The Formation of Chinese Humanist Ethics (1)

  The Formatio manist Ethics   
  (from a hermeneutic-semiotic  point of view )
   ( 《中国人本主义伦理学的形成:从解释学、符号学观点看》)
Enrich Professional Publishing, Singapore, 2013
Peter Lang, Germany, 1997
                  Youzheng Li
New Preface
New Preface
The Structure of the Chinese Ethical Archetype and The Constitution of Han-Academic Ideology (under the general title Chinese Ethics & Academic Ideology: A Hermeneutico-Semiotic Study) were finished at the Institute of Philosophy at Bochum as the works are included in an independent academic project supported by the VW Foundation between 1991 and 1996. The works are now republished by Silkroad Press in cooperation with the China Renmin University Press. The China Renmin University Press also published my two other titles in Chinese: A Hermeneutics of the Ren Learning and A Hermeneutic Study of Historical Ru-Academia, published respectively in 2004 and 2009. These two 2-volume series, one in English and the other in Chinese, are guided by the same scientific line on the same topic, but are arranged quite differently with respect to their respective thematic focuses and historiographic ranges. Both the English and the Chinese series are closely linked. With a view to emphasize the character of the traditional Chinese way of ethical thinking, the general title of the present English series has been changed to a new one:  The Formation of Chinese Humanist Ethics. The term “ethics” is used here in its broad sense and the term “humanist” signifies a historically unique character of the Chinese ethical mentality.
Republication of the titles indicates an ever-increased open-minded tendency and substantial progress in the Chinese humanities publishing business. In consideration of the topic and style of the books, the titles are obviously different from the usual ones published in both Chinese and Western academic communities. Regarding the comparative Chinese-Western ethical school, we may state that two major trends are still predominant today: Western moral metaphysics and Chinese Confucianist metaphysics. In my opinion, these two ethical schools, despite their respective achievements, are both characterized by their relative negligence of historical reality. The present two books are meant to introduce a more realistic picture of Chinese historical ethics and the related classical school.
       For the past three decades, China has restarted or resumed its systematic study of Western culture, thought, and theories in modern social and human sciences. Significantly, Chinese academia has shown an ever-increasing focus on the recent theoretical concepts of Western humanities, especially contemporary Western philosophy. The study of these topics had long been prohibited during the Cultural Revolution. For the past few years, I have maintained a very fruitful collaboration with the China Renmin University Press on important projects, such as the large project to translate the fifteen-volume series of Lévi-Strauss’s selected works and the eighteenth-volume series of the selected works of Roland Barthes, as well as a new, eight-volume project on selected masterpieces of Husserl’s, including the Ideen I, II, and III. Frankly speaking, I could not have anticipated this recent boom in publishing humanist-theoretical content in the Chinese book market.
This scholarly open-attitude in promoting social and human sciences can be observed everywhere in the Chinese academia for the last 10 years. One important example related to my own semiotic efforts is that the 11th Congress of the International Association for Semiotic Studies (IASS) will be held in Nanjing, China, in October 2012, with the theme “Global Semiotics: Bridging Different Civilizations.” The event symbolizes an intellectual turning point over the forty-year history of IASS that hints at its strategic reorientation towards the cross-cultural semiotics in our era of globalization. Semiotics, in its proper meaning implied in works by Saussure, Peirce, Husserl, Jakobson, Lévi-Strauss, Barthes, Greimas, and others, is oriented towards a general epistemological revolution of human sciences. Therefore, this symbolically significant international academic event also implies another interesting meaning that while the humanities all over the world seem to be further eclipsed, the Chinese counterpart—which remarkably contains study of the Western humanities—tends to be more energetically advancing.
While preparing the two series of books for the last two decades, I have also been actively engaged in international and Chinese semiotic activities. In general, one of the main tasks of semiotics is related to the interdisciplinary reorganization of the human sciences, emphasizing the necessity of multiple communications among different disciplinary theories. In light of this new scientific point of view, the traditional focus on philosophy-fundamentalism of any kinds as the main way for theorizing different practices in the humanities should be replaced by a new cross-cultural theoretical pluralism. The intellectual tendency will be even doubly strengthened when the human-scientific scope is expanded to the non-Western areas. Inspired by this same spirit, my studies on Confucianism were naturally organized along the semiotic, or comparative semiotic, line. The new approach intends to more effectively promote the intellectual dialogue between the Chinese and Western ethical ways of thinking. For this purpose, we should first present more relevant related historical descriptions; that is just the main aim of these works.
However, the present works can only be read and interpreted if they would not be restricted either by the Western-Eastern metaphysical-ontological model or by the usual way of Sinology that has been formed within the Western educational systems. After all, it is clear that Sinology is part of Western academia and its intellectual and scientific horizon must be much narrower than that of Chinese social and human sciences. Sometimes, unsuitably philosophizing tends to cover up the reasonable understanding of historical truth; while “China Studies” in the West refers to a general study about the basic knowledge of “culture of minority races” on campus. The latter should not be confused with the social and human sciences as the whole systematically organized in China proper. It is easy to see that Sinology and “Chinese social sciences” are so much divergent with respect to their goal, range, and depth. And, originally, my two books are indeed intended to be interesting to the general academic public in the West. So, it is far from being a work similar to the typical ones which are read in Sinology or its overseas Chinese branches.
Briefly speaking, from my own scholarly point of view, the so-called hermeneutic approach, which has nothing to do with its ontological trend in Europe, is especially related to the study of comparative historiography. The so-called semiotic approach, besides its ever-stronger modern Western pragmatic-philosophical tendency, is more about cultural semantics and the institutional analysis. This cross-cultural hermeneutic-semiotic project about the traditional Chinese ethical thought and its historical experience will be explored in the four volumes, implying three main topics.
The necessity and practicability of the humanist position in ethical thought
First, the original Confucian way of ethical thinking is a typically humanist and empirically mundane one in history. This pragmatic-ethical system has actually and energetically played its spiritual guiding role in the Chinese history and intellectual development over the last 2,000 years. The reason for this historical miracle of lasting efficiency is simply that it has surprisingly kept the identity and function of an innate ethical humanism that is different from many other historical moral systems with any theoretically or imaginatively transcendent faiths. This intellectual tendency could allow it to uniquely play a possible role as a mediator, or a dialogic platform for different systems of values and faiths with whatever transcendent dogmas. Despite their divergent transcendent mental origins, different systems of moral dogmas and metaphysical faith in the world must have shared the common empirical issues in worldly reality. In order to settle these commonly involved empirical problems, different parts have the exact same need to join a commonly accepted dialogic stage for exchanging different ideas or attaining mutual conciliation over basic mundane values. And the Confucian historical humanist system can just provide them with such an effective rational platform. Traced back to the original idea of this Chinese humanist ethics, we find that a proper meaning of the ethical dimension, first of all, implies its innate object: the justified interpersonal relationship and the related proper individual attitude towards the former. Both aspects of this ethical teaching are certainly determined by the empirical social life absolutely shared by all human beings existing in the same world.
Humanist movements in the Western humanities have had their own history for the past 200 years. In the philosophical school belonging to the Western ethical or social tradition, all of them often advocate some “theoretical” foundations for their moral systems. However, their own humanist theoretical systems may also imply some transcendent or pseudo-transcendent reasoning, for example the “scientific metaphysics,” which make them quite easily fall into theoretical conflict with the above-mentioned traditional systems of faith and belief. By contrast, the Confucian humanist ethics, with its pre-theoretical and purely empirical-practical character, can avoid this anthropologic trouble originating from different historical-national-cultural customs because of its spiritual focus on the purely interpersonal-motivational dimension.
The necessary separation of the two historical figures of confucius in Chinese history: Confucius I and Confucius II; and the corresponding separation between the Pre-Ch’in Confucian ethical thought and the Post-Ch’in Confucianist institutions
A deeply-rooted historical mixture and confusion between the original Confucian ethics and the feudalist despotic politics making use of the Confucianist ideology has seriously hindered the proper grasp of the true identity and function of Confucian ethics as a purely intellectual autonomy. The confusion has been internationally increased when some early European missionaries used the English name “Confucius” to refer to the two historical phenomena. Since they lacked initial knowledge of Chinese language and culture, it was hard for them to attain the ideological and intellectual depth of that mythical kingdom. In fact, the former had been formed before the establishment of the first Chinese despotic empire and the latter refers to the political-social institutions of the empire systems with their multiple ideological instruments that include the misleading manipulation of all available cultural heritages. Therefore, we could say that there existed two historical figures with the same name. One Confucius was the teacher of the Pre-Ch’in Confucian humanist ethical learning (the jen learning), embodied only in the genuine historical text Lunyu (Confucian Analects). And the other Confucius was the sanctified or mystified “Master” of a “quasi-religious ideology” created by the empire’s power. So it is necessary and useful for us modern scholars to distinguish between Confucius I (as the Pre-Ch’in ethical teacher) and Confucius II (as the hierarch of the state-academic-religion). We can also call the former the genuine teacher of jen—or, in another pinyin, ren which literally means “benevolence” or “humanity”—learning, and the latter the legendary founder of ju, which, in another pinyin of ru roughly refers to a title for the remote primitive-scribing job. The canon system is equivalent to an academic-type of political ideology. A hermeneutic-semiotic approach can help find the implicitly parallel and mutually influential interactions of these two historical entities through explaining the special historical experience of the historical intermixture between the universal humanist ethics jen learning and the historically determined academic ideology ju-academia. The reasonable separation of the two trends, implicit and explicit, in Chinese history will bring about two positive consequences: jen humanist ethics will be able to play a constructive role even in the modern intellectual context and so promote a more intelligible understanding of the constitution and function of the traditional Chinese academic history from a modern scientific point of view. Thus, with the more precise descriptions of the two spiritual forces, we may wisely get rid of the ju feudal academic nationalism that only narrows our intellectual horizon and obstructs us from joining global intellectual communication today.
In addition, some modern conservative scholars are always unable to make a clear distinction between these two aspects—as the “material” to be used and as the “methods” employed to use the material—when doing humanities research. Regarding modern study of traditional scholarship, we have to make an operative distinction between the object and the approach in scientific practice. The former must be the original or historical, while the latter should be the modern or scientific. For a scientific procedure, it should appeal to all useful methods of modern science rather than merely stick to either Western or Chinese traditional philosophical stereotypes. In other words, the “material” must keep its historical-geographic identity while the “methods” can be picked up from different modern scientific sources, which have nothing to do with their historical or geographic origins. Otherwise, on one hand, the modern Confucianist nationalism would blindly rely on the old Confucianist-Taoist-Buddhist quasi-religious ideologies as their useless methods which were, in fact, feudally-politically formed in past historical contexts. On the other hand, it purposely avoids a difficult but necessary scientific task: to learn from all useful modern Western scientific theories and methodologies. The national-habitual worship of the intellectual forefathers, combined with the methodological ignorance of modern social sciences, has led to the popularity of contemporary Confucianist academic nationalism. The only result it can lead to is to make China restrict her international horizon and, accordingly, weaken her intellectual influence in the global village.
The desirable connection between Chinese humanist ethics and the reorganization of Global human sciences in the future
A very important role that could be played by jen humanist ethics is certainly related to its teaching about subject-directed ethical thinking, while subjectivist philosophy has been so widely criticized and excluded in the modern, Western academia. A lot of philosophical negations of the status of subjectivity as the independent ethical agent in modern times are equivalent to the negations of the spontaneous motivational power of the individual agent in the present-day fully institutionalized societies. According to a hermeneutic reinterpretation, we might disconnect the jen ethics from its historical political context as to reduce it to the inmost zone of the ethical subjectivity: the ethical motivation and the related pragmatic wisdom for doubly right choices. From a modern interdisciplinary point of view, we could perceive a serious shortcoming obstructing the progress of human sciences in the current commercialized and institutionalized academic world where the principle of individualist interest-motivated competition plays a determinative role in the mental schism of the scholars. Lacking their objective norms and rational criteria, the human sciences today tend to really become the “liberal arts” which are gradually losing the possibility of carrying out scientific goals. In the so-called post-modernist era, human sciences, especially their ethical study at the center, can hardly play an effective, constructive part for humanity, either intellectually or socially. In other words, without forming a more generally acceptable conception about value and truth, human sciences and ethics in our globalized era, would become more and more useless, except for intellectual enjoyment. There is a Chinese proverb: “Knowledge first, action second.” Compared with the fact that natural and social sciences have successfully attained ever-increasingly fruitful achievements in accumulating knowledge, human sciences, including their fields of ethics, are confronted with the unprecedentedly serious crisis about their identity, quality, and utility with respect to their social and intellectual practice. In some sense, one of the main tasks of global semiotics lies in seriously dealing with this scientific task of modernizing and reforming the present-day human sciences. The task of this scientific renovation, in terms of an interdisciplinary approach as well as from a hermeneutic-semiotic point of view, must be pursued along the cross-cultural orientation as well. With a view to reorganize this academic task, we indeed see a delicate relationship existing between the progress of the humanities in the global context and the role of ethical motivation, at the level of the scholarly individual, as pragmatic subjectivity. It is here, I find, that the traditional humanist ethics of jen can play a relevantly constructive role. As a result, the interaction between the modern global human sciences and the historical Chinese humanist ethics will lead to a more desirable development. We could reach a decisive point in human intellectual history—despite a variety of brilliant achievements of modern Western humanities—from which all people could continuously learn seriously and systematically. We have to give up any simplistic attempt to imitate the finished results of theoretical productions temporarily produced within the Western disciplinary framework. Without a cross-cultural expansion of theoretical horizon, the human sciences can hardly obtain the really comprehensive horizon, or attain a more effective intelligibility in the global context.
The above three key points are summarized this way. For the first point, we should reasonably stimulate a pragmatic dialogue between the universal humanist ethics and various historically formed transcendent systems of faith by means of a practical focus on the commonly shared empirical problems about the just interpersonal relationship which can only be judged by the also commonly shared empirical-pragmatic principles. For the second point, we should distinguish between two figures of Confucius, namely the original ethical thinking formed in the pre-centralized feudal society and the later academic ideology of the despotic empire; accordingly we have to overcome any scholarly nationalism which can only lead Chinese academia to limit its horizon and ambition so as to be reduced to a merely localized nationalist ideology, or a sort of historical nostalgia, which will certainly lead to its segregation from the global intellectual discourse. For the third point, we therefore should overcome the two epistemological obstacles caused by  both Western and Chinese negative tendencies in connection with the direction of the humanities, and make efforts to make the humanities more scientific and operatively more applicable in our world of universal technicalization and commercialization on the basis of the interdisciplinary, cross-cultural epistemology and methodology, as well as through keeping a distance from any irrelevant ontological rhetoric. Ontological discourse can exist in its right as some philosophical-typed poetics but it should not be allowed to undermine the scientific practice in human sciences. The criticism of metaphysical-ontological centrism is also traced back to modern Western interdisciplinary trends whose cross-cultural expansion will lead to a more comprehensive reconsideration and rearrangement of the global human sciences in our new century. If the Western humanities, unfortunately, continue to neglect their scientific development under the ever-increasingly stronger pressures from the technical-commercialized powers, it allows the non-Western human sciences, including their Western studies, to make more productive efforts to pursue this great task of mankind. Reason should remain the top principle for human beings. And reason today should be especially embodied in human sciences as well. It is disastrous that reason always guides natural sciences and technology while, by contrast, strangely ignores its guiding influence on human sciences.
The formation of discourse in the humanities is predetermined by the norms, principles, and methods professionally fixed within the academic establishments. If so, what should be our final authority in judging the quality of that discourse: The artificially formed disciplinary regulations set up within some academic circles, or the objective and subjective reality of different kinds in the actual world? Eventually, should we appeal to the artificial rules embodied in some specialized books or to the objective reality in our research? Differently from natural sciences, and even from social sciences, which can be examined and judged by the objective natural and social reality, human sciences have always lacked reliable criteria based on the objective world. Thus, it is ironic to note that, on one hand, there is a serious notional diversity and conflict regarding meaning, value, and faith among different peoples, and, on the other hand, all human crises, either social or intellectual ones, can be eventually traced back to the axiological divergence of different cultures, societies, and politics, on which the humanistic-scientific practice has constantly weakened its rational attention everywhere. We need to note that if natural and social sciences are more related to the issues at the level of the means of knowledge, then human sciences are more related to the issues at the level of its aim and values. The fact is that human sciences today consist of disorderly accumulations from divergent historical and professional sources, including elements from Western and Eastern, as well as from ancient and modern sources; while all kinds of intellectual sediments have been almost arbitrarily combined by our professional practices in the contemporary academic systems without sufficiently scientific discrimination. As a result, the final “authority” of the eligibility of the humanities discourse actually comes from its “use value” in the related professional marketing. One of the reasons is that there is no strict distinction between the aesthetic and scientific operations in the field. Furthermore, we have much more complicated and difficult problems concerning fact and reality in connection with society, culture, thought, and the related investigations. It is one of the semiotic aims to more relevantly and precisely define these ambiguous but crucially important concepts used in the humanities in terms of new scientific instruments in order to substantially advance our knowledge about human beings themselves and their actual activities. Unfortunately, current Western humanities theoretical thought seems to be more and more losing interest in exploring reality and rationality in scholarly practice. The destructive impact of anti-scientific-directed, post-modernist philosophy is caused, in fact, by the current commercialized society; it has become a philosophy characteristic of the commercialized era, irrationally searching for pure success in the academically competitive market. This serious shortcoming in scholarly operation is covered up, however, by its ever-increasingly stronger external academic institutionalization and the general cultural consumerism. The above-mentioned tendency of the current humanities theories losing interest in reality leads to an interest in the texts as texts. In my opinion, this tendency to neglect reality is completely wrong and will play a quite negative impact on the widely expected elaboration of the ethical sciences.
My realistic point of view about the humanities today is partly due to personal experience. A little bit of digression about my special experience could be useful for international readers to judge my discussion. The independent intellectual efforts of the author regarding semiotic, hermeneutic, structural and phenomenological theories for the past 35 years, exactly since the end of the Cultural Revolution, are part of my long-time concern about various realist or empirical objects over the past 60 years (during my school time in 1950s I was naturally intoxicated by classical European literary realism). Differently from almost all Western scholars trained in the established educational systems, I have been completely self-taught, especially since I abandoned my civil engineering studies at Tianjin University in early 1959. With an adventurous devotion to contemporary Western philosophy and other modern theoretical subjects, I always maintained a strong curiosity for the deeper and hidden truth of real life itself. Following increased scholarly reading, I further concentrated on reality at all levels, and, naturally, all readings were taken as the mere tools for attaining this eventual scientific aim. Therefore, my intellectual interest was never determined by any professional consideration, or dominated by any academic authority. Propelled by a pure desire for knowing more realistic and deeper truth, I naturally turned to logical positivism since the late 1950s—in China, this philosophical school arrived in the 1920s first through Bertrand Russell—and, later, even turned to Husserlian phenomenology—in China it had never been seriously introduced until the late 1970s by me—from which I perceived another realistic dimension: the psychological-logical one behind its idealist framework. But, it was the structural semiotic movement, to which I was able to get access as late as late 1977, when the National Library of China was reopened, which strongly led me to turn attention to a much more synthetic and elaborate social-cultural-historical-psychological “reality”. This kind of synthetic reality seems to be not easily grasped properly by the analytical and pragmatic philosophical mind. It is also worth noting that I started my academic life the first year after the end of the Cultural Revolution, and became a researcher at the Institute of Philosophy, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Between 1982 and 1984, I further got a rare chance to visit the philosophy departments of Princeton University, Columbia University, and the University of Munich with the supports from the China Government and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). The chance opened the door for me to personally reach the Western humanities for the next 30 years.
During the late 1970s, I started to introduce to Chinese readers—most of them having stopped intellectual contact with modern Western humanities for the earlier two decades—the thoughts of Husserl, Lévi-Strauss, Gadamer, Ricoeur, Barthes, Metz, Foucault, Lacan, Le Goff, and others, according to my own epistemological interest completely disconnected with the predominant trends in post–Cultural Revolution China. But my glance has been always guided by my own epistemological focuses that have nothing to do with the current political fashions. Consequently, during the 1980s, I was an introducer of current Western epistemological thoughts. Still, my intellectual interest had been always focused on the problems of reality of various types. In this sense, I have never been misled by any continental ontological nihilism despite its rhetoric delicacy, although I need to read this material for my understanding and judgment. So, in 1982, when I met with my sponsor, Professor Richard Rorty at Princeton, and my next sponsor, Professor Arthur C. Danto, at Columbia, I felt a little bit surprised by finding their high interest in Sartre. In my opinion, this ontological tradition, traced back to Hegel, has become the main hindrance for the scientific development of human sciences in general and the proper understanding of Confucian humanist ethics in particular. Later, I further went back to my earlier reflection on Chinese intellectual history that manifests another mode of historical and intellectual reality. So, when the time comes, I started a related research project in Germany since the early 1990s. Another reason for this thematic refocus was due to my understanding that no ethical consideration could be theoretically complete if no non-Western parallel experiences are combined for a comparative study; for this purpose, of course, the latter should be reformulated at first in a hermeneutic-semiotic way (this can be hardly done by the philology-oriented Sinology that is restricted by its fixed educational task determined by the Western system). Comparative historiography is generally in a similar situation as well. An epistemological combination between hermeneutics and semiotics will lead to the necessary change of current historical theory and consequently make us say good-bye to that metaphysical type of philosophy of history. I firmly insist that the genuine understanding of any historical reality relies firstly on how thoroughly we could get rid of the classical philosophy of history. This cross-cultural turn in scholarly practice led to two concrete consequences: the reinterpretation of Chinese traditional ethics and the reconsideration of the identity and potential of comparative humanities.
Retrospectively, I have luckily enjoyed several true independent periods in my whole life: my independent study of philosophy over 20 years in China between early 1959 and 1978; my research career of over 10 years at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences where I had complete freedom, because of the specially flexible situation immediately after the end of the Cultural Revolution, for selecting thematic contents in individual projects during 1980s; my independent research in Germany and France for almost 10 years as a guest research fellow; and, finally, my independent way of life as a freelance scholar in the United States for the last 15 years. With sufficient literature sources available all the time, and without any professional commitments, this sort of career has allowed me to think about the truly relevant problems concerning human sciences and ethics more freely and independently than any colleague living on an institutionalized campus. This special personal experience allowed me to clearly understand that, when facing the serious epistemological challenges, the humanities scholar must first of all shape an ethical personality, not for the purpose to become a “good” man or woman, or to make efforts for realizing a “good” society—those classical goals belong to other intellectual channels and require many different related conditions—but for the purpose of having a truly independent mind. This leads to reorganizing and readjusting research strategy following the changing and changed contexts, keeping reality-directed observation and truth-directed analysis under different external determinations, including pressures and temptations alike. If guided by the motive for obtaining personal reputation and social success (not only legal, but also justified for professional individualism) in our commercialized world, a humanities scholar can hardly cherish an independent aim to search for scientific facts and truth beyond the channel determined by his own discipline.  Because single-discipline-centrism is the most useful means to support one’s benefit-directed pursuits. Professional frameworks can help secure consistence with the disciplinary regulations but not certainly approach reality outside their disciplines. Unfortunately, so many humanities scholars live mainly on their books with a view to attain success in their professions. Not every one of them is aware that there exists a pragmatic-logical link between the ethical motivation of the scholar as subjectivity and the scientific quality of his works. By dint of my non-factional observations based on my special independent status everywhere in the world, I firmly believe that, regarding the development of human sciences, academic individualism strengthened in the commercialized society should be better replaced by an ethical collectivism that will help scholars keep a secure distance from various commercial games. The renovative task of the field of global human sciences definitely depends on the collective and cooperative consciousness and joint efforts across the world despite the uneven developments of different scientific communities. The new century calls for a true solidarity among international scholars. This desirability from an interdisciplinary and cross-cultural angle is further explained in the following.
All specialized knowledge is formed within established disciplines that must be organized in a strictly regulated institutional framework. But the results of the different specialized scientific productions are equivalent to be some “materials” for further remaking in a further expanded context and for a higher pragmatic goal. Therefore, the identity of disciplinary or specialized knowledge could be hopefully defined as the “date-material” or “half-made products” for possible further interpretative and applicable uses in different projects that may demand collaboration with other disciplines and their scholars who exist in different contexts. At any time, we have to rely on various specialized disciplines for obtaining different “half-made goods” at first. Secondly, those half-made products should be further processed or remade to become the relatively “final” or more usable products when our scientific plans are advanced to a higher scientific or teleological level. The same process can be extended to the cross-cultural domains when the latter is, in fact, a variety of the interdisciplinary practice. In light of this, for example, both Western theoretical disciplines and oriental philology-directed historical ones could play respective important roles in their next more synthetically composed scientific production.
There exist the regulations of the single discipline, but there is also another kind of regulation in interdisciplinary practice. The two kinds of regulations, the disciplinary and the interdisciplinary ones, are different in composition and aim. But we prefer both, rather than the one, particularly when we want to increase our epistemological level and intelligibility in studies. In other words, the single-discipline-central position is strong enough to secure one’s professional pursuits, but not enough to direct him towards the expanded goal for approaching the scientific truth which could have nothing to do with individuals’ benefits. Unfortunately, today the professional systems in the humanities are mainly related to the interest-procuring conditions that just do not care about the true scientific aims as such. The self-benefit-directed motivation and the commercialized mechanism in this field obviously stimulate the prevailing academic individualism in our times. Therefore, most scholars of the humanities must live in a multiple tension between the interest-goal and the truth-goal. If postmodernism can really destroy the terms “truth,” like some postmodernists try to do, the humanities scholars can only follow a commercialized lifestyle in their profession. That is why some postmodernist philosophers so hate the conception “human sciences” as well as the idea about universal ethics. Their “intellectual liberalism” can only cause serious weakness and disorder in human ethical reasoning. If, spreading to the non-Western areas, this nihilist rhetoric, mainly led by Heidegger and Derrida, will mislead and despoil the just developing situation of human sciences there. Confucian humanist ethics firmly resists this epistemological and axiological nihilism formed in a highly commercialized circumstance. The jen humanist ethics is absolutely an ethics of rationalism.
Regarding the cross-cultural dialogue or collaboration in the new human sciences, the related scholars should more systematically readjust their scientific consciousness beyond their own specialized fields if they really want to know “more truth” in the expanded field. Accordingly, it is epistemologically naïve to think that academic globalization means only the application of Western theory to Eastern historical material. In fact, both Western theory and Eastern history should be reorganized at once in an epistemologically higher scientific stage, for both will be related to different kinds of reality and rationality in the cross-cultural world. Practically speaking, because for the past century the East has learnt from the West so much and the West has learnt from the East so little, it is dialectically natural that in the new century, the Westernized East intellectuals (linguistically they know both sides) have an increased obligation to play a more active and a more creative role in promoting the Western-Eastern collaborative projects in the cross-cultural humanities despite their relatively weaker knowledge of Western theory.  The results must be positive for both sides, if we can keep a humanist-ethical attitude based on scientific collectivism at the global level. With the above metaphor of “half-made products,” we may understand why much single-disciplinary knowledge, especially philosophy, in the past can hardly provide the suitably satisfactory theoretical guidance for solving our scientific and practical problems in various critical periods of human history (we should pay honest attention to the seriously negative impacts of some major philosophical schools on society and thought in the 21th century). In light of the rather instructive French Annales’ principles, we should define our “aims and problems” at first, and then try more flexibly or relevantly to combine various useful “methods and tools” from different related disciplines for newly designed projects. Unfortunately, Annales have not realized their principles about total history are not true because of their separation from the Eastern historiography. On the other hand, human knowledge, especially the human and social ones, remains in the beginning stage in consideration of the still limited human historical span. If so, how could we be so much over-self-confident in the mere temporary conclusions from our present occasionally accumulated knowledge? Why could those modern great “philosophers” think they have already created some conclusive “wisdom” for mankind? What we should keep in mind is to set a right orientation for our future intellectual adventure and to insist in the line of reason in general that is the single justified foundation of global human sciences. We hope that the arena of the new Chinese human sciences could become another important academic center in the world for promoting this important task of developing new human sciences at a global level, side-by-side with the existing European and American ones.
In association with the topic of the titles and related development, I would like to state here that in the 11th International Association of Semiotic Studies (IASS) Congress, distinguished professor Dr. Bernhard Waldenfels, the former president of the German Phenomenology Society, my former sponsor at Institute of Philosophy at Bochum, is the key speaker at the opening of the Congress. The international theoretical collaboration continues. Since last year I have proposed a scientific slogan of “Rereading Husserl” in Chinese academia in connection with my further engagement in the personal translation project of the series of Selected Works of Husserl to be published by the China Renmin University Press. Meanwhile, since 2012, I have also proposed another scientific slogan of “Rereading Wang Yang-ming” in connection with my participation in the international forum about Wang Yang-ming Studies organized by the International Center of Wang Yang-ming Studies at Yuyao City, Zhejiang Province. As both Husserlian epistemological subjectivity centralism and Wang Yang-ming’s ethical-pragmatic subjectivity centralism could be semiotically and hermeneutically combined in shaping a new type of the ethical science in our century, I am glad to claim that these developments quite conform with the intention that I had cherished during my time in Bochum.
Finally, I would like to express my sincere gratitude for such kind publishing support from Silkroad Press and the China Renmin University Press.
Li Youzheng
San Francisco, April 16, 2012
Regarding the way of expressing Chinese characters by the alphabet, this series basically adopts the Wade-Giles system instead of the present-day standard Hanyu Pinyin system, for the books were prepared when the author stayed in Germany. The use of the traditional Pinyin system enables the readers to conveniently refer to the Chinese classics and reference books, as many of them are translated with the Wade-Giles system. So we have decided to keep the original way of expressing Chinese characters in this new edition.
Intercultural philosophy does not take its starting point from the comparison of different cultures from a neutral point of view, it instead arises through the confrontation with certain features of another culture which distances the philosopher from his or her own tradition, compelling it to be regarded a new way. In dealing with the origins of Confucian ethics, Li Youzheng does exactly this. His extensive training in Western hermeneutics and semiotics enables him to reformulate the set of ethical customs, rituals, rules, and strategies formulated 2,500 years ago in ancient China. In contrast to Western ethics, which are thoroughly penetrated by the divine commands of the Judeo-Christian tradition and mainly characterized by the search for the practical good and one's own happiness begun in Greek and Roman philosophy, Chinese ethics originated and developed largely outside the domains of religion and philosophy. In attempting to elaborate the specific nature of these ethics, the author navigates between Scylla and Charybdis. He seeks to avoid the one extreme of merely repeating from the inside what has already been said, with its effective reduction of ethical theory to certain reflexes of practical life. Just as well, however, he tries to avoid the other extreme of measuring ancient traditions by external standards and, therewith, exchange old prejudices for new ones. He rather tries to elucidate the foundation of Chinese ethics by using a certain language and a certain method which, as only one language and one method among others, does not exhaust the inherent sense and the efficacious demand of what has been, or is still being, lived out and practiced.
       Cross-cultural studies imply that we learn from each other. For its part, Western thinking has much to gain from this kind of Chinese scholarship. This is especially true for those of us who cannot remain satisfied with the mere analysis of moral rules and value systems, but instead require a genealogy of morals in the line of Nietzsche, Levinas, and Foucault. It also holds for those of us who follow Husserl and Schuetz in returning to the anonymity of the everyday world which underlies—and is richer than —all moral systems and ethical theories, just as it does for those of us who are interested in the aesthetic aspects of ethics, the cultural importance of writing, and the interplay of ethics and politics. All of us having these needs and interests can learn a great deal from the excursion into a world of cultural others.
Bernhard Waldenfels
Former President of German Phenomenology Association
Bochum, October 1996
I wish to express my sincere thanks to the many people who have assisted me during the writing, editing, and publication of these works and to the institutions which made it all possible.
The long-standing and generous support of the German Volkswagen-Stiftung, which underwrote this project from its inception to its completion over the past five years, alone allowed me to carry out this project. The willingness of the Stiftung to promote such interdisciplinary and cross-cultural research truly deserves special praise. Mr. Günter Dege of the Stiftung provided friendly support in resolving several problematic issues.
Peter Lang GmbH showed a helpful interest in the project and made its publication feasible. Dr. Orrin F. Summerell (Bochum) pa­tiently cor­rected my English and offered many useful suggestions.
Professor Dr. Michael Lackner (Göttingen) brought this project into the China Program of the Volkswagen-Stiftung in 1990. Without his vigorous advancement and continuous assistance, it could not have been realized. Professor Dr. Elmar Holenstein (Zürich) kindly secured my affiliation with the Ruhr-Universität Bochum. Professor Dr. Bernhard Waldenfels (Bochum) sponsored me in the Institut für Philosophie and devoted much time and attention to the project. His insights into the cultural “other” are an important reference point for my reflections on oriental topics. Mrs. Gudrun Sikora and Mrs. Annemarie Ernst of the Institut für Philosophie placidly solved numerous practical problems.
Madame P. Gentot (MSH, Paris), professors Liu Shu-hsian (Hong Kong), Keiji Asanuma (Tokyo), Yoshihiko Ikegami (Tokyo), Fu Pei-jung (Taipei), and Richard Rorty (Charlottesville) enabled me to inform myself of current scholarship through research visits at their universities.
The many other distinguished scholars and good friends in philosophy, semiotics, and Sinology with whom I have had helpful discussions in the past several years must remain unmentioned but not without my thanks.
Li Youzheng
Bochum-Stiepel, July 1996
Ethical situations and ethics
Ethical situations are innately rooted in the historical and cultural types of human social organizations. The ethical, being generally defined by the interpersonal just relationship, attains empirical universality and intellectual operationability. As the thought about and study of ethical situations, ethics has existed in various cultural and academic forms in different social traditions throughout human history. On one hand, there is a universal ethical situation shared by all historical-social-cultural collectives due to the ubiquitous character of the same kind of interpersonal relations logically implied in all communities. On the other hand, however, the same ethical “hardware” is inserted in the different socio-cultural organizations which assume different intellectual and academic forms. Therefore, the same ethical situation exists and functions in different academical-cultural contexts. Because we have various intellectual histories, we have different types of ethics. The existent types of “ethics,” however, are only social-cultural-academic compounds formed in different histories.
The Western term “the ethical” itself has been historically defined within Mediterranean-European intellectual history. Ethics as a discipline is a constituent part of the European academic conglomeration of philosophy, religion, and law. What we said about the basic universal ethical situation is a result of the scientific analysis of human ethical phenomena. There is a link between the basic ethical situation and the divergence of the historical typology of ethical thought. The former is shared by all human communities, while the latter contains different intellectual compositions. We must approach the common ethical situation and differing ethical thought simultaneously in order to gain a more precise and complete topography of the ethical culture of mankind. For this reason, we need to undertake a comparative ethical study.
The Chinese ethical situation and Chinese ethical thought
Chinese ethical culture has a special significance for our present-day understanding of the general human ethical situation and politico-ethical thought despite its cultural heterogeneity in comparison with that of the Western tradition.
Because of its less developed academic history in comparison with Greek civilization, Chinese ancient culture presents a more empirically and directly formulated ethical situation and thought. Owing to its being less philosophically and religiously directed, primitive Chinese ethics can offer a more direct picture of the above-mentioned ethical hardware and more clearly present a basic model of ethical relations which can be relevant to all communities in the world. It provides a very interesting alien example for Western ethics and political philosophy.
Because of its different socio-political structure, ancient Chinese ethics presents a combination of the ethical and socio-political dimensions which differs from the Western one. Thus, we can see different types of politico-ethical operations in human history. Owing to its uniquely long-standing and continuous civilization over 3,000 years, China challenges many Western ethical experiences which have been taken as universally relevant. In fact, the latter have been shaped in a special Greek-Christian framework which is completely lacking in Chinese intellectual history. China has its own successful socio-politico and cultural history which contains its own rich ethical experience and thought.
Present-day insight into ethical study
The present study of an ancient ethical culture takes the form of an intellectual dialogue between a modern attitude and approach and the historical material. The result of the study naturally depends more on the adopted attitude and approach than on the historical texts.
The problem of approach is connected with academic categories and disciplines. In this context, we meet with a customary academic classification of (Western) ethics and Sinology. In the West, Chinese studies have been historically formed in a Western academic framework. This background inclines Chinese ethical studies in a historical-philological direction. Concretely, we first meet with the established Western academic field of Confucianism or Neo-Confucianism. In my opinion, despite the rapid development in Sinology based on a Western-Chinese comparative philosophy, Sinology is not yet a constituent part of Western humanities programs. The heterogeneous structure of Chinese historical documents as an alien textual system is one main reason for the low level of communication between Western and Chinese humanities. A more substantial obstacle for the Western-Chinese ethical dialogue with reference to Confucianist ethics lies in the fact that the prevalent Sinological approach, because of its academic link with related studies in modern China, adopts the traditional Chinese academic system based on medieval Chinese metaphysics. In Chinese ethical history, however, there is an evident division between the original non-philosophical ethics—the original Confucian and other Pre-Ch’in thought—and the later Buddhist/Taoist philosophical ethics (Sung-Ming-Confucianism). The latter transforms the more empirical type of the former into a more sophisticatedly mixed form, making its structure less clear. On the other hand, the traditional Chinese philosophical context is much too heterogeneous in its structure when compared with Western ethics and its theoretical basis. Therefore, there is a technical obstacle for the ethical dialogue between Western and Confucian/Confucianist ethics: they use different systems of semantic units, reasoning patterns. and intellectual and academic frameworks in their respective discourses. The Western philosophical system might lead scholars to suspect less intelligibility and less theoretical merits to inhere in the Chinese intellectual system. A key point lies in the fact that these two heterogeneously structured philosophical systems are not involved in direct dialogue with their traditionally shaped terminologies and logic. Semiotico-anthropologically speaking, Sinology in the West requires a semantic transformation in order to make it more meaningfully communicable with Western systems. The reason is that modern Western scientific language maintains an intellectual continuity with its tradition, while, by contrast, modern Chinese scientific language has suffered a “semantic and institutional break” from its own traditions.
In the contemporary Western humanities, we see another kind of “epistemological turn” owing to the development since the 1960’s of interdisciplinary inquiries in the social and human sciences. This new development has led to a readjustment or rearrangement of the academic topography and its methodology. In this context, hermeneutics and semiotics have played an increasingly important role. Both approaches start with redesigning the chosen set of problematics. Beginning with conventional historical and scientific textual systems, they attempt to represent the questions and focuses of the new epistemological perspective by reformulating the traditional expressions. For ethical study, this means that we need to rearrange the relations of the ethical system with its traditional academic or disciplinary context. The novelty of this scholarly direction lies in its getting rid of the traditional academic framework of a subject matter. From a comparative point of view, the rearrangement of the related academic connections is necessary because we cannot make the theory of one tradition the foundation for treating the problems of another tradition. Non-Western ethical thought and situations cannot be analyzed in terms of Western ethical theories. They have, as we said above, different academic backgrounds.
Ethical study in the different humanities is a function of its intellectual and socio-historical determinations. Before handling its wider connection with other branches of the social and human sciences, we shall first precisely describe the basic ethical phenomenon. Then we shall organize a minimal academic complex around the ethical. The content of the academic complex depends on different historical and cultural conditions. If the Greek ethical complex mainly contains ethical, philosophical, and legal-political dimensions, with the Christian adding the theological, the Chinese ethical complex contains ethical, political, and ideological dimensions. The academic complex refers to the minimal link between the ethical and the other intellectual dimensions. The sociological dimension, however, is curiously weaker than many people assume. The relevance of the chosen field can only be decided by the historical documents available. All anthropologico-sociological efforts to interpret ancient Chinese thought have been limited by a lack of reliable or available historical materials. (This forms a basic difference between an anthropological study of existing primitive societies and a sociological study of ancient, less-developed societies.) Our present study of ancient Chinese ethics is related to a specially chosen scope.
 The main points of the present study of ancient Chinese ethical thought and culture
There are two kinds of comparative study in the humanities: dialogue between different historical materials on a methodological basis and dialogue between a modern approach and historical material. The present study belongs to the latter type. It has the following characteristics and purposes:
As part of a general concern with human ethical situations, the present study attempts to paint a more precise picture of the original ethical situation and ethical thought at ancient Chinese history, focusing on compositional and functional descriptions which should be interculturally significant.
A basic division in treating the historical materials is made between the original ethical thought of the less despotic Pre-Ch’in period and the historical performance of this ethical thought in the more despotic period of the Ch’in-Han dynasties. This division is related not only to a chronological demarcation, but moreover to the constitutional divergence of ethical phenomena in the ancient Chinese intellectual world. Therefore, we can see on one hand the basic structure of original Chinese ethical thought and on the other hand the institutional manipulation of the ethical elements in the historical process. The chosen scope not only covers Chinese intellectual history, but also addresses the formative process of Chinese ethical culture in both its static-intellectual and dynamic-historical contents.
If the present study is a modern analytical description of historical thought, its result forms a necessary part of human ethical experience. Thus, despite their different manifestations and backgrounds, the structurally and functionally described ethical relations can be made universally intelligible and instructive. Its intelligibility is linked with modern human situations since some basic interpersonal moral relations have formed a permanent model throughout human history. (Strict ethical relativism could be mitigated by the semiotic conception that the ethical object exists not in some one-dimensional context, but rather in a semantically and institutionally structured compound.) Because of its more empirical accessibility due to the pragmatic character of ancient Chinese culture, the Chinese example can present a positively or empirically manifested human ethical situation illuminating to non-Chinese culture as well. In my view, the time is ripe for Western readers to undertake a more meaningful dialogue with this most important non-Western ethical source.
In brief, the present study of the archetype of ancient Chinese ethics and ideology plays a double role: it presents the more genuine structure and process of original Chinese ethical culture; and it reveals the universally existing conditions of ethical relationships embodied in the Chinese historical material. In the latter sense, the anatomy of the Chinese historical texts is applied as a means for disclosing the empirical essence of human ethical situations.
Outline of the present study
This study consists of three independent, yet interconnected sections: (1) Confucian ethics, (2) post-Confucian ethics, and 3) Han-Confucianist ideology.
(1) Confucian ethics refers to the composition and function of the ethical text of Confucius. This secular Chinese “Bible” has been regarded as the most important book in Chinese culture. Most of the content has maintained its lasting and strong impact on the Chinese mind until today. The analysis indicates the universal applicability of some of the basic statements of Confucius in our era, in which we can more pertinently and completely grasp the structure of his thought although it is unsystematically formulated. The semiotic approach is partly employed here in order to reformulate more exactly the intellectual units and logical nexus of the ethical text which presented 2,500 years ago, a national archetype of ethical personality with deep cultural implications. The weak link of Confucian ethics with legal and political rationality indicates its essential character or defect. As a matter of fact, Confucius’s Analects presents an ethical aesthetics of basic ethical choices in a situation of historical adversity.
(2) The Pre-Ch’in ethical thought after Confucius is represented by three main schools: the Taoist, the Legalist, and the Mencian-Confucian. The relation of these three schools to the original Confucian text is treated more structurally than historically. The historical arrangement is also an intellectual situation involving ethical logic. If the first two schools challenge the original Confucian ethics through their ethical nihilism and political overlordship, respectively, the Mencian initiates an important new turn along the Confucian line which we might call an ethics of political will. In general, the Mencian-variant complements the original Confucian text with a sharper focus on political evil and the subjective reaction towards political evil.
The above two sections compose the first two volumes of this study.
(3) The final section on Han-Confucianist ideology, namely volumes 3 and 4, shows how the original Chinese ethical thought blends with the politico-historical background of the Han totalitarian system so as to define a completely new intellectual horizon in Chinese history. The Chinese academic world was shaped during this period; and Confucian ethics became one factor operating in a multiply constituted socio-intellectual context. The ideological manipulation of cultural elements for the sake of strengthening despotic power describes a historically true picture about the function and operation of various ethical factors. The original myth of spiritual nationalism was also formed in this period. This part of the study presents a unique topography of the Han-Confucianist complex of ethics, ideology, and academics. The Han Dynasty is the most important period for Chinese civilization because it laid an unchanged and stable institutional foundation and a pragmatic model for the subsequent dynasties and culture of 2,000 years. In the Han-Confucianist system, the original Confucian thought played a paradoxical role—whether as a social collaborator or as a spiritual challenger. The confusing and controversial relationship between the Pre-Ch’in-Han original Confucian thought and Han-Confucianism receives an original treatment in our book. Thus, the Confucian (K’ung-Meng, or Confucius-Mencius) and the Confucianist (ju-chia, or ju-scholarship) are clearly divided into two separate cultural phenomena.
 The hermeneutico-semiotic approach
We use the term “hermeneutic” in a flexible way that refers to the modern interpretation of historical texts as the product of a dialogue between China and the West, between modernity and antiquity, and between theory and practice. Such a historiographical hermeneutic approach is scientifically linked to a semiotic one which focuses more on the significative processes of cultural objects. Because of its chosen scope and fixed purpose, our analysis is limited to the structural and functional descriptions of the historical situations and thoughts expressed in the historical texts. Our main goal is to more objectively present the depicted objects themselves without allowing additional intellectual intrusions into our hermeneutic-semiotic descriptions. In saying that our approach is more hermeneutic than historical, we focus on the interpretative rationality of the socio-historical facts, which can hardly be recovered through simply reading the available historical materials. The intelligibility of the historical texts appears through an effective ancient-modern dialogue. We hope the rearranged intellectual relations of the ancient intellectual world can more precisely represent a historically extant situation. The more important aim of our approach is to promote a more pertinent understanding of the historical textual system for our present-day readers.
A semiotic approach is employed in linguistically and pragmatically semantic, academically institutional, and cultural-ideological analyses. This makes the present study different from conventional readings of Chinese history and thought. Its first aim lies in having its described objects corresponded more effectively to the original historical and textual situations by allowing the historical texts and its objects to represent themselves in a structural and functional way.
As a part of our historiographically semantic analysis, traditional Chinese philology has been extensively consulted. Most of the references are drawn from contemporary Chinese historians whose historical-textual criticism belongs to the general field of historiographical semiotics – particularly the work of the distinguished historian Ku Chieh-kang, who could be regarded as the traditional type of historical semiotician in our century. By contrast, our study refers less to philosophical reflections on the subject than does most contemporary scholarship. On one hand, the ancient Chinese ethical-academical-ideological complex contains few genuinely philosophical topics; on the other hand, according to the point of view of the present author, ethical discourse must avoid a philosophy-centered interpretation in order to reveal more precisely a historical ethical-ideological autonomy in history. Despite its preparation for profound dialogue with Western scholarship, the present discussion avoids direct cross-reference between Western and Chinese thought in order to maintain the substantial and stylistic coherence of its analytically descriptive discourse, which is intended to interest both Western and non-Western readers.
This study has been intensively carried out during the first half of the 1990’s, but the related preparation can be traced back to a much longer period over 40 years. It is the result of my own ethical thinking and Chinese-Western comparative studies, including observations of actual socio-political life in both China and the West. (The ethical aspect has a closer reference to social reality than do the other humanities.) It was during this time, especially after finishing a separate study of ethical theories that I worked out the guiding principle and the chosen themes of this work. A subjective ethics based on operational rationality and an ethical, political, and ideological complex based on the interaction between political power and intellectual activities have been used to form the theoretical framework for treating these historical and ethical subjects more relevantly. The present study of classical Chinese topics intends to help refocus our ethical topography in the twenty-first century.
   Volume 1:        THE STRUCTURE OF
Acknowledgements                                                                    .................................. xxiii
Prologue...................................................................................................... xxiv
1. Ethical Situation and Ethics.............................................................................. xxv
2. The Chinese Ethical Situation and Chinese Ethical Thought...........................................xxv
3. Present-day Insight into Ethical Study................................................................... xxvi
4. The Main Points of the Present Study of Ancient Chinese Ethical Thought and Culture.. xxviii
5. Outline of the Present Study.............................................................................. xxx
6. The Hermeneutico-Semiotic Approach................................................................... xxxi
Section One: Confucius’ Ethical System                                                 ........................... 3
Introduction: The Aesthetics of Ethical Choice.............................................................. 5
1. The Significance of Confucian Ethical Thought and Obstruction in
Ethical Dialogue.................................................................................................. 5
2. The Semiotic Attitude to our Object: The Structure of the Text........................................ 7
3. The Historical Constitution of the Ethical Text and the Related
Disciplines for our Analysis...................................................................................... 8
4. The Dialogical Barries Resulting from Two Different Disciplinary Compositions in Chinese and Western Academic Histories........................................................................................................... 9
5. The Scope of Basic Ethical Problems......................................................................... 12
6. The Theoretical Relevance of Confucian Ethics............................................................. 14
7. Unsystematic Formulation and Coherent Thought: Textual
Autonomy........................................................................................................... 16
8. The Special Value of the Confucian Ethical System......................................................... 18
9. Subjective Ethics in the Confucian Text......................................................................23

