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Kongzi (Confucius), , . Analects (Selections)
2005, In: Readings in Classical Chinese Philosophy (Second Edition). Edited by Philip J. Ivanhoe and Bryan W. Van Norden. Hackett.
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Added by: Chris Blake-Turner, Contributed by:

Summary: Selections from the Analects of Kongzi (Confucius), a foundational text in Chinese philosophy. It is split into twenty books recounting things that the Master (Kongzi) and his disciples said and did. Much of the rest of Chinese philosophy owes a debt, more or less explicit, to this work. Kongzi seeks the cultivation of virtue through ritual, so that worthy persons will occupy positions of power and influence. Society will thereby return to some of the splendor of the bygone ages of the legendary Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors, as well as the more recent Xia, Shang, and Western Zhou dynasties.

Comment: The selections are best read in their entirety, as the work is holistic and difficult to interpret piecemeal. (So reading the whole text is better still!) It’s helpful to stress Kongzi’s particularism, as this makes sense of seemingly contradictory pronouncements he makes in different contexts. But if you’re looking to incorporate some Classical Chinese philosophy in a course without space for the whole thing, the selections from Book One include many key Confucian themes: ritual, the ideal of a junzi or gentleman, virtue, filial piety, and the appeal to tradition. Either way, it’s probably wise to give students some historical context to help understand the appeal of harking back to older traditions.

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Olberding, Amy, , . Confucius’ Complaints and the Analects’ Account of the Good Life
2013, Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 12 (4):417-440.
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by: Ian James Kidd

Abstract: The Analects appears to offer two bodies of testimony regarding the felt, experiential qualities of leading a life of virtue. In its ostensible record of Confucius’ more abstract and reflective claims, the text appears to suggest that virtue has considerable power to afford joy and insulate from sorrow. In the text’s inclusion of Confucius’ less studied and apparently more spontaneous remarks, however, he appears sometimes to complain of the life he leads, to feel its sorrows, and to possess some despair. Where we attend to both of these elements of the text, a tension emerges. In this essay, I consider how Confucius’ complaints appear to complicate any clean conclusion that Confucius wins a good life, particularly where we attend to important pre-theoretical sensibilities regarding what a ‘good life’ ought to include and how it ought to feel for the one who leads it.

Comment: A rich text that explains the role of complaints – and, more broadly, disappointment, regret, and sadness – in the moral life. Especially good for challenging the idea that the moral life will insulate a person from such negative affects. Also points out the tendency of some moral philosophers to downplay certain aspects of human beings when constructing their ideals.

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Wee, Cecilia, , . Xin, Trust, and Confucius’ Ethics
2011, Philosophy East and West, 61 (3): 516-533.
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by: Ian James Kidd

Abstract: Confucius frequently employs the term xin 信 in the Analects. The frequency of his usage suggests that xin has a significant place within his ethics. The main aim of this article is to offer an account of the roles played by xin within Confucius’ ethics. To have a clear understanding of these roles, however, one needs first to understand what Confucius encompasses within his notion of xin. The article begins by delineating the Confucian conception of xin, as presented in the Analects. The notion of xin is often taken to be isomorphic with the notion of trust. I argue that Confucius’ notion of xin does not quite map onto the notion of trust as usually understood in contemporary Western contexts. To understand better what Confucian xin amounts to, I compare and contrast the Confucian conception of xin with contemporary Western accounts of trust by Baier, McLeod, and Mullin. This comparison helps elucidate what xin is as well as how xin relates to morality. With this in hand, the roles that Confucius ascribes to xin in social and political contexts are then delineated.

Comment: Clear discussion of Confucian conceptions of trustworthiness and trust and their roles in the moral life. Useful for those who want to do comparative work with Chinese philosophy.

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