The Catholic Encyclopedia

Philosophy Talk: Confucius
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The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition

The Sayings of Confucius:
Introductory Note

Harvard Classics

Confucianism founded by K'ung Fu Tzu
From Religious

The Chinese Classics
Major texts of Confucian and other classic Chinese philosophy. Just a thought: If you are in too great a hurry to be able to sample these now, when in life do you think you ever will have time to reflect what life might be?


Confucius (Kong Qiu)

Chinese scholar and philosopher whose influence on Chinese culture is vitally integrated fro over 2000 years. Confucianism is a feature of the Chinese people's daily life as it is the foundation of Chinese family structure, a conceptual framework for personal attitudes, and a practical guide for conduct. Confucius contributed significantly to thought about government, school, family, education, and ethics. Kong Qiu was a student of the philosophy of Lao Tzu. He was, perhaps, more of an interpreter and conservator of the intellectual past than an innovator of new views. Yet, his expression of ideas about central human themes continues to resonate for many who study him today.

Confucius is a name given to Kong Qiu by Christian missionary. The word "Confucius" has no meaning to Chinese who call the philosopher Kong Fuzi or Kong Qiu (Master Kong). Among the works attributed to Kong Zi are The Analects, The Doctrine of the Mean, The Great Learning, and commentaries that have become part of the I Ching (Book of Changes).

Kong Qiu taught that human nature is naturally directed towards goodness. Evil and injustice are symptoms of imbalance and improper relationships among individuals. Hence the proper roles of members of the family (as well as members of the State) are primary theses in his work.

"What Heaven has conferred is called The Nature; an accordance with this nature is called The Path of duty; the regulation of this path is called Instruction. The path may not be left for an instant. If it could be left, it would not be the path. On this account, the superior man does not wait till he sees things, to be cautious, nor till he hears things, to be apprehensive. There is nothing more visible than what is secret, and nothing more manifest than what is minute. Therefore the superior man is watchful over himself, when he is alone. While there are no stirrings of pleasure, anger, sorrow, or joy, the mind may be said to be in the state of Equilibrium. When those feelings have been stirred, and they act in their due degree, there ensues what may be called the state of Harmony. This Equilibrium is the great root from which grow all the human actings in the world, and this Harmony is the universal path which they all should pursue. Let the states of equilibrium and harmony exist in perfection, and a happy order will prevail throughout heaven and earth, and all things will be nourished and flourish." (The Doctrine of the Mean)

Confucianism teaches six central virtues that all people should strive to improve and practice:

Ritual (respect for custom)
Righteousness (respect for religion)
Family (respect for elders and relations)
Loyalty (respect for law)
Honesty (respect for truth)
Benevolence (respect for life and humanity)

The last value, Benevolence, is often considered the highest Confucian value. A person should be able to find these values in themselves and strive to see the other people and the world by means of them.

"To be able to judge of others by what is present in ourselves;-this may be called the art of virtue." (Analects 210)

Kong Qiu is one of the classic sources of the principle known as Golden Rule "What you do not want done to yourself, do not do unto others" and the virtue of forgiveness symbol of the chinese yin and yang , the balance of opposing forces"The injuries done to you by an enemy should be returned with a combination of love and justice".

What do you think the world would be like if people generally followed this way of thought and practiced the Confucian virtues?

Many people experience strong attraction to Kong Qiu's vision of life, as it hearkens to values of stability, balance, and acceptance of one's social role.

Other's see that the conservativism of the confucian view makes it difficult to criticize the social order and effect social change.

However it impacts you, if the present world seems to you to be in need of moral change and if you recognize the importance of Chinese culture in global dynamics, then Kong Qiu and Confucianism is a topic that you will want to make some study of.


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