Part One: The Background and Foundation of Confucian Ethical        
Rationality.......................................................................................................... 26
(1) The Hermeneutic Use of Historical Materials............................................................. 26
1. Historiographical Authenticity and Historical Figures..................................................... 26
1) The Historiographical Uncertainty of Historical Documents and
the Hermeneutic Acceptability of Historical Texts....................................................... 26
2) The Identity of Confucius as a Figure in Ethical Discourse and
the Historical Authenticity of Records about Confucius.................................................27
2. The Narrative Background of Confucius.....................................................................28
3. The Function of Narrative in Confucius’ Ethics...........................................................31
4. The Relevant Part of the Text for a Pertinent Reading....................................................35
1) The Authenticity of the Text..............................................................................35
2) The Effective or Relevant Criterion: The Ideational Consistency
of the Text.....................................................................................................36
3) The Priority of Logical Personality before Historical
Personality..................................................................................................... 37
(2) Confucian Political Ethics                                                                .............................. 40
1. The Political Ideal and Morality Signified by the Historically Remote Utopia.............................40
2. The Weaker Political Dimension in Confucian Political Ethics..............................................42
3. The Political System as  a Social Nature...................................................................... 44
1) li as Rite rather than Institution.......................................................................... 45
2) The Politico-ethical rather than the Ethico-political....................................................47
3) The Ruler as the Part of the Institutional Nature....................................................... 48
(3) The Symbolic Function of the Ritual System (li) as Social Order                      ..............50
1. The Content of “li”............................................................................................. 51
2. Attitudinal Training in li Performance: The “ching” (“Respect”) 
Mentality............................................................................................................. 52
3. The Correspondence of the Nominal Order and the li-Order:
The Essence of the Interpersonal Hierarchy......................................................................55
1) The Principle of the Name-Rectification .................................................................55
2) The Content of the Principle of the Rectification of Names........................................... 57
3) Ritual Symbolism in the Doctrine of Rectification of Names.......................................... 59
4. The Ethical Spirit of li.......................................................................................... 60
(4) The Ethical Reading of the Confucian li-Symbolism                                       .................. 62
1. The Importance of Ritual Instruments in Confucian li-Symbolism......................................... 63
2. The Constitution of Ritual Ceremonies and the Pragmatics of
the li-Doctrine.......................................................................................................65
3. Practical Ethical Technique in the li-Doctrine: A Semiotic of Ritual
1) The Pragmatic Coherence of Ritual Aspects............................................................ 66
2) The Semiotic Function of Ritual Symbols............................................................... 68
3) The Ultimate Referent of Ritual Signification: the Mental State......................................70
4. The Convergence of the Cognitional and Stimulative Functions of
the li-System: Family and Filial Piety............................................................................. 72
1) The Relational Model of Ethical Practice in li.............................................................72
2) The System of Filial Piety (hsiao)..........................................................................73

Part Two: The Pragmatic Aesthetics of Ethical Choice                                    ..................... 79
(5) The Pragmatically Epistemological Bounds of Confucian
Ethical Valuation.....................................................................................................79
1. The Natural Bounds in Ethical Reasoning: Spirits and Humanity. The Lack of a Religious Substratum  81
1) The Humanitarian Attitude towards the Ritual for Spirits............................................. 81
2) The Exclusive Concerns about the World.................................................................82
2. The Empiricist Bounds: Heaven-Fatalism and Self-decision.
The Lack of a Metaphysical Substratum........................................................................84
1) Heaven as the Index of the Bounds of Human Possibility........................................... 84
2) Heaven’s Role outside the Ethical Decision..........................................................85
3) Heaven’s Role in Maintaining Ethical Empiricism...................................................86
3. The Societal Bounds: Commitment and Withdrawl.......................................................... 87
1) The Basic Contrast between Nature and Society.........................................................88
2) The Marginal Role of the Image of the Primitive Hermit.............................................. 89
3) The A-logical Source of Ethical Choice................................................................... 90
4. The Cultural Bounds: The Civilized and the Barbarian...................................................... 91
5. The Anthropologic Bounds of Humanism: Distinction between
the Human and the Non-human...................................................................................92
6. The Minimization of Ethical Restrictions: Silence about
Race and Sex.......................................................................................................93
1) The Relevanct Aspect: The Cultural rather than the Racial.......................................... 93
2) Sex: The Ethically Irrelevant.............................................................................94
3) Confucian Ethics: The Persuasive System in the Original Text................................... 95
(6) The Structure of the Subject of Choice and the Inwardly DirectedFeatures of Confucian Ethics. Theoretical Digression I                                       ....................................................... 97
1. The Heuristic Stratification of the Subject in Choosing.................................................... 99
2. The Three Layers of the Choosing Subject: The Confucian “I”..........................................101
3. The Practicability of the Heuristic Model of the Confucian Internal Process..............................104
4. Attitudinal Mechanism: Relations, Directedness, Intention, Motivation and Pragmatic Formalism—The Basic Features of Confucian Subjective Ethics ....................................................................... 107
1) The Attitudinal Feature.....................................................................................108
2) The Motivational Feature...................................................................................108
3) The Feature of Attentional Directedness.................................................................110
4) The Formalist Feature.......................................................................................110
(7) The Schema and Strategy of Ethical Choice in the Confucian Text. Theoretical  Digression II 112
1. The Procedural Art of Dichotomous Choice............................................................... 112
1) Choice as Performed within a Limited Scope......................................................... 113
2) The Logic of Binary Choice at the Axiological
and Procedural Levels.......................................................................................114
2. Objects and Aspects of the Situation and Process of Ethical Choice.................................... 115
3. The Different Modes of the Objects Involved in the Situation and Process of Ethical Choice ..........116
4. The Framework of Ethically Choosing......................................................................... 118
1) Three Areas of Ethical Values...............................................................................119
2) The Process of Ethical Practice............................................................................ 120
3) Operational Aspects......................................................................................... 120
4) The Measure of the Effect and Energy of the Will........................................................121
5. Ethical Situations and Operational Poles...................................................................... 121
6. The Systematic Contrast of Oppositional Elements...........................................................122
(8) The Typology of the Patterns of Ethical Choice (I)                                        ................. 124
1. Establishing Ethical Devotion and Orientation (A) ........................................................... 127
a) The basic orientation of ethical choice....................................................................127
b) Establishing of the ethical will.............................................................................. 128
c) Discrimination between the genuine and the specious....................................................132
d) The styles of jen-personality.................................................................................138

2. The Self-Cultivation of the Capability to Pursue Ethical
Practice (B)........................................................................................................... 143
a) The goals and direction of learning........................................................................ 145
b) Practical ways of Confucian learning.......................................................................149
(9) The Typology of Patterns of Choice (II)                                                      ....................... 154
1. The Self in Contact with Others: External Practice (C) .....................................................154
a) Aims in contact with others............................................................................... 154
b) Ways of contacting others................................................................................. 156
c) The appropriate attitude in relation to others.......................................................... 161
2. The Ethical Aesthetics of Adversity (D) ...................................................................... 162
a) The strength of the will in adversity...................................................................... 164
b) Being without position and power in society............................................................. 165
c) Poverty....................................................................................................... 165
d) Social inferiority............................................................................................. 167
e) Fatigue and toil................................................................................................ 169
f) Political danger...............................................................................................170

Part Three: Rhetorical Features in Confucius’ Text                                                  
(10) The Semantics of Ancient Chineses Characters. A Linguistic Digression ....................................................................................................... 173
1. The Double System of Signifieds.......................................................................... 173
2. The Stroke Structure of Chinese Characters.............................................................. 174
3. The Independent Function of the Signification of the Character........................................ 177
4. The Symbolic Features of Axiological and Psychological Verbal Characters ........................... 179
(11) The Structure and Manipulation of the Virtuous Elements                              ........... 182
1. The Word Functions as the Sentence or Set of Sentences............................................... 182
2. The Constitution, Reservoir and Combination of the Verbal
Elements of Virtue (Words)..............................................................................
1) The Definition of the Verbal Elements of Virtue................................................... 184
2) The Sets of Words of Virtue......................................................................... 188
3) The Three Sections of the Reservoir of Virtuous Elements:
chih (Wisdom), jen (Benevolence) and yung (Bravery)............................................... 190
(12) The Symbolization of the Central Virtue-Character: jen                                  ................... 193
1. The Semantic Constitution of Abstract Single-Character Words......................................194
2. The Concept “jen”........................................................................................................ 195
1) The Synthetically Semantic Function of the Sign jen.............................................. 196
2) The Relevant Semes of the Confucian Concept of jen..............................................197
3) jen as the Psychological Signified.................................................................... 197
4) jen as an Abstract Entity.............................................................................. 198
5) jen as External Manifestation and Behavior.......................................................... 198
6) jen as a Man Practising the jen-goal.................................................................. 198
7) The Sign jen as a Unity of Abstract and Concrete Semes........................................... 199
3. The Function of jen............................................................................................200
(13) The Symbolic Modes of Heroic Narrative in the Confucian Text                        ........203
1. The Hermeneutic Criterion for the Chosen Narrative.................................................... 203
2. The Master Confucius........................................................................................ 205
3. The Spiritually Defiant Group............................................................................... 208
4. Two Opposite Styles of Ethical Practice and the Ideal Medium......................................... 209
1) The Image of the Outwardly Energetic Hero..........................................................209
2) The Image of the Inwardly Energetic Hero........................................................... 210
3) The Confucian Tension in Personality between Progress and
Escape in Socio-political Practice........................................................................ 211
5. The Escapist from Political Reality......................................................................... 212
6. Failure and the Decree of Heaven in Confucius’ Narrative.......................................... 214
1) Fortune and Heaven................................................................................... 214
2) More Pragmatically Functional than Theoretically Logical.......................................... 215
3) The Utility and Symbolic Value of the Term “Heaven”............................................ 216
7. The Ethical Meaning of the Special Relation between Confucius and
his Favorite Disciple Yan Hui................................................................................... 217
1) The Ethical Love between Master and Disciple........................................................ 218
2) The Functional Meaning of Yan’s Image................................................................ 219

Part Four: Confucian Ethical Philosophy                                                                 
(14) Operative Structural Strategy.............................................................................. 222
1. Operative Rationality.......................................................................................... 222
1) The Operative Scheme.................................................................................... 222
2) The Inward Delimitation of Ethical Operationality..................................................... 223
2. The Holistic-Structural Strategy.............................................................................. 224
1) The Structural Arrangement within a Limited Field................................................... 225
2) Binary Oppositions and Dichotomous Choices......................................................... 225
3) The Holistic-Structural Prescription..................................................................... 226
3. Methodological Conclusion.................................................................................... 228
(15) Ethical Individualism                                                                                      ................. 229
1. The Individualist Identity of Confucian Ethics.............................................................. 229
2. Individualist Freedom in Ethical Choice..................................................................... 230
3. Individuality as the Pre-Institutionalized Person........................................................... 231
4. Ethics with a Focus on the Evils of One’s Self: The Object and
Objective of Ethical Practice.................................................................................... 232
5. The Confrontation between the Ethical Individual and Social
Power: The Ethical Will to Cope with Obstacles............................................................... 233
1) A Permanent Model of the Conflict between the Free
Individual and Dominant Power............................................................................. 234
2) Individualism Expressed through Physical Suffering......................................... 235
3) Confucian Individual Subjectivity vs. the Over-Determination
of Objective Force: The Social, Supernatural and Metaphysical............................ 235

Section Two: The Development of Confucian Ethics. The Mencian  Philosophy of the Politico-ethical Will..                           ................................................................................................. 238
Introduction: The Political Turn of Mencian-Confucian Ethics against
Taoist Nihilism and Legalist Philosophy of Power............................................................. 239
1. The Intellectual Challenge to the Original Confucian Ethics:
Taosim as the Main Challenge of Confucian Ethics........................................................... 240
2. The Strategical Challenge to Confucian Ethical Politics................................................... 241
3. The Re-Focusing of Confucian Doctrine on the Strengthening of the Ethical Will..................... 242

Part One: The Epistemological Challenge to Confucian Ethics: Taoism and Legalism 
(1) The Original Dialogical Situation of Confucian Ethics.................................................. 246
1. The Formation of the Post-Confucian Dialogical Situation............................................ 247
2. The Principle of the Composition of Confucian Dialogical Space..................................... 248
3. Reactions to Confucian Thought in the Warring-States Period........................................ 249
4. The Historical Background.................................................................................. 251
5. The Period of Debate among the “Hundred Schools”.................................................... 252
6. The Confucian-Centered Dialogical Situations Organized in the Present Essay ................................................................................................................... 255
(2) Taoist Ethical Nihilism                                                                      ........................... 258
1. The Taoist School or Taoism.............................................................................. 258
2. Philosophical Taoism....................................................................................... 260
3. The Content of the General Term “Tao”................................................................ 262
4. Philosophical Inclinations of Taoism..................................................................... 264
1) Nature vs. Society..................................................................................... 265
2) The Ontological Principle: Non-Being................................................................ 266
3) Natural Non-Ethics vs. Social Ethics: Death and Life............................................... 267
(3) The Taoist Challenge to Epistemology of Confucian Ethics                              ................ 269
1. Axiological Negation: Anti-Confucian Value (jen)...................................................... 270
1) Negation of the Binary Differentiation between Good and Evil
or between Right and Wrong............................................................................ 270
2) The Object of Practice: Self-Love vs. Love of Others............................................. 272
2. Pragmatic Negation: No-Action or Anti-Valor (yung).................................................... 274
1) Objective Nature vs. Subjective Ego................................................................ 275
2) No-Action and Non-Action............................................................................. 275
3) The Suppression of the Spontaneity of the Ethical Will............................................ 277
3. Intellectual Negation: Anti-Wisdom (chih)............................................................... 278

4. The Relevance and Irrelevance of the Taoist Challenge to
Confucian Ethics                                                                                             ...................... 280
1) The Relevant Comparison.............................................................................. 281
2) Taoist Semantic and Logical Confusion............................................................... 282
3) The Pragmatic Taoist Character....................................................................... 283
(4) Legalist Philosophy of Power in Contrast with Confucian Political Ethics                  .......... 285
1. The Identity of the Legalist Trend.......................................................................... 286
2. Analysis of the Legalist Texts............................................................................... 290
1) Politico-Philosophical Outlook........................................................................... 290
2) The Strict and Fair Regulations of Penal Law and Rewards.......................................... 291
3) Psychological Tactics in Power Games.................................................................. 292
4) Ruler-Centrism in Political Philosophy................................................................... 292
3. Legalist Throught and Political Methods..................................................................... 292
4. The Compositional Diversity of Legalism.................................................................... 295
(5) The Legalist Strategical Challenge to Confuican Political Ethics                          ................. 298
1. Legalist Power-centrism in Confrontation with Confucian Political Ethics................................ 299
1) The Political Contrast: The Confucian “Ancient and Moralist”
Model vs. the Legalist “Modern and Utilitarian” Model................................................... 299
2) Desirable Statecraft Based on the Strict Principle of Strict
Punishment and Fair Reward vs. that Based on the li-System........................................... 300
3) Utilitarian Policy in Favor of the Ruling Few vs. Material and
Moral Benefits in Favor of the Ruled Majority.............................................................. 301
4) The Coercive Control of the Ruler over the Ruled vs. the
Moral Loyalty of the Ruled to the Ruler...................................................................... 301
2. The Historical Interpretation of the Two Trends of Political
Philosophy .......................................................................................................... 302
1) The Identity of the Pre-Ch’in Political School........................................................... 302
2) Constitutional Heterogeneity: Textual and Historical Materials...................................... 303
3) Divergence of Political Values............................................................................. 305
4) The Contrast of the Basic Elements in the Two Schools................................................ 306
5) Operative Aspects of Legalism............................................................................ 307
3. The Prototype of Totalitarianism and the Technical Existence of Absolute Power
               ............................................................................................................ 308

Part Two: The Ethical Pragmatics of the Mencian Political Will                                    
(6) The Ethico-political Turn of Confucian Doctrine: The Mencian
Philosophy of Politico-ethical Will................................................................................ 312
1. The Hermeneutic Reading of the Mencian Text............................................................. 312
1) Mencius’ Reorganization of Ethical Operations in the Face of Strengthened
    Legalist Pressure    .........................................................................................312
2) The Hermeneutic Reading of Rhetorical Exaggeration
    in the Mencian Text......................................................................................... 314
2. Mencius and His Book............................................................................................ 315
3. Mencius’ Position in Pre-Ch’in Dialogical Situations......................................................... 318
4. The Pragamtic Focus on Confucian Political Ethics........................................................... 321
1) Weakness in Political Methods and Tactics............................................................... 322
2) The First Princple of Politics: To Love and to Benefit People.......................................... 323
3) The Distinction between the Principle of Interest and the
    Principle of Righteousness.................................................................................. 325
4) The Dichotomy of the Benevolent Principle (wang-Tao) and the
    Hegenomical Principle (pa-Tao) in Politics................................................................ 328
5) The Separation of Wishes and Means:
   Mencius’ Political Rhetoric.................................................................................. 330
5. The Mencius’ Theory about the Origin of the Moral Mind................................................... 331
1) The Origin of the jen-Principle: Heaven................................................................. 331
2) Human Nature as the Origin of the Human jen-Intention............................................. 332
3) Three Different Doctrines of Human Nature............................................................. 334
4) The Wrong Motives of Political Agents................................................................... 338
5) The Epistemological Implication of Mencian Filial Piety............................................... 341
6. The Pragmatic Rhetoric of Mencian Doctrine................................................................ 343
(7) The Mencius’ Doctrine of the Establishment of Politico-ethical Will  .............................. 346
1. The Inquiry into the Theoretical Foundation of Confucian Ethical
    Faith and Will.................................................................................................. 346
1) The Logical Necessity of Moral Inwardness............................................................ 347
2) The Symbolic Role of Heaven’s Immanence: The Relationship
   of jen to Heaven......................................................................................... 347
3) The Original Metaphysical Turn: The Borderline between
    Naturalist and Metaphysical Discourses.............................................................. 350
2. The Utility of ch’i (Passion-Nature, Spirit, Breath or Air) as the
    Material Energy of Ethical Actions. Three Types of Valor............................................... 351
1) chi as the Energetic Source of Ethical Will........................................................... 351
2) yung as the Total Manifestation of Ethical Will. The Stylistics of Valor: Three Types. 352
3) The Cultivation of Ethical Energy: The ch’i-Element............................................... 353
4) The Pragmatic Metaphysics of ch’i................................................................... 355
3. The Defiant Critic of Power: The Conflicting Constitution of the Dialogical Situation
                                                     ......................................................................... 357
1) Moral Conscience vs. Political Power................................................................. 358
2) Critical Attitude vs. Obedient Attitude.............................................................. 359
3) The Independent Individual vs. the Powerful Collective........................................... 360
4) The Permanent Standard of Political Justice Hidden in the
   Traditional Political System Taken as Political Nature............................................. 361
4. The Transformation of the Ethics of Love into the Ethics of Evil
    as the Object of Political Ethics.......................................................................... 362
1) The Power-Holder: The Source of Evil and Object of Ethics...................................... 363
2) The Relation of the Ethical Critic to the Power-Holder............................................. 365
5. The Dichotomy of Moral Criticism and Political Power.................................................. 366
1) The Basic Confrontation between the Ethical Critic and the Power-Holder
                                                             .............................................................. 366
2) The Role of the Ethical Critic: The Anti-Legalist Line.............................................. 367
(8) The Mencian Pragmatic Rhetoric of Politico-ethical Will                             ................... 369
1. The Mencian Technique of Ethical Will: chih............................................................. 369
1) Individual Valor......................................................................................... 369
2) The Establishment of chih (Will, Direction)......................................................... 370
2. The Agent of chih: The shih-Type  and His Binary Choice.............................................. 371
3. Mencian Pragmatic and Rhetorical Logic or the Art of Ethical
    Inspiration: The Network of Binary Patterns............................................................ 379
1) The Positive Division between the Position of Power and other
Qualities of the Power-holder. The Attitudinal Division between
the Knowledge of the Objective Power-holder and the Valuation
of his Morality............................................................................................ 380
2) The Division between Internal Inspiration and External
Stimulation................................................................................................ 382
3) The General Division of Binary Morality............................................................ 386
4. The Abiding Significance of Confucian-Mencian Political Ethics...................................... 387
1) The Pragmatic Ethical Merits of the Original Historical Texts.................................... 387
2) The Timeless Elements of Humanist Ethics......................................................... 388
3) Operational Pragmatism in Establishing the Politico-ethical Will
.............................................................................................................. 391
(9) The Energetic Formalism of the Ethical Will: ch’eng                                       ................ 393
1. The Three Zones of Cardinal Virtues..................................................................... 394 
2. The Source of the Energetics of the Ethical Will: ch’eng as the Sign of Will and Virtue
                         .............................................................................................. 395
3. The Volitional Aesthetics of ch’eng ..................................................................... 396
1) The Attributes of ch’eng............................................................................. 397
2) The Operation of ch’eng............................................................................. 398
3) The Identity of ch’eng............................................................................... 399
4. The Aesthetics of ch’eng................................................................................. 400
FOREWORD Foreword  by B. Waldenfels
Intercultural philosophy does not take its starting point from the comparison of different cultures from a neutral point of view, it instead arises through the confrontation with certain features of another culture which distance the philosopher from his or her own tradition, compelling it to be  regarded  a new way. In dealing with the origins of Confucian ethics, You-Zheng Li does exactly this. His extensive training m Western hermeneutics and semiotics enables him to reformulate the set of ethical customs, rituals, rules and strategies formulated 250O years ago in ancient China. In contrast to Western ethics, which are thoroughly penetrated by the divine commands of the Judeo-Christian tradition and mainly characterized by the search for the practical good and one's own happiness begun m Greek and Roman philosophy, Chinese ethics originated and developed largely outside the domains of religion and philosophy. In attempting to elaborate the specific nature of these ethics, the author navigates between Scylla and Charybdis. He seeks to avoid the one extreme of merely repeating from the inside what has already been said, with its effective reduction of ethical theory to certain reflexes of practical life. Just as well, however, he tries to avoid the other extreme of measuring ancient traditions by external standards and therewith exchanging old prejudices for new ones. He much rather tries to elucidate the foundation of Chinese ethics by using a certain language and a certain method which, as only one language and one method among others, does not aver to exhaust the inherent sense and the efficacious demand of what has been or is still being lived out and practiced.
Cross-cultural studies imply that we learn from each other. For its partWestern thinking has much to gain from this kind of Chinese scholarship. This is especially true for those of us who cannot remain satisfied with the mere analysis of moral rules and value systems, but instead require a genealogy of morals in the line of Nietzsche, Levinas and Foucault. It also holds for those of us who follow Husserl and Schuetz in returning to the anonymity of the everyday world which underlies - and is richer than - all moral systems and ethical theories, just as it does for those of us who are interested in the aesthetic aspects of ethics, the cultural importance of writing and the interplay of ethics and politics. All of us having these needs and interests can learn a great deal from the excursion into a world of cultural others.
Bochum, October 1996                  
Bernhard Waldenfels (The Former President of German Phenomenology Association)
I wish to express my sincere thanks to the many persons who have assisted me during the writing, editing and publication of these works and to the institutions which made it all possible.
The long-standing and generous support of the German Volkswagen-Stiftung, which underwrote this project from its inception to its completion over the past five years, alone allowed me to carry out this project. The willingness of the Stiftung to promote such interdisciplinary and cross-cultural research truly deserves special praise. Mr. Günter Dege of the Stiftung provided friendly support in resolving several problematic issues.
Dr. Orrin F. Summerell (Bochum) pa­tiently cor­rected my English and offered many useful suggestions.
Prof. Dr. Michael Lackner (Göttingen) brought this project into the China Program of the Volkswagen-Stiftung in 1990. Without his vigorous advancement and continuous assistance, it could not have been realized. Prof. Dr. Elmar Holenstein (Zürich) kindly secured my affiliation with the Ruhr-Universität Bochum. Prof. Dr. Bernhard Waldenfels (Bochum) sponsored me in the Institut für Philosophie and devoted much time and attention to the project. His insights into the cultural “other” are an important reference point for my reflections on Oriental topics. Mrs. Gudrun Sikora and Mrs. Annemarie Ernst of the Institut für Philosophie placidly solved numerous practical problems.
Madame P. Gentot (MSH, Paris), Profs. Liu Shu-hsian (Hong Kong), Keiji Asanuma (Tokyo), Yoshihiko Ikegami (Tokyo), Fu Pei-jung (Taipei) and Richard Rorty (Charlottesville) enabled me to inform myself of current scholarship through research visits at their universities.
Bochum-Stiepel, July 1996                                    Youzheng Li
1. Ethical Situations and Ethics
Ethical situations are innately rooted in the historical and cultural types of human social organizations. The ethical, being generally de?ned by the interpersonal just relationship, attains empirical universality and intellectual operationability. As the thought about and study of ethical situations, ethics has existed in various cultural and academic forms in different social traditions throughout human history. On one hand, there is a universal ethical situation shared by all historical-social-cultural collectives due to the ubiquitous character of the same kind of interpersonal relations logically implied in all communities. On the other hand, however, the same ethical “hardware” is inserted in the different socio-cultural organizations which assume different intellectual and academic forms. Therefore, the same ethical situation exists and functions in different academical-cultural contexts. Because we have various intellectual histories, we have different types of ethics. The existent types of “ethics,” however, are only social-cultural-academic compounds formed in different histories.
The Western term “the ethical” itself has been historically de?ned within Mediterranean-European intellectual history. Ethics as a discipline is a constituent part of the European academic conglomeration of philosophy, religion and law. What we said about the basic universal ethical situation is a result of the scienti?c analysis of human ethical phenomena. There is a link between the basic ethical situation and the divergence of the historical typology of ethical thought. The former is shared by all human communities, while the latter contains different intellectual compositions. We must approach the common ethical situation and differing ethical thought simultaneously in order to gain a more precise and more complete topography of the ethical culture of mankind. For this reason, we need to undertake a comparative ethical study.
2. The Chinese Ethical Situation and Chinese Ethical Thought
Chinese ethical culture has a special signi?cance for our present-day understanding of the general human ethical situation and politico-ethical thought despite its cultural heterogeneity in comparison with that of the Western tradition.
1) Because of its less developed academic history in comparison with Greek civilization, Chinese ancient culture presents a more empirically and directly formulated ethical situation and thought. Owing to its fewer philosophically and religiously directed, primitive Chinese ethics can offer a more direct picture of the above-mentioned ethical hardware and more clearly present a basic model of ethical relations which can be relevant to all communities in the world. It provides a very interesting alien example for Western ethics and political philosophy.
2) Because of its different socio-political structure, ancient Chinese ethics presents a combination of the ethical and socio-political dimensions which differs from the Western one. Thus, we can see different types of politico-ethical operations in human history. Owing to its uniquely long-standing and continuous civilization over 3000 years, China challenges many Western ethical experiences which have been taken as universally relevant. In fact, the latter have been shaped in a special Greek-Christian framework which is completely lacking in Chinese intellectual history. China has its own successful socio-politico and cultural history which contains its own rich ethical experience and thought.
3. Present-day Insight into Ethical Study
The present study of an ancient ethical culture takes the form of an intellectual dialogue between a modern attitude and approach and the historical material. The result of the study naturally depends more on the adopted attitude and approach than on the historical texts.
1) The problem of approach is connected with academic categories and disciplines. In this context, we meet with a customary academic classi?cation of (Western) ethics and Sinology. In the West, Chinese studies have been historically formed in a Western academic framework. This background inclines Chinese ethical studies in a historical-philological direction. Concretely, we ?rst meet with the established Western academic ?eld of Confucianism or Neo-confucianism. In my opinion, despite the rapid development in Sinology based on a Western-Chinese comparative philosophy, Sinology is not yet a constituent part of the Western humanities. The heterogeneous structure of Chinese historical documents as an alien textual system is one main reason for the low level of communication between Western and Chinese humanities. A more substantial obstacle for the Western-Chinese ethical dialogue with reference to Confucianist ethics lies in the fact that the prevalent Sinological approach, because of its academic link with related studies in modern China, adopts the traditional Chinese academic system based on medieval Chinese metaphysics. In Chinese ethical history, however, there is an evident division between the original non-philosophical ethics (the original Confucian and other Pre-Ch’in thought) and the later Buddhist/Taoist philosophical ethics (Sung-Ming-Confucianism). The latter transforms the more empirical type of the former into a more sophisticatedly mixed form, making its structure less clear. On the other hand, the traditional Chinese philosophical context is much too heterogeneous in its structure when compared with Western ethics and its theoretical basis. Therefore, there is a technical obstacle for the ethical dialogue between Western and Confucian/Confucianist ethics: they use different systems of semantic units, reasoning patterns and intellectual and academic frameworks in their respective discourses. The Western philosophical system might lead scholars to suspect less intelligibility and less theoretical merits to inhere in the Chinese intellectual system. A key point lies in the fact that these two heterogeneously structured philosophical systems are not involved in direct dialogue with their traditionally shaped terminologies and logic. Semiotico-anthropologically speaking, Sinology in the West requires a semantic transformation in order to make it more meaningfully communicable with Western systems. The reason is that modern Western scienti?c language maintains an intellectual continuity with its tradition, while by contrast modern Chinese scienti?c language has suffered a “semantic and institutional break” from its own traditions.
2) In the contemporary Western humanities, we see another kind of “epistemological turn” owing to the development since the 1960’s of interdisciplinary inquiries in the social and human sciences. This new development has led to a readjustment or rearrangement of the academic topography and its methodology. In this context, hermeneutics and semiotics have played an increasingly important role. Both approaches start with re-designing the chosen set of problematics. Beginning with conventional historical and scienti?c textual systems, they attempt to represent the questions and focuses of the new epistemological perspective by reformulating the traditional expressions. For ethical study, this means that we need to rearrange the relations of the ethical system with its traditional academic or disciplinary context. The novelty of this scholarly direction lies in its getting rid of the traditional academic framework of a subject matter. From a comparative point of view, the rearrangement of the related academic connections is necessary because we cannot make the theory of one tradition the foundation for treating the problems of another tradition. Non-Western ethical thought and situations cannot be analyzed in terms of Western ethical theories. They have, as we said above, different academic backgrounds.
3) Ethical study in the different humanities is a function of its intellectual and socio-historical determinations. Before handling its wider connection with other branches of the social and human sciences, we shall ?rst precisely describe the basic ethical phenomenon. Then we shall organize a minimal academic complex around the ethical. The content of the academic complex depends on different historical and cultural conditions. If the Greek ethical complex mainly contains ethical, philosophical and legal-political dimensions, with the Christian adding the theological, the Chinese ethical complex contains ethical, political and ideological dimensions. The academic complex refers to the minimal link between the ethical and the other intellectual dimensions. The sociological dimension, however, is curiously weaker than many people assume. The relevance of the chosen ?eld can only be decided by the historical documents available. All anthropologico-sociological efforts to interpret ancient Chinese thought have been limited by a lack of reliable or available historical materials. (This forms a basic difference between an anthropological study of existing primitive societies and a sociological study of ancient, less-developed societies.) Our present study of ancient Chinese ethics is related to a specially chosen scope.
4. The Main Points of the Present Study of Ancient Chinese Ethical Thought and Culture
There are two kinds of comparative study in the humanities: dialogue between different historical materials on a methodological basis and dialogue between a modern approach and historical material. The present study belongs to the latter type. It has the following characteristics and purposes:
1) As part of a general concern with human ethical situations, the present study attempts to paint a more precise picture of the original ethical situation and ethical thought at ancient Chinese history, focusing on compositional and functional descriptions which should be interculturally signi?cant.
2) A basic division in treating the historical materials is made between the original ethical thought of the less despotic pre-Ch’in period and the historical performance of this ethical thought in the more despotic period of the Ch’in-Han dynasties. This division is related not only to a chronological demarcation, but moreover to the constitutional divergence of ethical phenomena in the ancient Chinese intellectual world. Therefore, we can see on one hand the basic structure of original Chinese ethical thought and on the other hand the institutional manipulation of the ethical elements in the historical process. The chosen scope not only covers Chinese intellectual history, but also addresses the formative process of Chinese ethical culture in both its static-intellectual and dynamic-historical contents.
3) If the present study is a modern analytical description of historical thought, its result forms a necessary part of human ethical experience. Thus, despite their different manifestations and backgrounds, the structurally and functionally described ethical relations can be made universally intelligible and instructive. Its intelligibility is linked with modern human situations since some basic interpersonal moral relations have formed a permanent model throughout human history. (Strict ethical relativism could be mitigated by the semiotic conception that the ethical object exists not in some one-dimensional context, but rather in a semantically and institutionally structured compound.) Because of its more empirical accessibility due to the pragmatic character of ancient Chinese culture, the Chinese example can present a positively or empirically manifested human ethical situation illuminating to non-Chinese culture as well. In my view, the time is ripe for Western readers to undertake a more meaningful dialogue with this most important non-Western ethical source.
4) In brief, the present study of the archetype of ancient Chinese ethics and ideology plays a double role: it presents the more genuine structure and process of original Chinese ethical culture; and it reveals the universally existing conditions of ethical relationships embodied in the Chinese historical material. In the latter sense, the anatomy of the Chinese historical texts is applied as a means for disclosing the empirical essence of human ethical situations.
5. Outline of the Present Study
This study consists of three independent, yet interconnected sections: 1) Confucian ethics; 2) post-Confucian ethics; and 3) Han-Confucianist ideology.
1) It offers a description of the composition and function of the ethical text of Confucius. This secular Chinese “Bible” has been regarded as the most important book in Chinese culture. Most of the content has maintained its lasting and strong impact on the Chinese mind until today. The analysis indicates the universal applicability of some of the basic statements of Confucius in our era, in which we can more pertinently and completely grasp the structure of his thought although it is unsystematically formulated. The semiotic approach is partly employed here in order to reformulate more exactly the intellectual units and logical nexus of the ethical text which presents, 2500 years ago, a national archetype of ethical personality with deep cultural implications. The weak link of Confucian ethics with legal and political rationality indicates its essential character or defect. As a matter of fact, Confucius’ the Analects presents an ethical aesthetics of basic ethical choices in situation of historical adversity.
2) The pre-Ch’in ethical thought after Confucius is represented by three main schools: the Taoist, the Legalist and the Mencian-Confucian. The relation of these three schools to the original Confucian text is treated more structurally than historically. The historical arrangement is also an intellectual situation involving ethical logic. If the ?rst two schools challenge the original Confucian ethics through their ethical nihilism and political overlordship, respectively, the Mencian initiates an important new turn along the Confucian line which we might call an ethics of political will. In general, the Mencian-variant complements the original Confucian text with a sharper focus on political evil and the subjective reaction towards political evil.
The above two sections compose the ?rst volume of this study.
3) The ?nal section, namely the second volume, shows how the original Chinese ethical thought blends with the politico-historical background of the Han totalitarian system so as to de?ne a completely new intellectual horizon in Chinese history. The Chinese academic world was shaped during this period; and Confucian ethics became one factor operating in a multiply constituted socio-intellectual context. The ideological manipulation of cultural elements for the sake of strengthening despotic power describe a historically true picture about the function and operation of various ethical factors. The original myth of spiritual nationalism was also formed in this period. This part of the study presents a unique topography of the Han-Confucianist complex of “ethics, ideology and academics.” The Han dynasty is the most important period for Chinese civilization because it laid an unchanged and stable institutional foundation and a pragmatic model for the subsequent dynasties and culture of two thousand years. In the Han-Confucianist system, the original Confucian thought played a paradoxical role – whether as a social collaborator or as a spiritual challenger. The confusing and controversial relation between the pre-Ch’in-Han original Confucian thought and Han-Confucianism receives an original treatment in our book. Thus, the Confucian (“K’ung-Meng”, or Confucius-Mencius) and the Confucianist (“ju-chia”, or ju-scholarship) are clearly divided into two separate cultural phenomena.
6. The Hermeneutico-Semiotic Approach
We use the term “hermeneutic” in a ?exible way that refers to the modern interpretation of historical texts as the product of a dialogue between China and the West, between modernity and antiquity, and between theory and practice. Such a historiographical hermeneutic approach is scienti?cally linked to a semiotic one which focuses more on the signi?cative processes of cultural objects. Because of its chosen scope and ?xed purpose, our analysis is limited to the structural and functional descriptions of the historical situations and thoughts expressed in the historical texts. Our main goal is to more objectively present the depicted objects themselves without allowing additional intellectual intrusions into our hermeneutico-semiotic descriptions. In saying that our approach is more hermeneutic than historical, we focus on the interpretative rationality of the socio-historical facts, which can hardly be recovered through simply reading the available historical materials. The intelligibility of the historical texts appears through an effective ancient-modern dialogue. We hope the rearranged intellectual relations of the ancient intellectual world can more precisely represent an historically extant situation. The more important aim of our approach is to promote a more pertinent understanding of the historical textual system for our present-day readers.
A semiotic approach is employed in linguistically and pragmatically semantic, academically institutional and cultural-ideological analyses. This makes the present study different from conventional readings of Chinese history and thought. Its ?rst aim lies in having its described objects correspond more effectively to the original historical and textual situations by allowing the historical texts and its objects to represent themselves in a structural and functional way.
As a part of our historiographically semantic analysis, traditional Chinese philology has been extensively consulted. Most of the references are drawn from contemporary Chinese historians whose historical-textual criticism belongs to the general ?eld of historiographical semiotics – particularly the work of the distinguished historian Ku Chieh-kang, who could be regarded as the traditional type of historical semiotician in our century. By contrast, our study refers less to philosophical re?ections on the subject than does most contemporary scholarship. On one hand, the ancient Chinese ethical-academical-ideological complex contains few genuinely philosophical topics; on the other hand, according to the point of view of the present author, ethical discourse must avoid a philosophy-centered interpretation in order to reveal more precisely an historical ethical-ideological autonomy in history. Despite its preparation for profound dialogue with Western scholarship, the present discussion avoids direct cross-reference between Western and Chinese thought in order to maintain the substantial and stylistic coherence of its analytically descriptive discourse, which is intended to interest both Western and non-Western readers.
This study has been intensively carried out during the ?rst half of the 1990’s, but the related preparation can be traced back to a much longer period over 30 years. It is the result of my own ethical thinking and Chinese-Western comparative studies, including observations of actual socio-political life in both China and the West. (Ethical aspect has a closer reference to social reality than do the other humanities.) It was during this time, especially after ?nishing a separate study of ethical theories, that I worked out the guiding principle and the chosen themes of this work. A subjective ethics based on operational rationality and an ethical, political and ideological complex based on the interaction between political power and intellectual activities have been used to form the theoretical framework for treating these historical and ethical subjects more relevantly. The present study of classical Chinese topics intends to help refocus our ethical topography at the end of the 20th century.

