men devoid of courage.” 24

“To be hsin in word applies to all one’s words. It concerns, besides promises, resolutions concerning future conduct, or even plain statements of facts. Not to carry out a resolution is to fail to be hsin; to have made a statement not borne out by facts- whether they be present or future facts – is equally to fail to be hsin.” 25.

“The safest course to take is never to make any claims until the deed is done. Thus, the gentleman ‘puts his words into action before allowing his words to follow his action’ (II.13). Confucius’ general advise is that one should be quick to act but slow to speak (I.14, IV.24).” 25.

“There are bound to be cases where an inflexible adherence to the principle of trustworthiness in word will lead to action that is not moral. Confucius describes ‘a man who insists on keeping his word and seeing his actions through to the end’ as showing ‘a stubborn petty-mindedness’ (XIII.20).” 25

“A man should be respectful in his intercourse with others because by so doing he can hope to be spared insults and humiliations.” 26.

“As a character of moral agents, benevolence has more to do with disposition and motive than objective circumstances.” 27

“Heaven cares profoundly about the welfare of the common people and the Emperor is set up expressly to promote that welfare.” 28.

“Confucius said, ‘At fifty, I understood (chih) t’ien ming’ (II.4).” 28

“If a man is convinced that all the desirable things in life are due to Destiny, he is more likely to see the futility of pursuing them and instead bend his efforts to the pursuit of morality. Morality is the only object a man ought to pursue because being moral lies in making just such an effort and not in the successful outcome of one’s action.” 29

“Study and the holding of office are the twin activities inseparable from the concept of the gentleman.” p. 31.

“‘It is shameful,” he said, ‘to make salary your sole object, irrespective of whether the Way prevails in the state or not’ (XIV.I).” 31.

“When the way prevails in the state, speak and act with perilous high-mindness; when the Way does not prevail, act with perilous high-mindness but speak with self-effacing diffidence’ (XIV.3.)” 32.

“not only is it ‘a shameful matter to be rich and noble when the Way falls into disuse in the state’, it is equally ‘a shameful matter to be poor and humble when the Way prevails in the state’ (VIII.13).” p. 32.

“The ultimate purpose of government is the welfare of the common people (min). This is the most basic principle in Confucianism and has remained unchanged throughout the ages.” p. 32.

“The promotion of the welfare of the common people begins with satisfying their material needs.” p. 32.

“‘Guide them by edicts, keep them in line with punishments, and the common people will stay out of trouble but will have no sense of shame.'” (Xii.7) p. 33.

“if the ruler fails to be correct himself but insists on punishing his subjects for being incorrect, he will be setting himself above the law and the common people will be conscious of the injustice.” p. 34.

“‘In administering your government, what need is there for you to kill? Just desire the good yourself and the common people will be good. The virtue of the gentleman is like wind; the virtue of the small man is like grass. Let the wind blow over the grass and it is sure to bend.’ (XII.19) p.34-35.

“The Taoist ruler genuinely does nothing because the Empire functions best when left alone. The Confucian ruler only appears to do nothing because the moral influence he exerts works imperceptibly.” p.35.

“The sole test of a good ruler is whether he succeeds in promoting thte welfare of the common people.” p. 37.

“‘When there is a preponderance of native substance over acquired refinement, the result will be churlishness. When there is a preponderance of acquired refinement over native substance, the result will be pedantry. Only a well-balanced admixture of these two will result in gentlemanliness’ (VI.18).” p. 38

“A man may have a strong urge to show respect towards another man in a given society, but unless he knows the code of behaviour by which this respect is given expression, he will either fail completely to express it or, at most, succeed only in expressing it in a manner not altogether acceptable in that society.” p. 38-39.

“For Confucius perfect goodness was more important than perfect beauty. Whether a piece of music is acceptable or not depends on its moral quality.” p. 40.

“In criticizing the ruler and his government, one should also resort to quotations from the Odes… ‘The one who speaks gives no offense, while the one who hears can take warning’.” (Shih ching chu shu, I.IIb) p. 42.

“‘Tzu-hsia said, ‘I have heard it said: life and death are a matter of Destiny; wealth and honour depend on Heaven.’ (XII.5)” p. 45.

“‘The Master said, ‘use your ears (wen) widely but leave out what is doubtful; repeat the rest with caution and you will make few mistakes. Use your eyes (chien) widely and leave out what is hazardous; put the rest into practice with caution and you will have few regrets.’ (II.18) p. 46.

“‘If one learns from others but does not think, one will be bewildered. If, on the other hand, one thinks but does not learn from others, one will be in peril’ (II.15)” p. 47.

“If one’s aim is to make advances in knowledge, both thinking and learning are equally necessary, but in cases where one has no such aim, through learning one can at least gain something by acquainting oneself with what is already known, but one is unlikely to make any gains at all if one thinks in vacuo.” p. 47

“‘With the rites, it is better to err on the side of frugality than on the side of extravagance’ (III.4). All things being equal, it is better to be frugal.” p. 48.

“one has to be constantly on the alert to the possibility that a rule may need rethinking at any moment and on any occasion.” p. 50.

“while a rule can remain right only if it is constantly measured against the demands of principles, a principle cannot do without rules if it is to be put into effect. This dialogue between rule and principle constitutes the essence of Confucius’ moral thinking.” p. 50.

“All moral rules have implicit in them some principle or principles. A rule can thus always be judge by its success in realizing these principles. In other words, moral rules have built-in standards by which they can be judge.” p. 50

“Confucius would not tolerate any student who, because he failed to think, was unable to discover new applications for known principles. He said, ‘When I have pointed out one corner of a square to anyone and he does not come back with the other three, I will not point it out to him a second time.'” p. 51.

“‘I have never enlighten anyone who has not been driven to distraction by trying to understand a difficulty or has not got into a frenzy trying to put his ideas into words’ (VII.8).” p. 51.

“…Confucius could hold out no hope of reward either in this life or in the next. The reward lies in the doing of what is good, and this constitutes the joy of following the Way.” p. 52

“He has great respect for the wisdom of the past but he did not accept it uncritically. For him the only way of making progress is to reflect on what has been handed down to use from the past.” p. 52.

“He was anything but dogmatic” p. 52.

“It cannot be denied that, over the centuries, Confucianism acquired a lot of dogmas and developed authoritarian tendencies, but it would be as grossly unfair to lay these at Confucius’ door as to blame Jesus for the excesses of the Church in later ages.” p. 52.

“‘In a hamlet of ten households, there bound to be those who are my equal in doing their best for others and in being trustworthy in what they say, but they are unlikely to be as eager to learn as I am’ (V.28)” p. 53.

“‘In the eating of coarse rice and the drinking of water, the using of one’s elbow for a pillow, joy is to be found. Wealth and rank attained through immoral means have as much to do with me as passing clouds. (VII.16)” p. 54.