Chinese Philosophy: Confucius

WEEK # 4: Chinese Philosophy: Confucius

1. Who was Confucius?

Watch the video provided below; while watching take notes. Then, answer the questions that follow. Post your answers here by adding a new post.

Who was Confucius? – Bryan W. Van Norden by TED-ed

1. During what period did Confucius live?

2. Where was Confucius from?

3. According to Confucius, what forms human character?

4. Why did Confucius travel around China?

5. According to Confucius, who were the good leaders?

6. What is the role of the family in Confucius’ philosophy?

7. According to Confucius, what do virtuous people do?

8. Who wrote Confucius’ sayings?

9. What is the name of the book representing Confucius’ philosophy?

10. What is the saying that summarizes Confucius’ principles?


2. 10 Life Lessons from Confucius

Watch the video provided below and outline the 10 lessons one should learn from Confucius. Post your answer here by adding a new post.

10 Life Lessons From Confucius (Confucianism) by Philosophies for Life


3. The Portrait of the Modern Confucius

Based on the information you learned in this lesson, describe how should the modern human being behave if following Confucianism. Write at least one paragraph of five sentences. Post your answer here by adding a new post.


4. Homework Discussion: A Lesson from Confucius

I. Own Post

Based on the information learned in this lesson, explain the contribution of Confucius to the modern society. Use at least one quote from the Analects, apply it to a current context, and explain what lesson should the modern human being learn from Confucius. Write at least two well-developed paragraphs of at least five (5) sentences each.

Note: A list of 46 famous quotes are provided below this assignment.

Analects: 46 Famous Quotes

Click here to read 46 famous quotes from Confucius’ Analects.

1. “Do not impose upon others what you yourself do not want.” 2. “You want to become the kind of counselor who is an exemplary person, not the kind that is a petty person.” 3. “To go into battle with people who have not been properly trained is to forsake them.” 4. “In instruction, there is no such thing as social classes.” 5. “If proper in their own conduct, what difficulty would they have in governing? But if not able to be proper in their own conduct, how can they demand such conduct from others?” 6. “Don’t worry about not being acknowledged by others; worry about failing to acknowledge them.” 7. “Raise up the true and place them over the crooked, and the allegiance of the people will be yours; raise up the crooked and place them over the true, and the people will not be yours.” 8. “If in one’s conduct one refrains from intimidation, from self-importance, from ill will, and from greed, can one be considered authoritative.” 9. “Set an example yourself for those in office, pardon minor offenses, and promote those with superior character and ability.” 10. “Not yet understanding life, how could you understand death?” 11. “The person who does not consider what is far off will not escape being alarmed at what is near at hand.” 12. “Study as though you cannot catch up to it, and as though you fear you are going to lose it.” 13. “Exemplary persons cherish fairness; petty persons cherish the thought of gain.” 14. “An exemplary person defers on matters he does not understand. When names are not used properly, language will not be used effectively; when language is not used effectively, matters will not be taken care of.” 15. “To know what you know and know what you do not know—this then is wisdom.” 16. “Where everyone despises a person, you must look into the matter carefully; when everyone celebrates a person, you must also look into it carefully.” 17. “Having gone astray, to fail to get right back on track is to stray indeed.” 18. “Exemplary persons understand what is appropriate; petty persons understand what is of personal advantage.” 19. “Exemplary persons associating openly with others are not partisan; petty persons being partisan do not associate openly with others.” 20. “Wealth and honor are what people want, but if they are the consequence of deviating from Dao (noble path, “the way”), I would have no part in them. Poverty and disgrace are what people deplore, but if they are the consequence of staying on the way, I would not avoid them.” 21. “Exemplary persons would feel shame if their words were better than their deeds.” 22. “Exemplary persons help out the needy; they do not make the rich richer.” 23. “In mourning, it is better to express real grief than to worry over formal details.” 24. “Make an earnest commitment to the love of learning.” 25. “Do not plan the policies of an office you do not hold.” 26. “To take doing one’s utmost, making good on one’s word, and seeking out what is appropriate as one’s main concerns, is to accumulate excellence.” 27. “The exemplary person helps to bring out the best in others, but does not help bring out the worse. The petty person does just the opposite. 28. Ji Kangzi was troubled by the number of thieves, and asked Confucius for advice. Confucius replied to him, “If you yourself were not so greedy, the people could not be paid to steal.” 29. “If truly efficacious (effective) people were put in charge of governing for a hundred years, they would be able to overcome violence and dispense with killing altogether.” 30. “Exemplary persons do not promote others because of what they say, nor do they reject what is said because of who says it.” 31. “Learning without due reflection leads to perplexity.” 32. “Exemplary persons are steadfast in the face of adversity, while petty persons are engulfed by it.” 33. (When governing effectively.) “Those near at hand are pleased, and those at a distance are drawn to you.” 34. (On governing effectively.) “Don’t try to rush things, and don’t get distracted by small opportunities. If you try to rush things, you won’t achieve your ends; if you get distracted by small opportunities, you won’t succeed in the more important of government.” 35. (On the five attitudes.) “Deference, tolerance, making good on one’s word, diligence, and generosity. If you are deferential (respectful), you will not suffer insult; if tolerant, you will win over the many; if you make good on your word, others will rely upon you; if diligent, you will get results; if generous, you will have the status to employ others effectively.” 36. “To be poor without feeling ill will is much more difficult than to be wealthy without being arrogant.” 37. “Daily I examine my person on three counts. In my undertaking on behalf of other people, have I failed to do my utmost? In my interactions with colleagues and friends, have I failed to make good on my word? In what has been passed on to me, have I failed to carry it into practice?” – Master Zeng 38. “Exemplary persons are easy to serve but difficult to please. If one tries to please them with conduct that is not consistent with Dao (noble path, “the way”), they will not be pleased. In employing others, they use them according to their abilities. Petty persons are difficult to serve but easy to please. If one tries to please them with conduct that is not consistent with the way, they will be pleased anyway. But in employing others, they expect them to be good at everything.” 39. “In expressing oneself, it is simply a matter of getting the point across.” 40. “Do I possess all knowledge? No, I do not. But if a simple peasant puts a question to me, and I come up empty, I attack the question from both ends until I have gotten to the bottom of it.” 41. “I am not the kind of person who has gained knowledge through some natural propensity for it. Rather, loving antiquity, I am earnest in seeking it out.” 42. “Confucius is driven by such eagerness to teach and learn that he forgets to eat, he enjoys himself so much that he forgets to worry, and does not even realize that old age is on its way.” 43. “To fail to cultivate excellence, to fail to practice what I learn, on coming to understand what is appropriate in the circumstances to fail to attend to it, and to be unable to reform conduct that is not productive—these things I worry over.” 44. “It’s rare indeed for someone to go wrong due to personal restraint.” 45. “The exemplary person takes the high road, while the petty person takes the low.” 46. He gave them a place and they took a stand, He led them forward and they followed, He brought peace and they flocked to him, He aroused them and they achieved harmony. In life he was glorious, And in death he was mourned.”