SECTION ONE: Confucius’ Ethical System

INTRODUCTION: The Aesthetics of Ethical Choice
1. The Significance of Confucian Ethical Thought and Obstructions in Ethical Dialogue
In the 3000 years of Chinese written history, Confucius’ Analects stand as the first book “written” by private individuals; and it has remained the most important text among the vast reservoir of written volumes in China. Its unparalleled significance can be esteemed from any perspective in Chinese sociocultural history. It is before all else a book about morality and ethics. The Confucian ethical thought which it contains has become the most abiding and influential pathos in the Chinese mentality. This historical fact alone makes the work appealing to everyone who is interested in the socio-cultural history of mankind. This is not the reason, however, why we will treat it once again in an international context, so many discussions of it having been published in the West in the past 100 years. Since the 1960’s, when Sinological studies of Confucian thought became more active, a large number of books have appeared in the West about Confucian or Neo-Confucian thought as seen from a variety of modern approaches, including the philosophical. In my opinion, however, many of these writings have been limited by two deeply rooted difficulties which impinge upon all communication between Chinese and Western ethics.
The first of these is a philological limitation. As is the case with a traditional poem, anyone having the proper intellectual training can feel its attraction and significance. In this sense, the Analects can be appreciated by both Chinese and Western readers as long as they are familiar enough with the related cultural background. Many Western translations of and annotations to the book which have left a positive mark among Western readers reflect a general understanding of the work. Such an achievement, however, remains at the common cultivational level similar to that of the past 2000 years in China; it is still not a theoretically academic result in the modern sense. The Analects can appeal to traditionally trained readers of any nationality, just as the Bible or other foreign religious books can affect Chinese readers. A discussion inserted in common intellectual history need only present a historical context for the text as a historical entity used under various historical conditions. Such a study can describe the social history of the interaction between an historical people and the text without, however, touching upon the innate mechanism of the ethical system. In a word, the historical content of the text cannot be theoretically grasped merely in historical terms. Instead, the historical factors must be treated as the bearers of ethical implications perceived within the ethical system itself.
The other kind of difficulty appears in the work done by Western Sinologists and philosophers from the perspective of modern philosophical and sociological approaches. Both attempt to handle the subject from a more theoretical position and explore the theoretical meaning of Confucian or Neo-Confucian thought with reference to modern society and scholarship. These attempts indeed increase our understanding of the general meaning of Confucian ethics in modern world. But these basically philosophy-centered comparative studies are faced with the problem of the semantical and conceptual commensurability of the Chinese and Western academic worlds. The divergence between Chinese and Western philosophies involves not only their substantial content, but also the form and formulations of their expressions and arguments. The different semantical organization of the two intellectual traditions is also entangled in a heterogeneity of categorisation and patterns of reasoning. In brief, the basic intelligible frameworks, particularly the metaphysics, of the two intellectual traditions are too divergent to make possible a meaningful dialogue between them.
The seemingly more reliable approach in this field seems to be the anthropological-sociological one, which is able to establish a common ground for the effective comparison of different cultural manifestations. Unfortunately, this more scientific description is also limited by the difference in status of the documents available for both modern primitive or civilised societies and ancient, historically existent societies. The former can be the object of direct observation and examination, for the latter can only be the object of textual examination: the historically observable objects have already disappeared. We cannot equate the two kinds of social object with each other merely through directly referring to the content contained in the historical texts. The weakness of both Weber’s and Granet’s studies about ancient Chinese society is due to this conceptual obscurity of the object of their analysis. (Cf. Youzheng Li 1995, 522)
In general, the prevalent weaknesses of the modern study of Confucian ethics can be summarised in the following points:
a) The denotational and connotational meaning of the original words are not clearly distinguished, despite the purely empirical feature of Confucian discourse.
b) There is confusion about the implications of the original words in connection with different historical schools of Confucian thought - a confusion between the ethical and the philosophical.
c) There is no preliminary examination of recent epistemological changes in semantic scholarship.
d) The professionalism in Confucianist scholarship has been based on the academic framework shaped in Western scholarly history concerning non-Western cultures, whose historically shaped technical requirements have displaced the real desideratum of this scholarship.
The terms “ethical” and “philosophical “, which are borrowed from Western intellectual history, should be re-defined in reference to our discourse in this book. We shall use these terms (whether in their English or Chinese forms ) to describe Confucian thought in a way different from normal Western usage. The related semantic readjustment will be favorable for a more effective dialogue between Chinese and Western thought.
2. The Semiotic Attitude to our Object: The Structure of the Text
The present study posits its starting point on the basis of two semiotic considerations called semiotic. First, as the modern anthropological approach tells us, we should protect the entirety or original identity of our historical object. We should present it as it is in itself before drawing any theoretical inferences from it. This presentation of the original object permits us to make use of a scientific instrument which assists rather than obstructs the valid presentation of the object. What is the presentation of an object? That depends on our perceptive organ: it can be a natural one, providing us with a natural or intuitive angle; or it can be an artificial one, like what we have available through a telescope or microscope. In our case, semiotics can be taken as a methodological microscope for textual analysis. It can help enlarge and articulate the original object. Nevertheless, the same object can yield to different presentations because of different conceptual instruments: it can offer different aspects to different viewpoints while still maintaining the same constitutive originality. Likewise, the same constitutive originality can afford different presentations to different reading devices, each of which can maintain or realize the same originality at different levels or to various degrees. Concretely, the structural-semiotic attitude and approach can help enrich the original presentation of the textual object with different structural details. This stage of semiotic study is satisfied with a semantically constitutive presentation without directly engaging further scientific procedures.
This preliminary step proves helpful for representing the ambiguously composed and formulated ancient objects of those non-Western histories which are traditionally weaker in analytical and scientific manifestations. Meanwhile, the hermeneutic approach to alien historical situations through reading historical texts must be combined with the semiotic technique of representing the structure of the object. We meet with a confrontation between the modern and the ancient and on the other hand with that between the scientific and the traditionally humanitarian. A hermeneutico-semiotic attitude can handle at once the semantic, compositional, institutional and historical dimensions of its object. By means of such a procedure, we hope to articulate more clearly our own object. In the present study, however, our attitude in and strategy of analyzing Confucian ethics are only arranged at a general level; the aim is to disclose the basic structure and function of primitive Chinese ethics. It is not a project which involves the semiotic reading of the original texts.
3. The Historical Constitution of the Ethical Text and the Related Disciplines for our Analysis
An historical text cannot be treated merely in a formalist manner. It also contains a substantial dimension: its content. The Analects is a book belonging to the area of ethics, or morality in an empirical sense. The ethical study in our project focuses on a genealogical inquiry into an historical discipline in terms of modern semiotics. The academic area associated with the ethical object should undergo a similar semiotic-compositional analysis which contains both semantic and historical aspects. In the present case, there are two main problems: one concerns the changing situation of the discipline of ethics itself in modern academics; the other involves the different intellectual and academic compositions of Chinese and Western moral phenomena. In treating Confucian ethics, we shall first solve the compositional problems of the discipline of ethics. We shall then arrive at the specific result of the original Chinese ethical composition in its logical identity before meeting with the philosophical constructions of both China and the West. This constitutional purity is not only a historical fact but also a function of its intellectual status. Hence, we shall first hermeneutically define the intellectual status of Confucian thought.
The understanding of the especially positive identity of the ethical dimension in intellectual history helps us to find the intellectual totality of Confucian ethics existing in the original text of the Analects. Therefore, the anatomy of the text can also afford a complete presentation of its ethical thought. In this regard, our present discussions are related to our especially chosen point of view about ethical scholarship in general, although the latter cannot be handled simultaneously in this context.
4. The Dialogical Barriers Resulting from Two Different Disciplinary Compositions in Chinese and Western Academic Histories
At this point, we arrive at an even more delicate and complicated difficulty in the Western-Chinese ethical dialogue, one which directly obstructs the Western intellectual valuation of Confucian ethics. The Western underestimation of the scholarly and practical merits of Confucian ethics is most of all due to the different composition of ethical thought in the Western and Chinese intellectual traditions. Judged in accordance with conventional points of Western ethics, the ethical aspects of Confucian thought must seem untheoretical, less systematic and less scholarly founded. This opinion is based on a Western-ethical centrism which itself must be re-examined in our times. An interdisciplinary semiotic approach, however, is conducive to the de-philosophizing line of the humanities, including ethics. The traditional ethical framework shaped around Western moral philosophy can be no longer regarded as the necessary foundation of ethical reflection. In general, there are four academic compounds in Western ethics which reveal it to be less autonomous in comparison with original Chinese ethics, which is centered on interpersonal justice and subjective decision.
1) The intellectual blend of interpersonal justice and individual happiness in Greek ethics.
In both Plato’s and Aristotle’s ethics, we find a synthetic discussion of practically connected but theoretically separated questions. There is an epistemological split between two kinds of question about the propriety of ethical choice; however, they are united in searching for a happiness which in fact consists of two different contents: the sensuous and spiritual. In the Western tradition, individual happiness and social justice are supposed to be pragmatically unified. We may say this is a legal-centered direction in ethical discussion.
In this light, we can understand Maspero’s comment about the Confucian system that its “... principal characteristic is that of being a system of social rather than personal ethics. Man is never considered in himself here, but always in his relations with society, as master or as subject. The perfecting of each individual appears in it only secondary,...” (Maspero 1978, 293) Maspero judges Chinese “ethics” in terms of a Western ethics containing not one but instead two spheres. The Confucian “parenthesization” of the purely personal aspect, however, allows for a more consistent system of ethical reasoning. In fact, in the Analects the above-mentioned two kinds of happiness can and must be separated in order to maintain their epistemological autonomy (although, of course, this occurs in a practical way in the Confucian ethical mentality)
2) The practical blend between the ethical and the legal.
The stronger instrumental rationality of the West displays from its very beginnings in Greek thought a pragmatic capability to turn the ethical ideal into social practice. Thus, we find a quite developed political philosophy and political science completely absent from ancient Chinese ethical thought. In it, however, a theoretical short-circuit combines the ethical and the legal. The ethical idea is supposed to be socially applicable - otherwise it is reduced to something utopian. This sociologically centered ethical pragmatism provides on one hand the origin of the institutional progress of Western civilization, but on the other hand it reduces the ethical dimension to its legal realization with respect to both subjective ethics and ethical values, namely, moral values which can be transformed into social-political-legal norms and rules, even as it reduces the ethical choice of the subject to the legality of behavior. This epistemological reduction has a double nature, moving from the psychological to the social and from notional value to behavioral rule.
This distinction is more crucial than others in connection with the Western-Chinese philosophical dialogue. In the Western tradition, there has been a more successful unification between theory and practice. In general, ideal theory and its social realization should be considered coherently. In fact, however, there are several layers in this unified process: the axiological, the methodological, the subjective and the cultural. In particular, subjective attitude and social realization evidently belong to two different spheres. Consequently, we can understand why Hsiao Kung-ch’uan said, “Confucius was a great political thinker but an unsuccessful political reformer. Both his spiritual greatness and his failure lie in the attitude of doing what which cannot be done.” (Hsiao 1965, 55) Here, however, we need to change the term “political” to “ethical.” The pan-legal infeasibility of ethical thought does not prove the inferiority of ethical reasoning, whose theoretical merit requires a different criterion.
3) The religious source of the ethical reasoning
Despite the evident humanist style of Greek ethical thought, the Western ethical tradition as a whole, particularly since the inception of Christianity, cannot be separated from its religious background. While in original Chinese ethics the religious aspect could be reduced to a negligibly minimal basis. Chinese intellectual history, including its ethical component, is basically non-religious. And the Confucian ethics itself is the most non-religious among all strains of Chinese ethics. In this regard, we meet with a confrontation between China and the West concerning the source and foundation of ethical strength. According to our more relevant definition, the religious and the ethical aspect can and must be separated. This allows us to see the particularly scholarly merits of Confucian ethics in view of its “purely ethical” composition. This intellectual fact is of great anthropological significance. It is the Analects which uniquely preserves an anthropocentrist and empirically composed codex of ethical teachings in human history.
4) The Metaphysical Foundation of Western Ethics
The characteristic tendency to blend the ethical and the metaphysical in Western ethical history renders the ethically theoretical equivalent to the ethically metaphysical. As a result, Western ethics has become a special discipline innate to the Western metaphysical tradition, which has undergone serious challenges in our time. According to Western rationality, the ethical phenomenon has a metaphysical foundation which secures its theoretical position. The ethical aspect and the metaphysical or philosophical aspects became mixed, thus blurring the identity of ethical autonomy. With the apparent lack of a theoretical, philosophical or metaphysical background, Confucian thought presents a more “innate and basic” aspect of the ethical dimension of human life. This non-metaphysical tendency does not prove to be the less theoretical contribution of Confucian ethics on the contrary, it simply helps to disclose more clearly the genuine theoretical potential of ethical reasoning. It becomes evident that there is a basic realm in human life, called the ethical, which is in essence empirical and positive in the same sense that political terror and commercial lust, for example, are completely empirical.
5. The Scope of Basic Ethical Problems
Based on our explanation above, we can make first a basic distinction between an inner or basic ethics and an expanded or derived ethics. The former is linked with all human societies, while the latter, which includes the former, is linked with different cultural and historical conditions. The present study attempts to outline the scope of the former through introducing an effective Chinese historical example which can be regarded as an archetype of the basic human ethics containing both positive and negative aspects.
A basic ethics (ethics 1) contains the following parts:
a) The ethical value system in connection with just interpersonal relationships.
b) The individual’s attitude towards a).
c) The training or methods for realizing b).
d) Wisdom or the art of judging a), b) and c).
These components of the ethical can be said to constitute the minimally necessary scope of the basic ethics containing two elements: social value and individual attitude. Because the former can be ascertained more scientifically or rationally, we can say that the crucial element of ethics is subjective activity, or one related to subjective choice in life. The issue is how we can justifiably connect this element logically with other theoretical realms. The historically confirmed case of the Confucian system reveals a permanently and universally existing dimension of human life whose “logical” autonomy is rooted in the basic nature of society. In other words, the ethical autonomy (ethics 1), despite its actual existence in any society, is usually intertwined with other social and intellectual layers shaped in different cultural systems (ethics 2). It is precisely because of the less theoretical tendency of Chinese pre-Ch’in thought makes it possible to see this universal layer of ethics 1 in its more independent existence
Expanded ethics (ethics 2) can have different alternative arrangements and scopes. The primarily expanded scope must contain at least the following parts:
e) The external social methods for realizing a) (e.g., political philosophy and science, a legal system, technology).
f) The theoretical elaboration of a) (e.g., philosophy of life, moral philosophy, metaphysics, theology)
The demarcation of ethics 1 and ethics 2 is not absolute, for two scopes overlap in various cultural traditions. In Confucian ethics, however, we find a more purely composed arrangement of the basic ethical topics. Therefore, it contains quite few elements of ethics 2. When Schwartz says, “... Confucius provides us with no specific method for achieving the goal” (Schwartz 1985, 90) and “We have the radical rigorism of Plato and what looks like the more relaxed moral optimism of Confucius” (ibid., 97), he merely indicates that Confucian ethics lacks part “e.” In place of its shortages in ethics 2, Confucian thought exhibits greater merit in ethics 1.
6. The Theoretical Relevance of Confucian Ethics
It is obvious that the Confucian text is not a theoretical one, especially in comparison with Greek ethical discussions. The modern Chinese Neo-Confucianist philosopher Hsiung Shih-li, however, posits that “Confucius must have articulated a profound theory, but only a few people had the chance to hear it. The recorders of the Analects were very honest, for they only noted down what they actually heard.” (Hsiung 1962, v. 1, 3) Such an unfounded statement cannot contradict the fact that the Analects is a pre-theoretically formulated text. Furthermore, in his own philosophical systems Hsiung actually maintains that the Book of Changes of the Han is the theoretical work by Confucius. This is a typical distortion by modern Confucianist philosophers of the character of Confucian ethics. It is true that the Confucian text has nothing to do with theoretical language. Nevertheless, this fact does not mean that it lacks profound theoretical significance. The intellectual identity of the Analects demands the appropriate frameworks for appreciating its historiographical and theoretical dimensions.
If social and intellectual life can be compared to the synthetic overlapping and accumulation of different constituent layers, then its more elaborately spiritual and the more positively empirical aspects can exist in the same historical process. In the spiritual arena there can exist the more abstract and the more concrete aspects, the more ideational and the more tangible. The latter is by no means less theoretically significant in human life. With its less elaborate intellectual structure in comparison to Western ethics, original Chinese ethics can reveal some more relevant aspects which may enrich the entire picture of human moral life. From this perspective, we should pay more attention to the relevant presentation of Confucian ethics as displaying the essence of the ethical relations of any human society. In less complicated system, we can see the more relevant ethical relations.
The theoretical merit of this enterprise is decided by the nature of the subject matter, ranging from the more abstract to the more concrete. It cannot be valued merely on the basis of the formal complicity of the related discourse. The only criterion is that of the relevance of the theoretical discourse to the reality concerned. Sometimes the simpler expression can be more theoretically profound than the more complicated expression, especially if the latter is less relevant. It is interesting to note that the ethical relations of mankind appear to be relatively simpler than many other social relations, once their axiological elements are clearly defined.
This would be the place for us to solve the three big questions about Confucian thought raised by Ku Chieh-kang decades ago. He asked:
a) How can Confucius’ thought be relevant in our era, since Confucius himself was inclined toward the old morality ?
b) How could Confucius’ ethics originating in the Spring and Autumn period be applied to different social systems after the Ch’in-Han dynasties ?
c) Why were the reformers Shang Yang and Wang An-shih unable to make their reforms succeed and were defeated by the predominating Confucianist politicians ? (Ku 1963, v. 2, 144)
The last question will be solved in another volume about Han-Confucianism. We can provisionally mention, however, that the historical terms “Legalist,” “reformist” and “Confucianist” are by no means semantically identical. Each term can contain different elements, while different terms can also contain the same element. In general, after the Ch’in-Han dynasties ,the distinction between the Confucian and the Legalist is related more to political policies than to principles of political philosophy. Similarly, the second question is also bound up with the changing signifieds. The fact of their being used or applied is connected more with the user or applier than with the used or applied matter.
The first question is most important for us in the present context. The Analects has attained an incomparably abiding and universal acceptance among Chinese intellectuals, including contemporary critics of traditional Chinese scholarship and politics. The answer to the question of the relevance of Confucius’ thought is simply that the ethical dimension can persist or function separately from other “practically” related dimensions such as the political, legal, philosophical, social and even cultural. The persistent appeal of Confucian ethics resides precisely in the fact that it is limited in its intellectually and practically relevant scope with reference to all possible external contexts. Its lasting pertinence follows from this self-restriction, which itself is linked with basic human experience. There is something permanently stable implied in human existence which becomes the empirically reliable basis of the ethical ideal.
An actual confirmation of the above statement may be found in the acceptance of the Confucian text by different readers who have different religious or philosophical backgrounds. It seems that the Confucian text is combinable with different sorts of “ideology “. The real reason for this fact is that most modes of human thought are not fully coherently organized; each part of one thought can maintain a relatively independent “logic.” The Confucian “logic,” however, excercizes a separate impact on the thinker without touching other kinds of “logic.” But why cannot another “logic” of a more synthetically formed thought effectively diminish the strength of the Confucian system? A reasonable explanation is simply that the Confucian system can be relevant to the empirical autonomy of the individual existing in a community. Without having grasped the ethical mechanism very clearly, those thinkers using a more synthetic but less relevant scholarship tend to imagine that they really take a theoretical approach to the Confucian system.
7. Unsystematic Formulation and Coherent Thought: Textual Autonomy
Like many other ancient texts, the Analects was not the result of a systematic method of writing, but rather of an implicitly systematic way of editing the unsystematically accumulated proverbs, each of which is directed to a concrete ethical situation. The crucial point is that the set of singly formed proverbs constitutes a holistic system as a guide for ethical practice. The structural or mutually supporting tendency of concrete Confucian teachings is created by a structurally or rationally practising mind which faces life “ethically.” The empirical mode of Confucian thought indicates the intuitive trait of this kind of ethical reflection, which results from the contact of the ethical subject with ethical situations. An ethical rationality emerges through the sincere search for intellectual and practical coherence in handling ethical situations. The structural, coherent, holistic, and rationalist approaches become one procedural totality with an ethically pragmatic consistency.
For the sake of grasping this pragmatic coherence underpinning the Confucian text, we should first regroup these proverbs and reformulate their relations. This is what the present study attempts to do. The work of regrouping and reformulating the historical textual elements is a function of the procedural manipulation of the ancient text by modern methods. Such procedures should be closely and honestly directed to the original structure of the text at levels ranging from the intuitively singular to the structurally relational, with the aim of then discovering the pragmatically innate links of the different parts. There is no doubt that, the resultant significance of this formulation and analysis is linked to the relevant scope of ethics especially defined by us.
Once again, our definition of ethics is first formed in terms of a modern interdisciplinary approach; second, it happens to be embodied in an ancient Chinese text. Our ethical discussion combines both the ancient text and modern academical epistemology in a heuristic process. Nonetheless, the content of our discussion must remain plainly empirical in order to accord with the original mode of Confucian thought. For various historical and scholarly reasons which will be elucidated, the present study of the original archetype of Chinese ethics focuses completely on the historical text itself. There is also, however, an epistemological reason why we choose to limit our discussion to the analysis of a single text: it happens to be substantially complete enough to “embody” an ethical system. This historical system can be shown to be permanently and universally relevant to different cultures, societies and periods precisely because of its purely empirical nature. The historically formed empirical completeness of the text is wholly directed to and caused by a commonly shared, interpersonal substratum in the socio-cultural hierarchy of mankind. Thus, after its semiotically interpretative reformulation, the Chinese ethical archetype, can become a heuristic model for describing the universally perceivable ethical situations of human existence. The universality of the ethical themes in the text follows from the empirical nature of its ethical situations. Theoretically, the Chinese ethical archetype can become a heuristic model of ethical situations; practically, it can become an effective guide for interpersonal ethical behavior.
8. The Special Value of the Confucian Ethical System
Although we shall discuss a number of negative results in Chinese history in connection with the application of Confucian ethical thought, we shall explain at the same time why the inherent value of this textual system can be accepted under new circumstances. The crucial point lies in the pertinent combination of the ethical and other related areas. The American scholar of Confucian philosophy de Bary questioningly remarks, “Whose Confucianism are we talking about? If it is the original teachings of Confucius in the Analects, then almost nothing said about Confucianism today speaks to that.” (de Bary, 1991, xi) He correctly locates the scholarly heterogeneity among different treatments of Confucian thought. The solution cannot be found, however, by simply examining intellectual history. The original unadorned formulation of Chinese ethical thought proves to be not a defect but a merit, for it accords with the essentially empiricist mode of ethical relations. The empirical tendency of Chinese ethics is due not only to the primitive state of Chinese intellectual life before the Ch’in-Han period, but also to a general tendency in the Chinese mentality which subsisted until subsequent periods. As Lin Yü-t’ang says, “The Chinese temper is, on the whole, humanistic, non-religious and non-mythical.” (Lin 1949, 11) This general tendency has indeed overlapped with many other more sophisticated developments in later history; however, the empirical substratum has persisted all along. Lin adds, “Chinese humanism, or Confucianism, concentrates on certain human values..., the value of the human relationships.” (ibid.,15) Humanism is innately linked with empiricism - and human existence is basically empirical. Therefore, an ethical empiricism can become permanently applicable to human history.
The value of an ethical system can only be exhibited and realized in a suitable context. In our present industrial era, a typical ethical system can help indicate the flaws and defects of the modern, multiply institutionalized life resulting from a highly developed, instrumental rationality encompassing both technical and social dimensions. Institutional triumph in the modern period is a consequence of pan-legal thought reaching back to the ancient Greek period. Such pan-legal success has brought about more efficient social systems which can offer more social justice and individual satisfaction, but at the same time it has replaced the ethical or subjective dimension with the legal or institutional dimension. This development has two serious effects. One is the steady increase of non-ethically motivated legal conducts and rules; the other is the destruction of a spiritual identity of the individual ethically linking him to others. One tends to regard persons as the regularly reactive elements of the pan-legal machine. One possible social concern then involves the control of the machine by an evil force which alters its moral direction: the “legally qualified” elements in society are ethically impotent to correct the wrongly guided legal machine. We have seen this to be the case in modern totalitarian regimes. On the other hand, in a fairly guided legal society, there tends to appear more and more immoral yet legal conduct because of the technical separation of the legal and ethical dimensions. Pan-legal institutionalization leads to the mechanization of community within which social elements become players searching for their own profit by dint of positive and negative legal possibilities. Legal-centered individualism becomes a socially secured balance of competition for the mutually conflicting profit of different individuals. Whether religious or philosophical in nature, all counteraction to the dominance of such legalization has historically proved to be ineffective. Our era of high legality demands that we pay attention to the ethical dimension. The Confucian scheme can precisely help present a universally suitable model for understanding the ethical situations of human existence.
The superficial impression that Confucian ethics essentially serves despotic collectivism is to the contrary, Confucian ethics is in fact a doctrine of the genuine individualist attitude towards the ethical existence of mankind. Individual consciousness exercises a strong influence on the Chinese mentality, although the external behavior of Chinese societies paints a contrasting picture. In this regard, we must distinguish original Confucian ethics from its various historical applications. In another volume about “Confucianism,” we will explain this historical separation of a thought from its manipulation.[1] In comparison with modern legal institutionalization, Confucian thought attempts to strengthen individual consciousness apart from obedience to social rules. The latter can be the property of a mind searching for its own selfish benefit. The true ethical mind, however, must be first linked to sharpened self-reflection and self-decision on the basis of a personality containing both moral and amoral aspects.
Thus, the original Chinese ethical system can be useful in two respects: the philosophy of personality and political ethics. In both fields, Confucian ethics can present more relevant approaches to the same basic questions. Concerning ethical study itself, Confucian ethics can present an epistemological model represented in practical actions; or it can present a truer mechanism of ethical experience. All of the related experience in Confucian ethics can be shared by every human society. This is the reason why it can be suitable for other socio-cultural contexts as well, as long as the intelligible contact with it is suitably organized.
The significance of Confucian ethics is not to be grasped through distorting the original state of the ancient Chinese mentality, as Needham attempts to do. Compared with the Greek tradition, the Chinese rationality of causation and instrumentality is much weaker. There is no sign of an obvious scientific tendency in Chinese antiquity. By criticizing Levy-Bruhl, Needham shows an emotional reaction that “...who could not read a single word of the encyclopaedias which he was condemning, dismissed the scientific and technical achievements of that civilization to which his own owed so much... “. (Needham 1954, v.1, 286) And when he declares Chinese thinking is not “alogical” or “pre-logical “, Needham himself is confused about the term “logical “. There are different types of “logic.” We could say that Chinese ethical “logic” is even more precise than its Greek counterpart, as long as we focus on the suitably defined scope of the term. But you cannot legitimately insert a Western-type of logic into an ancient Chinese text in order to indicate the merit of Chinese rationality; instead, we must first enlarge the typology of logic. Therefore, Needham is wrong about the true historical situation of China when he says, “the Chinese is at least equally good at presuming natural laws as the Greek is” (Needham 1990, v. 1, 18).
On the other hand, a distortive interpretation can result from Chinese metaphysics itself. Hsiung Shih-li asserts that “in China moral ideas and cosmological understanding and ontological statements about them are the same thing without a differentiation of their respective priority.” (Hsiung 1962, v. 2, 6) Once again he confuses the Confucianist philosophy of the Sung-Ming dynasties with original Confucian ethics. The negative effect of this confusion is exhibited in three aspects: a) it inserts metaphysical terms into Confucian ethical discourse; b) it makes metaphysical or ontological concepts the theoretical foundation of the ethical; c) the apparent similarity of some Chinese and Western metaphysical terms provides a pseudo-comparative framework which draws the traditional Western confluence between ethics and metaphysics into the Chinese framework, doubly complicating our interpretation. The modern Chinese intellectual historian Hsü Fu-kuan offers a more reasonable insight: “Our task today lies in making explicit the implicit structure of Chinese thought.” (Hsü 1982, 3) This expresses nothing other than a semiotic attitude to historical objects. In the present study, we attempt to elaborate an original Chinese ethical logic to Western readers rather than employ a Western type of ethical logic embodied in metaphysics or theology which may elucidate Confucian ethics. Hsü’s warning concerns not only the comparison of Western and Chinese thought, but also different trends of Chinese philosophy itself. We cannot use the position of one school to “refute” that of another school, despite their sharing the same term. The original Confucian and Neo-Confucianist thought, despite their nominal identity, are two distinct things rather than one. The contemporary Neo-Confucianist scholar Tu Wei-ming, however, ignores this difference when he proclaims, “Confucian humanism is therefore fundamentally different from anthropocentrism because it professes the unity of man and Heaven rather than the imposition of the human will on Nature.” (Tu 1985, 75) The original Confucian focus on interpersonal justice wasted no time on philosophical reflection in the sense of the activity engaged in subsequently by Chinese philosophers.
Concerning the fundamental terms of various cultural traditions, it is necessary that we search for more commensurability in heterogeneous expressions. Cultural relativism itself can be relativized if we can establish a more effective system of common denominators. If the terms “truth,” “reason,” “rationality,” “logic,” “good,” “evil” and the like can be regarded as verbal carriers possessing a flexible scope of signification, the set of common denominators can be more easily established in order to complete the universal description of different cultural traditions. Logic may serve as an example. There can be logic-1, logic-2, logic-3...etc. In different cultural traditions, each type of logic can play different roles depending on different historical-geological conditions. In other words, each type of logic can exist in different combinations with other cultural elements in different cultural contexts. In this regard, we can see that ancient China was weaker in logic-1 (scientifically causal logic) which was highly developed in ancient Greece, even as it possessed a complex causal logic of motivation (logic-2). For the former, the causal nexus lay between external and behavioral factors, and for the latter the causal nexus lay between motivational factors and behavioral factors. Both types of causal logic can be universally applicable in their respective domains. The point is that their historical realization and prevalence rely on possible cultural and historical arrangements. In modern history, Western logic-1 has become just as universally applicable in China as it is in the West because of new sociocultural arrangements. Similarly, however, logic-2 could become more applicable in the West should the intellectual context be more suitable for it. At that point, the so-called Western and Chinese types of rationality would only be different historical manifestations of the same human reason. The actual expressions of human rationality are mainly due to different historical arrangements. In this sense, we hold that the Greek tradition created a more successful type of legal-central political philosophy, while the Chinese tradition created a more successful type of motive-centered, subjective ethics. Both types of ethical reason are universally applicable to every cultural society under certain pragmatic arrangements. Regarding the scientific study of ethical problems, universal interpretation can be adjusted to the extent of human-relativism or human-centrism which inheres in the definition of the ethical scope defined by us.
R. Neville points out that “Confucian heroes are `aesthetic’, and not moral at all in the Western sense of being bound by an externally normative rational order “. (see Hall 1987, xiii) The observation can only be confirmed by a semiotic anatomy of the disciplinary elements, which requires that we understand the traditional terms relative to their cultural-historical contexts. We cannot use one concept of a culture to “refute” the validity of a similar concept in another culture. The axiological valuation of the concepts employed must be based on a more universally applicable framework. A basic misunderstanding in this respect can be seen in the assertion of Herbert Fingarete that “..the central moral issue for Confucius is not the responsibility of a man for deeds he has by his own free will chosen to perform, but the factual questions of whether a man is properly taught the Way and whether he has the desire to learn diligently.” (Fingarette 1972, 35) The misunderstanding is due to a distinction between moral responsibility and legal responsibility. Confucius assumes an incomparably high responsibility for interpersonal moral objectives. Confucian responsibility is simply embodied in the Confucian persistence in following the externally existing codex (the ritual system, or li). Confucian ethical discourse cannot be read in legal terms. To do so means typical to confuse the ethical discourses of the two cultures. Concerning ethical responsibility, it is Confucius who shows a high awareness of it, but the object of responsibility can be different in different cultural systems. In addition, having a more theoretical interest, Fingarette attempts to treat Confucian ethics in terms of the Western model. For him and also for Schwartz, the theoretical is a definite moment of Western intellectual history. The present-day interdisciplinary world, however, allows for a new concept of the theoretical which can be distinguished from the philosophical.
9. Subjective Ethics in the Confucian Text
The four main parts of the first section of this book devote themselves to the background of Chinese ethical rationality, the character of subjective ethics, the aesthetics of ethical decision and Confucian political ethics. All of these related topics should be intelligible despite their unique Chinese style of formulations. More precisely, these topics contain the two main aspects of Confucian ethics: politico-ethical idealism and the aesthetics of ethical will. Seen from the perspective of a Western pan-legalized ethics based on logic-1, Confucian political philosophy is no more than a primitive social utopian vision. Viewed from the perspective of logic-2, however, the Confucian political utopia displays another kind of ethically causal link between motivational and behavioral effects, one which has been less heeded in the Western tradition although it can also practically effect political life under certain conditions.
The discursive rearrangement of the original ethical text intends to highlight its implicit logic system. We call an ethically pragmatic logic one which can rationally harmonize or make consistent various parts of the ethical text, re-presenting the pragmatic holism embodied in the empirical patterns of ethical choices. Such ethical patterns must be regarded as the consummation of the collective spiritual practice of ancient China. Confucius was only the gatherer and interpreter of the collective ethical experience formed in the primitive state of Chinese civilization. The permanent and universal relevance of the Confucian ethical system is evidently due to its anthropocentrism, an empiricism rooted in basic interpersonal ethical relations. Lacking the more sophisticated parts of later civilized stages, this primitive ethical mode more purely and essentially reveals the self-contained autonomy of ethical relations. It is only in terms of an interdisciplinary, de-philosophizing and semiotic epistemology that we can recognize ethical autonomy in human existence; and the Confucian ethical text provides a historically tested and theoretically intelligible heuristic model. The present study attempts to re-present its inner composition and function. [2]
Regarding Confucian ethics as a whole, the focus of the present study lies more on its subjective dimension, presenting it as one of the most successful systems of subjective ethics in the world. Completely contrary to the typical mistake of regarding Confucian discourse as lacking inner, subjective or psychical aspects, the present study holds that the Confucian ethical text is richly implicative of subjective tones. [3]
A correct reading of an alien text requires a hermeneutico-semiotic approach. The point is that we must choose relevant discursive levels for treating historical texts. As Schwartz remarks, “Confucius is, in fact, enormously interested in the inner state of the person even when he is not operating in the public space and regards these sustained inner states as of utmost relevance to public behavior.” (Schwartz 1985, 75) We should avoid confusing distinct discursive organizations, using the same grammar and semantics to read separately organized discourses which have different signification’s but can have the same scope of reference. The reference is to the inner or subjective. In the present study, readers will often meet with expressions of mental states. In essence, Confucian thought is a subjective ethics. In distinction from the Western style of discourse, the subjective realm of the Confucian discourse is established through external speech and behavior which can nevertheless refer to the internal side as well. On the other hand, Confucian subjective ethics evidences an aesthetics of subjective ethical choice. Fingarette declares, however, that “... the problem of genuine choice among real alternatives never occurred to Confucius....” (ibid., 23) Over against this evidently incorrect judgement, we wish to emphasize that Confucian ethics is an ethics of choice, even a subjectivist one. The present book attempts to portray its uniquely organized ethical aesthetics of self-choice.

Part One: The Background and Foundation of Confucian Ethical Rationality
(1) The Hermeneutic Use of Historical Materials
1. Historiographical Authenticity and Historical Figures
A modern study of ancient Chinese thought has to be combined with an historiographical analysis of the related sources. This allow us to understand more clearly the conditions of a more effective reading of the historical texts.
1) The Historiographical Uncertainty of Historical Documents and the Hermeneutic Acceptability of Historical Texts
From the modern historiographical point of view, the content of most ancient Chinese historical materials has been not confirmed or is not even confirmable. In dealing with these ancient texts, we need to make a distinction between the authenticity of the original production of a text available in our time and that of the historical content in that text. If we cannot directly prove the authenticity of the content of a text, we still have a chance to prove the historical authenticity of the production of the text and therefore to certify the original situation of the author and the date of composition. The knowledge of the latter can help us better to understand the historical process of the reading of that text. The content of the text can be historiographically uncertain, but the reaction of the reader to the historiographically confirmable text can be historically traced. The task of our present study lies in effectively combining historical and contemporary readings of the Analects, the text of the Confucian thought. Our direct concern is that of its hermeneutic relevance and not its historical confirmability. As a theory of interpretation, the hermeneutic approach composes the position and technique for relevantly reading an historical text. In our discussion, we are more interested in establishing a reasonable criterion for the effective use of the ethical text of the Analects. Such a study is neither historiographical nor philosophical. It is instead an ethical analysis of the historical text in terms of our chosen ethical strategy, which aims at both theoretical and historical relevance.
2) The Identity of Confucius as a Figure in Ethical Discourse and the Historical Authenticity of Records about Confucius
Despite their lack of a tradition of systematic and theoretical thought, some ancient Chinese doctrines are still popularly regarded as a type of philosophical thinking. Indeed, some forms of primitive thinking in antiquity could raise and deal with crucial problems concerning the basic ethical principles guiding individual and social life in historical situations. As long as people attempt to differentiate between daily and basic problems and to infer from the latter the main principles for guiding the former, we can generally say that the latter is of a philosophical nature. If this is so, then philosophical activity is not necessarily restricted to a well-established theoretical system, but instead first defined in connection with an procedural intellectual differentiation. The consciousness of the contrast between the daily and the basic, or, in modern terms, between practical and theoretical problems, attended by concentration on the latter, indicates a philosophically inclined and capable mind. In this broad sense, several strains of ancient Chinese thought of pre-totalitarian times (i.e., before 221 B.C., the establishment of the First Chinese Empire, the Ch’in dynasty) have been designated as classical Chinese philosophies. Confucian thought can be taken as one of them.
Our definition of the philosophical genre does not particularly restrict the nature of philosophical topics and their level of formalization. Likewise, the term “basic “, which contrasts with the daily or practical, makes our conception of philosophy more flexible. The logical hierarchy used here in connection with inferential differentiation is defined by dint of a pragmatical rational sequence in the ethical strategy of selection. For this reason, we can call Confucian thought, or Confucius’ doctrine, a “philosophical system,” although it neither presents a formal structure nor discusses typical philosophical themes. Nevertheless, it deals with “basic” ethical problems in an implicitly systematic way. Without forming a logical system, Confucian thought, or the thought contained in the Confucian text of the Analects, presents a primitive mode of political philosophy and ethics in traditional Chinese fashion characteristically lacking logical order in its verbal formulations. Nevertheless, there exists a “logical order” implicated in the recorded words and deeds of Confucius and his disciples - otherwise these could hardly have so effectively inspired and persuaded the Chinese mind over such an extended history. In this section of the present work, we shall attempt to reconstruct these pragmatic logical links implicated in the discourse of the Analects , which belongs in general sense to the fields of political philosophy and ethics in a modern sense.
2. The Narrative Background of Confucius
It is extremely difficult to make a clear distinction between history and literature in traditional human learning. Literature of various types requires historical material which may be used in the creative process, while historical writing requires fictive elements in order to construct historical stories. Objective description and subjective imagination are always mixed together without clear distinction. Moreover, history and literature have a quite similar expressive form: narration. Historical and literary ideas both appear in narrative organizations; they require the temporal and spatial relationship of actions and events to support their ideational logic. Therefore, narrative and conceptual logic are organically interwoven into a whole to different degrees of the effective role of each in the story at hand. This means, owing to authors’ different strategies, that the expression of ideas and the descriptions of events can play varying roles in the textual structure. The direct manifestation of factors in the narrative expression is one thing, while the indirect or implicit manifestation of these factors is another. With a general knowledge which exceeds the text, the reader can further complement the related ideas and narratives of the text in order to enrich the total effect of reading. If what we read is a text in literary history or historical literature, this phenomenon of enrichment is unavoidable. Therefore, for every text there can be two kinds of narrative background: the intertextual and the extratextual. Both backgrounds function as constituent parts of the reading process, although with different modes of action and effects on the reading of the text.
In the Analects, there are evidently two kinds of narrative background. One can be inferred from the text, the other comes from related general knowledge. Both together form a broad background of history or narrative for the related words and deeds. Concretely speaking, there are many other stories about Confucius given in the books of post-Ch’in eras. For a long time, most of these extratextual stories were accepted as true, and so they became part of the necessary background for understanding the meaning of Confucius’ story. Despite this, people have been cautious, mostly having accepted those stories which in large part agree with the content given in the Analects. Both kinds of stories, however, can not be historiographically confirmed. The category of historical discourse mainly involves the narrative factors and their organization in those discourses which are commensurable with our experience in the actual historical process. If scholars accept the historical authenticity of the Analects more than that of other books, the main reason is that the origin of the story of Confucius and his disciples has been generally taken as more reliable than that of others. As a matter of fact, however, the point of our present discussion concerns not the historical authenticity of various sources but instead the hermeneutic acceptability which classifies the book in the category of “historical discourse” in contrast to that of “literary discourse.”
The categorization of discourse can make us opt for a non-fictive reading strategy for understanding the Analects. Even without a properly historiographical confirmation, however, direct and indirect narrative factors will still function as historical backgrounds influencing the reading of this discourse. The latter factors areassumed” as the discourse which sketches out the actual historical situation. For our purposes, the most relevant items are: i) setting the text with its related internal-external narratives in the category of historical discourse; and ii) taking the relevant narrative factors as the relevant situations within which the related conceptual content of the text may be grasped. When reading the text as a genre of dialogue, we find that the effective narrative factors actually contained in the text are mostly sketchily given. When reasonably choosing the relevant historical legends from among various sources, we must first dismiss those parts with such details which look more like fiction than fact. In general, scepticism towards ancient historical records of any kind demands that those with the greater descriptive detail should be viewed more doubtfully. As a matter of fact, the authenticity of many details recorded in the Analects and related books like The Records of History (by Ssu-ma Ch’ien), The Records of Rites (by the Han scholars), the Home Sayings of Confucius (fabricated by Wang Su) and many others has been historically rejected. Concerning the hermeneutically acceptable historical narratives, we must better first divide them into the two groups of the more sketchy and the more detailed, respectively. From the point of view of the relevant reading of historical records, the sketchy group is relatively more acceptable or more effective than the detailed one. The acceptability involved is connected with both historiographical and hermeneutic norms, the latter of which are more important for our study. Historiographically, the sketchy type of story allows more cross-confirmations through related sources, while the detailed type of story can only exist singly: it can therefore be more easily fabricated.
Furthermore, the concept of narrative can be generally divided into situational and active elements, the latter comprising verbal, psychological and physical processes, the former composing the “background” which supports the related processes. On the other hand, when we focus on the words in our reading, the active elements can also compose a second background. If the literal meaning of the Analects subsists in its providing a “record of the sayings of Confucius and his disciples “, then the words which are the main constituent elements in the text become the central object of our understanding. Therefore, in the Analects, the narrative factors are mainly used for forming the situations or background which are taken as the conditions of or the presuppositions for understanding the sayings and related deeds which it contains. In addition, the pertinent factors of these situations can be reduced to sets of ideational elements which require no narrative details. The narrative details given in the text ca be taken as connected more with their situational roles than with their historical facticity, as long as the involved details cohere with the generally accepted historical discourse of our strategy of reading. Thus, we only need to dismiss those details which are incoherent with the general picture or those which obstruct a reasonable strategy of reading. After all, neither the credible nor the incredible facts can be actually proved. In this regards all acceptable details about the family and personal origin, career, achievements and associates of Confucius are merely legendary historical material which can only be qualifiedly employed in our ethical reading of the text. Accordingly, the distinction between true and false historical narratives can only be defined on the basis of hermeneutical acceptability rather than historical confirmability. Our main purpose is to read the historical text more effectively, namely, more relevantly by grasping its ethical implications through the pseudo-historically recorded and edited text.
Therefore, owing to the requirements of our strategy of reading, among all the acceptable material from many written sources connected with Confucius, we need only accept that historiographically acceptable (not necessarily confirmable) and hermeneutically necessary and relevant material. After all, our task is not one of historiographical verification, but rather one of hermeneutical understanding. Consequently our main biographical material is chosen from two major historical sources: the Analects and “Confucius’ Biography” in The Records of History by Ssu-ma Ch’ien (ca 90 B.C.). Historiographically, the two sources also contain more authentic or more widely acceptable content; but certainly not every legendary story and detail in the two books is confirmed.
3. The Function of Narrative in Confucius’ Ethics
In distinction from many other studies of Confucian life and learning, we shall not introduce Confucius’ life story into our discussion. This is not only because we shall not treat the legendary details as historically true but also because we are not interested in Confucius as a historical figure. We still need, however, a general picture of Confucius’ life in order effectively to understand his thought or at least the thought connected with his name. The matter in question is not that of the general relationship between an individual’s life and thought, but rather that of a particular approach his thought. In this regard, Confucius’ career can become the constituent part of the valid text and context. The background of deeds can help fill out the meaning of the words in the foreground.
Despite the impossibility of historiographically confirming their descriptions, the Analects and the Records of History can be legitimately taken as establishing the relevant context for understanding Confucius’ words, which have the same degree of confirmability as his deeds. First, the selection of narratives about Confucius should maintain his standing as a secular sage rather than as the deified figure invented by his historical followers. The principle of selection in our materials is issued more from a hermeneutical than an historiographical consideration. In general, there are two aspects of this first historically important, legendary Chinese sage: his deeds and his words. The Chinese people have followed the moral teachings embodied in both. Indeed, without one aspect the other will be unintelligible.
The legend of Confucius’ life may be briefly recounted. About 2500 years ago, in a rapidly transforming period of ancient China faced with all kinds of political decadence, the sage Confucius taught an heroic style of life and moral-political principles in a private and individual way. First, he organized a group of several hundreds of disciples with dozens of them as its core and guided them throughout the rest of his life by cultivating their personality and teaching the traditional cultural arts. Second, he travelled together with his disciples to several of relatively independent states under the Chou dynasty with the aim of persuading their kings to accept his political principles based on ritual morality and to provide him with the political power to carry out these principles. He frequently failed because he could not meet a truly good ruler. Finally, however, with a more sober understanding of the impossibility of realizing his political idealism, he returned to his homeland, the State of Lu, where he initiated the great project of systematically collecting and editing the Chinese classics, intending to make these works the foundation of the Chinese national spirit and culture. Despite his failure at political activities, Confucius eventually became a model of morality and education for the entire nation, a man recognized in subsequent Chinese history for developing a system of standards for judging private and social morality.
Recurrent itineracy restless political pursuit, ceaseless intellectual inquiry, moral teaching and perennial suffering from the doomed adversity are the characteristic features of Confucius as a profane sage and spiritual hero. Ever since the Han dynasty, and particularly since the appearance of the first general Chinese history by Ssu-ma, the legends about Confucius tended to become more and more predomiant even as his biography became widely accepted. The formulative period of Confucius’ biography story, with Ssu-ma’s account as the main source, and the first confirmable date of the appearance of the written text of the Analects were almost contemporary. Consequently, we have reason to conjecture that the two authoritative source writings about Confucius used in a similar way the then-available material, which consisted of various kinds of data: the oral and written data transmitted from the pre-Han period, that culled from variously transmitted fragmentary material and that simply invented by Han scholars.[4] Furthermore, the substantial part of Ssu-ma’s account inheres in sayings and activities similar to those of the Analects, which must have been written and edited earlier. If the parts derived from the Analects can be taken as more reliable, then the veracity of the rest of Ssu-Ma’s account is more to be doubted, including the important part on the last period of Confucius’ work in collecting and editing the classics. In particular, the typical Chinese romance starts with social suffering and ends with spiritual sublimation. The historically accepted version of Confucius’ life conforms with this popular pattern. As we explained before, nothing about Confucius and his activities in Chinese literature can be really confirmed[5], but we still require a conception of the acceptability of the legends which would be relevant enough for an intelligible reading. For example, the final anecdote of Confucius given by Ssu-ma clearly does not appear in the Analects, but it quite accords with the currently prevailing dogmatic theory that Confucius himself finally collected and compiled the Five Classics. This conclusion, however, has already been definitely rejected by many modern historians. (We shall discuss this issue in the volume about Han-Confucianism.) This part of the story cannot be accepted because: i) there is no other evidence for it in the literature; ii) it became part of the ideological deification of Confucius in the Han dynasty; and iii) the legend reflects Ssu-ma’s own inclination to extrapolate from his own adversity similar tragico-heroical vicissitudes of other spiritual martyrs.[6] This inclination even led him to distort evident facts, such as when he asserted that Lü Pu-wei composed his Spring-Autumn Annals of Lü Pu-wei after his exile, although the book was actually written by his guest scholars when he was the premier of the Ch’in dynasty. Similarly, he said that Confucius wrote the classic “Spring-Autumn Annals” during his suffering at the border of the Ch’en and Ch’ai states (Ssu-ma, 1989, 3300). Ssu-ma tried to use the related historical legends to present the traditional pattern of Chinese martyrdom - and he viewed himself as the last of the martyrs Thus, the part of Ssu-ma’s story about Confucius’ work in reorganizing traditional literature should be excluded from our picture of the sage because it is historically unfounded and hermeneutically unnecessary. (We will discuss this second issue later.)
Although the truth of some of its details is more doubtful, the general picture of Confucius’ personality and career given by Ssu-ma can still be accepted. The vivid image of the sage Confucius with his disciples and their intellectually heroic stories which have come to us through a reasonable selection of sources have become the necessary narrative background for understanding the meaning of Confucius’ thought in the Analects. Confucius’ legendary spiritual and political fortune has become a significant metaphor in the intellectual and cultural imagination of the Chinese nation. Under the pressure of great doubt about the historical authenticity of the Confucian legends by scholars over the past two thousand years and particularly in this century, the legends have become generally accepted as possessing at least a tremendous “cultural authenticity.” Furthermore - and what is essentially different from the religious legends of other civilisations - , the Confucian legends address historical and human nature without regard for supernatural elements which would have innately eluded historical verification. Even with all of their empirical descriptions, the historical legends of Confucius do not disrupt the situational structures required for reading the text. A reasonably accepted biographical legend of an heroical career can become a circumstantial network aiding an effective reading of the text: an independent moral minority defied the traditional political majority led by powerful immoral figures; and an alluring rhetoric lies between actual failure (deeds) and spiritual success (words). In the depth of national consciousness, there survives a basic confrontation between justice and power which has stimulated and inspired the spiritual life of Chinese intellectual history. A reading of the legend can ascertain the historical effect of the text, that is, the way in which the historically unfounded narrative produces a kind of historical truth for the narrative, as long as the reading coheres with other related readings. In general, among the many legends of Confucius, we will first exclude those contrary to important historical events such as the canonical formation of the traditional literature and ancient scholarship. Details about the scale of Confucius’ political and educational enterprises will be rejected in favor of the sketchy view that he successfully organized a morally and politically pedagogical group and unsuccessfully attempted a number of political projects.
4. The Relevant Part of the Text for a Pertinent Reading
The text of the Analects is the sole object of our ethical hermeneutical reading in this section. All other related texts in the background can only play a secondary or an auxiliary role in this interpretation of Confucian doctrine. But there is still the problem of the “genuineness” and acceptability of the available text due to the historical processing of the text in its formative stages: which part is original and which part has been distorted by the followers of Confucius?
1) The Authenticity of the Text:
First, there is the historiographical problem about the historical Confucius. As we pointed out earlier, this problem is scientifically insolvable. In fact, it consists of two problems: who was the historical person called Confucius, and how much does he correspond to the historical records available? Furthermore, it is certain that no part of the text was directly spoken or recorded by Confucius himself. There is no problem of authorship concerning Confucius as an historical person, only of the genuineness of the recorded words of Confucius - if he actually existed. Historiographically, even the most acceptable parts of the Analects cannot be confirmed. As Li Hsuen-pe observes, even if the sentences in the text really record original sayings by Confucius, the recorders could still have distorted the original meaning through different strategies of writing and purposes. (Cf. Ku Chieh-kang 1963, v. 1, 269) As a result, there is a four-layered uncertainty about the authenticity of the text.
Concerning the formation of the text, a number of studies - particularly those done by modern researchers - treat the genuineness of the text. First, there is the problem of the authenticity of the initial historical appearance of the currently available text: did it emerge in the pre-Han, Former Han, or Latter-Han or in the Wei period? More criticism of the falsification or fabrication of the text is connected with the role played by Han scholars having an ideological or utilitarian aim. This criticism definitely holds because some parts (such as the last chapter) are historiographically and ideologically implicated in the confirmable falsification of another historical book, the Pseudo-Classic of the Documents. (Ch’ien Mu, 1958, 478). The reason does not lie in the involved “fabrication” itself, however, for there is no telling difference between the Han fabrication and the earlier ones, if fabrication means “the artificial creation” of a text. There is only the difference in the remoteness of the later part to the earlier with respect from their substantial dimension. Originality and creative addition are distinguished only by degree. It is historically provable that even for the earliest recorders of the original words of Confucius, there are problems in connection with the number of direct disciples writing or orally recording these words and, over the course of generations, with the even greater number of more indirect disciples over generations. It can be reasonably assumed that the first writers of the first version of the text were indirect disciples who worked in reliance on the oral records conveyed by the earlier direct disciples.[7] In any event, a historiographical study of the authenticity of persons and recorders can hardly lead to a more positive result. Although an acceptable principle seems to be, “the earlier the better” a principle which provides a practical way to attain greater genuineness concerning historical origin.
2) The Effective or Relevant Criterion: The Ideational Consistency of the Text
We have to handle the two-fold dimension of the historical origin and the effective reading of the text. As we pointed out before, however, these are two different problems: historical origin and historical effects. When emphasizing the historical meaning of the text, we should make a clear distinction between the two. In general, the latter is more important and more relevant than the former. The genealogical origin itself is not determinative for our reading of the historical text. In fact, the problem of origin is subservient to the problem of understanding. The value of an historical text may be ascertained through examining the historical reactions to its content, rather than its historical origin as such. Therefore, we do not esteem the Analects simply because it is the first Chinese book, but instead because it has uniquely influenced the Chinese people throughout their history. Thus, the problem of the genuineness of the text concerns more than anything else its historical value and effects.
3) The Priority of Logical Personality before Historical Personality
In a hermeneutically operational approach to the composition of the text and the requirements of interpretative procedure, we still consider Confucius to be a historical figure. The “genuine” Confucius, however, is taken as a logically and rhetorically functioning textual role. Such a role involves his organizing and operating in the text in an ethically logical manner. This is the part played by the hero described in the text who coherently acts and speaks throughout it. In other words, in our reading there are two variants of Confucius: one is relevant or “genuine” in a hermeneutic sense; the other is fabricated or irrelevant. This distinction has nothing to do with the historical Confucius. Instead, it has to do with the relevance of the text for our ethical analysis. We need a logical narrator to organize an intelligible textual totality, so we can define such a narrator from the available material. Consequently, we can also exclude several parts of the text from our interpretation. Along with the above-mentioned final chapter on the imperial lineage obviously fabricated by the intellectuals of the late Chou or Han periods, we shall also exclude the tenth chapter on the daily habits and gestures of Confucius, which suffers from both historiographical unconfirmability and hermeneutic inconsistency.[8] Several sentences are regarded by modern scholars as ideological insertion are also taken by us as being irrelevant or unfounded. For example, the lamentation of the superstitiously forbidding symbols of the phoenix and the mythic chart (9: 9)[9] in the context of the Yin-Yang view, which postdates Confucius’ age but became very common in the Ch’in-Han period, is also supposed to have been inserted by a Han scholar. Chapter 16, moreover, contains several vulgar admonitions formulated in triple enumeration, which became fashionable only after the late Chou period (16: 4, 5, 6, 7, 8) These items are irrelevant not only because of their historical unreliability but also because of their inconsistency with and insignificance for the main body of the work. The rationality of our reading strategy depends not on any historiographical acceptability, but only on finding the logical consistency of Confucian ethical reasoning. Historiographical inconsistency, however, can help separate the hermeneutically relevant, for the “original” textual core seems to be more logically self-consistent. Similarly, our strategical arrangement follows from our hermeneutic requirement rather than from any historical nostalgia. In our view this ethically logical part has independently affected Chinese intellectual history.
Historiographically speaking, the arrangement of our reading is also acceptable because it does not add anything to the original text. Instead, we only excise that which is “logically” irrelevant. This approach allows us to maintain the historical meaning effect of the text. We might pick out as our object a moment of the historical effectiveness of the text which remains historically true although it exists together with other logically excluded but historically included moments. In this regard, the chosen part of the text has three different aspects. First, it has an ethically logical autonomy. Second, its redefined logical coherence is inductively fixed by human experience which remains valid even today. Third, there is the problem of its interaction with other related textual and social effects. The last problem is connected with other historical and sociological dimensions which are purposely excluded from our present discussion. As a basic ethical model, it exists logically by itself, but actually or historically co-exists with other socio-cultural dimensions.
The Analects sustains a rare consistence in both content and style. Among about 500 paragraphs in its 20 chapters, most sentences belong to the role of Confucius. About one-seventh of the paragraphs belong to the role of his disciples. The historically inserted or unreliable parts originating from late Chou and Han ideological and superstitious tide are quite limited in comparison with the main body of the text. This accounts for the book can be as thoroughly appreciated in modern times as it was in antiquity. Thus, our strategy for reading the book suits both textual and hermeneutic conditions, so that the Analects can become the object of our ethical analysis.

