Book Review essay

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Confucius according to Chinese tradition lived around 551 to 479 BCE - Book Review essay introduction. He was a thinker, philosopher, educator, and so forth. Some scholars argued that since much of information about him was not updated and were mixed with fiction and facts, suggested that it would be better to consider him as legendary. However it cannot be denied that Confucian teaching had a profound impact not only on the Chinese people but also to many who had known his teaching and particularly on moral and ethical principle.

What the Analects Reveal about Confucius Ideas Concerning Society

Confucius’ idea of society as revealed in the analects was ideal as he wished that everyone should live a virtuous life. He exhorted virtue, as more than intelligence and those who possess this character is the superior man. Confucius believed that everyone was capable to possess a virtuous character if he would desire virtue. Confucius emphasized that “virtuous manners” (p. 9) constituted the excellence of the neighborhood. He also emphasized that what made man great is when he think of virtues rather comforts of life, and what made man small is the reverse. Confucius also spoke of poverty, and wealth and honor. He pointed out that many desired to be rich but if this will not be done in proper and lawful way this desire should not be pursued. People generally dislike poverty but if there is no way to avoid it should just be faced.

Confucius also talked of tongue, which probably suggested of gossiping and foul words which man utters. He said that men should be slow to use tongue, and evaluate the words that are to be said before it has to be spoken. Confucius said this is contrary to the character of a virtuous man.

Confucius Solution to the Social Chaos of His Day

Confucius’ solution to the social chaos of his day is similar to the golden rule that Jesus Christ have said in the Bible; (Do not do unto others what you do not want them do to you.) Confucius emphasized that when a country was in disorder it is because of the wickedness and stupidity of the leader, but “when a good order prevailed” it is a wise man’s acts. Confucius saw the need of a good leader to establish order and developments. Confucius asked, “Have you got good men there”? (p. 14), and goes on to say “without the specious speech of the litanist T’o and the beauty of the Prince Chao  of Sung , it is difficult to escape the present age” (p. 15) Confucius saw that without a good leader there would be no developments. He pointed out that a leader should have solid qualities anchored on virtues and the accomplishment, merely a plus factor.

His Attitudes towards Human Developments and Human Relationships

            Confucius’ attitudes towards human development are somewhat selective yet appreciative, and he was particularly observant of those who live a virtuous life, which for him is the character of the superior man. He admired those who have a strong virtues character, which he ranked himself equal yet in the character of the superior man he said he is yet to attain it. His attitude in human relationship showed that that he was appreciative of others talent. The analects noted that he when was in “company with a person who was singing, if he sang well he would make him repeat the song while he accompanied it with his own voice” (p.19)

            But Confucius despite of his view on moral uprightness and virtues were also quite critical the conduct of society. He said,

“Respectfulness, without the rules of propriety, becomes laborious bustle, carefulness without the rules of propriety, becomes timidity, boldness, without the rules of propriety, becomes insubordination, straight forwardness without the rules of propriety becomes ruddiness” (p.19)

Confucius observed that if the leaders performed well in their duties as leaders and in their relations with people, the people become virtues and are “preserved from meanness” (p. 19) It appears that during this time, the people were looking up to their leaders, thus  the chaos of the society pointed to the lack of a role model.

What are His Ideas Concerning the Divine and Supernatural?

            Confucius believed in heaven although the word itself was mentioned only a few times, though there seems to have no mention about God or other divine character. The analects say spiritual things were one of the extra ordinary subjects, which he did not talk. However Confucius believed that virtues comes from heaven, he said Heaven produced the virtue that is in me” (p. 18), when he was sick, he asked “whom should I impose upon? Should I impose upon heaven? (p.18) He mentioned about heaven but decline to talk more on spiritual things, as he wanted to be aloof from them. Thus it is quite difficult to ascertain whether he personally believed, supernatural and divine things. He was more concerned on the virtues that everyone must strive to possess to become a great man or a superior Man. This in turn will help them to avoid meanness or idleness.

Confucius believed in spiritual things indeed, but he was more concerned to devote one’s mind earnestly to the duties due to men “while respecting spiritual beings” (p. 18) He was more concerned on the social chaos that created disorder in the society. Confucius saw this disorder as the result of the lack of desire for virtues.

What Human Qualities that Confucius Value

            Among the human qualities that Confucius value was honesty and integrity in one’s duties and responsibilities to the people. Confucius cited that those who were without the virtue of honesty and integrity cannot “abide long either in a condition of poverty and hardship or in a condition of enjoyment” (p. 8).  Another quality that he valued was the desire to love virtue higher that the desire to love the comforts of this life. Confucius pointed out those who loved virtues or those who desire virtue, is a superior man. He said the superior man “does not, even for the space of a single meal, act contrary to virtue. Or one who hated what was not virtues” (p 8).

            Confucius says “”I am not concerned that I have no place; I am concerned how I may fit myself for one, I am not concerned that I am not known, I seek to be worthy to be known” (p. 8). The human qualities that Confucius value are those strong positive character or traits that one has. Those who exemplified a strong value system against the prevailing trend of desiring to be rich by all means, he said is of superior virtue. His character is that he was humble in serving his superior, he was respectful in nourishing the people, he was kind, and he was just.

            Confucius also cited purity as the perfect virtue. Perhaps what he meant by purity is morally upright, though he seemed to have not mentioned anything about morality. His emphasis on virtue was perhaps in response to the chaos that was prevailing during this time. Confucius was establishing moral guidelines for the people to reflect their conduct in the society particularly their leaders. His discoursed with his disciples indeed provided a manual for leadership a code of conduct for every citizen. It sought to find model of virtue and moral uprightness, which according to Confucius himself, can be obtained by any one.

Work Cited

Legge, James (translated).  Confucian Analects. 1873


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