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Confucian Ethics and the Contemporary World Part Two: On Religion By Mary I. Bockover.

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Presentation on theme: "Confucian Ethics and the Contemporary World Part Two: On Religion By Mary I. Bockover."— Presentation transcript:

1 Confucian Ethics and the Contemporary World Part Two: On Religion By Mary I. Bockover

2 Li Li literally is the “ritual vessel” through which human excellence is realized.

3 Li Li literally is the “ritual vessel” through which human excellence is realized. the conventions, customs, and ceremonies that serve the social purpose of allowing us to recognize, and respond, to each other in a meaningful, civilized way

4 Li Li literally is the “ritual vessel” through which human excellence is realized. the conventions, customs, and ceremonies that serve the social purpose of allowing us to recognize, and respond, to each other in a meaningful, civilized way the vehicle for cultivating human relations

5 Li is sacred in linking us with the greater way of heaven itself— indeed, in being the very vehicle for its expression.

6 the way that humanity develops through the ages, not the least of which includes rituals for properly revering ancestors in tian

7 Li is sacred in linking us with the greater way of heaven itself— indeed, in being the very vehicle for its expression. the way that humanity develops through the ages, not the least of which includes rituals for properly revering ancestors in tian the spiritual function of li that is often overlooked in discussions on Confucian philosophy

8 Someone asked the Master for an explanation of the di imperial ancestral sacrifice, and he replied: “I don’t have one. Anyone who did know how to explain it could rule the empire as easily as having it here.” And he pointed to the palm of his hand. [representing the magical effect of ritual in ordering things]. (Ames & Rosemont 3, 11)

9 Confucian ethics is not just a secular ethic because…

10 li is the secular expression of the sacred

11 Confucian ethics is not just a secular ethic because… li is the secular expression of the sacred li is the human way to be aligned with the greater way of heaven and thus to cultivate excellence that continuously and essentially reaches for a higher ideal—even for divine perfection

12 Ren-Dao Another part of the spiritual function of li that has often been overlooked concerns the ren that li necessarily expresses. The human way, or ren-dao, is a way of li—of benevolent conduct ritualized into a particular normative form.

13 Ren-Dao Another part of the spiritual function of li that has often been overlooked concerns the ren that li necessarily expresses. The human way, or ren-dao, is a way of li—of benevolent conduct ritualized into a particular normative form. a way of goodness and decency (ren) communicated through a more particular normative convention (li)

14 Ren-Dao Another part of the spiritual function of li that has often been overlooked concerns the ren that li necessarily expresses. The human way, or ren-dao, is a way of li—of benevolent conduct ritualized into a particular normative form. a way of goodness and decency (ren) communicated through a more particular normative convention (li) the way to establish personal authority and power (de) which is reciprocally expressed through roles that are relevant to one’s culture—again through li

15 The most perfect expression of ren was thought to have issued from divine sages, descendents of heaven like Yao and Shun, who where among the greatest of ancient Chinese emperors.

16 Their greatness culminated in an extraordinary ability to realize the “mandate of heaven”, serving humanity with excellence, much like a benevolent father would attend to his family.

17 The most perfect expression of ren was thought to have issued from divine sages, descendents of heaven like Yao and Shun, who where among the greatest of ancient Chinese emperors. Their greatness culminated in an extraordinary ability to realize the “mandate of heaven”, serving humanity with excellence, much like a benevolent father would attend to his family. Thus the human way (ren-dao) and the way of heaven (tian- dao) are linked by the same normative thread that runs from basic human goodness to divine perfection.

18 The spiritually wholesome relations that we develop, and the wisdom of the ages that we realize in the present, are the means by which we can make the way great. In so doing, the human way is an expression of the great way of tian.

19 Ren-Dao is a Spiritual Path Ren is the spirit of li that dignifies human life and gives it moral purpose.

20 Ren-Dao is a Spiritual Path Ren is the spirit of li that dignifies human life and gives it moral purpose. The religious character of the Analects is captured in seeing humanity as embedded in, and guided by, spiritual forces that issue from the greatest of realities that the ancient Chinese referred to in general terms as dao.

