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Lecture

Confucius and the cultivation of self


Department
Political Science
Course Code
POL200Y1
Professor
Rebecca Kingston

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Political Theory: Week 10 t November 17th, 2010
Confucius and the cultivation of the self
1. Introduction
- Confucius writing at a time of intense conflict, compare to Machiavelli
- Confucius, lack of political stability in what we now call mainland China, Confucius travelled
around parts of China looking for ways in which he could serve in public office, returned to
state of Lu and began to teach own philosophy
- Confucius conversed with a wide cross-section of humanity on his travels
- Discussed a wide variety of topics, his manner in speaking to individuals was not like
^}U]v[µZ}o}P]oÆuo}}l]vP(}}v]v]}]v}v]v]Uµ
was seeking some kernel of truth
- Confucius transmits truths of life from experience, vision was to a past state rather than
looking forward
- Confucius did not want his words to end up as rules
2. Confucian self-cultivation
- Through the lens of ethics as a way to develop oneself as the vision of the good:
o Plato has vision of highest culmination of ethics in cultivation of the intellect, the
philosopher is highest being you can be
Can be facilitated by being in the right type of regime
o Aristotle has a more varied story, intellect has its part but part of a larger whole,
intellectual virtue and moral virtue things that are separate, need cultivation of
character for moral virtue and cultivation of wisdom or intellect
Facilitated by the right form of regime
Through notion that man by nature being a political animal, closer relation to
the political in understanding of ethics in the political community
o In contrast, Confucian ideal is the cultivation of the self in the line of a visible standard
rather than a theoretical one, not thinking of a standard of truth sitting outside of
reality, rather we find a model of self-fulfillment in seeking the best examples in
humanity around us
Much more practical than idealistic standards
Confucian exercise in finding the standard of goodness is deepening our
understanding of the here and now rather than going through a conceptual
exercise
This understanding of a good human being, the regulative notion of the
gentleman, equivalent to man of virtue in Aristotle or philosopher, can happen
in any form of regime, could be accessible to all and not just the few, important
difference between Confucius and presuppositions of the Greeks, suggest that
human beings by nature of being born have certain advantages
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Self-cultivation even more social than Aristotle, society is seen not only as a
background in which virtue can be achieved, but also find that for Confucius
good examples of self-cultivation require a special understanding of the society
in which one lives and the rules and norms that govern it, understand your
position in relation to others, and also a consciousness, a sensitivity to the effect
of your words and actions on others
Integrates into his understanding of his conception of goodness and
understanding or awareness of the effect of the self on others
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virtuosityUZ}Á}v(}uZ]v}Z}v(}}v[v
but do it in the proper spirit and the proper reverence, much better attention
on the spirit of how one relates to others
Idea of maintaining social relationships in the right way could be seen as a
sufficient condition for virtue in the Confucian sense
While there is an imminent standard of virtue, something that is there already,
}v[ZÀ}arch for intellectually, still require some degree of reflection on
practices, still form of higher vision, achieved not by turning away from the
world but by understanding more deeply on an emotional and intellectual level
of what governs own particular situation, ways in which things are done around
you already
Means of self-cultivation:
- A long and difficult process, Book II, Section IV, similar to Plato
- Ongoing process of understanding and learning
- Book VII, Section XVII, study of virtue is a difficult thing
- Self-(o]ÀÆ]U]vÀ}]vo}voÇ]}(}v[}ÁvZ}µPZv]}v
- Book I, Section IV
- Different model from that of Aristotle, one models one behaviour on the exemplary moral
individual, to really be receptive to the ethics, have to be already on the right path, shaped
in the right direction, not as clear if this applies to Confucius
- 'µ]vÇ}(}v[]}vU}}l/sU^]}vs//
- Book VII, Section XXII
- Book V, Section XXVII
- Self-reflection has its limits maybe imitation is a better option
- ]((]µo}ZvP}v[]}]]}vvZÀ]}µU}}ls//U^]}v///UÀvÁZv}v
recognizes what is wrong, a form of moral debilitation, moral weakness
- Cultivation has an inner goal, cultivating virtue, but not always an inner means
- Wisdom is a combination of learning from others Book II, Section XV, but also on inner
reflection, one must both think and study
- Confucian ideals, understanding of virtue not always clear, in search for virtue important
place for both the will and the emotions
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