(2) Confucian Political Ethics
Confucius’ thought has been traditionally regarded as the most important guide for Confucianist political philosophy. First of all, the Confucian text contains many key topics of proper government and political ideals. Moreover, the eventual objective of Confucian doctrine lies in the pursuit of ideal politics. Because of the above-mentioned complexity of the hermeneutic reading of the original text, however, we cannot directly invoke Confucian political theory or even Confucian political philosophy. Instead, through reading Confucius’ political discourse, we shall attempt to attain the ethical domain to which the Analects refers.
1. The Political Ideal and Morality Signified by the Historically Remote Utopia
Living in the disorganized period of the feudal Chou dynasty, Confucius longed for the flourishing days of the Chou dynasty created by the two great Chou kings, Wen and Wu, and the Chou prince Tan. Confucius took these as a model of ideal politics in place of the contemporary conditions in the central and various local vassal states of the Chou, which he sharply criticized for opposing standard political morality. The contrast of an ideally good ancient politics and an actually evil contemporary politics is a basic pattern in Confucian moral-political criticism. In his view, good politics can only result from the rulers’ sincere love for his people and the latter’s sincere respect for and moral obedience to the ruler. Second, by choosing suitable politicians, the ruler should maintain the appropriate social and cultural institutions based on the traditional ritual system, which can realize the ultimate ideal of universal human love. Therefore, in politics, Confucius praised the distant past but rejected the present or near past. Of the two extremes, the distant past is only an ideal existence signifying political principles as such, while the latter is an empirical reality consisting of that which is directly observed. Accordingly, the former is a merely imaginary, while the latter is historically actual. Confucius was most of all a critic of social reality, political and non-political alike, in terms of his moral idealism. If he was not so exactly aware of what he really wanted, he must at least have been clear about what he did not want. His political philosophy was in fact negatively formed, systematically criticizing the current situation. Hence, we can say that he was primarily a critic of Chinese historical reality. The so-called political principles which he proposed are merely ethical in nature. From this point of view, Confucian political ethics functions negatively or is mainly negatively organized. More precisely, Confucius’ political idealism, which embodies itself in his historical nostalgia, plays an ethical rather than a political role.
Let us examine whether Confucius’ political utopia expresses a mature political philosophy. To this end, a comparison with ancient Greece is useful. In ancient Greek political philosophy, particularly the typical Aristotelian system, there are three main parts: political ethics, institutional arrangements and the education of the rulers and the people. (Cf. his Politics.) In Greek thought, the practical and the theoretical are treated in one coherent system. Consequently, political objectives and the practical means for attaining them are closely connected in a political and legal framework. In Confucius’ idea of politics, we can also find two similar parts: the level of the objective and that of the means towards it. He first designates a basic principle or general goal of political life through the special Chinese term “jen ” (which literally means “benevolence” or “love of people”), and he refers to a concrete way of attaining this ideal by means of the Chinese term “li” (which literally means “ritual ceremonies” and “manners”). Confucius’ political ideal is therefore called jen (benevolence)- or te (virtuous)-politics and his political practice could be called li (rites)-politics. Compared with Greek political thought, however, the Confucian doctrine is less clearly defined and less practicable: it focuses more on the basic moral ideal itself and historical imagination than on the feasibility of its political realization. His thought exhibits a basic epistemological and methodological split or inconsistency between the moral-political ideal and the historically practical political means. Thus, he attempts in vain to use the historically ready or feasible means for realizing ethically imaginable but politically abstract aims.
On the other hand, however, the significance of Confucian political philosophy goes beyond reflecting upon ethical orientations in human political life. Political philosophy as an intellectual domain is different from political science or political technique, which lays more emphasis on the conditions of realizing political objectives. In Greek philosophy as in Confucian thought, ethical and political problems are treated together, but in the latter there is a much weaker pragmatically rational tie between the two problems. In a word, the principle of Confucian jen-politics emphasizes the primacy of the ethical elements realized in a person’s heart and in social systems and practical policies. Because of this, ethical principles and basic political principles widely overlap.
Now we can answer why, despite its lack of political pragmatism, Confucius’ doctrine does not lose any historical relevance and theoretical depth in its political ethics. Regardless of all of its purely utopian dreams when judged against historical reality, Confucian doctrine does not become pointless as long as it focuses on the politico-ethical dimension. This means that a Confucian scholar can easily say how much the ruler and his regime are really addressing the welfare of the majority, although he need not know how to improve or reform the situation. The principal distinction between human political entities is based on an elementary ethical binary: the morally good and the morally bad. Consequently, when judging political phenomena, a Confucian scholar tends to accept binary ethical standard. This fashion of political judgement follows not only from his conception of political practice, but also from his view that the moral quality of politics results mainly from the moral motives of the rulers. In turn, moral motives can influence political morality: they mutually reflect each other.
2. The Weaker Political Dimension in Confucian Political Ethics
Although the character “cheng” (“politics” or “government”) occupies a central position in the Confucian text, the Confucian conception of politics remains theoretically non-political or purely moral. It is morally defined without reference to related political dimensions. Besides the remarkable split between the objective and the means which we explained in the last paragraph, a similar point to be noted is that, in distinction from his binary strategy in other areas, Confucius does not invoke a dichotomous set of political good and political evil despite his moral binarism. This means that his political ideal is more affirmatively or one-sidedly presented, although he clearly recognizes the existence of political evil. Nevertheless, he does not concentrate on the evil pole in his political descriptions. Symbolically, political evil is represented as a breach of the ritual system or order. Confucius defines politics in terms of abstract order or hierarchy rather than concrete political contrast, as his follower Mencius would do later in a more pertinent manner.
There are many remarks treating the relation of ruler and people in Confucius’ political discourse. Concerning his political philosophy, he abstractly says, “to govern is to exercise virtues” (1:2); “to govern (“cheng”) means to rectify (“cheng”).” (17:12)[10] ; or “filial piety is also a political matter”(2:21). More generally, in answering the question of how to govern, he responds that “there is government when the prince is a prince and the minister is a minister, the father is a father and the son is a son” (11:12). This means that everyone should behave according to his proper role. At another point, his answer to the question is “to practice the governing with undeviating consistency” (14:12). Politics for Confucius seems to mean only absolute obedience to the ideal Chou li system as an objective order. On the one hand, he does not pay attention to possible ideal institutions; on the other hand, he does not heed the direct source of the opposite of the political ideal: the Confucian text lacks a doctrine of political evil, namely the political object of his ethics.
In general, Confucian political ethics misses its eventual object and objective of political morality. With an absolute emphasis on obedience to the li system, it requires the self-control of desire. The li doctrine stresses the virtue of private and public yielding to the other. Mutual yielding is based on mutual love, the immediate object of Confucian political ethics. Even in the psychological part of his political ethics, Confucius’ first principle is that of self-control for attaining the good of the self rather than struggle against the evil of another. Thus, he uses the li doctrine, which is eventually centered moral psychology, to replace political doctrine. Good political governing is mainly based on the good mind (13:13). Confucius’ political philosophy is a doctrine for promoting the good rather than one for resisting evil. Evil is only that which is a “non-jen “; it is not the main object of his political ethics. Hence, Confucius has not really considered the dynamic problems of political practice, for he lacks an overview over the entire realm of political elements. In other words, his political philosophy tends towards the positive aspect presented by the ideal. He teaches each political partner the same love and respect for the other as regulated in the li system. What he innovatively highlights is the sincerity of correct behavior according to the li system. What he has not thought through, however, is how to deal with the many practical factors of political life.
Concerning the political ideal, the Confucian jen doctrine most definitely concerns general love and the benefit of the majority. The ruler’s task lies in pursuing political goals rather than in enjoying political power for its own sack. For this reason, Confucius highly regards the ancient legend of the earliest kings’ abdication of power (1:8; 18:8), but he is less effective in understanding the entirety of conditions for attaining moral objectives through political means. His knowledge of both psychological and political conditions is extremely incomplete. He concerns himself mainly with the psychological conditions of moral sincerity and good manners based on self-control in dealing with others in the hierarchical relations of li, such as these between king or prince and minister, minister and people, among family members etc.
Among the various elements, sincerity based on self-control is always central. Confucius treats the ethical relation of two extremes in a one-sided manner. It is evident that the object of Confucian thought is not politics or government itself; and it is not even the li system itself. Instead, the object of his ethical consideration is simply the people’s attitude toward the established political and ritual system. In Confucian thought, political discourse is the means for expressing moral discourse; and the latter is in fact the means for expressing ethical subjectivity.
3. The Political System as a Social Nature
From the perspective of traditional Western political philosophy, Confucian political thought is evidently less effective in its applicability to historical reality. First, the chosen model represented by remote political legends is both unreliable and unable to be followed effectively in the actual historical process. If a political philosophy is a mere utopian daydream, it is not worthy of being seriously considered. In fact, however, Confucius’ doctrine is only a political philosophy in the special sense explained above. It is instead much closer to ethics than to politics. Or, its significance is manifested more in the ethical aspects of political philosophy than in politics itself. While the Western tradition of political philosophy has paid more attention to the connections between the ideal and the means for attaining the ideal, Confucius’ political philosophy seems to be careless about their relation. Similarly, the Western political ideal itself contains more practical elements, including the institutional. In ancient Greece, particularly in Aristotle’s political science, the problem of actual political systems occupies an important position. It is natural to design an institutional model immediately on the basis of an ethical ideal. Any ideal invented implies an intent to change or reform an incomplete political reality. By contrast, Confucius lacks a substantial impulse for the feasible reform of political reality.
1) li as Rite rather than Institution
What about the Confucian ideal itself ? Confucius has often been criticized for his intention to return to the older feudal model rather than propose a new one. Such criticism is based on a literal reading of Confucian discourse. What is the old ideal of political system which he preferred? Was there any essential difference between the old and contemporary systems? We find that there is simply no discussion at the political level in the Confucian text. Confucius and many other ancient scholars wished for better attitude, behavior and manners in order to support a traditionally established but subsequently deteriorated “ritual system” rather than erect a new one, let alone reform the basis of the political system itself. The so-called deterioration of the original Chou-li system means the general disobedience to the li rules of various kinds. The breach of rules means a lack of sincerity in the performance of the social and political obligations governing personal and public relationships in the Chou hierarchy. The idealized ancient utopia was used merely as a medium for expressing a politico-ethical concern, despite the fact that Confucius and others “really” took ancient history as their practical model. He calls for nothing other than the “recovery” or realization of sincerity towards the same system. His object is not the political or ritual system itself, but rather the attitude towards the latter. If so, the decay of “li” (the ritual system) is only linked with the quality of obedience to the system rather than with the system itself as a hierarchy of behavioral rules. Beyond ambiguous expressions about the entities to which reference is made, our hermeneutic reading should distinguish between actual thought and actual concern. We must point out that Confucius’ conception of li is one of ritual and ceremony rather than social and political systems which later Chinese scholars included in the term “li,” although Confucius himself lived and acted in a socio-political system functioning as the “natural” background of life and action. His ethical discourse is organized within li as the social system unconsciously taken as a natural or pre-established condition. In a word, social systems or institutions never became the direct object of his reflection.
At this point, we are confronted with a very important phenomenon in the history of Chinese political thought. Both Confucian and non-Confucian scholars paid more attention to problems of morality, style, manners and, at most, penal laws and political manoeuvres than to institutional problems at the “hard core” of politics. For Confucius, the transmitted political institutions were to be taken as “natural reality.” The given political systems were part of human circumstances just like the natural and cosmological conditions. Society has the same constant and natural structure as does the cosmos. The social and natural worlds had not get been divided clearly with respect to their existential nature and function; both of them were the background or stage for human activity. This view renders Confucius’ political thought quite different from its Greek counterpart. The political thought of both intellectual traditions has a different operational strategy. Confucius never thought about creating a new or an alternative system to replace the traditionally established one. He prided himself on being not an innovator, but instead a transmitter of the tradition. The choice of operational scope indicates the real referent of his ethico-political discourse: not the moral and political goals themselves, but the attitude towards the established goals. In this sense, we can even say that Confucius’ doctrine does not include a “true” political philosophy, let alone a primitive political science. He never allowed the political system or political technique itself to venture into his problematic. He addressed himself only towards the proper performance of the traditionally established system. On the other hand, however, there is indeed a causal link between moral motivation and related political effects. Confucius highlights this link regardless of the many intermediate layers between the two.
2) The Politico-ethical rather than the Ethico-political
In view of the meagerness of Confucius’ political doctrine we wish to stress once again the ethical aspect of political philosophy of any type, whether Oriental or Western. As we explained in detail above, Confucius’ idealism is limited to the level of the ethically ideal which is in no way less important than that of the practical level. The central problems of political philosophy, as a field separate from political science, are precisely those which involve ethical values. Politics is not only a technical mechanism; it contains technical and axiological dimensions at once, the latter frequently being much more relevant to the quality of political society than the former. Confucian political philosophy forms its own special epistemological framework for its own problematic, bracketing the historical problems of political systems in order to highlight the ethical relationship between political motivation and political effects. In general, there are two different inferential links in political logic: that between the motive and goal and that between the goal and the means. Confucian “political philosophy” concerns the first link alone.
Given this understanding of the limitations of Confucius’ political doctrine, we can better appreciate Confucius’ binarism. This primitive binarism has to do not with strategies of political sciences, but rather with a definite aspect of political ethics. The problem of political systems constitutes the boundary of Confucius’ political thought. His thought unfolds only within this limited space or inside this borderline, which bounds as well his binary strategy. The neglect of this necessary limitation by many modern students of Confucius’ doctrine has led to unjust criticism or pointless defence of Confucian political philosophy. This shows once again the extent to which we require a dialogue between ancient Chinese and modern ethics which takes account of their divergent terminologies and strategies.
Concerning the Chinese mode of political thought, we wish to observe that it is only after the Spring-Autumn period, that is, after Confucius’ era that the literati began inquiring into more practical problems. The subsequent Warring States period distinguishes itself in Chinese history through its active reflection upon practical political tactics. Since then both political thought and activity had been enriched. On the other hand, we can also say, Chinese institutional history was created and developed “autonomously,” even apart from its systematic intellectualization. Hence, we must pay heed to both dimensions of Chinese history: the institutional and the intellectual. Their interaction composes an especially intriguing field of inquiry.
3) The Ruler as the Part of the Institutional Nature
Confucius grew up and lived within a historical tradition whose political hierarchy maintained social order. As we said above, this transmitted social order was unreflectively felt and spontaneously accepted as “anthropological nature.” Confucius’ politico-ethical goal was then not a politically programmed ethical one. In general, ancient Chinese literati did not deal with the relationship between the external goal and the external means at a theoretical level, a concern which we find in Greek philosophy. Accordingly, Chinese intellectual power never attained the stage of reflection on the typological problems of political systems. The current political system is a condition of activity, never the object of thought. Thus, Confucius can only employ the established system to pursue his ethical ideal. Therefore, throughout Confucius’ life, we find an interesting self-contradictory attitude towards political rulers. A single ruler plays two roles simultaneously: he is the representative of a position in the system and the practitioner of a chosen policy. Respect for order led to respect for position within the order. Accordingly, and therewith respect for the holder of the position. Therefore, Confucius’ respect for rulers of the states is in essence respect for the authoritative order equivalent to natural existence. His criticism, however, is oriented towards the other aspect of the rulers’ identity as policy maker in accordance with the li system, as the practitioner of li. The wisdom of Confucius’ political philosophy cannot deal with the two roles of the ruler separately, so that his final decision is one of disappointment. His retirement from power solves his own psychological contradiction between respect for the holder of power as carrying out a sacred function and disappointment in the prince as being only human.
With his symbolic idealism, Confucius avoids the political conflict between the right and wrong elements when the latter determine the behavior of the ruler. He does not dare imagine what should be done if the king should turn out to be evil like the last king of the Shang dynasty, who was deposed by the supposed good king Wu of the Chou dynasty. In principle, however, Confucius recognizes the justice of the revolution which led to the establishment of the Chou, which he takes as his positive model. He especially esteems the benevolence of the Chou rulers in their treatment of the Shang ministers. He deals only passively with the theoretical contradiction between the principle of absolute obedience to the king and that of resistance to his wrongdoing.[11] Departure from the wrong king is his typical expedience. In other words, he avoids direct confrontation with royal evil. He simply asserts that a minister should “serve his prince according to what is right, and when he finds he cannot do so, retire.” (23:11)
Because of a lack of strong instrumental rationality, Confucius only symbolically handles his problems with political practice. From a purely ethical point of view, existent historical systems become the means for realizing an essentially ethical rather than a political ideal. The existent system provides him with a set of behavioral rules for projecting his ethical conceptions. A lack of the political dimension is equivalent to the exclusion of the first parameters of these three: the political, the moral-behavioral and the ethical-subjective. That the relation between the remaining two parameters can be more exactly measured is the special significance of the Confucian text: its lack of the political aspect allows for the disclosure of a strong ethical dimension.

(3) The Symbolic Functions of the Ritual System (li) as Social Order
Confucian political ethics composes a heuristic autonomy with an internally coherent topic and style. This autonomy is fully manifested in the textual whole of the Analects. In order to grasp the original Confucian system, we must focus on its special composition of topics, reasoning, logical relations, rhetorical style and semantic categorizations. The content and form of the text match each other so neatly that we need not go beyond the text in order to find even far-fetched interpretations. First, we shall once again return to the problem of the relationship between Confucian thought and the ancient Chinese cultural tradition before we take up the topic of his thought about “li” (rite) learning. The ethico-political discourse of the Analects is organized at a pre-institutional level. At this point, we must redefine its identity and role in our modern framework in order to facilitate our dialogue. In particular, we must pinpoint the identity of “li” in the Confucian text. As a private educator, Confucius taught the so-called “Six Arts” consisting of the Chou poems, the historical records of the Chou states, music, ritual, archery and charioteering.[12]
The six categories were not scholarly disciplines in the strict sense, but rather cultivational and pedagogical practices or arts. In brief, Confucius instructed his students in the imitation (mental memorization and physical performance) of the arts and techniques of traditional daily and political rituals and customs. Confucius himself was only a practitioner of the six arts and not a scholar of any established discipline. Among the six kinds of practice, the poems and the fragmentary historical records of various states were the sources of intellectual thought, while ritual was directly connected with the field of politics in its broad sense. If Confucius political ideal “jen” (“benevolence” and “good-heartedness”) can be inferred from the first two sources, his political project - if he had any - came from the ritual practice “li.” In general, Confucius raised jen to the ethico-political ideal and considered li as the means for realizing it. (As we pointed out before, jen must be viewed as a moral ideal rather than as a properly political ideal.) The two concepts became the centre of Confucius’ political philosophy; both of them arose from the Chinese cultural tradition. If jen is a general term about ethical goals, then li is the general conception of proper social and political practice. If jen is more conceptual idea, li is more synthetic in its content. The link itself between jen and li is a more ethical than political.
1. The Content of “li”
In the more orthodox Confucianist thought in the period of Later Han (25-220 A.D.) li became a general term referring to the social order as well as behaviors and ritual. In Confucius’ time. however, there was not yet an institutional dimension to the term. When he contrasts li with “the state” (11: 24), the latter implies a politically institutional aspect. Hence, for Confucius, the ritual manners and ceremonies differ from the phenomenon of political institution - or, as we noted in last chapter, the institutional aspect belonged to the background as a social nature. In his usage of the term, there is indeed a division between general behavior and rites and concrete behavior and rites. The latter is in fact, what he refers to most by the term. (Cf. Harvard-Yenching Institute 1986, 150) The literal or narrow meaning of li is the practice of ritual or rites, including various institutionalized or programmed ceremonies and behavior concerning birth, death, celebration, marriage and many other events at various social levels in private and official life. In this narrow sense, li designates the fixed procedures for politically and socially symbolic actions. For Confucius, li involves first of all such practices. Instruction in ritual was his speciality and profession. Therefore, it is important to distinguish among the proper usages of a term such as li in different historical literature. In the Analects, almost all sentences using the term li refer to concrete rituals. This uses differs from those postdating Confucius’ time. The most reliable historical information about Confucius as a teacher concerns his knowledge of the arts and patterns of traditional ritual. Thus, li alone can represent Confucius’ teaching, for it includes many practical ritual items.
Let us first describe the possible referents of li in Chinese history. It is true that li as a general term used in later times not only refers to the regulative systems of behavior in various ceremonial situations, but also the social background or system. The Confucian text touches merely indirectly on this general aspect of li. It can only be practised in definite social and psychological situations related to the following factors:
a) The concrete rules for performing rites of various kinds in daily life and official situations, or “ritual ceremony” (behavioral rules).
b) The social and political systems which frame the performance of various rites, or “ritual systems” (social systems).
c) The attitude of ritual performers (the mental state).
d) The implicit ideational principles guiding the ritual order (notional principles).
As a synthetic stratified system, li covers at least these four dimensions, although its manifestations exist only in behavioral practice.[13] In the Confucian text, both the natural and social conditions implicitly function only as stages and backgrounds for the organization of conduct. In place of saying that this fact indicates how deeply he respects the tradition, we prefer to observe Confucius’ readiness in attempting to make use of the only available system for realizing his ethical ideal.
2. Attitudinal Training in li Performance: The “ching” (Respect) Mentality
As ritual and manners, li covers internal attitude as well as external behavior. Confucius stresses the importance of both, or, more precisely, their interaction. The inner psychological state and outer physical conduct form together a morally authentic and practically feasible whole. Confucius’ social criticism is largely oriented towards this whole. All political and individual disorders are said to be due to the decay of li customs or rather to the poor performance of the ritual principles. For Confucius, the presupposition for the improvement of society lies in the correction of people’s attitude and manners in li situations. His main point is that people for the most part perform li patterns outwardly without the proper moral attitude: the actual li practice is therefore the improper performance of the li rules. What is wrong is not the rules themselves, but the attitude towards them. The false li attitude and li practice lead to the deterioration of actual private and public morality. In order to correct the deficient social realities, people must first correct their li attitude. While the former is more determinative, the latter is not less important. This is so because Confucius sees a necessary connection between the inner state and outward action. For this reason, he regards ritual and the external performance of li rules practice as a highly significant moral training. In turn, he holds that the correct attitude can be formed through correct ritual performance. In fact, the right attitude and the right practice are supposed to occur simultaneously. Ritual practice can strengthen or be used to examine the corresponding attitude; then correct practice can help form the proper collective activity. For Confucius, a good society, regardless of its institutional dimensions, manifests itself in the correct performance of various traditionally codified interpersonal activities. Socially moral results can be produced through the correct performance of the right li rules. On the whole, however, considering the Confucian focus on motivation, the basic root of li practice lies in motivation. While the ancient Chinese long ago recognized that li means the proper performance of the li principles, it was Confucius who meticulously highlighted the psychological dimension in his doctrine of li. Therefore, the corresponding relationship between sincerity (the inwardness of correct attitude) and outer precision (the outwardness of correct behavior) is the very essence of the Confucian li doctrine. It guarantees the successful establishment of the good in interpersonal relationships and society.
What are the necessary spiritual elements of the proper li attitude? Confucius choose “ching” (“profound respect”) as the first attitudinal principle.[14] The correct attitude towards correct conduct is said to be determined by a general mental state: profound respect for others in accordance with the moral and social hierarchy. Attitude is a mentality which has nothing to do with the content of ritual activities, for it is directly connected with the ethically virtuous quality and direction of interpersonal situations and thus composes the very root of li doctrine. Respect means a correct attitude, or a mental virtue supporting the correct attitude towards others or one’s superiors. If jen is essentially love for others, Confucian li can be essentially reduced to a mind respectful of others. This first aspect of li is for Confucius a psychological one. As a result, Confucian ethics or political ethics is the doctrine and art of dealing with other human beings with a proper mental attitude. While his primary concern lies with the inferior’s proper attitude to his superiors, Confucius also says that the latter should love and take care of his inferiors.[15] From the perspective of a more practically informed rhetoric, however, the Confucian abstract terms appear to be too concretely employed.
In the social dimension, the principle of respect also refers to the political and social system. People are supposed to respect or revere the established social order or hierarchy. In other words, people should respect the institutionalized social reality governed by the rulers. For Confucius, the so-called social nature is a hierarchical system of dominance which must be accepted without hesitation. This position, as we said in the last paragraph, seems to betray an inner contradiction in Confucius’ doctrine for improving the ethical quality of society. We return again to our emphasis on his difficulty in dealing with the double roles of the ruler. The fact is that the social order is formed and embodied by human beings; it is the very relationship of human beings which is, in fact, the socially materialized symbols of the social order. If so, the social order, its leaders and its symbols are an organically mixed whole. The separation of their roles and their commonly shared synthetic existence produces a permanent inner conflict. This conflict appears more sharply in Confucius’ politico-ethical theory of the “rectification of names,” which we will discuss in the next paragraph. This famous theory implies an innate tension between the apriori limitations of the political order and the freedom of the individual for political options. This contradiction in the political aspect of li doctrine further exemplifies the fact that Confucian political ethics is more ethical than political, or that Confucius merely used the existing political medium as a means for handling ethical problems.
3. The Correspondence of the Nominal Order and the li Order: The Essence of the Interpersonal Hierarchy
There is a special doctrine within the Confucian ethical tradition entitled “name-rectification.” In talking about the governing principle, Confucius says, “What is necessary is to rectify names.” (Legge 1991, v. 1, 263) Because the Confucian idea was widely combined with some later developments having the same title, we have to distinguish between his intention and that of others, for example, Hsün-tzu (313-238 B.C.), who touched on the more theoretical level of moral semantic analysis in his treatise “The Correct Use of Names.” (Chu-tzu Chi-ch’eng, v. 2, 274-288)
1) The Principle of Name-Rectification
The rectification of names concerns the precise correspondence between the assigned priority of a social rank and its symbolic manifestations, that is, the parallel between one’s rank, legal honorary symbols and correct conduct in the socio-political hierarchy. Each social member is supposed to speak and conduct himself according to what his social rank prescribes, with special regard for the symbolic manifestations which initially signify his attitude toward his rank. In ancient feudal society, the nobility of different ranks were allowed to enjoy different, regulated symbolic systems of title, dress, housing, conveyance, attendants and rites corresponding to their respective political rank and social position. The symbolic manifestation indicated one’s initial attitude towards the ritual system. Among the links between the ethically mental, the symbolically behavioral and the politically social, the middle term denotes a realm particularly revelatory of the internal and external tendencies of moral situations. “ming” (“name”) can be grasped broadly as the hierarchical title which is the index of one’s social position. The point is that the title accords with the related position. In his main paragraph about the theory of the rectification of names (3:13) Confucius asserts there to be a causal link between the correctness of the title and the justification of verbal declaration, the success of action, the efficacy of ritual and music and the suitability of penal punishment. (Legge 1991, v. 1, 263-264) This assertion does not need to be taken as a positive observation, but instead as an expression of Confucian ethical notions through li doctrine. Confucius simply emphasizes the necessity of keeping the mental and social aspects of the li system coherent.
The principle of the rectification of names first stresses a strict correlation between rank and its attached symbols of various kinds. A proper title can mean the proper way of using various ritual symbol systems, connected with the psychological state. The principle intends the proper distinctions between classes and ranks in the social order. This doctrine has been widely regarded as evidence that Confucius advocated the most conservative model of feudalism, that of the earliest Chou reign. Indeed, he also proclaims, “I follow the Chou model.” In this context, Chou refers to the legendary Chou dynasty under the Duke or Prince of the Chou. At that time, the Chou maintained a regularly divided political order without any mutual encroachments of the inferior and the superior in the social hierarchy. In Confucius’ time, however, such encroachments and confusion of ranks had become prevalent, while the central court of the Chou dynasty had become only a symbolic center devoid of its earlier honorary and practical privileges. From a modern political point of view, Confucius’ political conception appears conservative and even reactionary, for he seems to advocate a feudal, rigidly stratified system characteristic of the remote past. Such a point of view, however, reflects an overly simplified positivist approach regarding Confucius’ doctrinal concern as political. According to our heuristic ethical reading, the Confucian topic is not linked with practical political policy. Because, the present argument is not related to the true conditions of the original Chou system, we need not be concerned with the authenticity of Confucius’ political dreams and predilections. Instead, what is genuinely relevant is the following:
a) On the basis of his ethical conception, he rejects the contemporary political situation and its attendant improper behavior.
b) His ethical conceptions derive from his reflection on the human relationships of his immediate historical circumstances.
c) Wishing to reform reality according to his ethical conceptions, he envisions the recovery of a historical model bearing the moral traits for which he is searching.
d) He happens to find the legend of the original Chou period to compose the material signifier of the political and ethical ideal.
e) He identifies the ethical ideal and the Chou model.
f) It does not matter whether the early Chou period really possessed the desired traits - confirmation is, in any event, impossible.
2) The Content of the Principle of the Rectification of Names
According to our analysis, Confucius’ thought of the rectification of names implies the following:
a) Confucius accepts a properly and strictly stratified social system which contrasts with modern democracy in respect of its political methodology at an institutional level.
b) Confucius thinks that an orderly and stratified society is a necessary foundation of a morally good human life.
c) What Confucius really desires is a socially and spiritually regularized basis for supporting the ethical model in human society. We can call this desired basis “x” and the ethical ideal “y.” Confucius says there should be an x to help in realizing y in human history. Y is something real, while x is not, but the general (rather than the definite) relation between y and x is real, too.
d) Confucius happens to identify the strictly stratified social order as x, but this identification results from the historical material whose only related function as x is to serve y.
e) The immediate moral evil causing social and political injustice, which can be judged from the ethical ideal itself, can indeed be traced to the disorganization of the Chou dynasty. The directly perceived reason for injustice is immorality. The recovery of a more strictly controlled, despotic system would seem to be able to help stop the spread of evil among the rulers of states. Accordingly, the recovery of the original privileges of the Chou House before the vassal states represents the final step in re-establishing the structurally stratified order.
f) The ultimate aim of this doctrine as a means is to overcome the evil intention.
In essence, there exists a permanent contrast in Confucius thought between the historically ideal good and the currently real bad. His historically embodied model could be untrue, but his empirically observed object was actual; and both were valued according to the same ethical principle, “jen .” The principle of the rectification of names instead maintains a fixed system promoting correspondence between the three elements of the hierarchical levels. With its social, nominal and personal regulations, the li system becomes the practical means for attaining the Confucian ethical aim.
As a matter of fact, however, as a successful socio-political critic rather than as a successful political designer, Confucius is more interested in finding an effective way of “expressing” his ethically critical ideas than in finding a practical way of realizing his political ideal. More precisely, without really judging the feasibility of the li system, Confucius regards the available order of the Chou as useful for expressing his own ethical ideal. Consequently, the doctrine of the Rectification of Names also reveals his main concern with the psychological, or motivational, realization of ethical mentality through the available li symbolism.
3) Ritual Symbolism in the Doctrine of Rectification of Names
This Confucian principle stresses the correct use of all sets of symbols according to the established rules of li. As we mentioned earlier, the character li refers to various signifieds in Chinese historical literature. We can locate the change in signification between the texts of Confucius, Mencius, Hsüen tzu, and the Han scholars.[16] Confucius, however, only indirectly touched upon the institutional aspect of li:; he more concretely used the word to refer to the performance of ceremonies and customs. Regarding the agent of li, all possible content of li could be taken as the set of objective rules (A) guiding the correct behavior of various kinds (B) which produce good effects (C) in li situations. B is in fact the expression and communication of the good mind (D); therefore, C is the effect of D. Confucius stresses a causal link between A, B, C and D. This four-term relation can be expanded to the general situation of morality. Then A becomes the designation of good conduct as such, B morally correct conduct in general and D the truly moral mind. The Confucian model of li can thus be taken as a model for ethical practice in general. The point lies not in the details of A and B, but in the details of D which can correspond to various kinds of A and B, while A and B never lose their basic trait of “moral correction” (E). D must be linked with the E itself of A and B. D is not tied with the occasionally, historically formed details of A and B, but with their E. All historical A and B can have the same E. What Confucius really emphasizes is the essential link between D and E. The two of them, as abstract entities, can be universally the same over the course of history. This is why Confucius’ primitive reasoning of li morality can have a lasting effect on readers of all times. In reading the text, readers can naturally perform the hermeneutical process of transference.
This interpretative transformation can occur in various ways through the process of semiotic commensurability. The historically formed symbols used by Confucius can function as expanded indexes for enlarging their scope of signification. “Name” can refer to any perceptual sign, visual or sound. The position of a sign in a symbolic system can be used in any other related system at a different time: details of sign and system can change, but the position itself can be the same. Similarly, a sincere attitude or love for others in the ethical situation can have different mental details, but the moral category of the mental state can remain the same. Thus, a historically formed mental state (for example, reverence for the emperor in ancient times) can be referred to an abstract principle of political morality in modern time. Hence, Confucius’ li doctrine can be represented by his doctrine of the rectification of names, which itself can be interpreted as a permanent equality consisting of the variables A, B, C, D, and E.
4. The Ethical Spirit of li
According to Confucian psychological causality, ching-ai (respect-love) is co-ordinated with another mental state, “jang-shu” (yield-reciprocity), the latter being more closely linked with the pole of the self-control. Externally, we should take a morally affectionate attitude to others; internally, we should restrain ourselves. The two oppositionally directed efforts converge in establishing an ethical relation between oneself and others. Therefore, li is first characterized by self- or mutual control. In general terms, li refers to a ritually programmed process and relation where all partners obey the restricting rules. In individual terms, li especially refers to the requirement of self-control. li is used for proper restraint. (9: 10) From an ethical point of view the latter is more frequently used by Confucius.
There are three causally interacting stages in Confucian ethical pragmatics:
a) self-control over one’s appetite;
b) love or respect for others;
c) yielding to others.
Confucius said, “Jen means subduing one’s self and returning to li” (12 / 1). li here means the effort at self-suppression. (a) A more typical trait of the Confucian li art is connected with “c,” which is based on “a” and “b”: give others an advantage and forgive their flaws. Term “c” looks like a somewhat indirect derivation in li learning but is in fact an important one. As a matter of fact, li is typically linked with jang (yield), forming a double-character word representing the spirit of li . (4:13) Thus, li means yielding to others when conflict occurs. Shu as one of the central Confucian terms hints at a basic attitude to others: feeling of reciprocity. Exactly shu is a psychological procedure for forming a feeling of equality with others, as in Confucius’ saying that “what you do not want done to yourself, do not do others.” (Legge 1991, v. 1, 301). Literally shu  means “as if,” “measure other’s mind by my own mind,” “treat others through reflecting my wish.” (Juan Yuan 1982, 1452); or “reaching propriety through examining the immediate matter” (Hsü Shen 1986, 504).[17] The easy way to know clearly what I should do to others is first to know myself. The effect of the way lies in holding a principle of self-other equality. In his characteristically practical way, Confucius points out the procedure itself, letting one directly face the basic/simplest situation concerning oneself and others. The implicit advice is in accord with the jen-principle: regard others as youself.
There are several ways to reach the same goal in Confucian ethics: love, self-suppression, yielding, respect and correct conduct, but they should all function synthetically. In Confucius’ system we can perceive a special inclination towards self-suppression. Therefore “yielding” and “reciprocity” can become the leading concepts in his ethics, with a focus on the subjective-passive aspect of ethical project, emphasizing self-control in the face of the social order and norms. This self-vice-subduing focus is different from the Mencian other-vice-subduing one in the Confucian ethical strategy. That’s why we can say Mencius’ ethics is more politically directed than Confucius’ ethics despite their essentially common position in the ethical direction. In a technical sense we can point out that li as a self-restraining learning is more typical in the Confucian ethical art.