5-3bConfucianism and Daoism

Confucius (ca. 551–479 bce) and Laozi (active ca. 570 bce) founded the two chief schools of Chinese philosophy. Born in humble circumstances in central China at a time when local wars were raging, Confucius’s chief aim was to restore the peace of earlier times by encouraging the wise and virtuous to enter government service. A state run by a wise ruling class, he believed, would produce similar characteristics in its people. To achieve this he traveled throughout China in search of pupils (Fig. 5.22).

5.22Portrait of Confucius, ca. third century bce.

This image of Confucius is stylized rather than realistic. The wise old sage with a long beard and hands peacefully folded symbolizes the nature of Confucian teaching. There is no evidence of realistic portraiture from this period.

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According to the central dogma of Confucianism, the morally superior person should possess five inner virtues and acquire another two external ones. The five with which each virtuous person is born are righteousness, inner integrity, love of humanity, altruism, and loyalty. Those with these natural gifts should also acquire culture (education) and a sense of decorum or ritual. If individuals with these qualities served their rulers in government, they would be loyal and unconcerned with material rewards, yet fearlessly critical of their masters.

Traditional religion played no part in Confucius’s teachings. He refused to speculate about the gods or the possibility of life after death; he is said to have commented, “Not yet understanding life, how can we understand death?” Confucius was a revolutionary figure in that he defended the rights of the people and believed that the state existed for the benefit of the people, rather than the reverse. At the same time, however, he strongly endorsed strict authority and discipline, within both the state and the individual family—devotion to parents, worship of ancestors, respect for elders, and loyalty to rulers were all crucial to the Confucian system. In the centuries following his death, many totalitarian regimes in China abused the innate conservatism of Confucius’s teaching, using it to justify their assaults on the freedom of individuals.

If the central principle of Confucianism is the possibility of creating a new, virtuous social order, Daoism emphasized the limitations of human perceptions and encouraged withdrawal and passivity. Its central concept is that of “the Way” (dao). According to this principle, one should follow one’s own nature, not distinguishing between good and bad, but accepting both as part of the Way. The traditional founder of this school of philosophy, Laozi, an obscure, even legendary figure, is said to have lived around the time of Confucius. Many modern scholars, however, believe that the book that sets forth Laozi’s teachings, The Classic of the Way and Its Power (Daodejing), was written two or more centuries after the death of Confucius, at some point in the third century bce.

The followers of Daoism often expressed their ideas in obscure and frequently contradictory language. Their over-riding concept is perhaps best illustrated by one of the central images of Daoist art: water. As it flows, water gives way to the rocks in its path, yet over time “the soft yield of water cleaves the obstinate stone.” Humans should, in the same way, avoid participating in society or culture or seeking actively to change them. Far from sharing Confucius’s mission to reform the world, the Daoists preached passivity and resignation. Worst of all was war, for “every victory celebration is a funeral rite.”

Both Confucianism and Daoism can be seen as reactions—albeit opposing ones—to the increasingly chaotic struggles of the later Zhou period. They were to remain powerful sources of inspiration over the succeeding centuries, and the tension between them played a large part in the evolution of Chinese civilization.

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