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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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Olberding, Amy (ed.), , . Dao Companion to the Analects
2014, Springer.
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Publisher’s note: This volume surveys the major philosophical concepts, arguments, and commitments of the Confucian classic, the Analects. In thematically organized chapters, leading scholars provide a detailed, scholarly introduction to the text and the signal ideas ascribed to its protagonist, Confucius.

The volume opens with chapters that reflect the latest scholarship on the disputed origins of the text and an overview of the broad commentarial tradition it generated. These are followed by chapters that individually explore key areas of the text’s philosophical landscape, articulating both the sense of concepts such as renli, and xiao as well as their place in the wider space of the text. A  final section addresses prominent interpretive challenges and scholarly disputes in reading the Analects, evaluating, for example, the alignment between the Analects and contemporary moral theory and the contested nature of its religious sensibility.

Dao Companion to the Analects offers a comprehensive and complete survey of the text’s philosophical idiom and themes, as well as its history and some of the liveliest current debates surrounding it. This book is an ideal resource for both researchers and advanced students interested in gaining greater insight into one of the earliest and most influential Confucian classics.

Comment: This volume provides an excellent overview of Confucius' Analects, with a number of excellent essays by both Chinese and Western philosophers. It would be a good textbook to use for a course that is an introduction to Asian/Confucian philosophy, or individual chapters could be used to provide an additional perspective in more general courses on certain topics:

  • Hui Chieh Loy's chapter on language and ethics would be useful in moral theory courses that focus on virtue ethics or the relation between epistemology and morality,
  • Bai Tongdong's chapter could be taught in the context of comparative political theory (particularly potential justifications for authoritarianism),
  • and Li-Hsiang Lisa Rosenlee's chapter would be very valuable as part of an examination of care ethics and feminist philosophy.
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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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