(4) An Ethical Reading of the Confucian li Symbolism
jen and li are equally important generic terms in Confucian thought. Compared with jen, li is more pragmatically composed and used in several different socio-cultural situations. Regarding the li realm itself, there are two different aspects: the substantial and the symbolic. Chapter 3 of the Analects is completely about li doctrine. Let us first use an example from the chapter. Confucius insists on using a sheep in a traditional inauguration ceremony which was seriously neglected by the Chou states during a period when the control of the central court had been relaxed. (cf. Legge 1991 v. 1, 161; Chu-tzu Chi-ch’eng v. 1, 59-60) Legge notes that “Confucius cleaved to ancient rites.” The story contains two aspects. First, Confucius advocates resuming an old rite in the ancestral temples which had the function of symbolically unifying the country through “requesting sanction for the duties of the month” in a nationally performed ceremony. Second, the rites being currently neglected, he insists on keeping the traditional items used in the rite, wishing to call the neglected rite to mind. This seems to be a concrete example indicating how Confucius intended to resume the old Chou li. First, the inauguration rite itself is a symbol of the central order embodied by the court of the Western Chou. Second, the sheep is a symbol or symbolic index for the rite. Third, Confucius’ intention of resuming the Chou li is a symbolic gesture for the ethical search for a just social system. The concrete Chou li, particularly this neglected Chou rite or its material remainder, functions as the signifying medium at the social level in reference of the signified goal at the ethical level, which is directly connected with a subjective state. Therefore, the Confucian li-doctrine is reduced to an ethical symbolism. In other words, the content of li equals the material composition of the sign system. Chou li with its variety of concrete rites objectively amounts to the signifying tools used by Confucius to express his ethical ideas, regardless of his practical intentions. More exactly, connotational meaning is gained through reading the denotational signs within the entire textual system. We then find Confucius’ utmost (“truer” or more fundamental) concern in his external efforts, which were limited or formed by his historical situation. The symbolically concretized ethical principle - the “particularized general”- becomes a useful conceptual tool for alternatively referring to several related levels of the entire ethical process.
1. The Importance of Ritual Instruments in Confucian li Symbolism:
As we said above, since Confucius’ time li had gradually become a general term for the moral order or system in all areas of human life. For this reason, it was later compared to another philosophical term,”li” (with the same pronunciation but a different written stroke structure), which means “principle” or “reason.” The etymological origin of the term li is that of a name for the vessel for drinking wine in ancient ritual situations. The abstract concept of order was gradually inferred from this concrete image. The ritual wine vessel could be used as a symbol expressing and communicating friendship or respect. li, whether as the material instrument or as the rite itself, implies the good relationships among people. Definite instruments and related procedures for using the instruments in certain situations became a pattern for diplomatic and affectional communication. Even in a narrow sense, li refers to the instruments employed, the gestures performed and the processes which are thus patterned. The procedure of using symbolic instruments became an organizer of behavior and communication. The interesting point is how widely the ancient Chinese used the original meaning to unify such different phenomena represented by a single term. In fact, they used a material sign to embody by association an abstract idea. As a result, a material, a behavior and a rule, that is, a vessel, a ritual and a principle could be semantically combined in order to convey a synthetic idea. The “semiotic process” of li contains both concrete and abstract layers which interact in social activities. For Confucius, the ritual systems were a common cultural heritage, rather than something individually invented. The well-established li system - its original codes themselves or its historically realized forms - became a double-edged (abstract/concrete) signifying tool for Confucius’ ethical signification. This system of signification also functions in a two-fold manner: conceptually and practically. We see a multiply binary set of terms: abstract/concrete, ideational/imagistic, conceptual/practical, behavioral/motivational and social/ethical. On the other hand, the synthetically formed term li as a conceptual compound contains many possible constitutive parts at the following semantic and aspectual levels.
a) The thing and the related principle of order (thing/principle).
b) The principle as a code of behavior and its performance (code/performance).
c) The performance and its social and psychological effects (performance/effect).
d) Attitude and behavior in the ritual performance (attitude/behavior).
e) Behavioral regulations and their aesthetic effect (pattern/emotion).
f) The expressing and commanding functions of behavior (expressing/commanding).
g) Daily and ceremonial performances (daily/ceremonial).
h) The ritualized process and the articulated system (process/sytem).
i) The symbolization of the honorary and substantial superiority (honorary/substantial).
j) More spontaneously and more coercively maintained regulations (spontaneous/coercive).
k) Religious and non-religious rituals (religious/non-religious).
l) Publicly and privately ritualized bahaviors (public/private).
m) Order in concrete phenomena and order in abstract systems (concrete/abstract).
n) Verbal and the behavioral processes (verbal/actional).
Therefore, the li-symbolism inlaid in the Chinese feudal system presents itself at different semantic levels (concrete, abstract, particular and general) and in different aspects (principle, system, process, behavior and attitude), and it can organize different pairs of contrasting semes, maximally developing its potential for symbolically ordering interpersonal moral relations.
In the ancient China of the li-world, there were a great number of ritual activities and social institutions. Accordingly, there were also a great number of ritual symbols and procedures, including material items, colors, gestures, complexions, music, dance, clothing, designs etc.. Material items of various kinds became the symbolic tools vividly signifying the principle and spirit of the li-doctrine. Thus, the Confucian li doctrine applied the ritual instruments and their programmed operations as the intuitive symbolic expressions of its ethical practice.[18]
2. The Constitution of Ritual Ceremonies and the Pragmatics of the li-Doctrine
While jen as a general designation for the ultimate goal of the Confucian ethico-political ideal is more an intellectual conception, li is a more pragmatically operational term in ethico-political thinking. li is first of all a designation for the behavioral processes codified according to systems of moral rules also called “li.” The moral elements of jen as the inward state are then effectively embodied in outwardly codified behavior and processes. As we said before, li becomes the means of Jen in the moral arena. It is precisely because of the li doctrine that ethical ideas can be transformed into behavioral aspects, but only if the relationship between the elements belonging to the respective realms of the mind, the action and the rule can be coherently dealt with. Let us examine the basic structure of li-performance, which is taken here as both behavior and program, that is, li in the narrow sense. Putting aside verbal and circumstantial elements, we can briefly summarize the four aspects of li-performance carried out by the li-agent as the organizer arranging various ritual elements:
a) the corporeal actions as temporal processes;
b) the symbolic instruments employed by the agent;
c) the established rule-systems programming a) and b);
d) the attitudinal state of mind of the agent.
Therefore, a ritual performance is a behavioral process which is (a) carried out with the required instruments (b) by the agent according to a system of operational rules (c) in a proper mental state (d). Correct behavior in a ritual event means above all the precise outward performance of a ritual code and the corresponding inward attitudinal system with respect to the other people involved. If the external part of the ritual is formed by a), b) and c), the internal part is the origin of the former.
Confucius, obviously more than any other ancient intellectual, emphasizes the exact consistency between the four aspects in a li-performance. (1: 13; 3: 26; 8: 2; 12: 1) There should be a parallel ordering of the inner and the outer aspects. Mental sincerity and knowledge of the ritual rules are to be co-ordinated in creating or performing the related li principles in these two channels. As a result, after the two-fold ordering, we have two ordered processes: the mental and the physical, with two respectively different rules. In Confucius’ doctrine, there are also two dimensions to the external channel; one is connected with physical actions and gestures, the other with special emotional expressions of attitude. The latter manifests the emotional state of the agent in contact with other people. After all, a mutually strengthening procedure between the internal and external ordering aspects of the li-system which is more operational and practical than that denoted by the generic term Jen in Confucian ethics. Regarding the relationship between Jen and li, besides the symbolic level, there is also a pragmatic level: the outward li process is the means for causing the inward Jen state. They mutually define each other in the Confucian ethical system, which is itself embodied in concretely formulated discourse.
3. Practical Ethical Technique in the li-Doctrine: A Semiotics of Ritual Instruments
1) The Pragmatic Coherence of Ritual Aspects
We have just explained that the li-doctrine provides a technique for mutually strengthening the internal and external aspects of ethical practices. From a practical angle, li-doctrine becomes a very useful method for promoting ethical goals. For Confucius, a crucial human phenomenon is that of the separation or gap between one’s intention and one’s behavior which follows from a proclivity for deception and insincerity. In connection with his criticisms of the decay of the current ritual culture, there are two points to be made. The first is that incorrect performance of the ritual principle is caused by incorrect attitude: there is a correspondence between the wrong action and the wrong attitude. The second is that outwardly correct performance of the ritual principle can also be caused by deceptive or deceitful intentions. The mere technical performance of the required ritual steps is not enough for the Confucian ritual performance. There must be a double propriety in the external and the internal performances of the ritual process. Conventionally speaking, one must act properly with a true respect of or love for others. The purpose of ritual actions is originally just to convey respect of or love for others through a properly programmed procedure. In fact, however, there are several functions and effects of ritual performance beside respect and love
a) The performing process itself is a realization of the ritual principle and its related social hierarchical order. The process is part of the ritualized or civilized world itself, further promoting social harmony. (1:12, 11:25)
b) The successful performance expresses and strengthens a proper mental state (i.e., the attitudinal intentions) of the actors with regard to each other and the social hierarchical order. (16:13)
c) The correct performance of the ritual process can in turn strengthen the general morality of the actors. The performance of ritual events is a process of moral self-training and self-examination. (12:1)
The attitudinal content in li-performance consists of the following aspects:
i) Sincere love of and respect for the proper order and others as basic virtuous qualities; (1:6, 4:4)
ii) Correct spiritual attention towards the ritual principle; (1:13, 3:26)
iii) The strength of will to hold to the li-principle and to carry out the rules of ritual performance; (8:8, 14:5) [19]
iv) Close attention to the technical details of the ritual rules shaping the correct attitude. (12:1, 3:15)
Among these four aspects, the first is taken as directed to the mental state itself before its connection with any substantial li-contents. The other three are related to the regularity of the chosen li-program. As an independent mental state, the respect or ching (reverence) may be connected with any li-system as long as the latter is accepted by the actor. Therefore, this aspect in the attitudinal system can be dealt with separately and constantly in any cultural circumstances, although it can only be perceived or manifested through the related system of behavioral rules. This emotional tendency in a special arrangement of attitudinal and behavioral factors, that is, in the performance process, can be grasped more clearly by others and even by the actor himself. Confucian wisdom is particularly good at touching on such hidden factors. For Confucius, the virtuous qualities of mind and behavior and their outward result are identical. In order to create the ideal social order, we need correct behavior according to the li-principles - and for the latter we require the correct psychological moral structure.
2) The Semiotic Function of Ritual Symbols
Let us return to our initial problem of the symbolic origin of ritual instruments. However complicated and extensive li-culture could be, the direct association with the character “li” is that of symbolic elements embodied in instruments and regulated gestures. In the early li-culture, respect and other benevolent intentions were not expressed directly or plainly. They were communicated between partners in a symbolic and programmed way. Ritual codes or procedural programs normalized and regulated correct relations (including attitude, behavior, position and duty) between partners. The situation resembles play with props “on stage” (“in situations”) according to a stylization of the behavioral process.
In ancient times, before the end of the Spring-Autumn Period (476 B.C.), when the political system was less developed than in the Ch’in and the Han periods, ceremonial and organizational rules were more interwoven with each other, so that the single word li could describe the dimension of the proper (moral) regularity of individual and social life. There was also another reason for Confucius to focus more on ceremonial events than on institutional ones in discussing problems of the moral order. According to his political reasoning about mental, behavioral and social relations, the moral mentality had always been the most important dimension of social moral practice. Consequently, those attitudinal factors directing ritual performances were given central attention. Dynamic ceremonial situations are more suitable than static organizational relationships for expressing and practising the principle of respect and love, for there are more symbolic factors involved in the former than in the latter. Generally speaking, although schematized actions and materialized symbols form the substantial part of li-philosophy, they are both theoretically and pragmatically subordinated to the general notions of Jen.
Although in Confucius’ li-doctrine symbolic instruments take on an important role, what is really relevant is not the details of the instruments and processes themselves, except when the latter happen to be the more applicable or effective props, like the sheep mentioned in our discussion of the inauguration rite.[20]
As symbolic systems performed spatially and temporarily, the concrete media and the chosen regulations of the ritual principles of various kinds themselves do not constitute the essential performative aspect of the li-principles. They are only the signifying tools whose semantic composition is defined conventionally. The practical insistence on convention shows the fact that Confucius uses the conventional medium to refer to the principle signified by the medium. If this is so, then the regulations of the rituals are changeable depending on different places and periods. This is why Confucius also pays attention to local ritual rules. (3:15) li as the system of ideal principles remains the same all the time, but the embodying media representing the principles can socially change. Whatever change ritual performance could undergo, the psychological, moral and social effects of the ritual, namely, the ultimate goal of li-doctrine, should remain the same. Confucius’ criticism is frequently directed against those who only heed the apparent correctness of outward behavior without the required corresponding intention of respect in the heart. For them, to perform a ritual means only to carry out the required technical steps. (17:9) This criticism proves that for Confucius’ ethics the technical procedures themselves are semantically instrumental alone. Through this example, we can understand why Confucius expresses a flexible attitude towards the selection of the entire ritual system. In view of his political idealism and admiration for remote civilization, the ritual systems of the first two dynasties, the Hsia and the Shang, should take precedence even before the Chou dynasty. But he surrenders his ideal for a simply practical reason: they are irretrievably lost in the distant past (3:9). Thus, he feels quite secure about choosing the systems available in the Chou period. Another vivid example is given in the note that reads “The Master, when he entered the grand temple, asked about everything.” (3:15) Confucius himself was noted for his knowledge of current ritual customs. The example indicates that he could accept different local customs or rules for performing the same kind of ritual. That means the concrete rules embodying the ritual principle can be changed without impairing the spirit of the performed ritual. Therefore, for Confucius, the li-doctrine is always a combination of concrete customs and the general ideal. The former is the bearer of the latter. The existing rituals and institutions, despite the actual poor quality of their performance, provided Confucius with a material possibility for the effective imagination of ideal ritual systems and their performance. As long as the ritual system with its related instruments is accepted, however, ritual detail can function as an effective communicative media. Respect for the ritual medium means respect for the ritual principle itself.
3) The Ultimate Referent of Ritual Signification: The Mental State
The existing li-system as well as the li-ideal play only a symbolic role in the confrontation with ethical subjectivity. li-systems are practical forces for shaping the mental state of the performing agent. What Confucius is really concerned with is the effect on the agent of the imaginary ritual symbolism. He insists on a pragmatic correspondence between behavioral and psychological ritual practices. Because the latter is his eventual main concern, the former is only an instrument of utility. The desired mental state of the performing agent i dependent more on the efficiency of the proper ordering of the ritual instruments than on their technical details. Therefore, Confucian li-doctrine is more symbolically instrumental than substantially dogmatic in nature. In other words, Confucius attends chiefly to the desired effect of the externally programmed procedures on the mind.
With his strong focus on ritual ethics, Confucius speaks little about other political matters. This does not mean that he is not practically familiar with those matters, for example, with the crude punishment which was traditionally taken as the oppositional pole of li. Civil punishment and military campaigns as the two main supports of any political organization are deliberately shunned in his talks. This suggests that Confucius does not want to thematize these topics. (1:15; 3:13) In political matters, he touches on many concrete policies in a broad or an elusive way, as we pointed out at the beginning of the last chapter. The lack or neglect of political topics in the Analects indicates Confucius’ orientation. Practically speaking, the weakness of the political rationality of his time makes his discourse more easily turn to the ethical aspect. In other words, the social and intellectual situation of ancient China parenthesized the political pole by means of a political alternative: li, which represents the social system and order in a general way. Nevertheless, despite its absence from the political dimension, li functionally confronts the subjective pole of Confucian ethics. More precisely, any historically accepted system and program are the semiotic and pragmatic media for expressing, testing and strengthening internal ethical states. The content or details of the media are practically fixed and thus alternatively require the preservation or alteration of ritual details.
Confucian li-doctrine contains a general meaning for ethical pragmatics: the programmed ritual situations are necessary for examining as well as strengthening the mental state. li as the concrete form of order performs the signification, communication and production with respect to the objective general order and the subjective correspondence to the former. In its primitive mode, li plays a logical role in the formation of the ethical process.
4. The Convergence of the Cognitional and Stimulative Functions of the li-System: Family and Filial Piety
1) The Relational Model of Ethical Practice in li
The extreme semantic flexibility of ethical terms in ancient China discloses an apparent tendency towards conceptual ambiguity. There are, however, two traits of the language which can explain why the feature, which is definitely unfavorable for scientific inquiry, is advantageous. One trait involves a special semantics of written Chinese, which we will discuss later, in chapter 10 of the section. The other trait is linked with the pragmatic tendency of Chinese thought. The pragmatic here means a performative combination of the ethically cognitional and the ethically productive. A concept or system is first intellectually justified or mentally accepted and then behaviorally realized; but the latter can become a mechanism for promoting or strengthening the mind. li can be performed exactly in this way. Having both intellectual and historical sources of justification (the jen-principle and the dynastic Chou origin), li is first the principle of morality and its realization in conduct; and, second, li as the knowledge of the ethically programmed mind and conduct can actually stimulate inner and outer morality. In the first process, the li-system plays an intelligible and conative role conducive to the realization of moral conduct; in the second process, the same li-system realized in moral conduct effects the mind in the same way. The active effect of a mental state becomes the reproductive cause of the same mental state. The li-system is the cause of the desired behavioral and mental states, which mutually interact.
As a cognitional system, li (as the principle realized in conduct) plays a symbolic role as the index (A) of the related ethical reasoning; as a dynamic system, li (as conduct programmed by principle) plays a stimulating role as an instrument (B) producing a certain effect. Let us use M to represent mind. In the triangular relation between A, B and M, both A-M and B-M are historically established: the first logical link and the second pragmatic link are relative to the historical context. This part of Confucian ethics has lost its effect, for the change of intellectual and social contexts in the modern world renders the relational items A and B no longer effective. Nevertheless, the relations themselves are still valid by dint of alternative formations of A and B in the same interpersonal context. From a hermeneutic point of view, Confucian li ethics involves a relational model of subjectivity, value (the li-principle) and the ethical dynamics at the historically formed, pragmatic context of the Chou li-system. It signifies that the ethical mind needs both cognitional support and a dynamic source for ethical practice. We can find this relational model in the li-doctrine despite the fact that the two relational items have lost their earlier effect.
2) The System of Filial Piety (hsiao)
Let us take a concrete li system at the fundamental social level of the family to further explain the nature and function of the li-doctrine of Confucius. One of the most remarkable traits of ancient Chinese social history is its rooted patriarchal clan system, which became the foundation for the political system. The clan or family system remained unchanged despite a gradual evolution in the general political hierarchy. Although it is not a sociological investigation, the present discussion must stress once again that both the state and family system in ancient China were formed during a long tradition. For ancient Chinese intellectuals, including Confucius, this tradition and its practice appeared to be something natural and unchangeable. Besides, because of the above-mentioned traits of the li-doctrine, the ethical potential of the system was self-reproductive. Moreover, the system of filial piety has the additional aspect of the blood tie.
a) The historical tradition of hsiao (filial piety)
The traditionally formed family or clan system was the very foundation of feudal Chou society. It is also the immediate situation - the biologically and socially natural one - in which a person stands in closest contact with others. According to Confucius’ ethics, the family system represents the most favorable condition for shaping the ideal personality. The combination of both social and biological superiority can effectively form the mental inclination to respect and obey one’s superiors. This mental inclination is the material basis for one’s proper attitude towards the li-system. The two-fold family system becomes a ready instrument for controlling one’s instinctive selfishness.[21] Therefore, there are two social sections in the general li-system: the state level and the family level, whereby the latter is the basis of the former.
Both in the Chinese tradition in general and Confucian doctrine in particular, the li-principles at the family level with the name “Filial Piety” (hsiao) became the core of national moral practice. Without making a clearly categorical division, Confucius treats the institutional and ritual aspects of family li in the same terms. Besides ordinary rites or manners, the family li covers more institutional or relational content. The parent-child relation itself becomes the object of family ethics. hsiao is about principles, attitudes, conduct and rites all at once; it is a synthetic term covering many semantic layers ranging from the heart, ideas, attitudes, manners, relationships and institutions. Compared with the li-system at the state level, the family system seems to have been more closely discussed in the Analects because it is the basic and immediate collective reality of the individual person. The Confucian focus also proves that the Confucian doctrine is more ethical than politico-ethical in character.
b) The ethical focus of Confucian hsiao-doctrine
For Confucius, hsiao as the institutional and symbolic hierarchical system is essentially tied with jen-doctrine. The family composes above all the stable condition of li leading an individual to the jen-orientation. In contrast to the Han scholars’ focus on the dogma of the absolute dominance of the father over his children, Confucius highlights the role of hsiao in forming the original type of virtuous love between parents and children. At first, it is a formulative stage of love for the immediate other. At this initial stage, the other is a blood relation. This special relationship between an individual and his immediate (biologically related) other happens to be the favorable general condition for love between two people. If jen is the objective of Confucian ethical practice, then selfishness is the direct object of its ethical operation. Love for the other and self-control are treated as the two sides of the same coin or as the same process which develops in the family system according to the principle of filial piety. More importantly, the latter is rooted in human nature itself. This is a typical expression of the empiricism of Confucian ethical pragmatics, which has been highly efficacious in Chinese history. In the special hsiao-li system, just as in the li-system in general, the Confucian emphasis on process in the historically formed system should be understood more functionally than substantially. The social system historically available is taken as the means for realizing the ethical ideal. Therefore, the chosen social system or process implies a relatively instrumental value. Of course, the Confucian theory of hsiao ascribes a quasi-absolute meaning to the innate link between general interpersonal love and particular interpersonal (parent-child) love. Confucian idealism has nothing to do with an ignorance of the bad aspects of human nature. To the contrary: all of Confucius’ moral teaching follows from his deep understanding of the spontaneous selfishness of human beings. For constraining this inclination, he stresses the significance of developing the opposite inclination: love. It seems to him that only love can help curb selfish desire. This moral genealogy allows us to also grasp the famous theory of the Mencian hsiao, which emphatically stresses filial piety as the origin of Jen. For both of them, the established family system was the most feasible channel for forming a moral personality.
Compared with other traditional ideas about the meaning of the family and filial piety arising from the patriarchal clan system, Confucius exhibits a special concern for love and its origin in contrast to mere behavioral obedience. Therein lies his unique contribution to classical Chinese ethics. It is emphatically manifested in his principle of jen as love which has an empirical origin in filial piety. The emphasis on filial piety exhibits the empiricist Confucian view of the origin of the first ethical principle, jen. Although jen is pragmatically linked to the historically shaped hsiao-system, it is essentially linked to the empirical source of its formation.
Furthermore, Confucius’ main concerns in his doctrine of the family address the development of the child’s deep affection for his parents - also an instrumental procedure for shaping love for the initial “other.” He also maintains several rules for family customs designed to help children master the concrete meaning and expression of the principle of filial piety. Respectful love is more important than the mere action of supporting one’s parents, for even an animal knows how to support its parents. (2:7) Confucius even found a way to induce people to examine whether they are truly pious or only formally so. He says that it is more difficult in the state of true piety constantly to maintain a lovely facial expression in the presence of one’s parents. (2:8) Confucius’ psychology tends to differentiate on one hand between the mental reality and its related behavior and on the other hand between two kinds of outward manifestation: the true expression of the mental state and its false expression. The emphasis on correct facial expression intends to stress the genuine inner state of love. The psychological realities of filial piety, respect, deep affection and sincere concerns in connection with one’s parents are supposed to exist in addition to outward filial conduct. This profound love has a permanent and not only a temporary character. In fact, the principle of filial piety is to be carried out over one’s whole life before and after the death of one’s parents, including, according to the li-principle, properly supporting and taking care of them during their life and then solemnly burying and regularly mourning them after their death. (2:5) That is to say, one’s love for the special other, one’s parents, should be an essential part of one’s own life. The key significance of filial piety for Confucian ethics is its being an archetypal mode of interpersonal (parent - child) love. The family and filial piety are subordinated to the general principle of jen-love. The family is a mechanism not merely for the prohibition and subjugation of individual freedom, but rather for producing interpersonal love. This special natural love embodied in the family system is highly significant for Confucius’ ethical operationalism. The family is the means, while love is the aim which is rooted in the ethical core. We should see the implicit sequence of the formation of love in the Confucian text. On the whole, the system of filial piety, like other li-systems, is especially used or developed by Confucius along affectional line. The Confucian doctrine of filial piety remains for us an heuristic means for understanding his ethical mechanism.
Besides the relationship between parents and children, there are others in family life such as those between siblings and those between husband and wife. In fact, in ancient Chinese family tradition, all relations within the basic family and within the larger family clan involved respect and hierarchy. For Confucius, other relations are to a lesser degree also opportunities for forming one’s love of others, especially those between siblings (1:6). Familial love, with parent-child love as the core type, constitutes the basis for the social expansion of interpersonal love. Consequently, besides many other functions, the family is above all a “school” for inducing and instructing one’s love for others, that is, a school of the Jen-principle. This school was socially and historically shaped; it was chosen as the convenient tool for attaining the ethical ideal. The hsiao-system offers a way of forming the profoundly affectional and influential bond between a person with his closest others. Consequently, the private patriarchal bond can be more fundamental than public legal bonds. Of course, there is no essential distinction between the private and public in Confucius’ ethico-political discourse. Hence, he can assert that “filial piety is ...also a kind of government” (2:21).[22] Both family government and state government should follow the same principles of li and jen. The family system and its function of shaping the jen-mentality form the operational basis of Confucian ethics. On the other hand, the Confucian confusion between state morality and family morality is due to the weaker attention which this doctrine affords certain political aspects.
c) A hermeneutic reading of the Confucian hsiao doctrine
In light of the above explanation, we will take hsiao as a morally significative and productive system in order to appreciate its eventual ethical aim. Within the Confucian system, hsiao plays a functional role which itself is more relevant than the historically concrete forms of hsiao as such. As a result, hsiao as an historical phenomenon can be mainly regarded as a symbolic or pragmatic instrument functioning in the Confucian ethical system. Thus, the relational items (A, B) in hsiao-li are also social and historically relevant. They can lose their practical and heuristic effect in different social and historical contexts. The Confucian hsiao-doctrine, however, more clearly than all other examples of li, indicates the necessity of the related items in ethical practice: the principle and its possible realization. The latter is highlighted here because of its historical success: a specially programmed human nature embodied in parent-child love. This empirical love became the single source of the efficacy of Confucian ethical pragmatics. This fact indicates the unique empiricism of Confucian ethics. The family and filial piety, both theoretically and practically, function as the symbolic and pragmatic medium for expressing, examining and realizing ethical goals. In the Confucian historical and intellectual context, the family system (A) provides the most effective corroboration of the ethical foundation (B) and the dynamic source of ethical practice (C). Our interpretative sequence, however, is reversed: we shall move from the Confucian doctrine of filial piety towards an understanding of the attributes of the two ethically pragmatic variables: the operational foundation and the operational dynamic. Therefore, from the ethical situations and their related treatments in the Confucian text, we propose to derive some essential traits of the ethical mechanism which is separable from the historically formed hsiao-system.

Part Two: The Pragmatic Aesthetics of Ethical Choice
(5) The Pragmatically Epistemological Bounds of Confucian Ethical Valuation
We can regard Confucian doctrine as consisting of two main parts: the socio-political and the individual realm. We can designate the first a political ethics and the second an individual ethics. If the former can be taken as an elaboration of the general tendency of the ancient Chinese cultural tradition, the latter exhibits the more original ideas of Confucius. This is so not only because the discussions in this second part are about ethical subjectivity from an individual stance, but also because more individual style and colour appears in its discursive rhetoric. If we to take this part of the text as a set of topics ranging from the ethical to the aesthetic, we shall view it as a reflection of the original Confucian approach to ethical problems on the basis of ancient Chinese socio-cultural conditions. Although the Analects is not presented in a systematic form, its discussions match common ethical situations in human communities and present a pragmatic logic for guiding the ethical choices and decisions of the ethical agent in various situations. Furthermore, compared with many other important ethical systems in the world, Confucius’ system displays a more individualist and humanitarian feature, although it has been continually employed in despotic social systems. This particular contrast between totalitarian politics and individual freedom specially regulated in Chinese history can be helpful for understanding the ethical culture of mankind in general. With its apparently fragmentary form, the Analects, in an implicit systematic way, presents an operational epistemological framework and selective strategy for an ethical pragmatics. Concretely, the basic textual system, which has been experienced and practised over two thousand years, provides the individual subject with a set of boundaries and a typology for ethical choices.
Confucian moral discourse is virtually structured in patterns of binary choices in different realms. Confucius uses this performative network of moral choices to present a pragmatic logic through concretely presented patterns of ethical decisions. His ethical argumentation is therefore arranged in terms of special modes of expression. The binary choices inlayed in the fabric of ethical dialogue become the form of ethical persuasion and stimulation. We may say a subjective Confucian ethics is realized within the process of choosing. Among a number of axiological and practical choices, some basic ones function as the epistemological frameworks restraining concrete choices; and we are trying to reconstruct several of these implicit in the binary choices. The dialogue between the Master and the disciples is arranged in fragmentary form containing moral instructions, warnings, advice, criticism and praise for the sake of guiding the choices of individuals in various ethical situations. The Confucian standards for ethical choices are reasonably limited to a set of bounds implicit in the text. The inferred bounds or limitations of acting in a balanced, systematic manner show what is excluded from the Confucian discourse. The discursive limitation potentially forms a restricted space for ethical choices. By grasping the operational limitation, we can understand how Confucius and the editors of the Analects constructed their discursive framework with an implicitly epistemological disposition, selectively organizing the thematic zones. Silent or even absent points in the textual space are also “epistemological” constituents of the discourse. A proper reading of the text must include these borderline points. The systematic co-ordination of spoken and unspoken topics provides the united perspective for a coherent reading. A hermeneutic reading of the text therefore involves reorganizing the textual elements according to the principle of pragmatic ethical coherence. The basic elements of the text are the individual sentences or paragraphs unsystematically edited in 20 chapters. Their pragmatic ethical coherence is realized in their interactions.
Concerning the concept of the pragmatical epistemological bounds, there are two important aspects of the codes of ethical choice. There is first the empirically demarcated realm of valid ethical activities; second, there is the distinction between ethically relevant and irrelevant categories. The conceptual bounds program the operation of binary ethical choice according to spatial and categorical divisions. Effective dichotomous choices must be performed within spatially limited and categorically regulated fields. The epistemological here means the operationally reasonable and feasible in the Confucian textual system. As a result, the set of pragmatical epistemological bounds forms the theoretical and operational conditions for the Confucian aesthetics of binary ethical choices.
1. The Natural Bounds in Ethical Reasoning: Spirits and Humanity. The Lack of a Religious Substratum
Confucius held a fundamentally atheistic or agnostic ethical position, in contrast with ethics based on a religious foundation. It is evident that there are only a few words in the Analects about the demi-god or spirits. It is also said that “the subjects about which the Master did not talk were extraordinary things, feats of strength, disorder and spiritual beings.” (7: 20) Confucius’ ethical discourse. Spiritual beings (this is Legge’s translation; Waley’s is “spirits”; literally: all supernatural agents) are excluded from his concern without any definite negation of their existence. In all of his talks, Confucius simply keeps silent about gods or spirits He shows no interest at all in supernatural beings in his ethical discussion. The above quotation is interesting because belief in the existence of spiritual beings was quite common in the ancient Chinese cultural tradition. The Shang dynasty was noted for its strong belief in gods and ghosts, cultivating a remarkably rich custom of ritual service for spirits. Even in the more humanitarian Chou culture, mourning rites were prevalently held in temples. Mourning rites were one of the most important li-activities of Confucius’ time, and the performance of the rites was viewed as a proof of the existence of the spirits of deceased ancestors. Therefore, it is significant to note that despite his firm emphasis on the significance of the tradition of mourning rites, Confucius is reluctant to speak about supernatural beings. This is indeed an important phenomenon because of the predominance of superstitions in ancient China.
1) The Humanitarian Attitude towards the Ritual for Spirits
It is true that Confucius maintains that “He sacrificed to the spirits as if the spirits were present” (3:12). This attitude accords with his insistence on sincerity in performing sacrificial rites and does not really refer to any possible belief in the existence of spirits. It suggests that sincerity demands that one presume a direct psychological direct encounter with the spirit of one’s mourned ancestor. The sentence with the character “ju” (“as if”) also indicates the possible distinction between a positive belief and the sincere state of the heart. The practice of sacrifice seems to become a performance for producing spiritual effects in the individual. Nevertheless, the Master apparently concerns himself only with the production of the desired effects in the mind through the ritual procedures rather than with the problem of the existence of spirits. In any event, the required effect involves the living li-agent rather than his deceased ancestor.
To a related question about the human knowledge of spirits, Confucius answers, “To give one’s self earnestly to the duties due to men, and, while respecting spiritual beings, to keep aloof from them, may be called wisdom.” (6:20) The frequently cited phrase “respect but keep aloof from spiritual things” expresses a basic pragmatic attitude towards divine or spiritual matters in their connection to li-practice. Confucius certainly regards spiritual beings as involved in human matters. As a role or a medium, spiritual beings join in (through the human imagination) with symbolic activity. More precisely, the imagined spirits share in producing the ritual atmosphere of the world. In any case, spirits serve human being. This traditional religious pragmatism in ancient China explains the success of stylized mourning. Despite the fact that most people who sacrificed would naturally and habitually believe in the existence of spirits, Confucius refuses to take the matter in isolated fashion, or he tends to take it as irrelevant. He seems to hint: Stop here! Only take the minimally relevant aspect of the supernatural into account! This “theistic minimalism” manifests the great epistemological significance of his ethical reasoning. If ritual sacrifice is an important occasion for showing ethical sincerity and respect, Confucius’ agnostic attitude implies that the knowledge of the existence of supernatural beings is not necessary for ethical reasoning. Thus, Confucius makes a basic binary choice between this world and the other world, or between the empirical and the supernatural: the former is always more important and more relevant.
2) The Exclusive Concerns about the World
In a more definite statement, Confucius makes a similar binary choice between worldly and otherworld life, or life after death, that is, between the world of human beings and the world of ghosts. After excluding the problem of ghosts from the field of ethical reasoning, he abandons the problem of life after death. Only this world or actual life is valid and meaningful for a philosophy of life. Confucius’ philosophy and ethics are thoroughly humanitarian. He demonstrates this separation by simply declaring: “While you are not able to serve men, how can you serve their spirits?...While you do not know life, how can you know about death?” (11:12) According to these instructions, the field of life is the only valid domain for human ethical reflection. Death is the border of life beyond which nothing valid or relevant exists. “Know” and “do not know” refer to the capability as well as the necessity of human ethical knowledge.
Since human being is taken as purely empirical existence, its two oppositions - the supernatural and the otherworld - are excluded from human concerns because they are not empirically relevant. Briefly, the strategy of the Confucian binarism lies in making a division between the relevant and the irrelevant in the operational field of human ethics. This principal exclusion of the unnecessary and irrelevant occurs through the direct orders of the Master without any theoretical argumentation. There just is no interest in the problem. Only interesting or relevant topics form a reasonable operating space. The ethically relevant belongs to this world alone. This original dichotomy leads to a special ethical orientation towards this world.
In general, ancient Chinese philosophical thought shows little interest in reflection on the possible existence of supernatural beings. It concerns itself more with worldly problems even when dealing with supernatural situations. Gods or ghosts essentially serve the happiness of human beings. For Confucius, however, who originated the basic ethical theory of jen or human love, ethical concepts are not based on supernatural belief. This first presupposition in his thought is derived from the empirical nature of human being. Of course, this principle is given intuitively and pragmatically in the text. The entire text of the Analects supports this view of the humanitarian nature of the Confucian principles of jen and li. Lin Yü-tang explains, “...these ancestral spirits are not gods, but merely human beings who have departed but who continue to take an interest in their progeny as they did in their lifetime.” (Lin 1939, 105) It is true that in a less spiritual sense, Chinese literati could hold a quasi-religious belief traceable to historical custom, but the point is that the religious or supernatural elements scarcely interfere in the reasoning process of moral agents apart from especially superstitious periods like the Han. Religious custom and empirical rationality may co-exist, but the latter is central. The traditional national concern with this world is a crucial reason for the influence of this atheistic attitude upon ethical empiricism.
2. The Empiricist Bounds: Heaven-Fatalism and Self-decision. The Lack of a Metaphysical Substratum
In accepting the fact that Confucius does not include the knowledge of gods and spirits in his ethical reasoning, we cannot neglect the fact that the concept of Heaven as the source of a supernatural power plays a considerable role in his system. For him, Heaven seems to be the last determinative factor influencing human fortune, as in Greek myth. Furthermore, in Confucius’ use of the term, Heaven sometimes means a personal god. Although we can easily cite examples, we can also show that his use of the term Heaven does not involve any reference to genuinely religious beings such as God or the supernatural will. In his text, Heaven has the moral role of judge of human behavior (3:13; 6:28; 9:5; 11:9; 12 : 5) and supervisor or guide of human conduct (3:24; 7:23; 14:35). Even if most of sayings about Heaven in the Analects be taken as the genuine words of Confucius (even as a role in the text), Heaven receives no characterization. Nevertheless, it is evident that Confucius requires this supernatural medium for his ethical reasoning.
1) Heaven as the Index of the Bounds of Human Possibility
From Confucius’ usage of the term, we can see that Heaven only represents the limit of human potentiality or the unknown existential force which affects human activity. The supernatural concept, however, can be also empirically interpreted in human situations because a man can only achieve a limited number of his projects during his lifetime and must consequently leaves much more unattained. The empirical situation can be said to be formed by an unknown force called Heaven. In this context, Heaven signifies the incalculable factors influencing human events – or the forces other than those which can be controlled by the agent. Because the unknown force itself cannot be equivalent to the supernatural or to trans-empirical existence. Thus, the unknown force called Heaven is not inconsistent with the empiricist Confucian position.
In functional terms, we can say that the Confucian Heaven is an “x” which represents the influential factor in situations exceeding human control. It also means the boundary of the empirically possible world of human behavior. What is beyond the border can be marked by x. If so, its function, if not its identity, in Confucius’ ethical reasoning is still empirically relevant. The important difference between Heaven and the gods is that religious individuals must appeal to the latter for helping them make their decisions and achieving bliss, while Confucius, if not all Confucians, does not need to pray for the help of Heaven, even if he is in a helpless situation. When the disciple Tze Lu wishes to pray to the spirits to relieve the Master’s illness, Confucius stops him, regarding this as meaningless (7:34). This highly important story literally and symbolically proves that Confucius does not appeal to Heaven or the mandate of Heaven to share in human decisions. This provides a crucial distinction between natural and supernatural functions. Heaven is regarded at most as an unknown power influencing human affairs. It therefore cannot be manipulated by humans. There may be some unknown force influencing human fortunes, but it works outside the accessible world. If Heaven means some trans-empirical force belonging to the unknown field, its conceptual relation to human practice remains empirical. In the empirical field, Heaven represents both the boundary of human potential and empirically unknown factors. As such a marginal image, Heaven joins with human empirical operations in negative fashion. It is not substantially but rather symbolically accessible.
2) Heaven’s Role outside the Ethical Decision
Even for modern non-religious individuals, the concept of Heaven can be used empirically as something effective but unknown. Confucius’ ethical logic needs such a concept limiting human possibility in this world. One only does one’s utmost within this flexible limitation. Heaven is a concept connected with the limitation of human volitional decision or human power. This highly empirical use of Heaven in the Analects is quite unique in ancient Chinese texts. among ancient China, the term Heaven was closely linked with the supernatural activity of divination. Since Confucius’ time, Heaven was a quasi-religious concept determining human decision. A few sentences in the Analects exemplify religious belief in Heaven:He who offends Heaven has none to whom he can pray.” (3:13) “Only heaven knows me.” (14:37) “Heaven produced the virtue that is in me”. (7:22) “Heaven is going to use your Master as a bell with its wooden tongue.” (3:24) It is true the term is often used in an anthropormophic tone in order to express emotion, moral faith and even supernatural authority, but non of them are joined with the ethical determination. More precisely, Confucius never appeals to a concrete divine instruction for making a decision. We have to avoid the basic misunderstanding that Confucius’ Heaven is a determinative power in human activity. It can be imagined or used in various special expressions, but it has no actual existence in human life. Therefore, it has no link with conventional fatalism. In contrast to the ancient Greek poets, Confucius never shows any interest in speculating about a supernatural or transcendental force determining human life. Instead, he prefers a principle of self-determinism in human action. He asserts that humans should always make their own decision without expecting any supernatural help. Decisions are to be made on the basis of one’s own will. Confucius teaches that man can only rely on himself to make his decisions and to realize their consequences. Any other expectation should not impinge upon the process of decision. This is the point of Confucius’ concept of Heaven: Heaven never plays into our volitional balance. Confucius himself never gives in to the sway of fate or heavenly intention. In human calculation, fatalism is not relevant.
3) Heaven’s Role in Maintaining Ethical Empiricism
The concept of Heaven can also function positively in helping one to make ethical decisions in an “epistemological” way. It suggests that there are always some factors beyond one’s control favorable or unfavorable to one’s decision. This is an empirical fact in human life which must be accepted. Given this understanding, the valid or relevant scope of human decision is necessarily limited. The knowledge that this is so, however, increases rather than decreases one’s will to choose ethically. In particular, there is a natural separation between the ethically acceptable and the actually successful. Ethical choice is not something directly connected with its successful realization in the world. On one hand, this theoretical separation is likely to induce satisfaction with failure, which can be ascribed to Heaven rather than to one’s own mistakes. On the other hand, however, with sufficiently developed knowledge, this separation can function as the awareness of the reasonable limitation of human effort. One of the positive effects of the conception lies in its freeing the individual to act without worrying about the final result of his decisions. Such concerns need not be included in the scope of human calculation. This strategy can be taken as another humanitarian principle for ethical choices. We have, then, an interesting dichotomy between Heaven’s possible influence and human decision-making; the former functions as the reasonable boundary of the pragmatic space of the latter.
The problem of Heaven is essentially not a religious one. The issue concerned is not its existence but rather its function in connection with human practice. Without a clear anthropomorphous background, the marginal idea embodied in the natural medium of the sky or the cosmos became applicable as a transcendent concept. After the Han period, Heaven became in Confucianist philosophy more metaphysical or quasi-religious. Following the Sung period, its metaphysical role was further elaborated in the new theoretical system of Confucian-Taoism. All strands used the same term “Heaven” to represent different ideas by way of the same imagistic substratum. The fact is that the editor of the Analects excluded this sort of topic from the text. The absence of the metaphysical Heaven in the text is highly significant and is linked with the pragmatic ethical mechanism. Confucian ethics does not require a metaphysical foundation connected with an ethical dynamic. Nonetheless, Confucian Heaven as an “x” does not intellectually deny the existence of some metaphysical force which might influence humans. Still, Heaven can only be included in the category of the unknown, also represented by x. The point is that Confucius never treats Heaven as a philosophical problem; he only excludes its metaphysical use from his ethical logic with its reasonable autonomy.
3. The Societal Bounds: Commitment and Withdrawal
The two kinds of bounds of ethical choice are the empirical and the trans-empirical. This and the subsequent theoretical bounds which we shall discuss involve two empirical inclinations. The definition of these bounds is itself empirically fixed. The empirical is related either to the operational area or to the possibility of ethical inclination.
1) The Basic Contrast between Nature and Society
What is the Confucian ethical reason which can motivate an individual to undertake a moral obligation? Without offering any theoretical arguments, Confucius presents systematic and artistic sets of persuasive instructions in his dialogues with his disciples about the principle of ethical choice. Confucius’ ethically persuasive rhetoric displays an implicit system of binary patterns of ethical choice. In this system, a basic mode of ethical choice is made between accepting and refusing a politico-moral orientation in a philosophy of life. This is the very first choice a man has to make in living his life. This general choice in Confucius’ doctrine involves an original confrontation with the possibility of withdrawal from society. Even in ancient times, there were two basic and opposed human attitudes. Whether because of hardship or failure in social life, some persons preferred to retire into the “forests and mountains,” isolating themselves from human affairs in the social world; they were the primitive hermits. It is said that most choices for social withdrawal were made out of desperation about social hardship or existential emptiness. Their decision led such persons to give up all moral or social obligations contrary to Confucius’ position. The example set by the hermits offers Confucius a crucial chance to reconsider his original question: Why should anyone choose an ethical path in a social world? Why should anyone choose social moral commitment? This is a question universally raised by every moral philosophy. Without any theoretical treatment, Confucius gives his reply through a network of guidelines about how to choose morally in every dilemma. Concretely, in answering this crucial question, Confucius does not present a positive demonstration in his non-theoretical discourse. Instead, he only expresses the undesirability and unacceptability of retirement as a basic attitude through the fundamental contrast between the social human being and the natural animal. In this context, he gives a fundamental imperative: “It is impossible to associate with birds and beasts as if they were the same with us” (18:6). Nature as chosen by hermits is the place of the non-human. Confucius indicates that this original and natural demarcation between human being and the animal provides the criteria for the direction of life. According to the traditional conception of human nature, Confucius artificially establishes an epistemological distinction between the human (the ethically relevant) and the non-human (the ethically irrelevant) for his ethical logic of basic life choices. The animal is a member of the class “nature” and the man is a member of “society.” The contrast between animal and man grounds that between nature and society. The intuitive way of presenting the first choice in the system functions as an epistemological bound of the general problem of ethical choice.
2) The Marginal Role of the Image of the Primitive Hermit
The problem of the morality of hermits is more complicated and meaningful than it initially appears. The image of the hermit plays a very special role in Confucius’ philosophy of life. He needs this type of personality in order to highlight his deeper sensibility for humanitarian morality. We find, then, a paradoxical relation. Confucius highly respects recluses not only because they are said to possess a noble spirit (18:1), but also because there is an apparent similarity between his lifestyle and theirs. Even as an ambitious politician, Confucius frequently fled the political centers to roam about the country. He often comes across true hermits in “nature” or the “field” in contrast with culture and “town” (18:6; 18:7; 14:41). Both of them have escaped from society, but one fled objective moral tension while the other shunned culture itself. Confucius uses the image of hermits in order to characterize his own ironically marginal situation between ideality and reality. For Confucius, however, the principle of escape and reclusion is only an expedient for difficult moral struggle. The irony is that he tries to argue with recluses that his case differs from theirs, but in reality he must be included in the same class with them, since he actually chooses retirement from politics. The hermit becomes a mirror for the self-reflection of the Confucian agent. The fact is, however, that the essential difference between Confucius and the hermits appears in their intention rather than in their behavior - or so he repeatedly stresses For him, the purpose of temporary withdrawal is only to make possible a better re-entry into society at a later time. With all of the reasons for withdrawing to nature, the Confucian agent must actively prepare to rejoin community at some future point.
While the Chinese philosophical school of Taoism, which advocates permanent retirement into nature, became influential among the literati, the Confucian principle of actively joining in social life became more relevant in the Chinese ethical debate about the choice of one’s direction in life. If the Confucian attitude is accepted, its binarism leads to that between moral or political commitment and ethical indifference. The rejection of escapist retirement also means the negation of moral apathy or inertia. Therefore Confucius’ sympathetic comments on the hermit’s attitude implies a deeper criticism. People in this world have no other choice than to accept the challenges of an unavoidably bitter destiny. The image of retirement into nature is taken by Confucius as the border of worldly meaning and as the bound of tactful retreat from society. Confucius’ world is segregated both from the world of Heaven and from that of death and nature; it adjoins both of their borders.
3) The A-logical Source of Ethical Choice
In essence, the above contrast is the primary one between the Confucian and the Taoist, which will be discussed in the second section. Confucius’ quasi-argumentation concerning this problem is not logically formed; there is simply intuitive choice. The Confucian uses the intuitive presentation of actual decision as a feasible solution. The choice is only an index of an instinctive response inviting the same instinctive reaction in others. This is an aesthetic rather than a logical type of strategy. Its intellectual and practical effect also interacts with Confucius’ entire persuasive system. The primitive and straightforward mode of presenting the basic decision can also signify the absence of logical reasons. This fact may reveal that logic alone does not succeed. A theoretical implication is that the solution presents itself as the presupposition of any further possibility of practical ethical operation. The Taoist choice means the end of ethical operation. When Mencius intellectually focuses on the same problem later, we see thetheoretical” foundation of aesthetic ethical choice: human nature itself. It is true that human nature can choose either way; therefore, it can probably choose the Confucian. The reason behind the persuasive rhetoric lies in this pragmatic probability. There is no absolute basis of any kind for ethical decision, according to Confucian ethics.
Modern ethical empiricism helps us to appreciate the Confucian empiricism soberly by logically distinguishing the theoretically possible from the theoretically impossible. The ethical reason for moral devotion is not based on a metaphysically logical or a socially legal rationality; it is the consequence of a pragmatic aesthetic nature. Therefore, Confucian ethics is not a logical construction, but rather a persuasive device which is based on the empirical nature of human being - although we can still call it an ethical logic in a practical sense.
4. The Cultural Bounds: the Civilized and the Barbarian
Confucian doctrine as anthropocentric excludes the participation of existent gods, spirits, animals and socially retired humans from the ethical world. Confucian ethics makes another basic demarcation between the civilized and the barbarian in its operational strategy. For Confucius, humanity and the ethical dimension are necessarily involved in the civilized world. According to his knowledge, China under the Chou dynasty was the only civilized place in the world and the people outside China were uncivilized or barbarian. The civilized world alone is the realm of ethical concern. Humanity and the human world is therefore divided into two parts: the civilized and the uncivilized or the cultural and the barbarian. This basic differentiation is determinative for Confucius’ moral philosophy. The neighboring barbarian states are outsiders in Confucius’ ethical world along with the above-listed three limiting categories. Simply put, ethical activity limits itself to the civilized world. Confucian ethical logic is only valid in this world. This basic choice reflects more a pragmatic logical view than cultural taste.
Through a series of patterns of binary differentiation, Confucius delimits his ethical world, inside of which are established everything relevant for his work. These binary differentiations are made in a prescriptive or dogmatic way without any theoretical argumentation: it is either “yes” or “no.” A prescriptive or dogmatic doctrine presupposes some logical background. In Confucius’ doctrine, however, there is nothing theoretically given. All prescriptions and instructions are in fact directly given with an intuitive primitiveness reminiscent of a human instinct for moral choice. The dialogue form suggests the original primitiveness rooted in the distant national past. It evokes the original imperatives of the original experience of early Chinese civilization. On the other hand, however, Confucian doctrine, with its profound humanitarian background emphasizes the distinction between the civilized and the barbarian, includes the uncivilized in the valid scope of universal love, albeit to a lesser degree. The Confucian aim of contacting the uncivilized looks forward to their civilized transformation, which would expand the area of ethical operation and ethical objectives.
This distinction between different levels of human beings, or this culturally defined dichotomy, should not be grasped literally as racial discrimination. On the contrary, Confucian ethics is racially irrelevant. What Confucius stresses is the empirical possibility of ethical practice. Even within the civilized world, he also maintains a graded love for people with different levels of ethical cultivation. The implicit epistemological point lies in the limitation of the valid scope of ethical praxis. Ethical situations form a meaningful field for human practice only in being structurally restricted and operatively regulated. Structurally speaking, the limitation to the civilized state is also a technical condition for the feasibility of consistent ethical choices in the Confucian system.
5. The Anthropocentric Bounds of Humanism: Distinction between the Human and the Non-human
To the third and fourth limiting classes we can add a fifth: the non-human. Thus, the scope of animals and other beings is not included in the Confucian ethical field either. Although Confucius expresses an affectional sympathy for the animal (7:27); animals are not valid moral members of his ethical system. These sympathetic expressions only indicate the benevolent mind of the ethical subject in treating other beings. There is an empirical reciprocity between humans and animals. This kind of bounds of species is another proof of the anthropocentrism of Confucian ethics. It is defined in reference to the super-human and the meta-physical, as well as the undercivilized and the subhuman alike. This set of operational epistemological bounds evidences a thoroughgoing ethical humanitarianism.
6. The Minimization of Ethical Restrictions: Silence about Race and Sex
Let us examine another kind of bounds in ethical operations which appears in the lack of some important items in the text. The bounds mentioned so far function as the demarcation line between the valid and invalid areas of ethical operation. The present bounds, however, indirectly exclude these conventional taboos, making them irrelevant in the Confucian ethical situations. For Confucian ethics, some conventional moral taboos, such as religious exclusivism, racial discrimination and the suppression of sexual freedom, have lost their effect. In the Confucian ethical text, there are no such topics at all. The epistemological minimalism of primitive Confucian ethics implicitly presents a high flexibility or tolerance towards the above-mentioned moral biases prevalent in other civilizations. As an atheistic doctrine, Confucian ethics regards religious elements as irrelevant. Thus, the Confucian doctrine displays a highly tolerant character in religious matters. It is interesting to note that an anthropocentrist ethics can have more religious tolerance and permissiveness than religious ethics, as long as religion does not interfere in secular ethical matters. The religious is implicitly parenthesized by Confucian ethics.
1) The Relevant Aspect: the Cultural rather than the Racial
A Confucian philosophy of love addresses itself to all human beings depending upon their differing moral and cultural levels. As love is related to both the Confucian literati and the morally mediocre, it is also related to culturally higher and lower peoples. There is a valid scope of qualified members for moral valuation and there is a standard for grading moral levels among the members. According to the Confucian doctrine, however, there could be two poles of differentiation of love: a) social hierarchy and b) cultural superiority. The latter can be understood in relation to the cultural quality of persons and of peoples. Confucius practically differentiates in feeling and attitude towards others between general love and particular respect. On one hand, a certain kind of affection can touch every human being; on the other hand, a particular reverence is given only to the intellectually and ethically distinguished. In other words, human love consists of two grades, but each grade falls under the category of love. It is in this broad sense that the Confucian principle of grades of social love and its China-centrism can be interpreted as a genuine humanism suitable to every person and race within a reasonable limitations. For Confucius, the moral distinction between China and the accessible neighboring communities is mainly due to the gap between their cultural levels. Ancient China or the Chou Dynasty for Confucius is only an index of culture which is, of course, separable from any historical entity in ethical valuation. Therefore, there is no Confucian racial discrimination in moral love. At both the individual and the collective level, moral distinctions are made only according to “cultural” (spiritual or moral) values.
2) Sex: the Ethically Irrelevant
It is even more curious to note that Confucius never talks about the constraint of sexual appetite in his Chinese “Bible.” His follower Mencius recognizes that food and sex are the two basic aspects of human nature. In Confucius’ moral philosophy, the appetite for both food and sex should be restrained because of other reasons than food and sex as such. If we can take the silence about or absence of the topic of sex in the Analects as a definite exclusion of sex as ethically relevant, Confucian ethics proves to be an empirical humanism also in this special sense. In general, the Confucian does not suppress any instinct from human nature for its own sake, but only for the sake of ethical praxis, when needed. Thus, the limitation of natural human desires is connected with maintaining the principles of interpersonal justification, which requires reciprocal self-control. Therefore, Confucian ethics seems to imply rather a heroic human devotion than a religious asceticism. A Confucian humanist has to bear a painful tension between his natural instincts and his ethical belief. As a result, Confucian ethics - similar to ancient Greek philosophy - does not presuppose sexual prohibition as a specialized means for maintaining moral control, as the Sung Confucianists do. This wisely influential attitude is empiricist and rational in nature. The significance does not lie in its sensuous permissiveness, but in its reasonable focus on epistemological relevance in setting ethical criteria. The Confucian doctrine uniquely “professes” that sex has no necessary tie with human moral problems! In other words, the relation of sex to morality is external. In reality it can and should be restricted, just as many other human desires should be constrained in ethical practice. But sex is never portrayed as a taboo or treated as a tool for controlling behavior in the Confucian texts. Sex does not become an instrument. The silence about sex in the primitive Chinese ethical text signifies a great humanitarian freedom. Much more theoretically important is the fact that such a taboo is taken as unnecessary for ethical theory and ethical technique. Thus, the concept oforiginal sin” of any kind cannot be associated with the empiricist ethics of Confucius.
The above three examples express the high potential of Confucian ethics for intellectual tolerance towards and sympathy with a variety of one’s others. Therefore, the Confucian art of excluding irrelevant elements from the ethically operational strategy exhibits an extremely reasonable wisdom for dealing with human value conflicts.
3) Confucian Ethics: the Persuasive System in the Original Text
As regards the above explanation about the scope and limit of Confucian ethical topics, a great number of historical documents can seemingly deny its truth. Even Confucius’ own historical situation offers opposing examples. In order to answer the question, we can repeat what we pointed out at the beginning of our discussion, namely, that the Confucian ethics is mainly taken as what contained in the text of the Analects. The principles of ethical reasoning to which we refer only exist at the theoretical level. The original Confucian text exercises its influence only through a specially established social and theoretical channel in which other historical and ideational sources can also be effective. Not every reader will accept the original Confucian doctrine in the multiply formed historical and intellectual contexts with which he is faced. The reader’s reaction to the Confucian text differs from the innate logic of Confucian ethics. As a written autonomy, the Confucian text keeps speaking in the same way, regardless of its historical reception. Its original strength lies in the fact that it has co-existed with many opposing thoughts and manners over more than two thousand years without losing its relevance and ethical efficacy. The Analects is a self-sustained system of moral instruction completely based on the timeless aspect of human nature. Therefore, despite its possible convergence with other factors, the Confucian text can maintain its independent or separate influence. It cannot be determinative of everyone’s life-choices in complicated social contexts, but it has been effective in the Chinese axiological world. Its singular and separate mode of existence in Chinese social and intellectual history is itself a great event. Not a political means, Confucian ethics has provided many people with an ethically axiological guide. The Analects contains its own denotational world (A); while its historical reception or its actual effect (D) is the result of the interaction of A, the social-cultural conditions (B) and the personality of the reader (C). The aspects A, B, C, D in Confucian ethics are separated in our analysis.