21 Ren-Dao is a Spiritual Path Ren is the spirit of li that dignifies human life and gives it moral purpose. The religious character of the Analects is captured in seeing humanity as embedded in, and guided by, spiritual forces that issue from the greatest of realities that the ancient Chinese referred to in general terms as dao. Dao is “the way” of proper relation for all contexts; dao orders the hierarchy of relations for heaven, humanity, and earth. Most importantly, the way of humanity—ren-dao—is a microcosm of the way of heaven, much as family is a microcosm of humanity.

22 Li and ren are necessarily interrelated aspects of the same larger reality that is irreducible in practice: that of harmonious human activity that, at bottom, is an act of communion.

23 Ren is the integrity, grace, natural order and beauty of the human spirit: that (1) issues from it’s ultimate primal source (tian-dao), and (2) is the spirit of virtuous action or good conduct expressed through some normative form (li).

24 Li and ren are necessarily interrelated aspects of the same larger reality that is irreducible in practice: that of harmonious human activity that, at bottom, is an act of communion. Ren is the integrity, grace, natural order and beauty of the human spirit: that (1) issues from it’s ultimate primal source (tian-dao), and (2) is the spirit of virtuous action or good conduct expressed through some normative form (li). Li is that form, the socially determined convention that therefore under-determines the great spirit of humanity, the ren that it expresses.

25 The Master said, High office filled with men of narrow views, ritual preformed without reverence, the forms of mourning observed without grief—these are things I cannot bear to see! (Waley 3, 26) The expression “sacrifice as though present” is taken to mean “sacrifice to the spirits as though the spirits are present.” But the Master said: “If I myself do not participate in the sacrifice, it is as though I have not sacrificed at all” (Ames & Rosemont 3, 12)

26 Westerners have a hard time grasping this point because consciousness has been internalized by a more dualistic metaphysic. Confucius offers us a new and different way of thinking about ethics and religion by having us think of consciousness as an objective social and spiritual fact (even if this spiritual aspect eludes conclusive identification).

27 Just like the “ritual vessel” of li – so is a “person,” a “family,” a “neighborhood,” and a “nation” established in accordance with their role in the “larger scheme of things.” The Great Learning [translated by Lydia Gerber] Once things are investigated, knowledge will be completed. Once knowledge is complete, opinions will be verified. Once opinions are verified, minds will be rectified. Once minds are rectified, persons will be cultivated. Once persons are cultivated, families will be harmonized. Once families are harmonized, states will be put in order. Once states are in order, there will be peace all under heaven. From the emperor to the common people, all must see the cultivation of their own person as the root of all else. If roots are in disarray, there will never be healthy branches.

28 Ren is the unique human quality of harmonizing with, and becoming a necessary part of, greater realities. A family becomes unified when all of its members stand in strong, healthy relation to one another. The person is related to, and to that extent defined by, the family as the family is to the larger community.

29 Ren is the unique human quality of harmonizing with, and becoming a necessary part of, greater realities. A family becomes unified when all of its members stand in strong, healthy relation to one another. The person is related to, and to that extent defined by, the family as the family is to the larger community. By following the ren-dao the human community becomes unified, and stands in strong, healthy relation to tian and the ancestors who fill it. And to our ancestors we must pay homage in order to maintain our good standing with them and to remain connected to our cultural past.

30 Ren is the unique human quality of harmonizing with, and becoming a necessary part of, greater realities. A family becomes unified when all of its members stand in strong, healthy relation to one another. The person is related to, and to that extent defined by, the family as the family is to the larger community. By following the ren-dao the human community becomes unified, and stands in strong, healthy relation to tian and the ancestors who fill it. And to our ancestors we must pay homage in order to maintain our good standing with them and to remain connected to our cultural past. All of these ways of being are essentially co-related, from the nearest relation of parent to child, to the more distant relations of person-to-ancestor and person-to-heaven.

31 Ren-dao extends from the great harmony or way of heaven to earth insofar as we are noble in spirit (ren) and action (li). Ren, the spirit of harmonious blending, is the greatness that li expresses and that makes human life sacred. However, heaven, humanity, and earth all issue from an even “greater” way, one that provides the normative core to all of being, and that at bottom harmonizes, integrates, and sustains it. Through its goodness humanity blends with, and becomes an extension of (the way of) heaven.

32 The Master said, “If anyone could be said to have effected proper order while remaining nonassertive, surely it was Shun [Shun]. What did he do? He simply assumed an air of deference and faced due south. “(Ames & Rosemont 15, 5)


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