Confucianism outside the household and in a global context

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25 Nov 2010
Political Theory: Week 11 t November 24, 2010
Citizenship from Confucian Perspective
- Standard model for ideal individual is that of the gentleman or the cultivated individual
- Confucius didn[t speak of citizens but rather of subjects
o Living in imperial regime
- Notion of public service though not talking about a model of democratic and active participation
in government
- The good citizen is the same in each type of regime, contrasting with Aristotle, Book II, Section
- By demonstrating filial piety, justice and purity within the social context, already engaging by a
degree in public service
o Notion of public service diffused throughout all social contexts
o Contrast with John Rauls, basic neglect of family, within liberal theory demand the
concept of justice as impartiality, full justice must be exercised in relation to unknowns
to ensure the rightness of our decisions
In contrast, Confucian understanding of justice beginning at home, justice is
development of how we relate to people within our local circle
Liberal notion has benefits, as want to be just to all, but has its costs:
x Notion that justice is only something we exercise in the public sphere,
leads perhaps to the neglect of educating children in justice, don[t think
of the relevance of the family circle as important place where in fact our
public virtues and the qualities we need to be good citizens are places
where they can be developed
Benefits of Confucianism, continuity, whereas Aristotle provides fairly strong
divide between what goes on in the family and what goes on in the public
- Confucius suggests that by virtue of what goes on in the family develop a better sensibility, Book
XII, Section XX
o Notion of Confucian Golden Rule, ^shu_, forbearance, don[t do unto others what you
don[t wish to be done unto you
- Household and family are first arenas for practice of public virtues, public not guided by
Aristotelian idea of reciprocity, but rather what is extended beyond the family and into that
public sphere is reverence for ties among individuals, respect for others, and trustworthiness
Who is the ideal citizen in the Confucian context?
- Confucian sage, Book VII, Section XXVI
- More realistic knowledge of the better rather than the best man, Book XIV, Section XII
- Confucian uses vocabulary that traditionally appealed to aristocratic ideal, noblemen, infusing
aristocratic status with a moral meaning rather than a social meaning (high born to high minded)
o Nobility should be considered separate from social and political recognition
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o Standard of honour is not one[s position in society or how one is treated but the state of
one[s soul
- Book IV, Section XIV
- Behaviour of the good citizen:
o Acting in exemplary ways and being aware of one[s public presence and the effect of
one[s actions, Book XVI, Section X
o Concern for presentation, not so much as how one is perceived hierarchically, but
concentration on clarity, warmness, acuteness of expression
Have to be aware of how your words are being perceived, nature of the social
bond that is being cultivated through one[s words
o Book XII, Section XIX, exemplary behaviour will replace the existence of crime
o In a position of leadership the cultivated individual puts forward the contagion effect of
the good, no need to commit crimes
Contrast with Plato[s noble lie
Confucius appears to be more optimistic on the capacity of the masses to follow
the examples of the leaders
o Importance of taking tasks seriously, Book XIII, Section XIX, refers to reverence in
handling business
o An attention to language, a person who acts as an example will use language and names
in their proper application, encourage a proper perspective
Doctrine called Zrectification of names[
Book XIII, Section III
Socrates concerned with analytic clarity, right vision of the truth
Practical consideration articulated in Confucius, example of Afghanistan,
transition from combat to state-building, practical considerations to what you
call the mission, continue to call it a combat mission? If not, then you have to
make sure the troops are out of danger
x If terms are correct, informs us of the correct procedures to follow
o Sensitivity to limited distributive justice
Book VI, Section IV, in public service the individual will help out the poor and not
reinforce class divisions
Book XVI, Section I, not so much the minimizing of equalities, but the minimizing
of unhappiness if there is uneven distribution
Limits to citizenship:
- The broader climate will dictate the degree of public involvement possible
o One has to evaluate the capacities for the current political situation to be receptive to
o Book VIII, Section XIII
o Confucius travelled around and sought to offer his services to various states and
localities, if they weren[t receptive to what he had to offer, he moved on
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