(6) The Structure of the Subject of Choice and the Inwardly Directed Features of Confucian Ethics. Theoretical Digression I
Confucian doctrine covers two realms: the intentional-private and the political-public, with the former being central. The private or individual realm can be further divided into the outward and the inward. Despite the innate connection between the two realms, they have separate spheres of the ethical objectives, objects and means. In fact, most Confucian topics are presented from the individual perspective, for both public or private affairs are considered and dealt with from an individual angle. In other words, the Confucian formulation of ethical discourse is organized in dialogue between individuals, but its topics include both private and public ethics. There is the problem of public or general standards of interpersonal morality, and there is the problem of private standards in relation to the former. Both public and private standards have the same general goal, called jen, which can be diversified into various concrete items. In the Analects, the private aspect is given much more detailed treatment than the public. In this regard, we can say that the Confucian doctrine is mainly a private or subjective ethics. Confucius’ moral teaching mainly concerns how an ethical subject establishes himself or shapes an ideal personality for ethical praxis. Confucian doctrine therefore concentrates on the constitution of the moral personality. It can be characterized as learning about how to become a moral man or secular sage (chün-tzu). Only such a person is capable of carrying out external and internal ethical practice. More concretely, Confucian doctrine can be regarded as a teaching of intellectual cultivation, virtuous training, the study of moral knowledge and the formation of moral personality. All of these items are directed towards making a person ethically mature for pursuing and attaining the jen-goal.
The development of one’s life as a united whole includes different aspects including study and other private and public activities oriented towards a goal. The mutable and immutable factors, the particular and general aspects, are interwoven with verbal-behavioral contexts organized in terms of a dynamic holistic principle: the Confucian jen-Tao. There are no sharp demarcations between different aspects and dimensions in one’s project or one’s life-long effort. “Study” or preparation and work or realization, the private and public dimensions, are interwoven with each other in all practical processes. Although Confucius makes a division between “hsüeh” (learning) and “hsing” (doing), the two processes are closely linked with or overlap each other. “Learning” can mean study in a definite field or “spiritual effort” in general. In a broad sense, it can be taken as an endeavor of self-improvement. Similarly, “doing” can mean any projection or application of learning. Preparation is a process directed towards a succeeding pragmatic process; and realization is a process following upon a foregoing pragmatic process. The Confucian doctrine of ethical practice consists of two stages of intellectual operation, with the former as the basis. On the whole, however, the Confucian doctrine is mainly about the art of individual preparation or cultivation. Hence, the doctrine of learning and training becomes the central part of Confucian ethics. Learning, study and training - preparation in general - are the same activity, directed above all towards shaping a qualified moral personality. Preparation refers to the process itself for achieving a goal and realization refers to the completion of the process. Process itself can occur in both internal and external spheres, just as a goal of Confucian praxis can exist in both spheres. Therefore, preparation is also realization; or preparation for any goal can be divided into several subprocesses leading towards the subgoals. In short, study or learning aims at gaining the capability for preparing, designing and realizing a unified moral process.
Without appealing to any theoretical inferences, Confucian doctrine indirectly shapes a system of norms and skills for individual ethical choices. Intuitively and performatively expressing these goals and skills in common words and daily deeds, Confucius prepares a self-sufficient pragmatic system relevant to the human experience of ethical rationality. The only objective foundation of the Confucian system lies in the historically shaped interpersonal experience itself which is completely empirical in nature. The system of ethical norms and skills is the result not of theoretical inference or speculation, but rather of human historical experience based on empirical human nature. Confucian doctrine is therefore completely formed on the basis of the internal and external experience of humanity. This experience is formed through a dialogue or interaction between internal motives and external effects. The empiricist foundation of Confucian ethics lies at a structural or holistic level: the empirically effective network of the mutually and coherently supporting patterns of different ethical choices in actual life. These empirically effective supports are realized at both the individual and the collective level.
For the sake of understanding the structural and dynamic interrelations of the various parts of Confucian ethical discourse - which were presented unsystematically in the original text - we shall first attempt to develop a heuristic model for the description. Despite its modern terms and approaches, we believe the model structurally and functionally corresponds to the Confucian text as such. As a matter of fact, the Confucian text implicitly contains an operational stratification of the self as the agent or subject of ethical choices. Because in Confucius’ time society was not yet systematically controlled, at many social levels there was ample room for the free choice of the individual. Confucius’ world was still a pre-despotically institutionalized. This situation provided the possibility for thinking more of ethical rather than politico-legal practices. The pre-legal status of Confucian ethics shapes an ideal heuristic model for a subjective ethical pragmatic. Despite the complicated development of human organizations, the basic ethical level has remained as a constituent dimension of all society.
1. The Heuristic Stratification of the Subject in Choosing
In comparison with the religious, legal and political dimensions, the ethical is more essentially based on the self-conscious subject of ethical practice. There is a special aspect of ethical activity which emerges with the initial self-consciousness of the self. More precisely, the ethical activity takes place through the weighing and choosing of an “I” who, as an independent agent, is not a mere member of the collective performing according to established social codes. The ethical dimension implies more freedom of choice than these other dimensions. Thus, in discussing ethical practices, it is natural to focus on the subjective agent. The wake of the subject is not only his self-consciousness as such, but also his consciousness of relations to others and thereby of the capacity to distinguish between the ethically good and bad. Without self-awareness, the basic ethical distinction can be made neither at the axiological nor at the practical level. The mechanism of free ethical choice is innately linked to that of the ethical subject. For the sake of better understanding the process of ethical choice, we should first understand the process and structure of the subjective ego who makes the ethical choice.
It is easy to presuppose that, broadly speaking, there are three different kinds of ethical choices: those at the levels of the practical-behavioral, the virtuously qualificatory-psychological and the attitudinal-volitional. The first concerns our actual choices in ethical projects, including both internal and external objects. The second concerns personal qualificatory preparations or potentials: it is about how to form a reservoir of virtues and knowledge; thus, it is a subjective condition for the first kind of choice. The third concerns more radical choices such as the general direction of ethical practice, the production of practical ethical energy, the structural harmonization of different items, aspects and steps of ethical projects, the examination of ethical performance and resistance of pressure and challenge. The three levels of the ethical self’s operation exhibit the different involvements of the self in the choosing process, indicating the different qualities and moments of free ethical choice advancing from less to more voluntary or volitional degrees. In other words, the different levels of the practising ego indicate different realizations of ethical subjectivity.
In the Confucian text, we can also find a tripartite division of ethical choice. The different sorts of choice involve practical calculation and decision, the cultivation and selection of mental moral qualification and the general determination of ethical life and endeavors. There are three operative grades of subjective “agents” or functions at the three levels, all of them co-ordinated with different arrangements and united by the inmost self whose role is that of final commander or co-ordinator. The “three cardinal Confucian virtues”: i.e., “chih” (wisdom), “jen” (benevolence) and “yung” (valor) (or, in our expanded fashion, technical method, axiological principle and volitional energy), attain their realization in a structural way. The functional stratification of the ethical subject in the Confucian text is not only a problem of the operational division of ethically choosing practice, but also of our understanding of the structure of the historical reception of Confucian ethics. The Confucian exercises its ethical impact in a graded manner: people of different ethical calibers react with different focuses on ethical problems at different levels. Therefore, the ethical text organized in reference to the diversity of human nature satisfies different requirements and stimulates different possibilities at different ethical levels and realms. For this reason, Confucius’ disciples are described as having had different achievements which imply receptional flexibility and diversification in ethical praxis. (11:2-6)
2. The Three Layers of the Choosing Subject: the Confucian “I”
Let us examine in more detail the structure of the choosing subject . Without relying on a theoretical mode, Confucian doctrine emphasizes the art of internal and external operations of the agent during performing his ethical praxis. The agent or actor who is the subject of ethical praxis undertakes several functions in Confucian ethics. It is the subject who is conscious of himself and his contact with the world and external objectives; the selector of several alternative objectives and means in different domains; the role fixing the direction of praxis; the axiological problem-raiser; finally, the locus of self-consciousness. The Confucian “I” can play all of these different roles in the discourses. The most remarkable one is that of the subject who is conscious of its own existence and action - the “I” who can think about itself or its own situation and aims. It is true that the Confucian subject is an ego conscious of its pragmatic existence, namely, of its own ethical as well as practical choices. The expressions of the different roles of the I in the text marks a major development in Chinese intellectual history. This ego-centric text happens to be the first Chinese book written by a “single hand” or from a unified perspective.
In contrast to some modern observations that Confucius’ thought lacks self-consciousness, we find that the author shows a strong consciousness of the existence of the self in all human situations, although self-consciousness is not expressed directly in monological form. Instead, it presents itself in dialogical form. The subject of moral discrimination and behavioral decision confronts a variety of ethical conditions. The conscious confrontation between the agent and his situational problems reflects the character and function of the choosing subject. Despite being a member of a community, the ethical subject does not always think and act according to the collectively established or legal rules. He becomes an agent who measures, balances and determines his choices, observing, considering and selecting them on his own within the relevant realms. The Confucian moral man becomes an independently choosing and acting person, one who takes care of his own problems separately from the historical customs of the social collective. In brief, a man raises and solves his own problems in terms of his own knowledge and will. He becomes a self-determinative being. This trait marks a great leap forward in Chinese intellectual history. Of course, as we pointed out above, there is a distinction of functional parameters at the different operational levels of the subject. We can therefore call the different functional agents of the ethical subject as a whole the different types of the “I” or ego.
At its highest level, the Confucian moral man becomes an operational agent who is free, self-determined and independent. This level is characteristic of the special direction of Confucian ethics. There is an evident expression of individual personality in the text. The term “I” appears about 47 times in the Analects (see Harvard-Yenching Institute, 1986, 56-57). The role of “I” appears much more often than this. All problems emerging from the text are raised by an “I” as the first person singular; they are the problems of some “I,” an individual, rather than of a collective entity. The Analects is in fact an intellectual story of a consciously acting “ego” or a self-reflection of the ethical praxis of an individual agent. Its heroes are a group of individuals who exist on their own for the sake of a common moral objective, “jen”. They gather themselves around a Master (the individual Confucius), but each one of them has to think and act according to his own understanding and judgement as they are inspired, taught and guided by the Master. There is a large number of richly characteristic expressions of self-consciousness in the dialogues of the text. The persons in the story concentrate on the key problems of life: its meaning, objective and standards and the modes of ethical practice. Each individual spontaneously undertakes the obligation of solving his own problems. In order to do this, a person must ethically discriminate at various levels and in different situations. The identity of the ethical agent consists in his potential to wisely choose in the ethical space. The ethical agent is capable of solving his own problems by selecting among various alternatives.
Before concrete problems can be solved, however, a person is first faced with the pre-existent problem of setting up standards and methods for solving concrete problems. There are then two levels of problematics: the “theoretical” and “practical” as well as the “internal” and “external.” A typical Confucian actor is engaged in two spheres of existence: external or social practice and internal or subjective practice. Hence, there are first two roles of an ego facing two contrasting realms. For the Confucian art of ethical practice, there are two directions of attention: the outward and the inward, both being centered on a subjectivity split into two parts. The psychologically diremptive process is precisely the formation of self-consciousness. Accordingly, a conscious ego emerges knowing the world and itself alike. Thus, we can call the first ego or ego-1 a behavioral agent who carries out its ethical actions in the world according to a fixed set of standards for behavioral selection. In the Confucian text, ego-1 can explicitly or implicitly have different pronominal forms: I, he or we. For example, when giving a teaching Confucius says, “The superior man wishes to be slow in his speech and earnest in his conduct.” (Legge 1991, v. 1, 172) and when expressing his own will he says, “Riches and honors acquired by unrighteousness are to me as floating clouds.” (ibid., 200) The role of the “I” in the text is of course mostly played by Confucius himself, for the text exhibits the strong personal color of the Master.
A lot of teachings in the text are about the wisdom of acting properly and effectively, which is called “experience.” Ego-1 still needs a subjective preparation besides attaining the common knowledge in order to finally realize ethical actions. Thus, before acting according to fixed standards, the agent called ego-2 needs to consider its own qualifications for the ethical job at the level of ego-1. An agent of ethical choices possesses a special capability for this purpose. Then the second, psychological ego or ego-2 functions in ethical practice as well; it takes care of the preparation or realization of the required subjective capability for effective external practice. An important part of Confucian doctrine involves the training of virtues and personal qualities for this second task. The psychological qualities broadly called virtues are the objectives of the internal practices of ego-2. Ego-2 is a subject or agent who acts within the personality to prepare it psychologically rather than socially, as is the case with ego-1. It should be pointed out that ego-2 and its working sphere are the main objects of Confucian meditations. The content of the practice of ego-1, however, still contains a number of causal-links between the internal and external which indirectly involves the psychological scope.
The inner part of the ethical ego is further split in two. Besides ego-2 there is also ego-3, the inmost or kernel of the structure of Confucian subjectivity which is the guiding center of personality. Ego-3 constantly concerns itself with the basic orientation of ethical praxis and its creative source in the heart. There is an active spontaneity or energy embedded in ethical subjectivity making the latter maintain its correct intentions in and enthusiasm for ethical life. If ego-1 refers to the external practices and ego-2 to the psychological and intellectual conditions for the functions of ego-1, then ego-3 mainly appears in Confucian expressions of the fundamental direction of life and the basic motivation of existence. Besides this axiological aspect, as we said before, ego-3 also involves several other functional aspects. There is no doubt that the stratification of the ethical subject in the Analects takes place only at the operational level. Through analyzing the operational levels of the agent, we can make a distinction between the different functions of choice. In distinguishing different aspects of ethical practice, Confucius practically stratifies the subject of choice. Understanding this stratification we can better grasp the operating ways or operational mechanisms of Confucian ethical pragmatics which will be discussed in chapters 8 and 9.
3. The Practicability of the Heuristic Model of the Confucian Internal Process
As a practical teaching Confucian doctrine does not present any systematic explanation of its thought. The analytical description of its inner articulations can exhibit the functional channels of activities of Confucian ethical subjectivity which exist in the multiple levels of choice. The described articulations connect different domains of ethical practice. The purpose of our discussion lies in understanding the function of an ethical subject in its various domains of action. We can infer from the above description a structure of the Confucian ego consisting of three layers within subjectivity, with different levels of attention and other functions. One of the main tasks of Confucian doctrine is to help establish a framework of the subject’s coherently united activities and make clear the connections of functions at the different respective levels. Its implicit holism first lies in harmoniously adjusting the co-ordinating works of the different egos. Ego-3 directs a three-layered subjectivity’s ethical practice in different situations. Ethical practices are consequently holistly structured and move forward in a dynamic process.
The spontaneous source of the subject’s activity can be described as the origin of volitional forces or as the fountain of the will. It is understandable that in order to characterize Confucian doctrine, many descriptions of practical ethics can be used: a philosophy of will, a teaching for principles of actions, a behavioral aesthetics etc. Above all, Confucian doctrine is a learning and a teaching about the will to realize ethical intentions and to carry out ethical practices. All of the Confucian stories are based on an art of the formation and realization of an ego’s ethical will. Confucian teaching is about how to form an independent will for great ethical devotion. If the will can be defined as the source of a spontaneous and creative force for inner and outer actions, Confucian thought is a sophisticated art and programmed procedure for forming and strengthening a structured source of will. The Confucian ethical will is gradually possessed by a subject through the active subjective effort in an artistic program of self-training. The will as the energizing source of action pervades the three layers of the ego. In other words, the ego-structure as the mechanism of ethical practice is based on the will as the center of individual personality. We will later introduce the stylistic of the Confucian formation of will, which can be vividly perceived through reading the text. An ethical will connected with the structure of the ego supports and makes possible all Confucian ethical practices.
The above-mentioned three layers of the ego distinguished in our heuristic model can be clearly defined by dint of the divisible domains of the subject’s activity. Let us summarize the basic points once more. The objects in the domain of ego-1 are heterogeneously complicated. After finishing its intellectual preparation for related objectives and means, the ethical agent of ego-1 needs to collect its available virtues in order to carry out the ethically programmed project. Thus, in addition to intellectual preparation, the agent still requires the purely subjective or volitional elements related to the energy, direction and strength of the actions and to the particular strategical combination of the chosen virtues. During its engagement in ethical commitment, an ego-1 operates with an ethically training art for strengthening itself as a capable actor and prescribing the pattern of the virtuous elements or qualities required for dealing with the special situations. Ego-1 is a designer as well as an actor in ethical projects. Ego-2 stands for the related capability of ego-1. If ego-1 is the operator working on an available reservoir of virtues, then ego-2 is the designer and producer of the reservoir or moral capability. Ego-1 and ego-2 are respectively the operator and producer of the implicit system of virtuous qualities or elements. Finally, ego-3 relates to the most fundamental point: the maintaining of the orientation of one’s basic concerns, interests and attentions in the entire horizon of existence. The basic origin of one’s choices for existence guarantees the behavioral spontaneity and attentional direction of ethical life. It should be mentioned that ego-3 amounts to a hard core exercising a general directing and organizing function. It is the energetic source and constructive basis of the formation of the Confucian ethical personality. Thus, it is very useful to differentiate the several functional layers of the acting subject in order to understand the operational articulations of Confucian ethical practice. This allows the decision-processes in Confucian ethics to be explained more clearly, including their structural and dynamic dimensions.
The above structure of the ethical subject does not appear in, but underpins the text. Thus, we can find distinctions between the operational levels of Confucian ethical technique which indicate a universally applicable distinction between different levels of ethical practice. These can be sketchily represented by the narrative images in the Analects as the following:
a) The outward agent: the practical-actional, functioning with a code of norms (represented by the image of the disciple Tzu-lu);
b) The inward agent: the introspective-preparative, functioning with a code of virtues (represented by the image of the disciple Yan-hui);
c) The all-around agent: the orientational-synthetic, functioning with a code of general valuation (represented by the image of the Master Confucius).
These distinctions concern respectively the levels of precise performance, self-training and spiritual guidance. Although they interact with each other, each level requires a different code or system of ethical operation. Of course, in their actual manifestations, the elements of these three functional levels are variously mixed with hidden inclinations. Among the three levels, the third is typically Confucian and should be explained in more detail. The degree of ethical art is reflected in the degree of realizing the co-ordination at the three levels. The purpose of the gradation of the subject’s functions above all lies in the further clarification of the operational mechanism of ethical choice. It is important to note that the general heuristic model and the particular structure of the Confucian text can make each other explicit. In fact, the latter is a concretely formed expression of the former. Because of its purely empirical character, Confucian ethics offers a hermeneutic model for ethical relationships in general.
4. Attitudinal Mechanism: Relations, Directedness, Intention, Motivation and Pragmatic Formalism - The Basic Features of Confucian Subjective Ethics
The analysis of the stratification of the Confucian ego further indicates the inwardness of Confucian ethics. The focus on the subjective operation within the internal process is naturally linked to the Confucian doctrine of the attitudinal praxis. In the first part of our book, we described the subjective ethical tendency of Confucian doctrine in its political philosophy. In the Analects, more attention is paid to the psychological moral preparation of politicians than to the practical process of carrying out specific objectives. Similarly, in the area of private ethical practice, the focus is laid on the subjective aspects which we described in the last paragraph. The objects of ego-2 and ego-3 clearly exist in the psychological domain. We can say the main concerns of ego-1 also lie within the subject, because the fundamental aim of external practice is to arrange the required virtuous qualities in one’s reservoir of virtue. On the other hand, as we discussed before, the activity of the ethical subject at three layers is manifested in various modes of choice. The existence of an ethical agent is formulated in its modes of making selections. An instance of acting is a moment of choosing according to a system of general principles. The essence of Confucian doctrine lies therefore in the system of principles for directing moral choice at various operative layers. Thus, the structure of the ego is in fact the structure of the hierarchical design of choice. The functions of the subjective will are shown in the art of choosing according to universal principles, some of which are substantial and some procedural. The axiological nature of the substantial principles is expressed in the basic values of Confucian jen-philosophy. As we have frequently mentioned, the substantial part of the jen-value system is not much different from that of other ethical and religious systems. The resultant historical divergencies of various ethical cultures have been due to different technical practices or intellectual reactions in the similar ethical situations. Beside the objectives and external practices, there are other internal practices. It is in this domain that Confucian thought attains its unique character.
1) The Attitudinal Feature
In ethical practice, the Confucian is oriented towards an attitudinal world, if we define attitude as the original interest, attention, inclination, directedness and orientation of the will. Facing various aspects of ethical practice ,Confucius concentrates on the original stage of the ethical process which involves more the constitution of the attitudinal mechanism than the external realization of the ethical project. This stage in the constitution of ethical practice is also a stage at which an ethical subject establishes its relations with and positions towards its ethical objectives. The domain in which the attitude, relations and positions of the subject are fixed is dominated by ego-2 and ego-3, which are both related to identity and the function of the attitudinal mechanism. We can even designate Confucian doctrine an intentional ethics if we focus on the subject’s attention to its objectives. The directed attention or relationship itself becomes the genuine content of ethical considerations. The attitudinal mechanism, the middle domain between the subject and its objects, is highlighted, while the two extreme poles are unfortunately neglected.
2) The Motivational Feature
This intentional or relational domain is also a motivational domain. In a sense, Confucian thought can be also named a motivational ethics. The attitudinal mechanism is an ethically motivational mechanism which determines how one forms a system or reservoir of motivational elements. Between the two extremes of ethical action, the motivational mechanism is stressed while the external effects are neglected. Although the motivational relations between the intention and its effect are understood clearly, the empirical relationship between the two is dealt with carelessly because the latter requires other external factors. As a practical rather than a theoretical system, Confucian doctrine presents a precise connection between an ethical motive and its corresponding ethical effects. In other words, the Confucian pays particular heed to the ethically motivational tie within synthetically formed behavioral practice. For actual practice, there can be several connecting ties between the motivational and the effective, ranging from the moral to the utilitarian. Far from grasping all the connections concerning ethical practice, Confucian praxis focuses on the ethically motivational. Hence, the Confucian contribution to ethics can be said to be incomplete but quite important.
Although Confucian doctrine is weak in its external practical methodology, the point of our present discussion lies in the fact that besides the external objectives there are also the internal objectives of Confucian ethical practice. The two kinds of valid objectives in the system make the motivational side the directed target of the ethical process. A motive can be oppositionally directed, having an external aim as well as its internal aim. A motive becomes oriented towards itself, just as an ego turns towards itself. Thus, in many cases, a Confucian performance stimulated by a motive intends mainly strengthening or improving the motive itself regardless of whether there is really an corresponding external goal. Thus, we cannot say that it fails to realize its objective in the external realms, since the internal can also be regarded as an independent objective. In any event, improving the potential in the motivational realm is the first task of Confucian ethics. The internal effects of behavior are also an intended objective. It should be mentioned that an internal practical circle can appear within the Confucian system in addition to the external effects caused by the same motive and intention. In light of the attitudinal framework, we can then see a three-dimensional directedness in ethical practice: the externally directed object, the internally directed object and the directed activity itself, namely, the attitudinal relation of motives to objectives. For the Confucian, the latter two are more important. Between them, the last one is the more crucial for Confucian ethical concerns. The domain of attitudinal directedness itself is the immediate as well as the final concern of Confucian thought in sequences of ethical practice.
3) The Feature of Attentional-Directedness
The focus on the attitudinal side contrasts with the Confucian negligence of several other ethical dimensions: the analysis of ethical values, techniques for realizing values and external objectives. To the contrary, Confucian thought emphasizes the dimensions of the subjective, the individual and free will. Consequently, subjectivity with respect to ethical objectives, individual responsibility and free choice form a Confucian type of ethical personality. Attitudinal directedness is a horizontal relation as well as a dynamic process. The formation of the attitudinal relation of a subject to its objects is a process of attitudinal decision. The directedness of an attitude is the result of a decision concerning several planes of activity ranging from knowing and accepting to realizing and maintaining itself. An ethical decision is directed towards the related ethical situation; the content of the chosen items following upon the process reflects the nature of attitudinal directedness. It is clear that Confucius never sets forth a general attitudinal psychology, but he indeed presents his typical attitudinal patterns through a series of concrete examples performed at a third level. In an implicitly systematic way, he uses the contrasting pairs of concrete imperatives disclosed in the everyday cases to signify the patterns of his general principles.
4) The Formalist Feature
Because of its orientation towards the attitudinal relationship, Confucian doctrine expresses a special type of the inwardly pragmatic formalism: it addresses the procedural, conditioning, relational and attitudinal dimensions rather than the substantial, behavioral, technical and externally feasible ones. If there are two levels of the formulating and conditioning of an ethical mentality, of which one is purely psychological and the other ethically psychological, we can say that the latter is the case with Confucian ethical formalism. It concerns itself with the motivational formalist conditions for ethical practice or action. Confucius is mainly concerned with the general subjective conditions for carrying out ethical actions. In this context, the terms conditional, procedural and formal or formulating are interchangeable with each other. Compared with Western discussions about formal ethical conditions, however, Confucian “formalism” is much more materialized or embodied in concrete virtuous qualities. As the formal condition of ethical practice, the Confucian attitudinal mechanism is a dynamically structured reservoir of the virtuous qualities.
The Confucian attitudinal mechanism with its directedness, its potential for choosing and its action-triggering energy becomes an independent domain in the Confucian ethical system with respect to its inclination and functions. The mechanism itself is internally organized by the ego-structure and externally connected with the psychological and the social domains. The external psychological domain contains planes of knowledge, belief and instinct, while the external social domain comprises the entire range of ethical behavior. All of these internal and external connections are controlled by the ego-structure through the attitudinal mechanism. In short, the central part of Confucian doctrine seeks to answer the question of how to develop this attitudinal mechanism. Inwardly directed Confucian ethics purports to prepare the subjective formalist conditions for ethical praxis. The patterns of choice in Confucian discourse which are discussed in chapters 8 and 9 are the materialized manifestations of these formalist conditions. The operation of ethical subjectivity, the mechanism of motivational attitude, the formation of the ethical will and the formalist conditions of ethical praxis are interwoven with one another.

(7) The Schema and Strategy of Ethical Choice in the Confucian Text. Theoretical Degression II
In this chapter, we shall present some basic concepts used in our analysis of the patterns of choice in the Confucian text. No doubt, the abstract terms can only function parallel to the intuitive terms of the text. In the next two chapters, the concrete examples selected from the original text will be rearranged in light of the schemes raised in the last and this chapter.
1. The Procedural Art of Dichotomous Choice
The basic concern in any ethical reflection is how to “more reasonably” make an ethical choice in a concrete situation. Regarding the wisdom of choice in general, there are two different aspects to be considered: the utilitarian and the moral. Both aspects could occur together in antiquity when the relationship of humans to the supernatural and that of the profitable to the moral coinhered. Confucian thought, however, consciously separates these two different aspects in order to focus on the ethical relevance of the choices. There are two kinds of choices and decisions in life: those of morally logical reason and those of technically feasible wisdom. In the pre-Confucian era, especially in the Shang Dynasty, when the utilitarian type of decision was prevalent, however, choices were frequently made through appealing to supernatural forces. Because of the low level of objective knowledge, superstition still contained certain reasonable elements. As a subjective attitude, reason is defined with reference to the knowledge available.
The superstitious or the rational is dependent on the accumulated knowledge of a certain period, for it is more linked with the reasonable attitude contained in subjective practice than with the correspondence of judgement to objective laws. For this reason, the question about whether divination is superstitious or rational can only be decided through examining the entire situation. [23]
It is interesting to note that both before and after Confucius’ time, superstition was prevalent. More objectively speaking, the Confucian text itself indicates little superstitious tendency. This signifies that the ethical consciousness in China arose in Confucius’ age, when people began to make independent and free choices through the use of their own reason. Such practical reason was first embodied in the art of ethical choice. The Confucian wisdom of choice is also expressive of an ethical reason intuitively performed. In distinction from the knowledge about the utilitarian judgements, the knowledge of ethical judgements can be more internally directed. Hence, a Confucian ethics could emerge through loosening the superstitious bonds and establishing a subjective reason, although Confucius himself shared the same low level of objective knowledge which his contemporaries possessed.
1) Choice as Performed within a Limited Scope
In Confucian thought, the art or technique of moral and practical choice becomes systematically elaborated. First, the scopes of choice is more reasonably limited. It is the limited scope itself which makes ethical choice logically more operationable. We can say that Confucian teaching is mainly about the basic principles for making decisions at different levels in the face of various ethical situations. To decide is to choose between the available and relevant alternatives in the related situation. In a precise sense, Confucian doctrine is the art of making choices in external situations of various kinds, one presenting the principles, methods and the desirable objects of choice. Its characteristic teaching lies in the particular ways which suggests for choosing within an objectively limited scope. All of the proverbs, metaphors and exemplary events in the text are presented in dichotomous fashion: there is a basic situation for choosing between two opposite or comparable objects in any category. Most of the Confucian teachings are directly or indirectly formulated in terms of sets of oppositional dichotomies in various domains. Confucian ethical thinking is nothing other than relevantly choosing between opposite items. Confucian ethical rhetoric is exercised by the choosing will with its operational arts. Consequently, there also exists a mechanism for selection in Confucian ethics. The functions of the different egos reside in carrying out the respective sets of choices at different levels. The attitudinal mechanism is in fact technically reduced to a selecting mechanism by means of which orientations, attitudes and relationships are gradually decided upon for making choices in these various schemes.
2) The Logic of Binary Choice at the Axiological and Procedural Levels
There are different categories of objects chosen and principles of choice. The action of choosing can take place at different levels and in different situations. Broadly speaking, the axiological and procedural priorities are the basic criteria for choosing. The objects chosen can appear at the planes of the basic norms, directions, attitudes, resolutions, decisions and means which touch on the psychological, physical, social, axiological and technical dimensions. A single process of choosing can be related to all of these dimensions at different stages of the process. For example, a subject will make decisions at the various planes of the choosing of norms, behavioral directedness, the degree of resolution and the feasible means. Confucian ethical wisdom is essentially embodied in sets of dichotomizes. Confucian ethical reasoning expresses itself in the implicit structural arrangement of the series of dichotomous choices within limited frames according to definite principles. The effects of ethical reasoning are shown in the consistent co-ordination or interaction of the elements chosen in human experience.
For the attitudinal mechanism, there are two stages of choice: the procedural and the axiological, although the procedure for Confucius belongs to another kind of axiological domain which is in fact superior to ordinary values. We shall designate the latter as the first or the fundamental values relating to the norms of basic orientations, including the formal ones, such as “whether or why to engage in a situation.” Only when considering the problems of “how” do we begin to touch on the ordinary level of values, or the substantial ones. Thus, the Confucian doctrine of the directedness of ethical attention covers two levels: the formalist and the substantial. The former is more significant than the latter in Confucius’ system. Confucian wisdom is therefore a wisdom of making choices at every level and in every situation. The coherence and consistency of the Confucian discursive and behavioral practices for choosing can be described as a “logic” which has nothing to do with the normal patterns of logical inference. It is a pragmatic scheme of the axiological hierarchy and practical sequence of ethical choices and reasonable actions which actually determine the choosing practice. The acceptability of the metaphorically used term “logic” accords with a constant tendency of humanity which has little changed over history because of formalist traits expressed in the empirical procedures of making choices.
The Confucian logic of choice is concretely manifested through an implicitly complete presentation of dichotomies in a variety of ethical situations. The loose organization of the proverbs and narratives causes the presentation to appear to be disorderly and intuitive. Substantially, however, the content of the entire text consists of the dichotomies which exist in systematic relationship at an implicitly horizontal level, as can be shown by a proper reading. Or, the system and its logic exist at the synchronic level dynamically formed through the relevantly selective reading of the text. This means that only a pertinent reading of the disorderly edited text can make possible the appearance of the Confucian logic or schema of choice. The interconnection of the dichotomies which is realized at the reading level provides us with the principles of choice and the persuasive power for facing ethical situations.
2. Objects and Aspects of the Situation and Process of Ethical Choice
In the Confucian pragmatics of binary ethical choice, there are two parametric dimensions connected with the related fields. One is the dimension of aspects and the other is that of objects. Aspects involve operational items such as values, objectives, means and motives. Objects involve the existential domains such as mental, physical, social, behavioral, circumstantial and cultural areas. An ethical situation is related to its relevant aspects and objects. These items can be differently combined with elements of the two parameters. For each involved unit in either dimension, there is a problem in making a choice. Hence, a total practice of choice involves a set of multiply dichotomous decisions. The aspectual elements are connected with the pragmatic logic and the items of the object are connected with the existential composition. There are richly formed combinations of elements in the two dimensions; the structure of each combination for a project is directly related to our understanding of the nature and function of the project and its related background. In a primitive way, Confucian ethical discourse concerns the complicated arrangements of these elements. Confucius tries to harmonize the mutually conflicting or co-ordinating elements in various ethical situations and arrange them in a pragmatic rational consonance.
3. The Different Modes of the Objects Involved in the Situation and Process of Ethical Choice
As we said above in our discussion of Confucian ethical choice, the practice of choice can be related to different units and aspects in different domains ranging from the motivational to the technical. The activity of choice can be used in any moment in any situation for any purpose - in fact, everywhere in our external and internal life. A typology of ethical choosing processes can be formed according to any standard. For the Confucian doctrine of ethical choice, the essential area is ultimately connected with the attitudinal or the motivational level. In fact, most patterns of choice in the text are unsystematically collected in connection with a variety of practical problems. Nevertheless, a set of contrasting traits formed in various modes, including events, actions, objects, objectives, means and mental states, can be reduced to those between the two opposite motivational or attitudinal items. In fact, Confucius’ wisdom lies in penetrating into the motivational ground of every actual choice in concrete ethical situations. The purpose of our analysis of the Confucian practice of choice lies in finding out the direct and indirect connections of behavioral and motivational choice. Every behavioral choice is based on a motivational or attitudinal choice in the Confucian system. Each case involves a special background and situations of and conditions for the choosing practice. In the Confucian teaching of the art of choice, the chosen items are for the most part objects which usually oppose natural or instinctive human inclinations. Those in conformity with natural inclinations are frequently rejected in various situations because of their opposition to ethical inclinations also rooted in human nature. It seems that Confucian ethics is especially attentive to choices against the ordinary part of human nature.
Of course, natural inclination is frequently overcome not because of itself but rather because of its relation to the relevant items in the situations. Natural inclinations which are not in conflict with the ethical do not need to be handled in any special manner. They are ethically irrelevant. For example, wealth and sex themselves are not objects to be rejected or embraced, but rather they are only such when they are involved in ethical situations. In the case of Yan Hui’, poverty can signify the good. Wealth and poverty then become ethically related items. Their ethical meaning is determined by their situational relatedness rather than by their individual items. Any choice about an event, an object or an action is directed to the relevant traits of the ethical matter at hand rather than to any secondary or irrelevant aspects, although a chosen event or matter can contain many other factors or traits in addition to ethically directed ones. When accepting an ordinary object, however, it is usual for the partners in the exchange to accept the related matter as a whole, including both the relevant and the irrelevant parts. There are, then, two kinds of acceptability in relation to a matter: the active and the passive. The adoption of the irrelevant amounts to passive choice. The fact is that his precise distinction at the motivational level compels Confucius to treat the synthetically or naturally formed objects of real life this way. Simply put, there is a contradiction between the precisely demarcated topography of the motivational zone and the vague categorization of the practical world.
Of course, there can be several choices for the same object differently directed towards different traits. Confucius is good at co-ordinating multiply choosing practice in order to synthetically and coherently advance the resultant quality of a project. One relevant opposite trait can be representative of other relevant traits in the same situation. Therefore, Confucius is inclined to use a single concrete trait to signify a group of connected traits. In effect, the dichotomous ethical choice is an assertion of a single matter which is contrasted with its opposite for the sake of explanation and persuasion. In his discourses Confucius picks up those typical examples which are both significant and challenging because they are more contrary to ordinary human inclination. In fact, when necessary, a moral man should not only choose the naturally undesirable but also be happy in doing so in order that the choice be realized at both the outer and inner levels. For example, a chosen hardship in life could be something not only ethically unavoidable but even desirable or enjoyable in ethical practice. With its various images, it could become an effective symbol of the strength of ethical will and the necessary preparation for subsequent external efforts.
4. The Framework of Ethically Choosing
Ethical situations are the empirical conditions or processes containing ethically relevant elements which are the object of the choosing practice of the ethical agent. A variety of situations form a social space in which the agent acts in a selective way. As we said before, these social and psychological situations can be classified according to various purposes and criteria. In Confucian ethics, there are practical focuses which can include a number of situations belonging to several sections. We shall develop four main sections about (i) establishing ethical orientation, (ii) ethical learning, (iii) interpersonal relationships and (iv) adversity. In other words, Confucius employs choice in various situations to “concretely” express his ethical strategy. The ethical choice and the concrete situation form together the ethical situation, which itself contains two dimensions: real complexities and ideal norms. As regards the subject of ethical choice, there are actual situations which are the object of his operation on one hand and sets of ideational parameters which are the framework of his operation on the other. Thus, we see two sets of classification, one of which is connected with the patterns of actual situations and the other with the patterns of operational criteria.
In our analysis, we shall also use four sections to describe the operational frameworks. They are: (A) the three basic areas of the ethical values represented by the three Confucian cardinal virtues: wisdom, benevolence and valor (ethical synchrony); (B) the three basic stages or processes of ethical performance represented by the establishing of the will, the organizing of virtue and knowledge and internal and external action (ethical diachrony); (C) the three basic operational aspects of the object, objective and means; and (D) the three basic parameters of ethical dynamics: strength, duration and flexibility. All the elements contained in the four sections of the operational framework can directly or indirectly appear in the different situations as objects of ethical choice. Broadly speaking, the structural patterns are organized according to (B), namely, the process of ethical practice. The last section on the ethical implication of adversity can be included in the first section on the establishing of the ethical will.
1) Three Areas of Ethical Values
We shall discuss the topic of the main virtues later in more detail. It was Confucius who first presented the basic tripartite division of virtues through his assertion that “The wise are free from perplexities; the virtuous from anxiety; and the bold from fear.” (9:28; see Legge 1991, v. 1/2, 225) Three Chinese characters “chih” (“wise”), “jen” (“virtuous”) and “yung” (“bold”) can function as the basic mental delimitation of virtue. We must note, however, that the concrete sense of each one-character word varies within a definite semantic zone set by different contexts. Each of them can represent an individual virtue, when “virtue” means every group of moral qualities. They can also represent an ethical area as a set of virtues. In the above assertion of Confucius, three mutually co-ordinating words evidently represent three individual virtues.[24]
The phrase consisting of three words has become since Confucius’ time the generic name of the entire zone of moral qualities classified into three separate areas represented by the three words. It is interesting to note that at the pragmatic level they happen to cover the three dimensions of mental potential: intelligence (wisdom), ethical axiology (moral value) and volitional energy (will). Therefore, the phrase can signify different levels of generalization in various contexts.[25]
Concerning the Confucian art of ethical choice, the basic ethical attitudes can be included in the three mental areas, representing various dimensions of ethical effort. In his characteristic intuitive way, Confucius stresses three kinds of qualities in different situations and actions. When we say each choice of Confucius’ ethics can be reduced to elements at the attitudinal level, the latter can be further divided into the three sections of ethical values. Therefore, they can become the basic operational norms, so that Thus, the Confucian choices can emerge or be highlighted in different sections.
2) The Process of Ethical Practice
In antiquity, every ethical activity or performance could only occur in actual situations and processes. Each ethical action is realized in its situation or process through procedural stages ranging from the volitionally initial to the externally performative. Therefore, the related situations are connected with different procedural stages; the situations are marked by focuses on different stages. Confucian choices occur on different stages which are the mixture of the actual situation and the behavioral involvement.
3) Operational Aspects
The above two topics involve the classification of both the horizontal and vertical operational areas. The present topic involves the different aspects of ethical practice or the different focuses on the ethical object. The term “object” can have both a narrow and a broad meaning. The latter covers the object in a concrete sense, the objective and the means.[26]
In the Confucian text, the described items exist in a synthetic way but with different thematic focuses. For example, in talking about friendship, the focus can be the motive, attitude, manner, aim, conditions and circumstances which are connected with different aspects as the functional elements in the ethical project. Thus, in the category or situation of friendship, there can be various attentional focuses on the diverse aspects of the same process.
4) The Measure of the Effect and Energy of the Will
This more abstract topic is no less important in Confucian ethics, particularly when we note that Confucian ethics is a doctrine about the art of establishing the ethical will. Special concern about the effect and strength of the will is frequently indicated in the description of varying shades of ethical sincerity. Purely energetic parameters of the strength of the ethical will are directly connected with subjectivity as the source of ethical practice. In a word, the strength of the ethical will contains different facets.
From the above explanations we can see that class “i” belongs to the stage of “B1”; “ii” belongs to stage of “B2”; “iii” belongs to stage of “B3”; and “iv” belongs to a special class characterizing the volitional quality of the ethical will.
5. Ethical Situations and Operational Poles
On one hand, we have the actual processes and situations which can function as exemplary patterns, or the ethical equations embodied in concrete pictures; on the other, we have the operational framework consisting of four poles, each of which contains three parts. The former is multiply demarcated by the latter. If the former is “objective” (including the subjective part of the process, when it becomes the object of the agent’s practice), the latter is subjective or operational in reference to the agent. The ethical situation is the actual process or factual complex articulated by the four operational poles or in the operational framework. In some sense, all four poles are subjective or subjectively operational. “A” is the final goal of the operation, or the place at which a Confucian attitudinal reductionism ultimately arrives. The three areas of “A” also belong to the qualitatively characterized subjective realm. “D” is the quantitative characterization of “A.” “Virtue” should then be characterized both qualitatively and quantitatively, the latter possibility being directly determined by a dynamics of the will. The elements in “A” and “D” are the immediate object of the ethically reductive Confucian operation or the qualities affirmed by Confucian ethics. “B” and “C” are the “places” where those elements actually appear, whether at the behavioral stages or in the operational aspects. Both exist in the ethical situation. Therefore, despite the disorderly arrangements of the chosen situations in various social and psychological realms, the ethically operative elements exist in structural or orderly relations. Those “abstract” elements can be theoretically derived by us from the anatomy of the situational background, while practically they can be felt or grasped in a structural way.
6. The Systematic Contrast of Oppositional Elements
In light of our former explanations, Confucian ethical choices are formed by dint of the contrast or confrontation of oppositional elements. The patterns of contrasting the oppositional elements are expressed through the chosen typical situations which are demarcated by the four operational poles. The effect of the pragmatic strategy of the dichotomous comparison and contrast can only be eventually realized in a systematic link of various related situations. Therefore, the strategy of contrast is performed at both the individual and the systematic level. The meaning and persuasive force of Confucian maxims can only be grasped in the entire system. The system is also shaped at different levels ranging from the basic set of the compared situations to the total context. The definition of the chosen scope of the compared situations depends on the scope of the related ethical question. The adequate reading of the chosen text is performed in a selectively focused way. In any particular reading of an individual topic, a sufficiently wide scope of the related intertextual and extratextual contexts is required.
Therefore, when we present the sets of dichotomous choices, each example, as a concretely formed pattern, can only function in its entire context. We need to know each of them as an elementary unit associated with our experience. The reconstructive process is then added to form a more intelligible context. Of course, such an effect can only be realized through reading the entire text, especially the original one. Thus, our present aim is solely to present a brief introduction for understanding the empirically formed scheme of ethical reasoning based on such binary oppositions.
Although we have offered several ways to classify our object, we have to repeat that all the ethically focused elements in the classificatory systems actually exist in the synthetically formed situations. On one hand, there is the actual situation; on the other, there is its ethically relevant part, the ethical situation. In every ethical situation, there is the specific theme chosen as the object of the operation, with the rest of the same situation forming the background. A single situation can be articulated in different ways to form different ethical themes or thematic focuses. Because one theme can belong to any part of A, B, C or D, a single situation can be used as the substantial substrate for different ethical operations. For example, the situation of learning can become an ethical situation for such different themes as attitude, method, objective and effect. The situation of governing can foster ethical themes of motive, objective, art, the governed, the ruler and many others. In this sense, we maintain that one situation or process can be the carrier of different ethical themes chosen from different operational poles.
There is no doubt that despite the functional classification in our discussion, all elements and sections are dynamically connected to or overlap each other to varying degrees. This means that in each actual situation there can be interaction of the elements belonging to sections A, B, C and D. The segregation of these elements and sections is made only for the sake of explaining the ethical mechanism. The mode of formulative existence is different from that of interpretative analysis. For example, the will occurs in any action but it can itself become the separate object of analysis. In any ethical project, different elements of various sections can be involved. In an analysis, however, an ethical focus can be abstracted from the actual complex in order to realize a singular case.

