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Confucian Themes.pdf

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PHL 302
Stephen Phillips

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Confucius (551 - 479 BCE) Analects: a collection of Confucius's statements, or of his most immediate disciples, made within a hundred years of his death. Central questions: How should I live? How should a ruler govern? Central question of all early Chinese philosophy: What is human nature? Confucius --> Humans are malleable by nature (17.2, more a presupposition than a theme): "Humans are close to one another by nature. They diverge as a result of repeated practice." (This "saying" is not in your textbook. But it and all quotations here on this webpage are part of the required reading from Confucius. Suggested is reading the entire text: there is an on-line version.) Seven Important Confucian themes: 1. Change of ethos: Internalization of customs and mores in the spirit ofren (humanity, fellow-feeling, "benevolence": 4.2*ff) a. ren as natural law or the touchstone of ethical values b. rites (li) charged with expression of ren: 1.12, 2.4, 8.2, etc. (cf. playing scales vs. excellence in jazz) *4.1 (Huang translation, 1997): The Master siad: "To live among humane men is beautiful. Not to reside among humane men--how can one be considered wise?" (emphasis added) 2. Learning, thinking, and knowing: 2.14, 2.17 3. Character ethics a. leads to better ability to make ethical judgments : 4.3, 2.4 b. resolve as fundamental ("One whose mind is set onren will not practice wickedness": 4:4) c. need for self-discipline, self-control, making oneself, 2.4, 4.2, etc., including self-examination or examination of one's habits and thoughts: 1.4, 2.2 (The Master said, "In the Book of Poetry are three hundred pieces, but the design of them a
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