Presentation on theme: "Confucius and Confucianis m Introduction to World Religions Fall 2007 Dr. Hannah Schell."— Presentation transcript:
Confucius and Confucianis m Introduction to World Religions Fall 2007 Dr. Hannah Schell
Outline of class Religion & philosophy in China before Confucius Confucius and his historical context The key doctrines: The ideal of the Superior Person Human-heartedness The Five Constant Relationships The role of ritual, the role of culture The rectification of names Cosmic Implications
Preliminary consideration…. “Confucius did not create ‘a religion’ in the sense that the Buddha, Jesus, or Mohammed did, a movement for the masses….His doctrines assume the framework of traditional Chinese religion… Chinese religion was a function of government, the governing class was the nearest thing to a priesthood, and so the philosophy of the governing class was an integral part of the religion. Confucius created a philosophy and a set of values which in its broad outlines was adopted by the Chinese scholarly and administrative class for some 2,000 years.” - T. Patrick Burke, The Major Religions: An Introduction with Texts (Blackwells, 1996) 107.
I. Religion and philosophy in China before Confucius
Ancient Chinese religion Dynasties that go back to 21 centuries before Jesus Christ: Xia, Shang, Western Zhou, Eastern Zhou dynasties– Spring and Autumn Annals period A world full of spirits, gods and ghosts Oracle bone divination
A world full of deities, spirits and ghosts Shang-di (Lord on high). Remote, impersonal, creator God. Tian – heaven. At first, like an ancestral deity… became more pantheistic – the universe itself Nature deities Mother goddesses: Western Mother; Eastern Mother; Nuwa Ancestral Spirits e.g. Sage Kings: Yao, Shun, Yu Guei (ghosts) Domestic deities: kitchen god; wandering ghosts, etc. Earth god. City Gods.
Historical Context The Warring States period (c. 500-221 B.C.E.) Social anarchy; collapse of the central government Kingdom broken up into many independent states; time of constant war Time of various calamities (wars, fires, floods) “Compassionate Heaven rages in fury, sending down death and afflicting with famine. The people wander about and perish. Everywhere destruction reigns.” (Classic of Poetry, 3:3)
Confucius in his time K’ung Fu Tzu [Kongfuzi] (552?-479 BCE) – little historical information; much legend. Failure as a politician, great success as a philosopher, transmitter of tradition (Smith 101). “Sagehood [was for him] a matter of comportment, not a stock of knowledge” (Smith 101).
Self-description from the Analects “At fifteen I set my heart on learning [to become a sage] At thirty I became firm. At forty I had no more doubts. At fifty I understood Heaven’s Will. At sixty my ears were attuned [to it]. At seventy I could follow my heart’s desires, without overstepping the line” - Analects 4:2
What was he? Was Confucius a conservative or a reformer? Was he a revolutionary? His answer: “I am a transmitter, not an innovator; I believe in antiquity and love the ancients” (Analects 7:1 – Arthur Waley’s translation) D.C. Lau’s translation of same passage: “I transmit but do not innovate; I am truthful in what I say and devoted to antiquity.” He was….
… the Supreme Teacher The Master said, “He who by reanimating the Old can gain knowledge of the new is fit to be teacher… “ The Master said, “As to a Divine Sage or even a Good Man, far be it from me to make any such claim. As for unwarying effort to learn and unflagging patience in teaching others, those are merits I do not hesitate to claim.”
The Question, Some answers The question: The problem of social cohesion: “How can we keep from destroying ourselves?” (Smith 1-3) Some possible answers: 1. The realist’s answer – people understand force; force is the only way to control people; “might makes right.” 2. The idealist’s answer – love is the answer; human beings have a great capacity for love; universal love will solve the problem (Mohism – followers of Mo Ti). Confucius rejected both of these answers. His solution: We need social structures; a collective ethos; people can be molded by tradition and education.
III. The Basic Doctrine of Confucianism Human-heartedness (jen/ren) The ideal of the “Superior Person” The role of ritual (li) and culture (wen) The rectification of names The five constant relationships (and their attendant virtues) (See Smith 110-111)
Human – heartedness Jen (Ren) – character is combination of “two” and “human being”. Goodness; human-heartedness; benevolence; love. The basic virtue in Confucianism: “If a man sets his heart on benevolence [ren], he will be free from evil.” [Analects, 4.4] Entails a doctrine of reciprocity: “do not do unto others what you would not want others to do unto you” (“The Silver Rule” – Smith, 172-173.