(8) The Typology of the Patterns of Ethical Choice (I)
The entire text of the Analects, consisting of an unsystematically presented series of maxims, was edited according to a unifying strategy of dichotomous choice. The unifying efforts of the original editors is reflected not in any textual orderliness of Confucian thought, but instead in the mutually co-ordinating relationship of the individual maxims selected. The entire intellectual order as the content plane is formed through a disorderly verbal body as the expression plane. The system of Confucian ethics functions at the interactive level of the ethical selected units. Concretely speaking, Confucian ethical instructions or imperatives are expressed through direct and indirect dichotomous patterns formed in the persuasive commands, advice, metaphorical narratives and symbols and descriptions of concrete situations involving the Master and his disciples.
The actual situations are basically arranged along the lines of section “B,” namely, the behavioral or practical stages of realizing one’s ethical objectives. We shall introduce the basic ethical situations in four parts: i) establishing ethical devotion and orientation; ii) training the ethical capability; iii) relating to others; and iv) facing adversity. Part i) is the successive and synthetic arrangement of the elements in “A”; ii) is the internal practice for shaping the ethical strength embodied in the operative virtues; iii) is external practice or ethical practice proper, if the ethical is defined in interpersonal terms; and iv) is the extreme case of the specifically required quality of the ethical will.
Ethical situations are the place where the ethical subject, agent or ego chooses in an ethical way. We should combine the heuristic model of the ethical ego with that of the operational framework. In the four parts listed above, the ethical agent has different involvements. Both the horizontal (A) and the vertical (B) unfolding of ethical practice can describe the ethical structure associated with the functional sections of the different ego-layers we described in chapter 6. Parts i) and iv) fall in the area of ego-3, ii) in the area of ego-2, and iii) in the area of ego-1.
The first part deals with the authenticity and quality of the ethical will directed towards the jen-goal. The second part concerns the potential and strength of the will in its power, duration, persistency and flexibility. The third part concerns the art of operation with elements of the will. These elemental qualities of the will are implicated in all processes of choosing. On the whole, Confucian ethical choice is connected with all four parts. Part i) is typical of Confucian teachings which arrange various choosing practices into several areas of life. Part iii) refers to the functional analysis of virtues. Confucian ethical choice, because of its motivational orientation, finally reduces to the level of the mental virtues. Many statements about external causal connections can also be reduced to those of the internal domain. As a result, behavioral choice amounts to an artistic combination of virtues. Part iv) is characteristic of the Confucian philosophy of the ethically pragmatic will. According to the primitive mode of ethical consciousness, ethical phenomena emerge from the tension between wish and reality. Ethical practice unfolds through the confrontation between objective corruption-pressure and subjective correction-resistance. From the perspective of the ethical will, the objective contains both the external and internal, including the psychological objects operated by the will. The utmost objects of the ethical will are weak psychology and social hardship. The two sorts of “objective challenge” to the ethical will also become the measure of the strength of the will. Therefore, Confucius especially prefers the descriptions of external adversity as the most relevant ethical situations for testing and training the will. Frequently, both internal and external obstructions interact with and represent each other. Therefore, Confucian statements about social adversity are essentially directed towards the motivational as well as volitional dimensions. In the last analysis, ethical choice is determined by and based on the potential of the will. The four interwoven and interacting parts progressively articulate the ethically choosing will. In fact, they interpenetrate each other in all processes and steps in ethical practice.
Concerning the dichotomous strategy of selection, there are two rhetorical modes: the direct and the indirect. The latter contains straightforward orders or prohibitions, statements of attitudinal positions and other modes of ethical expression. The content of ethical choices includes value, technique, objects, material and mental states. These can appear in all parts and layers. Those substantial items can be taken as factors of motive, goal, means, modes and circumstances. The main binary modes of presentation include the causal, the contrary, the similar, the alternative and the comparable. Hence, there is a variety of ways for contrasting or confronting two items with each other, while the contrasting traits employed in sentences vary widely without any definite regulation. In essence, the dichotomous modes of choice are intended to induce a choice between two traits contained in the related sentences or situation through a variety of modes of comparison. The rationale of the choice is merely based on the immediate confrontation of two comparable items or traits. Confucian strategy tends to use this way of formulating the instructions to create a vividly, immediately and pressingly contrasting effect on the mind. In these two chapters, we shall present these dichotomous examples according to the above four parts in section B. As we pointed out before, in the Confucian text, the concrete examples play the generic role of displaying the principles. The singular statement functions as the pattern. This can be taken as Confucius’ concretely formed logic, the organizing principle of his ethical reasoning. This pragmatic logic is formed artificially through disclosing situations of choice. The examples chosen purport to highlight the contrasting traits of ethical alternatives. The contrast is defined not necessarily through the characters represented by natural or existential events, but rather frequently through the marked traits chosen which are relevant to Confucius’ motivational rhetoric.
The pre-theoretical mode of the presentation of Confucian ethical patterns indicates that Confucian ethical thought comprises merely empirical generalizations produced and tested by the human nature and shaped in Chinese historical experience. It reflects both axiological and social empirical dispositions. That is the main reason why the Analects has been effectively read throughout Chinese history. The basic epistemological presuppositions of Confucian ethics are formed in the manner of dichotomous choice. Of course, the criteria for our classification of ethical units in the Confucian text are related to the marked features or traits employed, rather than to the synthetically formed events themselves. The former, however, can only be embodied through the latter.[27]
1. Establishing Ethical Devotion and Orientation (A)
a) The basic orientation of ethical choice
— Righteousness Vs. Profit
The choice about the first principle of the direction in life is made between “i” (propriety) and “li” (profit), or social righteousness and individual interest. The latter especially refers to natural and instinctive desires of various kinds, the former to ethically correct desires. In actuality, the two kinds of desire or inclination are not necessarily contrary to one other. Confucius, however, takes the ethical situation as one in which the two related elements happen to be contrary or contradictory, urging people to choose between two alternatives highlighted against a definitely arranged background. In this context,interest” means that which is contrary to the ethical requirement of a certain situation, whilerighteousness” means that which is contrary to instinctive desires, which are classified into two or three attractive matters: wealth, fame and social privilege. The proper priority of the ethical over the instinctive must be maintained in ethical choice. When the two are contrary, the latter should be surprised in favor of the effective function of the former. The relational priority is what Confucius really addresses. As we pointed out before, what is relevant is not the instinctive element itself, but instead the relationship of the instinctive to the ethical.
— Social Commitment Vs. Social Withdrawal
We have already taken this basic choice as an epistemological presupposition. (18:6; 18:7) The original terms for the choice are “entry into the world” and “retirement from the world.” The actual mode of the former in antiquity was to be an official, while that of the latter was frequently to withdraw from the political arena or to escape to “forests and mountains.” The contrast can be simply described as “taking on an office” and “retiring into nature.” In addition, there is a distinction between active and passive attitudes towards ethical values. A Confucian should choose to be active in promoting ethical goals in social life.
b) Establishing the Ethical Will
— Making Efforts towards Ethical Goals (Volitional Strength) Vs. Relaxation in Comfortable life (Volitional Weakness)
Confucius frequently points out that ethical practice is much more difficult to pursue than ordinary activities. (4:5; 4:6; 4:9; 15:29) One should choose the harder rather than the easier. This is another imperative against the human instinct to turn to the easier in life. He recognizes that there could be only a very few people in the world who really love the jen-objective or ethical goal (15:4). The “love for female beauty” is much stronger than that for virtue (9:8). Similarly, the instinctive inclination for comfort is stronger and much more prevalent than that for the ethical. This is a basic fact of the human condition. Confucius urges people to be brave enough to orient themselves towards the hardship or the more sublime in life choice. He would encourage us that there would always be some other unknown comrades choosing the same moral direction. Therefore, the ethical hero is never really isolated (4:25). This hint of possible existence of a few spiritual companions means that the ethical mission belongs to the elite alone. The willingness to face hardship requires a stronger rather than a weaker will. Confucius maintains that the advocation of ethical principles requires firmness and courage in addition to intelligence. The strengthening of the will and the establishment of devotion must occur together. The absolute resolution of choosing jen is expressed in the maxim that the really devoted man prefers to “die in the evening immediately after knowing the truth in the morning.” This indicates absolute resolve for ethical truth (Tao). (4:8) The pursuit of jen is so intense that “it can not be interrupted for as short as a mere lunch break, or by facing any adversity.” (4:5) In the extreme case, a devoted man should know clearly that choosing jen means that he “would at worst lose his life.” (4:8; 8:6 ) Sincerity and capability in the jen-man’s devotion are measured through the following qualities of will: strength, perdurance and perseverance in facing adversity and even death.
— Self-reliance Vs. Expecting for Help
There is no other source of the strength for ethical pursuit besides one’s own will. In his ethical choices, a man should only rely on his own spiritual force and volitional resolve in his ethical choices. (15:21) If jen can be said to be a great Tao or general principle, it is “man who unfolds or expands Tao” rather than vice versa (15:28). This apparently causal statement emphasizes the spontaneity of ethical passion. In order to attain the jen-truth, one has to make a great effort with one’s own will. jen or Tao cannot be reached automatically or mediated by others. In other words, no other force outside oneself can lead to jen. This principle is essentially different from those maintained by religious ethics, which encourage and even require the spiritual reliance of human beings on supernatural forces. On the other hand, despite a necessity of mutual reliance among persons, the origin or source of moral dynamics can only be established by oneself. Of course, others can stimulate the potential moral origin of actions, urging the agent to return to his “genuine self,” but one can never implant a seed of moral consciousness in another’s heart. One must proceed on the basis of one’s own nature. This is a typical example of pragmatic Confucian psychological dynamics.
— Strengthening of the Will as the Source of Ethical Energy Vs. Loss of the Will in Relaxation
There is a quite independent doctrine in the Confucian teachings about the will and its performance in addition to the jen-doctrine. One should constantly concentrate on strengthening his will for jen-objectives. Not forgetting thejen-goal at any moment, one should work reinforcing the will itself, never allowing it to dissipate. The relation of the will to man amounts to that of a general to his soldiers (9:25). One’s will is one’s headquarters. Without the guiding force of the will, the ethical subject will immediately become disorganized. Confucius encourages his followers to be the strongest of the few for the practice of jen in society: “When the year becomes cold, then we know how the pine and the cypress are the last to lose their leaves.” (9:27) In addition to intellectual efforts, there is a need to pay close attention to the process of maintaining the will itself. A clear consciousness of distinction between gaining and losing one’s will can be had quite separately from other concrete practices.
— Concern for Tao (Truth) vs. Fear of Poverty (Desire)
For the sake of testing one’s will for morality, a useful confrontation is consciously made among the priorities of actual life: truth and wealth. The jen-man should first concern himself with the former rather than the latter, while ordinary people do exactly the opposite. This choice can evidently distinguish a truly ethical man from the common majority. The basic contrast can lead one to cling firmly to Tao in the face of a variety of worldly attractions. The point is that concern with wealth or worry about poverty should be arranged in accordance with one’s ethical project. The priority should always be given to the latter. In this sense, wealth, with its profitable results, becomes much less important and can be put into the lower axiological grade. This is a very practical and urgent dilemma for the ethical mind to solve. Living in a ruthlessly unjust society, ethical choice could practically mean giving up the conditions for a comfortable life. An ethical mind is, practically rather than logically, often linked with hardship. From an empirical point of view, the readiness for hardship is the condition for establishing an ethical mind. Therefore, an ethical mind should be ideally prepared for any hardship - just as, logically, a concern with wealth or fear of poverty will make the establishment of an ethical mind impossible.
— Gravity of the Task vs. Distance towards the Goal
A broad mind is needed by a jen-man who cherishes a jen-goal. The goal can only possibly be attained in the distant future. This comparison involves concomitant choice. (8:7) The co-ordination of the axiological “weight” and temporal “length” highlights the seriousness of the jen-course in two senses: its axiological importance and practical difficulty. Therefore, a jen-man should “more broadly and bravely prepare himself.” He has definitely no easy or immediate success before him. His self-chosen mission is a life-long one.
— Courage in the Face of Danger Vs. Cowardice in the Face of Danger
The strong ethical will demonstrates itself in dangerous or threatening conditions. (14:12) True bravery can be effectively stimulated, and one can become more sensitive and energetic in one’s ethical tasks in the face of dangerous situations. Courage is a challenge to the common inclination of human beings to flee from dangerous or difficult situations. A Confucian is trained to defy danger.
— The Devotion to Ethical Truth itself without Regard for Success vs. Efforts towards social attainments of any Sort
A more severe challenge to the ethical will lies in something which the jen-man knows clearly from the very beginning of his mission: his opportunity for success is limited, for he cannot control the external results of his efforts. Out of a feeling of duty, he strives for what is minimally possible. This attitude shows his strong devotion to jen-truth. The will to jen is not motivated by an anticipation of any necessary fulfilment. An immanent strength of will is caused purely by firm belief in jen-value itself. This purely ethical motivation proves the inner stability of the ethical will. The first principle is concerned with the genuineness rather than the attainability of an ethical task. (12:20; 13:17) The two principles are commonly mixed because people are more likely to pay attention to easily accomplishable matters and therefore decrease their ethical engagement. In many cases, Confucius regretfully acknowledges man’s inborn disposition towards material profit.
— No Daily Apprehension in the jen-mind Vs. Daily Anxiety in the Common Mind
A sign of the establishment of the ethical will, in connection with the last contrast, is that the jen-man is never be worried about his worldly profit. His central concern is about his mission for jen, and this deep concern is programmed into a fixed practical procedure. The firmly established jen-will can maintain its emotional tranquillity in the pursuit of ethical goals. This contrast is directed to the desirable mental state of the jen-man, who is emotionally undisturbed because of his firm confidence in his own choice, which is linked to both goals and procedures. (9:29; 12:4; 15:32)
— Constantly Learning from the Ground Up vs. Ethical Ascent Following a Natural Sequence
The contrasting but complementary features “from below” (low) and “ascent to the higher” (high) have a causal relationship. This is the programmed track of personal development mentioned above. The two parts in one’s life are those which must be gained by genuine effort without waiting for favorable external factors. This is the jen-man’s golden way: to independently study and inwardly attain his goal by any means (14:37; 19:7). The two connected imperatives amount to a concrete guide for life. In essence, the jen-man has only one necessary taste: to study or to prepare himself spiritually. The satisfactory arrangement of ethical study proves the desirable state of one’s ideal life. The related result belongs to another dimension which will never allow the effort to fail. In an extremely negative situation, the jen-man can still successfully accomplish the aim of his internal practices which can also be included in one’s ethical study. Study and practice are united at all stages of ethical practice. When the stage of study is well arranged, one can feel secure in one’s pursuit. The principle is also used against the utilitarian principle of reputation and other benefits, the prevailing motive for study among the majority. Active study can be motivated or lead to selfish success of any kind, but, a utilitarian motive for study may be not strong enough to guarantee substantial and uninterrupted progress under unfavorable conditions. Only an ethically inspired study can continue uninterruptedly along the right direction with creative energy.
c) Discrimination between the Genuine and the Specious (Distinguishing the “Red” from the “Purple”)
One of the Confucian arts of reasoning for establishing and strengthening devotion and the will involves the fine distinction between ethically genuine and ethically specious choices. In Confucius’ opinion, the greater danger lies in speciously right but essentially wrong action. Ambiguous ethical situations become the convenient means for dishonest agents to follow false and hypocritical directions in ethical practices. Weak as well as evil wills make great use of ethically marginal situations to detract from ethical goals. Ambiguous situations can occur at different levels, including the motivational, behavioral, social, political and academic, among others. Confucius’ motivational wisdom of distinction leads to a special penetration into the mind of the ethical agent. In this sense, Confucian doctrine contains a special wisdom for penetrating into the origin of motivation.
— The True jen-heart vs. Mere Words
One of the Confucian techniques for penetrating into a mind or a motive consists of checking the consistency between actions and words in a concrete situation. Incoherent expressions of both can become the recognizable sign of insincerity, dishonesty, deception or intrigue. Only the exact correspondence of words and actions over a period of time can reveal a genuinely moral and honest mind. This simple but effective method can be profitably employed even today. People always forget, however, to observe closely and systematically the cases before them. Confucius dislikes most of all specious words which can “destroy a state or a family” (17:18). They easily confuse the genuine with the false and destroy the efficiency of ethical criteria. The danger lies in the possibility that specious expressions can play or replace the role of truth, misguiding ethical efforts. Epistemologically viewed, specious ethical manifestations are more effectively destructive of Confucian ethical practice than obvious misconduct. One of the most frequently encountered specious expressions of virtue is that of “fine words and an insinuating appearance.” (1:3) Genuine ethical motives and specious words, despite their similar rhetoric, should be distinguished.
— The jen Statesman Vs. Cunning Politicians
Despite the apparently similar behavior of jen-motivated and selfish officials in certain situations, they have different political motives and objectives. Similarly, an official advises the king in attaining the Tao or help himself gain profits through the exercise of power. According to Confucius, there is an essential difference between the true statesman and “those currently engaged in government.” (13:20) In reality, most officials are egoistly utilitarian and good at flattery. The final goal of the Confucian jen-man is political in nature. Therefore, in the field of politics, the motivational distinction becomes very important. According to Confucian ethics, the moral quality of political results can only be guaranteed by the morality of the politicians. The same background of political activity renders the two kinds of activists at once similar to as well as substantially different from one another.
— Actions Directed towards Ethical Goals Vs. Routine Settling of Business
Similar to the above pattern, another more frequently seen distinction concerns active ethical practice and the passive or utilitarian carrying out of routine. (2:12; 8:4; 11:23; 13:17; 15:1) In external practice, most people habitually perform routine social works. Ethical practices, however, should be distinguished from simply doing business in various fields. Ethical actions are consciously and systematically performed within a chosen framework. An ethical project is always an independent and conscious effort in terms of an ethical program. Ethical practices are actions motivated and inspired by an ethical goal rather than mere activities habitually or coercively performed. A jen-statesman’s work is ethically motivated. The same hard work in business can blend the motives of two different sorts of social performance.
— Study for the Sake of Tao Vs. Study for the Sake of Food
There are many discourses about this kind of distinction. The emphasis is placed on differentiating two apparently similar but essentially divergent purposes of study: ethical devotion and career profitability. In modern terms, the distinction involves study for truth or knowledge itself and study for practical or professional benefit. At many stages of the process, the two motives can hardly be separated. It is true that the same efforts at study may be made out of different motives and objectives. (15:31) Although the fact prevails that most young people study mainly for benefit or profit and so to solve practical problems in life, Confucius stresses that the jen-man should have a clear consciousness of the true aim of his study, constantly examining his motives. In other words, a motivational distinction should be made with regard to the activity of study so that one might more effectively and consistently make progress. In the same studious work, two different efforts can merge. The imagery of “food” especially hints at an immediate link with human existence.
— Being a Genuine jen-man Vs. Being a Specious jen-man
In the same category, there can be a more general distinction between two personalities who carry out apparently similar but essentially distinct actions. In examining the delicate distinctions between true and false practices in concrete matters, Confucius constantly directs himself towards the motivational structure. Concerning the personality of the jen-man, Confucius pays particular attention to the distinction between the true and the specious jen-man (hsiang-yuan) as a type of personality. The latter externally acts much like a true jen-man, but with the hidden purpose of gaining benefits through his hypocritically pleasing, carefully feigned gestures. The remarkable feature of this type is that he does not want to clearly distinguish between good and evil. As a result, he can win more friendship or support from others and therewith secure more gains. In Confucius’ opinion, a “hsiang-Yuan” (cautiously hypocritical “gentleman”) is the “thief of virtue” (17:13) who is even worse than a bad man, for the latter is more easily discovered. Why does Confucian ethical practice pay so much attention to the specious type of jen-man? Speciously good practices can set up an attractive model for the majority of weak-willed people and lead them to gain more and lose less through worthless moral practice. Thus, they draw such people outwardly to the ethically false and cause them inwardly to be dishonest or cowardly in adversity. Such people are very good at making believe that they behave more correctly than others because they are skilled in pleasing and deceiving others, able to obtain social success through policies of moral expedience. In a word, the hsiang-Yuan is a man who speaks well but does not follow any truly ethical value. For him, the distance between words and deeds remains cleverly hidden. Such a person is able to make the specious look like the genuine even as he gains a virtuous reputation through his deceit. Moreover, the deepest motive of hsiang-yuan is his innate weakness in facing challenge and danger. He is the hidden, internal enemy of the Confucian, in distinction from the manifest, external enemy, who openly acts immorally. In social constraints, moral words are used for different purposes. Therefore, the most threatening rival of the Confucian is the specious moralist, who can effectively replace the genuine with the false without easily being discerned. This point of view reflects Confucius’ empirical observation that people lacking a strong ethical will tend to explain their dishonest motives through social moral pressure, inventing specious alternative expressions in order to realize their own selfish purposes.
— The Ethically Accomplished Person Vs. the Well-Known Person
This distinction is directed against vanity for the sake of forming true morality. The ambiguous demarcation between the two types of achievement lies in the fact that the vain person and the ethically accomplished person might gain the same reputation. (12:20) Fame can be created by a variety of improper ways. It is not a clear sign of ethical achievement. On one hand, people are inclined to confuse the two; on the other, people instinctively incline to seek fame alone, mistaking it as the sign of true success. From a social point of view, fame has nothing to do with moral merit, but it can bring social recognition. People always confuse social success with ethical achievement. From a personal point of view, people instinctively tend to seek fame as a sign of social success through a procedure which can also be required by true ethical practice. Social practices can therefore become a mixture of the apparently ethical, which can be employed in utilitarian fashion, and the search for fame. Because the search for fame is one of the most deeply rooted and strongest instincts of social beings, it becomes one of the most serious obstacles for the establishment of any genuine ethics.
— Vain Dreams about the Objectives Themselves Vs. Substantial Concern about Ways to Attain the Objectives
There is a delicate distinction between two similar but in fact contrary modes of thought about a desired objective: social achievement as an objective in one’s mind and the proper procedure for attaining the ethical objective. (14:31; 14:37) This distinction could be more technically practical than ethical, stressing the more feasible and reasonable aspect of a project, but it can also signify the degree of ethical sincerity. A weak-willed man simply dreams about or lusts for the desired object, while a strong-willed man concentrates on the effective way to attain it. Not a few Confucian proverbs deliver practical and psychological instrumental wisdom. Their seemingly plain advice is in fact quite relevant for the confusion between ethical and non-ethical objects. The pragmatic ethical meaning lies in the emphasis that the agent must immediately focus on the necessary procedures for attaining the objective rather than on the final objective itself in a merely wishful manner. As in the political realm, a man should not concern himself directly with official positions or social achievements but rather with proper ethical training or preparation, which is more likely to lead to external success. At least, the proper procedure is more linked to genuine ethical faith. The latter is first and the former is second in strategical priority. There is a wisdom of practical strategy: more attention and concern ought to be given to the procedure rather than to its eventual goal, for only then can we effectively and correctly accelerate the process. In the ethical field, this means that ethical practice is mainly a procedural matter which should be firmly under the agent’s control. The result of the practice should not be the focus of consideration for two different reasons: one cannot control the resultant end and therefore one should not take the ultimate end of practice into account; the genuine objective of ethical practice should remain at the purely motivational level, unfolding itself in the procedural sphere. This advice also refers to the confusion between selfish and moral desire when both are connected with an official position. This distinction is also a psychological one liable to confuse the motivational seriousness and sincerity of ethical projects.
— Only the Wise in the Highest Class are Unchanged Vs. Only the Stupid in the Lowest Class are Unchanged
The same constant stability can be shown in a sage’s efforts towards jen or in a fool’s hopelessness of moral progress. (17:3) The formal similarity in stability and the contrast in the two types of personality purport to highlight the unchangeable devotion and will of a jen-man as one of the few. Accordingly, a jen- man never breaks his ethical promises. A positive constancy of character is a sign of integrity, honesty and success. A negative constancy of character appears in the character of hopelessly stupid people. The number of these two extreme types is always limited; the majority of people are more flexible and changeable. This comparison means that we can only expect the moral elite to be unchangeably devoted, although the majority are educable. In other words, definitely good men and definitely bad men remain limited in number in any society. Confucius’ ethical empiricism lies in his recognition that the ideal type of moral person is naturally limited in number. He never really expects that many jen-men would come to be, although he must encourage everyone to be directed toward this rarely attainable goal. On the other hand, the true jen-man will be inspired by and proud of his ethical priority. If you can really be stimulated by ethical value, you can prove to be and really become a jen-man. jen-ethics is essentially for the elite only. There is no universal ethics for the majority. Ethics is relevantly organized and therefore practically diversified in its realization. Thus, the epistemological meaning of the maxims is that ethical practice is something which is based on human nature rather than on universal reason.
d) The Styles of jen-personality
Confucian ethics is about the formation of the ideal personality which has different inclinations and styles.
— The Ability to Love Good People Vs. the Ability to Hate Bad People
This contrast contains a double instruction to be performed by the jen-man. The instruction is connected with the proper attitude towards two oppositional traits. Confucius says that only a jen-man can show strong love as well as strong hatred simultaneously. Strong love for good people and strong hatred for evil people must occur in the same moral person in each situation. (4:3) The word “ability” hints at a genuine inclination in taking a moral stance which must have emotional momentum. Otherwise, a man is not a true jen-man. This principle is more directed to moral quality than to people themselves. In any event, bad people are the object of the jen-man’s criticism. Evil is perpetrated by bad people. Genuine love and genuine hatred must occur together and be combined. The contrast can also be a practical way of checking the true ethical mentality of an agent. A jen-man must have both strong emotional inclinations. Otherwise, he will be not a truly moral man.
— Radical Activity in Doing Good Vs. Extreme Care in Withdrawing from Evil (k’uang/chüan)
This is another doubly positive instruction. The contrasting way shows two opposite behavioral types of the jen-man. Hardly insisting on the golden mean, both extremes are regarded as acceptable types which act in oppositional directions and styles. (13:21) Here, Confucius points out two possible ways of ethical practice. The first is to fight boldly against evil or to pursue the good energetically and openly through aggressive action. The second is consciously to avoid being involved in evil business in order to keep oneself free of it. Both inclinations and motives are praised by Confucius, who acknowledges their merits and demerits alike. The fact is that the two types take the same ethical direction but with different styles and tasks. On the other hand, this description hints that both ways are quite acceptable in consideration of flawed human nature. The empirical and structural position of Confucius reflects itself in the fact that he does not anticipate an absolutely ideal agent, only a practically ideal one who has his own characteristic tendency in making ethical choices. Confucius only expects a definite type of ethical action; his ethical design is empirically and synthetically arranged. One can choose one type of ethical action among several alternatives in a situation. Ethical achievement is measured multiply rather than singly, depending on different parameters. Thus, he can choose the “chüan” type (Yan Hui) as the first important ideal model among his dozens of excellent disciples. Similarly, he praises the rare achievements of the chüan-style of efforts at study over three years without concern for material profit. (8:12) This attitude is connected with the character of Confucian socio-political ethics itself. The Confucian aesthetics of moral conduct emphasizes the necessity of spontaneous and active reaction to external pressure. The two styles can be selectively employed for a resistant life in adversity.
— Clinging to Major Moral principles Vs. Sticking to Trivial Moral Rules
Because no completely ideal personality exists in the world, a jen-man is required to concentrate more on major moral matters and is allowed to neglect minor ones. Among the virtues, only a few are concerned with the realization of the main jen-objectives. Trivial mistakes and daily bad habits can be pardoned if they do not damage the jen-work. This distinction between relevant and irrelevant matters concerning the major moral subjects in a concretely balanced case expresses the humanitarian and realistic Confucian position over against moral wrong, which reflects a strict dogmatic notion of misconduct and sin. (19:11) Wrongdoing should be measured according to the entire situation concerned. On one hand, Confucius makes a distinction between main or essentially relevant moral principles and secondary or inessentially relevant rules in order to more effectively keep in view to main goals. The purpose of the distinction lies in strengthening the function of ethical operations. Still, the humanitarian Confucian doctrine never tries to add unnecessary limitations on the natural desires of human beings; instead, it allows people more freedom to enjoy their ethically less relevant pleasure. This flexible but reasonable attitude helps advance the main part of ethical practice. For Confucius, the concept of sin or evil mainly refers to hurting others’ proper interests, both spiritual and material. Outside human relationships there are no moral or sinful problems. Thus, the original Confucian principle is contrary to the Confucianist philosophy of the Sung dynasty, which is influenced by Buddhist asceticism. This practicable tendency also reflects the Confucian structural-operational stance, which stresses the major and relevant aspect of ethical practice. This distinction stresses the priority of basic morality or the ethical ideal and will in comparison with morally acceptable behavioral codes which are only mechanically or legally obeyed by those of mediocre morality. The sharp consciousness of the distinction between major and minor moral values highlights the absolute priority of the former. A distinction is also made between conscientious praxis and mere habit. The strict link between the motivational and behavioral is always maintained by Confucius. This practicable stance also implicitly reflects a distinction between ethical faith and legal conduct essentially determined by external constraints. (2:3)
— No Flattering of the Rich and even Feeling Cheerful when in Poverty Vs. No Arrogance over against the Poor and even Being Polite to Them when Wealthy
This is another doubly positive instruction. The contrast is also a combinative choice in the oppositional situation. Poverty and wealth become the background for ethical choices about the proper attitude towards other people. The advice expresses the Confucian sympathy with others over against the natural inclination of ordinary people under the same conditions. (1:15) Between the two, the former is more difficult to be performed. A jen-man should remain happy in poverty and be polite and benevolent in wealth. In general, Confucius separates ethical effort and external fortune, stressing attitudinal constancy in changing situations. The first requirement involves a proper attitude to oneself when in poverty; the second to others in any situation. Poverty and wealth become the test for maintaining a proper attitude towards the relation of the self and the others. For the jen-man, the material condition is ethically irrelevant or at least secondary to the ethical mentality. It should not influence his attitude towards himself and others. The vulgar inclination to worry about poverty and be arrogant in wealth, however, prevails everywhere. With such a natural inclination, a man can hardly ethically purify himself. Therefore, the attitude to wealth and poverty becomes the effective and confirmable test and criteria for the quality of one’s ethical personality. Comparing the two backgrounds, Confucius further points out that the proper attitude is more difficult to maintain in poverty than in richness. (14:11)
— The Greater Worth of Human Being Vs. the Lesser Worth of Valuable Things
Between the value of a man and that of a horse as a valuable thing Confucius gives a clear priority in principle. (10:11) Man is axiologically much higher than the valuable material. Humanity and concern with humanity are prior to the appreciation of physical wealth. The distinction is particularly used to criticize ruthless regimes engaged in expanding their power and the pleasure of the ruler in accumulating material wealth and enslaving people.
— The Soft-Hearted Attitude towards Animals Vs. the Hard-Hearted Attitude towards Animals
Despite his ethical anthropocentrism, the Confucian naturally has a tender attitude to other species as well. The principle of benevolence leads Confucius to describe the jen-man as keeping distance from the kitchen and never killing birds and fish in a cruel way. (7:26) The seemingly hypocritical opinion about killing animals in a “benevolent way” is used only as a metaphor. Killing animals was necessary for the existence of ancient people; the chosen way of doing it reveals a cultural selection which is linked to man’s mental disposition in the face of other living beings, forming thereby man’s ethical potential with respect to human situations. A soft-hearted mentality evidences love or the capacity to love. This symbolic or psychological distinction is also made between morally relevant and irrelevant values at the level of ultimate objectives. Despite the fact that no substantial distinction is involved in destroying animals in different ways, the chosen behavioral way can help shape the soft-hearted mind through attentively treating the process of taking life. The distinction could be therefore substantially meaningful. There is a difference in disposition in one’s psychology and conduct which is connected with one’s attitude and behavior towards other beings. The true object of the instruction is the shaping of motivational inclination rather than the behavioral pattern for treating animals. A natural event in daily life: killing animals, is psychologically transformed into the shaping of the attitudinal habit against the killing of human beings. This educational and aesthetic way of dealing with the killing of animals implicates a humanist morality. As a humanitarian doctrine, the Confucian position absolutely stresses the unparalleled worth of human life. This becomes an original distinction between the human class and the non-human class in the Chinese intellectual tradition, ethically as well as metaphysically. In the light of this principle, many Chinese historical events have been in the name of Confucianism in fact anti-Confucian in their tendency. The value of human being is without equal for the Confucian. Because all other valuables, including animals and material wealth, are relatively unimportant, Confucian thought is a typical humanism. Substantially and practically, Confucian ethics does not include other beings in the ethical space. The fact that killing other species shares the same cruel procedure with killing human beings, however, can form a relevant theme in different situations. The practical and even ambiguous Confucian treatment of the example is due to a causal positivity: the two processes of killing animals and humans share the same dispositional feature of cruelty. If the Confucian way of avoiding the taking of life lacks a practical effect in forming the moral mind, it can nonetheless metaphorically signify a strong stance against killing human beings: Even in the killing necessary for the sake of human existence, there is a need for a cultural treatment. Of course, the same principle can be more evidently expressed by Confucius’ hatred of military matters. (15:1)
2. Self-Cultivation of the Capability to Pursue Ethical Practice (B)
The tasks of the ethical attitude and the ethical will having been initially established, the following problems will be raised in connection with two aspects of ethical practice: the strengthening of the will and the capability to realize projects. This is the stage of study or preparation in Confucian developmental theory. As we pointed out before, the objects of the Confucian study are “the Six Arts” and the formation of the virtues. It is an organic part of the life-long self-cultivation of the Confucian gentlemen. For any ethical practice, resolution and capability must be combined together; both require learning and training. In the Confucian philosophy of life, the process of learning and self-cultivation is also the right way leading to the ethical goals. For approaching the Confucian Tao, learning is the necessary first stage (19:7) In a broad sense, the learning process is the very way of applying oneself to the Tao; therefore, it is also a life-long mission accompanying all ethical projects. As long as a man’s will has been established for learning, he is on the right track in the Tao enterprise. (8:13) Thus, external and internal learning and cultivation are the same process for the current and lasting preparation of the jen-man. Study and work, cultivation and action are interwoven with each other. Put more clearly, a systematic process ranges from the establishing of will and devotion, learning and self-cultivation, the attainment of virtue, working on external ethical projects and reaching the final stage of the jen-mission, that is, psychologically and socially attaining Tao. Narrowly speaking, learning is one stage of this developmental process; broadly speaking, it occurs at all stages of the jen-man’s approach to self-consummation.
The Confucian scholarship of learning comprises both ethical and technical aspects; besides Confucian ethical wisdom, there is also a Confucian practical wisdom which can be regarded as the primitive mode of the technical dimension of human activities. The aim is to make learners become virtuous men, ones gaining the systematic reservoir of virtue which can be generally divided into three main categories: wisdom, morality (jen) and bravery. In the field of virtue, the tripartite division is defined in a narrow sense. For effectively acquiring virtue, a man needs to follow a logical order consisting of knowledge, training and practice. On the other hand, at every practical occasion the three steps can function together; study as the middle category is central in comparison with the other two, for it is more practically relevant than the other two. The process of becoming a jen-man is that of learning itself. Substantially, learning and the pursuit of jen are synonymous. The stress on learning is also a stress on the spiritual aspect of ethical praxis. Consequently, learning or study occupies the leading position in Confucian doctrine. In addition, the Confucian teaching of learning elaborates a great deal of technical experience. As a great learner and teacher alike, Confucius was recognized later as the father of the pedagogical enterprise in Chinese history. Confucius is proud to declare himself to be a persistent lover of learning and teaching. (5:27) In this sense, learning is more than a preparatory stage of the ethical mission: it constitutes an essential part of the total mission of Confucian ethics. Learning itself is essential part of the development of ethical personality. In other words, learning or self-cultivation becomes the symbol of Confucian ethics. Thus, the direction of learning coincides with that of ethical practice.
Confucius also uses a number of oppositional pairs of statements to teach a wisdom of learning. We shall introduce them in several sections. As in other sections, the Confucian oppositional rhetoric formulated in “plain and broad” ancient words should be grasped in a systematic and structural way. The various categories of objects concerning the matter, event, object, subject, aspect and other factors should be distinguished carefully in comparison with other related examples. The same matter or subject can contain different aspects under consideration. Confucian rhetoric explains a situation or a practice from various angles and in various details. Only the entirety of the related contexts can make the implication of the sentences emerge.
a) The goals and direction of learning
This part is closely linked to some of the principles presented in the last section (A) about the ethical will and its general orientation.
— Study for oneself Vs. Study for others
Most Confucian words can only be grasped in definite contexts and by lexical comparison. Study for oneself means study for one’s spiritual or ethical interests rather than for instinctive natural profit. Study for others means that one studies mainly for winning others’ praise and related material benefits. It can also mean the motive of study is stimulated by external procedures and requirements of various kinds. Both inclinations in learning have always and everywhere predominated. The natural inclination to gain social recognition leads people to have motives for learning divergent from those which Confucius holds. The Confucian emphasis on the motive of study for one’s inner requirements is not only connected with the direction of learning and actions, but also with the consciousness of self-establishing practice. A man lives, studies and works for his own ethical faith and goals rather than for the sake of fame, interests or submission to external pressure. Without such proper motives for learning, the goal of becoming a jen-man cannot be secured. When Confucius points out that “the ancient wise people” study for themselves, he negatively comments on the current tendency to study in order to gain others’ praise (social recognition). (14:25) Among his many close disciples, Confucius acknowledges Yan Hui alone as the example of a man truly loving study for its own sake. In this context, true love means learning truly for its own sake or for one’s own spiritual aim. All the other disciples, despite their various achievements, display motives mixed with other utilitarian factors indirectly caused by instinctive inclinations in human nature. Obviously, the Confucian motive for study has no professional or competitive consideration except the moral profession, including morally motivated official occupations.
— Learning for Truth Vs. Learning for Fame
This is a derivation from the general principle about learning, which concerns the direct effect of publicity. In fact this is what maintained in the first paragraph of the Analects, which gives a basic guide for securing the proper motive of study. With reference to the human inclination to be well-known in the community, Confucius says that a true learner should keep a tranquil mental state with regard to one’s external reputation. The desire to be noted makes a person succumb to strong negative external influences. A desire for the recognition of others is natural and normal, but it should not be the dominant motive of study. This indicates that ethical study is a lasting, concentrated, independent and sometimes even lonely process which does not necessarily lead to external achievement. There should be a distinction between love of knowledge or truth and love of fame. The desire for recognition, fame and professional success is a function of social life.
— Concern about the Incapacity for Ethical Practice Vs. Concerns about Social Achievement
A similar comparison is made between these two closely related motives. The signified of the ethical efforts should be precisely the improvement of ethical capability rather than the external goal of popularity. Confucius asserts, “I am not concerned that I am not known, I seek to be worthy to be known” (4:14) The focus is on the operational procedure itself rather than social achievement. Therefore, it is more related to an operational technical consideration. One’s concrete concerns should lie with practical progress along the correct lines. This is the objective of a student in his life of study. Worrying about one’s capability is directly relevant to ethical progress. The direct aim of one’s efforts at study is therefore the advance of intellectual capability rather than reputation. The objective and operational object of Confucian ethical practice are separated in order that one might more precisely focus on the ground of ethical strength. The former is only related to one’s ethical practice, while the latter is more related to others.
— Expansive (philosophical) Learning Vs. Restricted (technical) Learning
Concerning the ultimate objective of learning, Confucius holds a clear division between fundamental and technical learning. He calls the latter “the small way” which, despite being useful, tends to mislead one towards irrelevant and trivial things. The jen-man should not be a mere technical expert “like a tool” (2:12). Therefore, Confucius is said to be specialized in nothing technical despite his extensive knowledge of the Six Arts. By contrast, fame is easily established by a special technique required in society. In the Confucian hierarchy of learning, orientational and technical knowledge are constantly separated. Technical learning can be inspired either by utilitarian purposes or by purely intelligent curiosity. People are inclined to take any kind of learning as the proper way of self-cultivation. It is Confucius who points out the basic distinction between the fundamental and the technical, maintaining the dominant status of the former. Under this condition, any technical knowledge is also loved and promoted for its intelligent attractions as well as for its being the tool for attaining fundamental knowledge. (17:9; 19:22) But, as the disciple Tzu Hsia said, the “small way of learning,” despite its wider applicability, can lead to confusion about the basic goal when it is practised too much. (19:4) We may interpret that the “big way of learning” is directed to the ultimate ethical aim, while the “small way of learning” is directed to ethically less relevant matters. The contrast purports to highlight the constant direction towards the ethically basic goal of one’s learning; the technical is disdained not for itself but for its possibly misleading effects in the entire program of the Confucian agent.
— The Potential for an Important (Big) Mission Vs. the Potential for an Insignificant (Small) Job
The qualifications of a jen-man can only be measured through his capability to undertake important projects rather than insignificant or technical ones. (18:34) The two kinds of capability would not necessarily be possessed by the same person; only the former is relevant for a jen-mission. The insignificant or technical capability is more easily perceived and appreciated. Hence, the latter has predominated in the community. Also, it is indeed the case that insignificant jobs can help gain practical interests naturally desired by the majority. Professional speciality is more directly related to practical utility and social reputation. Therefore, a capability for the important mission is often neglected and misunderstood by the common people. This is the same reason why a jen-man need not search for fame or wide recognition. Genuine ethical achievement has nothing to do with social popularity.
— Intense Study for Substantial Progress Vs. Hasty Study for Quick Apparent Success
In the Confucian period, study is an activity organized by the student himself without any external or institutional regularity. A student should take all related factors into account and design everything for himself. This situation can be used to explain the relationship between various elements of study in connection with ethical practice. An oppositional subject is frequently mentioned in the Analects, but each time with a different focus or emphatic aspect. In this context, the focus is placed on the concern with the speed of learning. There is a similarity between these two ways of accelerated study. Confucius, however, distinguishes between two kinds of tempo in study. One arises from an intense motivation to search for the ethical goal at the highest possible speed without relaxing or losing attention to all the necessary steps. (15:20) The other tries to find the easier way to succeed as quickly as possible regardless of the resultant quality of study. Speed in study is a marginal notion. It can be easily misused for attaining trivial success. The wrong hastiness in study is caused by the wrong motive, while the right attitude to quickness is caused by the right motive. The manner of study displays the difference of motives. Reasonably swift tempo can be opposed to two things: incorrect hastiness and incorrect slowness in organizing one’s study. This Confucian advice distinguishes between the genuine progress of self-cultivation and the attainment of trivial aims. The technical requirement is also connected to the quality and direction of ethical practice.
b) Practical Ways of Confucian Learning
— Learning from Everyone Vs. Learning from a Single Teacher
As a great learner Confucius never limits himself to a specific field or to learning only from a single teacher. He is said to learn everything from everyone without being fixed on one teacher. (19:22) After Confucius became deified as an original sage and a national Master in the Han period, his incomparable learning was said to be due to his talent and other mysterious factors. In the text, however, Confucius presents himself only as a natural devotee. His emphasis on the breadth of the studied content is linked to the inner requirement of his ethical mission. Despite the fact that all of his disciples take him as their only teacher, Confucius presents another typical example of how to pursue learning. Spiritual spontaneity can help a man find the right way in groping for knowledge. In his time, there were a lot of masters in various technical fields who taught specialities and established professional lineages. In contrast to such learnings of a technical nature, the Confucian model shows a much wider perspective of learning for disciples. Therefore a “constant teacher” with his speciality cannot suffice for Confucian practices - particularly because most of them can only lead to the learning of skills and technique in practical fields, including the administrative. With respect to practical learning, Confucius encourages people to try to gain ethical and technical knowledge from every capable person in order to enlarge and enrich their spiritual and practical potential. Once again, we should mention that Confucius does not disdain technical knowledge itself; he declares that among any group of three people, there must be one whom he can learn something, either positively or negatively (7:21). Such a teacher, however, is only the source for a special knowledge. The objective of Confucian study cannot be limited to one field or fixed to one professional master. It is a pity that in Chinese history most Confucian scholars have taken a different attitude from the original Confucian stance, which was opposed to the technical tendency of study characteristic of a practical lineage for transmitting a speciality. As a matter of fact, later Confucianist doctrine became highly professional, technical and instrumental. The distinction is once again made for the sake of stressing the priority of ethical self-cultivation.
— Not Merely Learning Vs. Not Merely Thinking
Confucius emphasizes that the two combinational aspects of learning and thinking in self-training should be maintained simultaneously. (2:15) A one-sided focus leads to wrong results in knowledge. This warning has become the motto for all subsequent Chinese literati. The contrast is between two phases: modest learning from other informative sources and active reflection on one’s own learning. There is a dialectical interaction in mental activities between learning and reflection. Possessing merely one aspect without the other harms the quality of self-training. The proper balance of the two kinds of mental activity is related to the orientation and efficiency of study. The distinction can be interpreted by extension against both professional mechanical repetition and speculative empty meditation. The negative result is dogmatic scholarly accumulation and superficial opinions without sufficient academic foundations. The practical method for learning and the creative way of thinking should be combined. It is a pity that in ancient times, Chinese literati could only perform the principle on a rather small scale. It is epistemologically significant that this general principle emphasizes the necessity of empirical knowledge for organizing ethical thought.
— More Learning Vs. Less Speaking
With a view towards tactics for learning, Confucius advises a student to learn alone as extensively as possible and to speak in public as cautiously as possible. (2:18) In a word: learn more and speak less. In the stage of self-cultivation, the aim lies in the progress of the self in connection with various aspects of knowledge. Expression or speaking to others is secondary and should not become the main purpose of learning. This advice is in accordance with that about study for oneself. It is particularly related to a prevalent tendency of people to express themselves first in community rather than to deepen their own knowledge. As a result, the expression itself tends to become the aim of study, rather than that which is expressed. Losing his focus on the content itself, the speaker only pays attention to the reaction of his partners. Consequently, he is more liable to be guided by external effects than by the inner need to search for truth. So the distinction focuses on the true aim of learning. Thus, the accumulation of knowledge is more important than the expression of knowledge; the former is internal to the student while the latter is external .
— Be Brave and Correct Mistakes Openly Vs. Be Hasty and Hide Mistakes Stealthily
The main objective of Confucian learning is the possession of virtue and the advancement of the virtuous mentality. The problem of the correction of mistakes is an important step in self-training and other practices (1:8; 6:3.) Confucius himself is also noted for his readiness to recognize and correct his own mistakes. (7:30; 14:25; 19:21) The attitude towards the problem is of great importance. Confucius even says that the phenomenon of committing and correcting mistakes can help disclose one’s potential for the jen-mission. (4:7) How much sincerity a man has in his jen-efforts can indicate whether he can attain his jen-objective. Study or ethical practice for one’s self has nothing to do with others. A mistake committed during the process is taken as an occasion for improving one’s ethical capability and ethical project. One need not consider others’ reactions to it. Otherwise, one is driven by a motive other than the ethical. Hiding mistakes is connected with worry about others’ knowledge of one’s mistakes. Therefore, Confucius takes one’s gesture at the moment of committing mistakes as a precise sign of one’s sincerity and efficiency in ethical practice. Ethical practice is interpersonal activity; the direct aim of ethical learning is to maintain what is right and correct wrongdoing. Confucius takes the human inclination to hide mistakes from others as one of the main obstacles for human moral progress. He knows clearly that it is very difficult to overcome this inclination. He says few people would like to be critical of themselves after committing mistakes. (5:26) When saying that it is only Yan Hui who really loves learning, Confucius also refers to his capability to correct his own mistakes resolutely and openly. (6:3) This proves his sincerity to search for Tao, which surpasses that of all others. The correction of one’s moral mistakes is one’s own ethical business; technically, it is a step of the learning process itself. The confession of mistakes is also directly linked with one’s relation to others. Moral mistakes mostly can bring damage to others. One’s attitude towards one’s own mistakes is an evident sign of one’s attitude towards the others.
— Only the Few can become jen-Men Vs. Most can be Taught to be Better
The Confucian doctrine of learning and teaching can be applied to most people, but only a few students can attain the higher level of jen-Tao. It is also true that most students can to varying degrees be morally improved. This means that the higher achievement of jen-learning is a combination of genius and effort. In Confucius’ opinion, the will or bravery is the determinative factor enabling a person to successfully pursue his jen- mission. Hence, Confucius declares that only those who are vigorous can be expected to accept lofty instruction. (7:8) The jen-ideal should be taught to most people in order that it might be spread as widely as possible. Objectively, the Confucian anticipates an elite who can become successful ethical agents. This is a completely empirical observation and regulation derived from actual experience with human dispositions. In Confucian doctrine, there are several scopes and grades of application with different extents of ethical completion. Whether theoretically or practically, Confucian ethics leads to a combination of the elite and the less spontaneous followers. The main audience of Confucian doctrine has remained the elite who are the genuine listeners to Confucius’ voice. Confucius searches among thousands for the chosen few who are possible spiritual leaders. This is a very important trait and limitation for an empirical ethical doctrine. In other words, there are only a few people who can and are demanded to realize strict moral maxims. Therefore, it is meaningless to maintain any categorical imperative at the ethical level. Just as people have a varying degree of physical desire, people also have a varying degree of spiritual desire. Nevertheless, this elite is expected to guide and organize the collective morality (17:3) through performance in the social li-system. This empiricist position is linked to the identity of the ethical itself, which differs radically from a pan-legal ethics based on an absolute rationality.
— The Same Correct Direction of Ethical Efforts Vs. Varying Grades of Achievements
Thus, Confucius distinguishes between the correct direction of ethical efforts and the varied degrees of ethical achievements made in the same correct direction. The archery ceremony provides a metaphor explaining the point of general education, namely that only the few can attain the top educational level among the majority. The target and the depths of penetration of the arrows into the target are two different parameters; one involves the correctness, the other the strength possessed by different bowing hands. (3:16) Confucius always makes a distinction between the morally relevant and irrelevant or between the more and less morally relevant within single event. In the present case the former is a relevant factor , while the latter is irrelevant or less relevant. Another similar metaphor involves the difference between the “virtue” (intelligent quality) of a racing horse and its strength for racing. (14:35) The oppositional parameters contained in the same event are distinguished in order to focus on the ethically more relevant factor. Concerning human moral practice, the more important things are the spiritual direction or the correctness of the motivational structure. All other practically related factors are the secondary to the practising order. A distinction between the more relevant and the less relevant is always the key concern of the Confucian ethical art. The distinction can also be used to explain the empirical relativism of Confucian practical ethics: there is almost no absolute potential of the ethical mind. The imperative is only an ideal standard converging different practices with different degrees of attainment.