Human-heartedness is A state of being; the sole focus for the superior person: The Master said, “Of neighborhoods benevolence [ren] is the most beautiful. How can the man be considered wise who, when he has the choice, does not settle in benevolence?” (Analects, 4.1). Difficult to attain, but also the most natural: The Master said, “Is benevolence [ren] really far away? No sooner do I desire ti than it is here.”
The Superior Person (the Jun zi): Has wisdom, compassion and courage: The Master said, “There are three things constantly on the lips of the gentleman none of which I have succeeded in following: “A man of benevolence never worries; a man of wisdom is never in two minds; a man of courage is never afraid.”
The Ideal: The Gentleman Scholar The Chun tzu (Jun-zi): [literally, “the ruler’s son”] The noble person, the superior person; the ideal human; a person of high moral character. Smith’s metaphor of the ideal hostess, who makes the world her home (173).
Always strives for the good - “Make it your guiding principle to do your best for others and to be trustworthy in what you say. Do not accept as friend anyone who is not as good as you.” The Master said, “A noble person covets the reputation of being slow in words but prompt in deed.”
Thinks broadly The Master said, “A noble mind can see a question from all sides without bias. Small minds are biased and see a question only from one side.” Is at peace, is self-possessed The Master said, “A truly human being is calm and at ease; the small person is fretful and ill at ease.”
The role of ritual, the role of culture Ritual: Li – also means propriety. There is a proper way to comport one’s self in all situations. Culture: Wen - “the arts of peace” – music, art, poetry.
The rectification of names “If terms be no correct, language is not in accordance with the truth of things. If language is not in accordance with the truth of things, affairs cannot be carried out to success… Therefore a superior person considers it necessary that the names he uses be spoken appropriately. What the superior person requires is that in his words there be nothing that is incorrect” (Novak, 126). See also Smith, page 110.
The Five Constant Relationships Ruler- minister Father – son Husband – wife Elder brother – younger brother Elder friend – younger friend Notice: Each member in the has certain responsibilities Each relationship involves special virtues, especially loyalty and filial piety Each relationship implies a hierarchy between the two
The attendant virtues Loyalty Filial piety “Our Master’s way is simply this: Loyalty [to superiors], consideration [for the feelings of others.”
Filial piety Respect for one’s parents and ancestors. “The duty of children to their parents is the foundation from which all virtues spring” (Smith, 176); “Filial piety is the root of (all) virtue out of which grows (all moral) teaching…” (Qtd by Novak, 125). Veneration for ancestors Profound respect for one’s living elders
On filial piety The Master said, “The service which filial children do to their parents is as follows: In their general conduct to them, they manifest the utmost reverence; in their nourishing of them, their endeavor is to give them the utmost pleasure; when they are ill, they feel the greatest anxiety; in mourning for them, they exhibit every demonstration of grief; in sacrificing to them, they display the utmost solemnity. When children are complete in these five things (they may be pronounced) able to serve their parents.”
He also said that while your parents are alive, a god son (or daughter) does not wander far afield (Analects 4.18) – which means some of us have been very un-filial!
IV. Cosmic implications Radically different view of the self – “apart from human relationships, there is no self. The self is a center of relationships. It is constructed through its interactions with others and is defined by the sum of its social rules” (Smith, 113). See handout for map of the Confucian worldview – concentric circles. (See Smith 114).
Points for discussion Confucianism has been described as decidedly this-wordly in its emphases and orientation. Is it a religion or simply an ethic? Can the teachings about the five relationships be updated (gender, power dynamics? Is it possible for these to be translated into terms of equality or mutuality?) How do you understand Smith’s metaphor of the eagle that adjusts its wings to the currents of the Five Constant Relationships? (rf: Smith 114).
Sources of images Title page: http://www.iefintl.org/images/confucius.jpghttp://www.iefintl.org/images/confucius.jpg Slide 7: http://www.taichimaster.info/images/confucius.jpghttp://www.taichimaster.info/images/confucius.jpg Slide 14: http://www.physics-philosophy- metaphysics.com/images/Confucius-200.jpghttp://www.physics-philosophy- metaphysics.com/images/Confucius-200.jpg Slide 21: http://www.cosy.com/y02/images/Confucius.jpghttp://www.cosy.com/y02/images/Confucius.jpg Slide 27: personal photo