(9) The Typology of the Patterns of Ethical Choice (II)
1. The Self in Contact with Others: External Practice (Section C)
When engaged in social practices a jen-man begins to contact others of various types. External or social ethical practices are the processes of one’s association with other selves. The problem of ethical attitudes becomes a problem of interpersonal relationships. In sections A) and B) above, problems of human relationships were also discussed, but the subject and object at the stage of the establishment of the will and self-cultivation were one’s own self. Now, however, others become the main objects of ethical practice. Accordingly, the scope of practice shifts from the internal to the external.
a) Aims in Contact with Others
— Self-Establishment Vs. Establishing Others
This is another combinational but oppositional pattern concerning the relation between self and others. One of the main principles of jen-practice is to present a double horizon for one’s ethical effort: for oneself and for others. A Confucian man is by no means an egoist limited to his own meditation despite the fact that the basis and center of his ethical practice are formed in his ego. For any jen-man, there are two stages of his progress, one for improving himself and the other for improving (rather than utilizing) others. In the contrast of the self with others, these stages are to be finished in different sequences and situations. The others are the others of oneself. One’s attitude towards others is based on one’s attitude towards oneself. A jen-man, however, has an obligation to extend his own projects to others in certain conditions or situations. In other words, one must first help oneself and then help others in the Confucian sequence of practice. (14:42; 6:30) A jen-man should first concentrate on establishing himself; but his next task is to help establish others. His relationship to others lies in mutual assistance for ethical purposes. This principle fixes the direction of interpersonal relationships in the ethical field. One is related to one’s others according to shared ethical principles rather than according to friendship itself. The emphasis on the necessary link between oneself and others indicates the interpersonal nature of jen. One’s self-concern is only the first step in one’s concern with others. jen has an egoist as well as a collective scope.
— Yielding to Others Vs. Forgiving Others’ Wrongs
This is also a combinational double maxim comprising two basic attitudes towards others. A practical principle is that you should never do something to others which you would hate for others to do to yourself. (15:23) This is only an elementary rule enabling you to know clearly how should you treat others. Furthermore, you should reasonably give way to others when a mutual conflict hurts your own interests. (15:21) A jen-man should be generous and tolerant enough to pardon others’ wrongs when they can be corrected by friendly treatment. The above maxims are suitable only at the general level and express the jen-man’s affectionate attitude towards others. It is evident that the maxims should be interpreted structurally in combination with other related conditions and requirements. All Confucian maxims should be grasped in this way. The separate and mechanical application of a general maxim to all situations leads to contradictory results. In our present situation, the others do not include extremely evil people who can hardly be converted to good people. This follows from the same Confucian empirical observations.
— Friendship Promoting the Common Pursuit of Ethical Practice Vs. Friendship Promoting the Common Pursuit of Mutual Profit
Confucius makes a sharp distinction between two different purposes in making friends. Despite individual efforts for his own ethical advancement, a man needs friends to join in a common ethical mission. A friend for the jen-man is first an object of love and also someone who holds the same view of life and can help enrich one’s own ethical potential. (12:24) By contrast, for the majority of people friends mainly mean those who can support each other for mutual benefit. This distinction is the first principle of a Confucian philosophy of friendship. Consequently, Confucius warns that one should not plan a common project with someone who has a different view of life from that of the Tao. (15:40) This maxim is directed towards the common opinion about utilitarian friendship. The fact that a jen-man views friends as the means to help advance his own morality has a meaning beyond finding a mere partner in a common intellectual interest. The jen-principle purports to promote mutual love, so a friend is an object of love rather than a tool to be used - except in the metaphorical sense of a spiritual tool. A friend is a synthetically constituted “other” containing various facets in contact with one’s self: the object of ethical affection and the helper as well as the helped in ethical practice. For Confucius, friendship is a purely ethical relationship.
— Meeting friends through Shared Cultural Activity Vs. Making Friends for Enriching Virtue
This combinational double maxim is the concrete subclass of the above general principle of friendship given by Tseng-tzu, one of the main Confucian disciples. (12:24) By contrast, common people get together mainly for mutual enjoyment or pursuing common profit. According to the Confucian principle of friendship, friends contact each other for the purpose of promoting common cultural activities, including the learning of virtue. People become genuine friends owing to the shared principle of active moral friendship, in which friends become both the aim of and the means for each other in this special sense. Friends get together in order to ethically support each other. According to Confucius, the formation of the jen-man needs constant inspiration from others.
b) Ways of Contacting Others
— Be a Close Friend only to the jen-Man Vs. Be Friendly to Most People
This is an important combinational distinction between two grades of love for or friendship with others. General love and special respect are two separate matters for Confucius. (1:6) Only the latter can help improve one’s competence, and learning and self-cultivation are the most important thing for the Confucian. They combine two categories of love in a relational order with others: love for people as human beings and love for the learned or wise man as a moral and cultural worth. Love and learning are two matters inside a man but both are realized through his contact with others. Hence, Confucius says that “one should strengthen jen through friendship” (12:24). Similarly, in social life a gradation of love consists of parents, spouse, relatives, common friends and teacher or pupil. The distinction between the general and the special in the Confucian attitudes towards others receives a remarkable emphasis. Simply put, you should love everyone to varying degrees and make closer or deeper contact only with those who can help you with learning or ethical advancement. In this regard, Confucius says, “do not make friends with those ethically inferior to you.” (1:8) Friendship is part of one’s self-cultivation. Making friends refers only to the situation of self-cultivation, namely, when a friend is taken as a helper rather than an obstacle for one’s ethical effort. Confucian love is cherished and manifested in a hierarchy according to human nature and social necessity (the li-system).[28]
— Do not be a Partisan in the Community Vs. Be Friendly to Everyone
This is a very important principle formulated in a doubly positive statement for a jen-man living in community. (15:21) Being a close friend with jen-men for the sake of a common ethical aim is different from specially collaborating with a group for obtaining mutual profit. It is customary for people to get together against other groups in order to seek mutual benefits, which frequently leads to reducing the benefits of other groups. Nevertheless, an ethical project implies respect for others’ proper interests, while utilitarian collaboration implies the attempt “to benefit the self through damaging others.” Briefly, social people tend to form parties to fight other groups. What concerns Confucius is the motive and purpose of partisan groups rather than opposition to collective activities in general. In social reality, the formation of parties of any type has usually been the consequence of the need to separate one’s own interests from others’. Selfish people fight each other through forming the partisan interest groups. Most true evil can only be accomplished through collective strength. Thus, the formation of parties can have different motives, purposes and manners. Confucian doctrine purports to distinguish among different elements contained in the same observable social activity.
— Lose no Chance to Make Friends with a jen-man Vs. Waste no Words on the Ethically Mediocre
A Confucian is so particular in the art of social contact that he earnestly searches for genuine friends on one hand and cautiously avoids mediocre people on the other. (15:7) The oppositional style in searching for and avoiding friends are two modes of the same Confucian policy towards others: making friends for promoting ethical competence through effective ethical dialogue. A friend is a means for one’s ethical advance, so a jen-man needs a spiritual companion. On the other hand, recognizing clearly the difficulty in coming across a jen-man in society, Confucius does not anticipate frequent success in finding genuine friends. He warns us, “do not speak to the common people about noble things.” (6:19) With his passion for friends as an ethical requirement, a jen-man might express his ideas to others without first carefully examining the possibility of their listening. The pessimistic estimation of the ethical potential of the majority and the inner desire for spiritual friends form a constant tension in the life of the jen-man. The Confucian warning is also tactical in nature: do not waste time on impossible things, for the ideal is definitely beyond the ethical capability of most people. Original ethical pursuit belongs to the few alone. Confucian dialogue is innately limited; it is directed mainly to the spiritual elite.
— Concern with Knowing Others Vs. Concern with Being Known by Others
A similar maxim appeared in the preceding section. This maxim is a double oppositional warning about knowing and being known by others in concrete contact. (1:16) These opposite attitudes can be interpreted differently. In common social tactics, it is wise to know others more than being known by others. In Confucian doctrine, however, there is a proper purpose in contacting others. Social contact is a process of mutual expression. One naturally inclines to express oneself too much to one’s partners. The point of the warning lies in curbing the meaningless impulse to mere self-expression and using the occasion of contact to learn from other sources.
— Ethically Serving the Ruler Vs. Selfishly Flattering the Ruler
This maxim is about how to treat a social superior or powerful other. Because a superior can bestow benefits, one should never try to attain them through incorrect manners. Instead, one should serve him according to the principle of Tao. (11:23) Confucius even adds that an official can resist the wrongdoing of his ruler to his face when necessary, but he should never impose on him. (14:23) This advice also reflects Confucius’ attitude towards power and powerful persons. For him, superiority is first of all functional superiority. Similarly, there is also a distinction of mental states between respect and flattery, although they look similar in their outward expressions. Confucius never denies the profit gained from one’s official status. The point is that the possibility of accumulating benefits through officialdom can only be a secondary motive. (15:38) Once again, the basic concern is with the motivational state. There is an interpersonal superiority in the social system which affords people different powers; and personal benefits can be produced by power. A Confucian takes on an office in order to realize his ethical ambition, which power can make productive. The same power is the source for realizing two different aims which bring about different manners before the holders of power.
— Waiting to be summoned by the Ruler Vs. Actively Appealing for Appointment by the Ruler
This reveals a Confucian stylistics of political persuasion which appears to be contrary to Confucius’ general attitude of actively engaging in politics. On one hand, he waits and searches for the ideal ruler, since his social project can only be realized through the help of a ruler. On the other hand, however, he is very cautious in approaching rulers because of his doubt about their honesty and competence. The two manners of searching for an official position appear so similar that Confucius tries to make a distinction between two different motives in political service. (1:10; 18:8). Particularly in this case, the Confucian advice is more symbolic than practical in connection with how to gain a position in court. In other words, it is related more to the attitudinal than to the behavioral dimension. Besides, according to Confucius’ ideal, officials and rulers should have the same ethical goal in politics, treating each other in a polite way. Practically, a jen-man has reason to wait rather than beg for a position. His purposes should lie not in finding a ruler who would give him personal benefits, but rather in expecting powerful people to be engaged in a common jen-mission. When an ideal ruler appears, he must solicit the help of the jen-man. Besides, the proper relational gesture can make the ruler maintain the necessary respect for his inferior officials, who are in fact the moral “teachers” in this common ethical project. A personal policy or style in waiting for an invitation from the power-holder can also play a tactical role. We can add that in a modern interpretation, mutual respect between the ruler and the official is mainly structural and functional in Confucian doctrine, just as in its philosophy of avoiding bad rulers. (15:2; 18:2; 18:3) Thus, a jen-man is compared to a “fine jade” which is only waiting for an insightful buyer. (9:13) In fact, a jen-man’s first business is self-cultivation (polishing the jade), while participation in office (selling the polished jade) is only secondary - it may happen or not, depending on fortune or the “intention” of Heaven. The point of this advice lies in distinguishing between the ethical and profitable motives of the same political behavior. Therefore, the Confucian policy of waiting for appointment by the ruler’s invitation results from ethical, empirical and tactical considerations. In addition, it is also a practical way to distinguish between genuine and vain motives for seeking office. Psychologically, an avaricious beggar is less restrained in asking others’ favor. On the other hand, records of Confucius’ turning his back on state rulers one by one indicate his resolute independence and complete autonomy in his politico-ethical choices and bear a deep symbolic meaning concerning his ethical epistemology.
c) The Appropriate Attitude in Relation to Others
Common sense recognizes that Confucian doctrine is about relationships of mutual respect among people. At an ordinary level, we can find a humanitarian principle of work.
— Helping Others Develop their Merits Vs. Hindering Others from Realizing their Merits
A jen-man should overcome jealousy or utilitarian intentions in relation to others. When facing others’ possible success, a jen-man should assist rather than obstruct its realization. Others should not become an object of jealousy or a tool to be selfishly used. With his love for others, the Confucian should consider how to help others realize their own merits and proper benefits rather than how to utilize them for his own benefit. For this reason, Confucius says that, “the jen-man seeks to help realize other’s admirable potential” (12:16).
— Being Hesitant to Vie with Others for Gaining Benefits Vs. Competing with Others for Attaining the Right Aim in a Fair Way
These two manners are recommended for different situations. In general, a jen-man cherishing love for people should avoid contending with others for his own benefit. When competition is connected with ethically proper goals, however, he should actively join in the activity without hesitation, although in a proper way. Confucius says that this is a “competition between gentlemen.” For example, in some ceremonies or in other proper situations, one must strive to win a game, but only according to a ceremonial rule. The Chinese character “cheng” here can bear two meanings: “grab” and “compete.” Both involve vanquishing a rival. There is another famous Confucian maxim: “do not yield the performance of the jen-job, even to your teacher.” (15:35) Due to different motives and objectives, the same behavior in competition may be right or wrong - but even a Confucian competition must be performed in fair play. At the ethical level, with the same objective, jen-men have a dialectical attitude towards each other, helping others develop themselves to the utmost in training without worrying about victory. There is no one-sided victory in a common ethical project. The result, however, depends on the participant’s individual potential. Thus competition becomes a means to encourage everyone to do his best.
— Learn from Others who are Ethically Superior Vs. Examine Yourself through the Examples of Others who are Ethically Wrong
In these two opposing situations, a jen-man should take a consistent attitude towards others, regarding the encounter with others as the occasion for improving his own ethical condition. (4:17) In the first sentence, a warning against jealousy or indifference to others’ success is given. Furthermore, a jen-man should regard persons as possible models for his own self-improvement. Meanwhile, a jen-man should not neglect any person who should be helped by the Confucian. Furthermore, a Confucian should use the negative example as an mirror to check his own possible faults errors. The double maxims regulate normal relationships between persons who have different ethical or cultural merits.
2. The Ethical Aesthetics of Adversity (Section D)
The proper attitude and behavior of a Confucian in adversity forms a special theme in Confucian ethical discourse. This can be included in the same category as Section “A.” In fact, the special teaching of adversity is part of the training and testing of the ethical will. As an art of ethical choice in a variety of situations, the Confucian doctrine pays close attention to unfavorable cases in the jen-man’s career. As a matter of fact, the key part of the Confucian teaching is about how to fight and stand up in adversity in one’s internal and external ethical practice. The process of ethical practice is that of overcoming difficulties. The most serious difficulty occurs when a jen-man is subjected to hard conditions. Such conditions and one’s reaction to them are the most relevant test for the quality of one’s ethical will and devotion. The Confucian proverbs conveying advice for bearing hardship are the most significant and moving part of the text. These proverbs have been in fact extensively used as the central imperatives and maxims for the moral practice of literati in Chinese history.
Historically speaking, Confucian doctrine has reason to take experience in hardship as the central topic of discussion. The entire Spring-Autumn period was notorious for its moral deterioration. Confucius personally experienced the rampant decay of the last stage of the period. All of his observations and teaching arise out of and are given for a dark time. This is a practical reason why Confucius takes adversity as his main topic. The effect of reading the text throughout the subsequent ages of Chinese history which have also been full of socio-political evil and crime shows that the Confucian philosophy of adversity maintained its original relevance. The literati under adversity in all historical periods were able to learn something from its perennial wisdom about how to ethically and wisely choose amidst severe tests.
Practically speaking, social and physical adversity dialectically function as typical situations which highlight the relevant elements of ethical reasoning. The historical examples in the Confucian stories in the text exhibit the heuristically applicable tension of the ethical choices made in typical situations. Ethical choices made under difficult conditions can be divided into two classes. One comprises the direct objects of the choosing and the other a variety of indirect choices. What we theoretically choose is one thing and what we actually accept is another. For example, if between participation in office and withdrawal to the private sphere, we choose the latter, we also choose all related consequences. In a broad sense, we can say that any item of the consequences of our original choice is also something chosen by us. In measuring the balance of our choices, we must take account of all consequences before making a decision. All related consequences are accepted by us through a series of choosing steps, each item becoming an independent challenge to its alternatives. When choosing an original object in a situation, moreover, we also acquire a set of related objects chosen for the next stages. The complete ethical situation consists of several related factors acting on our mentality.
The basis of the Confucian strategy of ethical choice lies in its raising a separate system of spiritual norms in addition to the established social and political systems which bring about and make great use of a multiple system of power, wealth and fame. The three main social parameters are generally determinative for guiding choices in society. Any member of a political system can search for the three kinds of instinctively desired goals regardless of the moral quality of the system. Meanwhile, the same kind of political and social system is also a mechanism through which the jen-man tries to carry out his ethical projects. He uses the special set of ethical norms to measure and react to the moral quality of the system. The problem emerges when the socio-political reality and the ethical norms are more sharply contrary to each other. Independently of the social forces, the jen-man has to decide how to deal with the morally challenging situation. The Confucian ethical patterns urge him to confront the system of socio-political factors and his own instinctive desires with the spiritual system of ethical norms. Briefly, the ethical cost is that of suppressing instinctive desires for power, wealth and fame. The Confucian doctrine of the art of choice in adversity is a technique, rather than a theory, of using an artificial system of moral criteria to replace habitual or natural ones. The targets to be overcome are mostly those plain but prevalent in society as well as in the heart of the individual. If the ethical is a lasting effort for self-control, the main obstruction of this purpose comes from physical and social threats which in turn become the test of the ethical will. From an epistemological point of view, the particular topic of adversity is more operational than romantic. First, the ethical task must be limited to the elite. This clearly indicates the potential and direction of Confucian ethics. Second, the special task proves meaningful especially when evil socio-political conditions become predominant without any possibility of social resistance. Then the ethical elite may have a critical voice which might provide society with an axiologically positive set of moral norms. The Confucian agents should be those with the strongest will to resist external pressure.
a) The Strength of the Will in Adversity
— Maintaining Integrity in Adversity Vs. Becoming Disorganized in Hardship
The first important principle of the Confucian teaching concerning difficult situations is the strength of will. Adversity can befall anyone, but people react quite differently towards the same unfavorable conditions. The majority of common people can hardly keep an independent ethical attitude during material suffering, while the jen-man does. (15:1; 15:31) In fact, the career of the jen-man is historically and logically linked with adversity, including the threat of death. (15:8) Furthermore, the ethical devotion of the jen-man is spiritually strengthened rather than physically weakened by adversity.
b) Being Without Position and Power in Society
— Refusing to be an Official for a Bad Government Vs. Being an Official in Government without Choice
Joining in or refusing the work given by the ruling class as such cannot become an independent object of Confucian ethical choice. Everything depends on the ethical suitability or practical propriety (“i”). (4:10) This means that when a government is morally hopeless a jen-man should withdraw from it without relaxing his private ethical efforts. Refusal to collaborate with bad rulers or governments becomes an important principle for Confucian political philosophy. The ethical first, the political second and the personal last: the jen-man has the initial binary choice between the ethically just and the politically powerful in political situations. This maxim is implicitly only suitable for hopeless political situations . Otherwise, the Confucian’ participation in a worsening government should help to recover or create moral conditions this is his obligation. This briefly formulated maxim focuses on the ethical purpose of political activity. When the government is morally hopeless, the jen-statesman should withdraw from power in order to guard against both danger and immorality.
c) Poverty
We can even say there exists a Confucian aesthetics of poverty. Poverty, literally and metaphorically, can become the relevant condition and symbol for Confucian ethical practice. A man’s attitude and reaction towards poverty can disclose his ethical depth. In distinction from other challenges of life, poverty is a constantly damaging factor which can more relevantly and effectively test the will through damaging the body and spirit. Therefore, poverty is a more tangible substantial challenge to one’s will to ethical goals. It also implies an aesthetics of life as symbolized by the excellent disciple Yan Hui, who is a model for the Confucian system on several planes.
— Happiness through Self-Cultivation in Suffering from Poverty Vs. Hopeless Depression in Poverty
Among several typical hardships for the Confucian, poverty is especially relevant for ethical doctrine. Its effects can persist over several decades of one’s life, keeping the standards of living at the lowest level and thereby causing physical, biological and spiritual pain. In ancient times, if politics continued to decay and no other ways appeared to better one’s life, a jen-man would prefer to lead an independent but poor life. Poverty is the greatest challenge and test for the Confucian’ resolve to keep his distance from the ruling power which can provide him with a comfortable living. There is much advice given by Confucius about the proper attitudes and behavior of the jen-man in poverty. As a humanitarian doctrine, Confucian teaching has no bias against wealth itself, recognizing that poverty and inferiority are naturally anathema to human nature. (4:5) When it is ethically necessary, however, a jen-man should bravely accept this evil reality. Moreover, he should take an active attitude towards poverty by being completely content in it. (1:15) This is the most desirable mental state of the jen- man in poverty. The state of cheerfulness in poverty reflects the purity of Confucian devotion. The concentration on ethical praxis can make all other hardships insignificant to the Confucian agent. The metaphor embodied in poverty contrasts the ethical will with the challenge to suppress instinctive desires. Compared with the extreme case of death, poverty is an even more realistic test.
— Concerns about Attaining Tao in Poverty Vs. Concerns about Eliminating Poverty by any Means
In a jen man’s life-long project, his concern should not be poverty but rather about attaining the Tao under any condition. (15:32) In other words, getting rich should not be the jen-man’s goal in life, and avoiding poverty is not a proper concern either. In principle, material conditions are morally irrelevant. Of course, when wealth comes properly, one should accept it; but one must refuse it when it comes improperly. (7:11; 7:13; 7:15) The main worry or concern of the jen-man in poverty should be the Tao. The basic dichotomous choice between attaining the Tao and avoiding poverty is one of the most crucial in the Confucian teaching. This is the most frequently experienced hardship in life; poverty means that there is no ethically proper way for the jen-man to get rich enough in life.
— No Expectation for Sufficient Food Vs. No Rejection of Good Food
The typical sign of poverty for the Confucian is a lack of food. Natural enjoyment of all kinds is not the target of Confucian criticism. Instinctive appetites become ethical theme only when they influence ethical effort. Empirically, instinctive and ethical desires frequently conflict. Instinctive desires are the factual enemy of ethical practice. Although poverty does not contain any inner value, under certain conditions it can become the test of man’s ethical will. Therefore, reasonable self-satisfaction under the pressure of poverty can prove the strength of the ethical will. When good fortune properly falls to the jen man, he can of course accept and enjoy it, regarding the matter as unexpected luck. (7:11) Confucius’ most favored disciple, Yan Hui, was noted for his suffering under poverty as well as with his strong will to withstand it. (6:9) Bad food and run-down housing are the favorite metaphors of ethical dedication in Confucian rhetoric. The ethical implication of poverty is also structurally defined; it becomes a relevant parameter only in a certain context.
d) Social Inferiority
— Feeling Ashamed of Shabby Clothes before the Rich Wearing Refined Clothes Vs. Feeling Comfortable in the Same Situation
Inferiority attends poverty. Others’ snobbish disdain inflicts a suffering of social nature which is even more difficult to bear by proud literati. Confucius uses this as a direct test of the purity of a man’s will for the Tao. (9:27) If one feels ashamed in front of well-dressed people, this means that one’s mind can still be affected by disgrace owing to the social hierarchy - a proof that an axiological hierarchy of moral values has not been firmly established in one’s spirit. Confucian valuation is completely relational or structural. Poverty and inferiority are acceptable to the jen-man not only because their oppositional alternatives are incorrect, but also because their dismissal is not a relevant item of ethical practice. It is in reference to wealth and superiority that honest poverty and necessary inferiority turn out to be ethical objects. Social poverty and inferiority obtain their ethical value in a structural context. Furthermore, it is precisely because poverty and inferiority are contrary to instinctive human inclinations that the ethical strength of will of the jen-man can be corroborated.
— No Flattering in Inferiority Vs. Flattering in Inferiority
Confucius says it is extremely difficult for an inferior person not to adulate his superior. (1:15) One frequently sees a man in a lower social position adulating another in a higher position, either asking for something needed or showing special respect. Confucius warns that such expression is against the Confucian style in contacting one’s superiors. A genuine jen-man should possess another kind of superiority in the ethical order separate from and independent of the social hierarchy. Flattering proves that one axiologically adopts the social superiority, which in fact can only be accepted by the Confucian in a functional sense. This emphasis on manners implies a basic split between the two Confucian hierarchies: the ethically axiological and the socially functional. There are two kinds of respect of the superior who represents the moral value itself or its position in the proper li-system. There is an essential distinction between the Confucian attraction to moral value and to the ruler as merely a social superior.
— Feeling Comfortable when Unknown in Society Vs. Feeling Dismayed when Unknown in Society
Poverty, inferiority and anonymity always come together. Wealth, superiority and reputation are another social combination. In ancient times, these consequences were frequently dependent on one’s relations to the rulers. The refusal to cooperate with bad rulers brought the first trio upon oneself. Confucius examines the jen-man with regard to his attitude towards several kinds of hardship. This becomes the test for the will to resist the pressure of power and the allurement of material enjoyment offered by power. The purity of Confucian ethics is expressed in the fact that one’s ethical seclusion could last for a whole life. In distinction from biological suffering caused by insufficient food, the social suffering due to anonymity or lack of recognition is even more unbearable for ambitious literati. Spiritual efforts require dialogue, but seclusion forecloses this possibility. Referring to this point, Confucius frequently advises the jen-man to have a broad mind and strong will to cling to his own internally directed Tao mission. He says that one should not feel dismayed when only a few people know about one’s efforts or achievements. (1:1) One should remain unmoved by external difficulties and concentrate on one’s own cultivation. (15:21; 6:9) In other words, fame, reputation and social influence are signs of participation in collective power. Single existence outside the collective means segregation from social power. Segregation from the ruler is equal to seclusion from the collective. This serious social disconnection leads the jen-man to be thoroughly independent or separate. The relationship of an individual to his group is reduced to his relationship to himself in this extreme case. Only the strongest will can withstand absolute isolation. Spiritual seclusion is a more serious challenge to a man’s ethical devotion than the shortage of living material. This is the utmost ethical heroism which Confucius teaches to the jen-man.
e) Fatigue and Toil
— No Fatigue in Travelling a Great Distance Vs. Clinging to a Comfortable Home
We have already used this example. This maxim also tests the persistence of one’s will. Confucius says that if a man clings to his easy home life and feels hesitant to undertake a remote mission, he is not a jen-man. (14:3) Travel is an important metaphor signifying the remoteness of the ethical search and the toil and loneliness of this errant adventure. Whether physically or spiritually, man instinctually tends to cling to the easy way of life and to fear the endless toil of a life-long errand. The emotional state before the toil of travel is a direct test of the jen-man’s volition and strength to resist the instinctive wish for ease.
f) Political Danger
— Choosing Death as a Contribution to jen Vs. Choosing Life at the Cost of Damaging jen
In the marginal situation of the disjunctive choice between death and truth, Confucius maintains the principle of dying for jen. (15:8) In general, however, he never encourages the choice of an easy death when in adversity or danger. Instead, he advises people to continue living and therefore to continue the jen-project. (14:4) In a special sense, the Confucian doctrine is an art of protecting the jen-man from persecution in dangerous political situations which plague him because of his defiant and independent will. In principle, however, Confucius values jen higher than life itself in his axiological hierarchy. After a more totalitarian system was established in China, the slogan “die for the emperor and country” was employed for more ideological than ethical reasons. The main enemy of jen was politically interpreted as foreigners and internal rivals. Confucius treats the relation between morality and death in a purely ethical way. In the most dangerous cases, death can be still avoided by the jen-man through practical wisdom. A single dissident can choose to evade and escape instead of directly confronting the brutal ruling power. In the extreme case, however, when death and life have to be chosen disjunctively in order to protect the ethical mission, the jen-man should choose death with ease. Of course, for Confucian ethics, this is only a marginal situation, where the jen-man should realize an aesthetics of death. In fact, this is only a heuristic model for clarifying the absolute value of jen-Tao in the hierarchy of moral values.
— Act Boldly and Speak Boldly Vs. Act Boldly and Speak Cautiously
Confucius’ general model for treating political danger indicates his great flexibility in avoiding the alternative choice between life and morality. Concerning the proper attitude towards political suppression, Confucius teaches an art of combining ethical and tactical concerns in a mutually supportive way. When a good or tolerant government prevails, the jen-man should openly do his best in order to attain the most profitable results. When a bad or suppressive government prevails, the jen-man should change not his goals and spiritual devotion, but only his outward behavior, keeping silent in public to protect himself. He should “act” with the same resolve and energy, but express himself much more cautiously. Confucius gives a different meaning to courageous action, active style and inward bravery. The boldness of one’s actions can be synthetically defined with reference to one’s intention, objective and flexibility in connection with program of action and outward traits. Boldness means substantial energy and strong will in one’s mind and intention without any direct connection with outward manifestations, which are the result of choice at the instrumental level. Acting energetically or reservedly depends on the conditions and the tactical requirements. Bravery means strength of will and its effective performance in both internal and external domains. It is not always measured by the external progress of one’s projects and the performing style. Confucian bravery is not necessarily linked to the risk of immediate danger; it is synthetically characterized in comparison with other related factors. Bravery is directly connected with the inner resolution to overcome obstacles. The readiness to give up one’s life is not a definite sign of bravery for Confucius, except when it is bound with a noble and necessary aim. Therefore, Confucian wisdom especially stresses the necessity of safety in fighting the enemy. The ethical mission depends on the existence of jen-men, who must have be flexible in organizing the steps and details of their projects. Not every confrontation with an ethical enemy is a final one. Chances also exist in various unfavorable situations. Sometimes one can speak more openly and sometimes only reservedly, while all the time keeping the same strong will and resolution to continue working on one’s projects, which dialectically alternate between the internal and external realms.
It is a pity that this important motto has been wrongly or weakly interpreted in a Taoist spirit, which holds that Confucius permits the abdication of political and other social projects. On the contrary, Confucius emphasizes the opposite: one should never give up politico-ethical projects! In brief, there is a constant ethical goal, but different practical ways. This is a special art for performing ethical projects in dark times. On the other hand, we have to repeat that Confucius’ ethical discourse remains in a pre-political stage. Most Confucian instructions are directly related to the ethical attitudinal domain. The moral narratives made out of the historical material with certain political details are used only as the signifying carriers of ethical or politico-ethical connotations. If the employed situations of choice are historically restricted, the criteria of ethical choice can remain effective. The crucial point of the Confucian patterns of choice lies in the interconnection of the patterns. Each pattern can be experienced commonly, but Confucian ethics provides a special net of relationships of those patterns in its system.

Part Three: Rhetorical Features in Confucius’ Text
(10) The Semantics of Ancient Chinese Characters. A Linguistic Digression
The semantic organization of Chinese is different from that of Western languages first in its lack of a determining phonological mechanism. The existence of a series of Chinese homonyms makes the phonological shapes of monosyllabic words unable to definitely represent their meanings. A single monosyllabic sound can represent from several to more than one hundred meanings. The system of the “four tones” makes any one word-sound represent four different phonological units. Considering the role of the four-tone system in limiting semantic extension, a sound with a definite tone remains highly homonymic, having many different signifieds. Comparatively, a visual character taken as a word has a smaller number of possible signifieds. In ancient philology, the meaning of Chinese words is regarded as being purely determined by the visual shapes of characters. Some Ch’ing philologists discovered that the meaning of Chinese words is closely linked to the sound of ancient Chinese. With this principle, they successfully redefined and corrected previously misread meanings of many ancient Chinese characters in classic texts. The existence of a great number of Chinese homonymic characters, however, disproves such a simplified generalization about empirically formed sound-determinism. To a certain extent, the principle can indeed help determine the original meanings of characters in texts in a practical way. Nevertheless, we still have to pay attention to the unique phenomenon of the system of independent visual signifieds in ancient Chinese.
1. The Double System of Signifieds
Any Western language has a double system of signifieds: the phonetic and the visual. The former is the basic and the latter is representative of the former. Western languages are semantically constructed by the phonetic system. This is natural for alphabetic languages. Chinese belongs to the pictographic system, having a more complicated formulative evolution of its written language. While most daily words must be first formed orally, some characters can be directly formed with visual signs. Both origins led to the formation of the double system of signifieds - no matter which came first. The point is that after the appearance of the written system, it is the visual words (in ancient times they were mostly monosyllabic characters) which can more definitely signify or represent the signified and therefore play a more important role in the signification of written Chinese texts.
2. The Stroke Structure of Chinese Characters
Chinese is noted for its “Six Principles for forming characters” (liu-shu). Pictographic representation is only one of them; and it can only be employed in a highly sketchy manner. In fact, people do not rely on pictographic traits in their reading. The original pictographic elements are reduced to the pure signs consisting of structured strokes. For two thousand years, most Chinese characters were formed on the principle of “half-shape and half-sound.” A character of this class consists of two parts: the radical part with the significative element is responsible for the meaning of the character, and the subordinate part with the known sound is responsible for its pronunciation. Despite the pictographic origin of Chinese characters, through successive simplification of their visual structures and the “half-shape and half-sound” mode of word-construction, the ancient Chinese written language became as a whole an applicable sign system. As early as the Han period, about 80% of the characters were formed in this way. The important consequence is that meaning is only determined by “shape” (the visual sign); it has nothing to do with “sound” which is conveyed by a different written sign whose original meaning is dismissed in constructing new meanings. There are two constituent parts of stroke signs in a character: one indicates the meaning of the character, the other its pronunciation. This way of constructing words makes the visual signs as such signifiers which are disconnected from the phonetic system in signification. According to the philology of the Ch’ing, sound seems to be more basic in the formation of the meaning of a character in the ancient texts. Thus, they corrected many meanings of ancient words wrongly interpreted by ancient scholars. This success, however, was met with only at the practical level. The reason is that in ancient times there was a highly irregular way of using a character to represent several different meanings or words which have the same sound. In essence, Chinese semantics is not based on a phonetic-centrism. Ch’i Pei-Jung holds that we can hardly apply this principle to identify the radical part of a character. Originally, there was no necessary link between a visual meaning and its sound. (Ch’i 1984, 58-59) More precisely, as Lu Tsoung-ta and Wang Ning assert, the sound-meaning links in the majority of the derived characters in one word-family are due to the conventionally formed sound-meaning link of the radical character. This “necessary” connection was caused by the historical development in the formation of the word-family, which indicates a trait that “the similar meaning of different characters is due to their similar sound.” (Lu and Wang 1983, 80) The historical connection can only be found among characters derived from the same radical character. (ibid., 16) In other words, the sound-meaning relation of Chinese characters is externally practical rather than essentially necessary.
Despite the shift of the signifying function in the written Chinese system, the phonetic system of characters exists and plays a signifying role in conjunction with the visual system. The phonetic system becomes the direct representative of the visual system. While in Western languages there exists a one-fold representation of the written signifiers for oral signifiers, in Chinese there exists a two-fold representation, with the written as the basic term.[29]
It is especially true for ancient Chinese that most of its words are monosyllabic characters. In modern Chinese, the predominant system of two-character words decreases the number of homonyms and the phonetic system of signifiers becomes more important. If the precise meaning of an ancient one-character word depends more on contextual definition, that of a modern two-character word depends much less on its contextual role. The overlapping of the scopes of reference and meaning of two characters in one word narrows the scope of the resultant signified.
The traditional principle of shape-sound formation also proves that shape and sound can be separated. Chinese is a special language system whose philological structure is not phonetically determined. In Chinese semantic history, visual shape-centrism and sound-centrism are due to historical and practical phenomena rather than to theoretical analysis. When the modern linguist Wang Li repeats the Ch’ing scholars’ “philological revolution” in raising the sound-centrist semantic principle (Wang 1981,157), he confuses the theoretical and historical distinction, as we already mentioned. Let us summarize the distinction in the following steps:
a) Originally an idea is arbitrarily represented by a sound which can also be used to represent another idea. There is no one-to-one correspondence between the sound and the idea.
b) The sound is later represented by a character; and as long as written sign is a stable (but not necessarily one-to-one) correspondent the idea, it becomes a character in the Chinese system. It is unnecessary to have a one-to-one relation between sound and shape.
c) The shaped character as a written unit becomes a ready carrier of an associated idea. Similarly, a sound can be used to represent other ideas in a quite arbitrary way. (The association can be flexible in order to carry many ideas.)
d) As a result, a character can have many different meanings, each of which can have different sound. On the other hand, a sound can represent many different characters, consequently having different meanings as well. Ancient Chinese is not phone-centric.
e) New characters and new meanings can be created or derived from the established Chinese system along the two lines of sound and shape
The process of creating new words leads to natural and historical links between sounds and characters with similar meanings. The semantic similarity of the meaning of characters with similar sounds is caused by the process of word formation rather than by some inner mechanism of Chinese semantics. This summary attempts to repeat the important fact of the semantic autonomy of characters in ancient Chinese texts.
In light of the foregoing, we can point out that despite its pictographic origin, Chinese as early as the Confucian era did not actually use pictographic elements of characters in elementary written communication. The frequently distorted and simplified stroke structures of the available characters in communication only provided visually distinctive features conventionally defined. Although there exist factual links between the remaining pictographic elements and the effective significative part of a character, semantically a well-formed character is only conventionally determined by the writing system itself. The original pictographic remnants became then an additional potential for connotation.
3. The Independent Function of the Signification of the Character
The pictographic origin of Chinese characters and their peculiar grammatical traits result in the complicated semantic structure of Chinese words. A historically formed character becomes a multiply semantic sediment centered on the original concrete image. In the ancient written world, the concrete and abstract concepts are more closely mixed in individual characters than in modern Chinese. Because grammatical relations are mostly determined by word-order rather than by morphological change, a character can have different grammatical functions in different syntactic positions and thereby carry different semes and parts.[30]
In general, we can enumerate the following features of the Chinese written character:
a) One character has a relatively independent semantic reservoir.
b) One character represents several parts of speech, such as noun, verb, adjective and adverb.
c) The multiply layered deposit of the denotational and connotational semes of a separate character as a vocabulary unit makes it connected to several referred domains, including the material, social, psychological, behavioral, technical, abstract and axiological. Hence, a character is a set of semic elements existing at the denotational and connotational planes, connected to different contextual focuses and historical associations. The semes based on one character can overlap and interact and be contextually structured.
d) A quasi-abstract word is frequently constructed on the basis of a concrete image.
e) Substantial words are widely mixed with axiological semes. For example, a great number of actional words contain morally good or bad or hierarchical implications (e.g., “kill” and “dead” can be expressed in various synonymic characters with different moral and social shadings). This is one reason why in historical texts the referential function of Chinese is weaker and less precise than that of European languages.
f) Therefore, referential domains are obscurely distinguished. It is difficult to form the classification and categorization of concepts based on the semantical relations of abstract characters in logical terms. Instead, there is a wide interpenetration of the semantical reference of different characters. Context alone can form an obscure contour of the semic structure of a character. Moreover, because of the multiple grammatical functions of a character, the semantic distinction of different related characters can be clearly defined only with difficulty. [31]
Concerning semic interaction and mutual penetration, the dynamic situation of semantic organization can occur within a single character and between different characters alike. In both situations, semes exist and act in several psychological or ethically practical dimensions. The elementary units of words do not appear at the plane of the natural word-unit, but rather at the plane of the semic units distributed along several dimensions. Hence, the common semantic denominators at the semic level can provide for a more effective comparison of different cultures.
4. The Symbolic Features of Axiological and Psychological Verbal Characters
Each character has the same size in a text and is distanced clearly and evenly from its neighbors, separately appearing as an individual entity. This spatial feature makes a character appear as an independent sign or symbol. A character as a vocabulary unit plays a definite role in the written texts, but it can also exist separately as a semantic body in calligraphic works. This phenomenon is especially seen in axiological, psychological and abstract characters. This kind of character is preferably used in a separate or independent way. This is essentially due to the innate pragmatic tendency of written Chinese signs. A character can be used as a common word in a text as well as an independent word. This is because a character can be used as a separate symbol to carry out different functions and multiple meanings in intellectual life. Basic concepts can be represented by individual characters, and many additional or connotational meanings or semes can be deposited in it as a material substrate. A character can carry out different functions and bear a multiply semic structure in order to enrich and expand the connotational semantic and pragmatic ethical possibilities of Chinese.
a) Some characters, including many key Confucian words, are taken as independent conceptual symbols which can exist separately from texts. They are semantic compounds conveying different shades of meaning, each of which interacts with the other in its synthetic signification. In distinction from non-verbal symbols, the symbolized contents of individual characters are limited by the linguistically semantic organizations of Chinese. The similarity with common symbols is due to concrete imagination based on pictographic origins and visual individuality. Symbolic words can be the index of axiologically instructive sentences. A character can even become a brief index of a set of sentences.
b) The related sentences represented by an ethical character are moral admonitions, instructions or prohibitions. All of these are connected with basic moral norms. In this sense, a moral character (word) is also an index of the set of objective norms, indicating a strong axiological function. Accordingly, a key word or character as a synthetic sign of multiple semes can turn out to be an index of moral qualities or personality.
c) Pragmatically, they are stimulants causing the multiple reactions of readers. Many of them simultaneously convey semantic contents on the notional, axiological, emotional and volitional planes, stimulating various reactions of mind, especially emotional and volitional reactions in addition to axiological comprehension.
d) The aesthetic personification of moral characters appears in the fact that many key moral characters become independent indexes regarded as quasi-living objects of worship and respect. Besides the basic semantic structure, a character can be indirectly or imaginatively used as an index of a group of moral maxims.
e) The aestheticization and moralization of those characters are further strengthened by calligraphic art, which can highlight the independent visual features of characters. Calligraphy is a formalist procedure on the plane of written expression, producing the visual attraction of characters themselves. The procedure can make characters more effectively play their synthetically significative role. A single word as an index of maxims is easily used in ethical practice.
f) Some key characters have a direct link to their originators and main operators, such as jen with Confucius and i with Mencius; and they are widely associated with historical figures who were inspired by them to heroic deeds. Therefore, characters which function as the permanent and independent source and inspiring agent of morality become the index of historical models of heroism. Personalization and aestheticization help characters play this role - which is also one of the reasons for the more abundant pragmatic potential of Chinese moral words.
Despite the independently formed deposit of multiply semic elements in a character, the ordinary form of communication remains the oral. The sound of a character is the representative of the semantically enriched writing sign. The two-fold representation of Chinese character functions independently from the semic accumulation of the written signifier. When a new semic accumulation accrues to the written unit, the corresponding sound can automatically gain the same enriched signified. With whatever kind of media, all signifieds must eventually occur in the mind. Nonetheless, we need to heed the independent genealogical process of the visual part of a Chinese word. The special system of semantics oriented towards the visual character makes written Chinese a stable separate semantic reservoir in which each of the main traditional conceptual words keeps its relative independence from the system. The latter makes these words play a multiple function in communication.

(11) The Structure and Manipulation of the Virtuous Elements
The Chinese language had a long pictographic stage in its historical evolution. This trait makes its words into special combinations of concrete and abstract semes. Before modern times, the Chinese language had a special semantic world different from the current one. As we said in the last chapter, following the historical development, the pictographic elements in linguistic usage have gradually decreased. In modern scientific times, the same vocabulary of Chinese words have become the carriers of meanings without any original pictographic effects involved in normal social communication. In ancient China or in classical Chinese textuality, however, the basic semantic unit and the basic written unit are the same for most words. Thus, one character is one word. The semantic structure of the one-character word consists of semes of several semantic layers. Therefore, the original pictographic elements can still play their separate role in communication. In particular, “abstract,” “generic” and “psychological” meanings can only exist with other more concrete meanings in the same written units. The lexical meaning of the one-character word is therefore multiply articulated.
1. The Word Functions as the Sentence or Set of Sentences
Because of the special way in which the Chinese language and Chinese thought are semantically and categorically organized, the function of abstract terms is quite different from that of the Western tradition. Lin Yü-tang observes that “for the Chinese mind delights only in moral platitudes, and their abstract terms like ’benevolence,’ ’kindliness,’ ’propriety,’ and ’loyalty’ are so general that...they are naturally lost in vague generalities.” (Lin 1939, 85) This misleading conclusion is due to a Western-linguistic point of view, for the exact meaning of a concept-word cannot be derived directly from singly existing terms. The actually relevant meaning carried by singular terms can only be grasped through the contexts in which they appear. Hence, Ch’ien Mu points out that the Ch’ing scholar Juan Yuan collectively and systematically annotates the meaning of each occurrence of the term “jen,” whose proper Confucian significance, however, can only be grasped though the entire text. (Cf. Ch’ien 1957, 1) The meaning of one occurrence of a word in its concrete context differs from the general lexical meaning of the word. In the latter, the separate word plays the role of a general index.
The semantically ambiguous traits of generic Chinese terms in ancient times provide a clue as to why Chinese civilization was weak in its original theoretic reasoning: there were no clearly articulated semantic units of generic terms embodied in written units. Therefore, generic terms could not be articulated in a logical network of abstract expressions. Consequently, emotional, volitional, intellectual and practical communications tend to be mixed in a single linguistic context. The specific way of verbal communication partly led to the result that the ancient Chinese mentality was less able to perform abstract and logical thinking.
On the other hand, the synthetic, performative and conative potential of the specifically semantic organization of ancient Chinese is especially suitable for pragmatic ethical communication. One word or character can carry and convey multiple semes belonging to the conceptional, emotional and volitional layers simultaneously. The effect of perceiving and understanding words and sentences is realized not only at the psychological and cognitional levels, but also at the actional one. A central word consisting of abstract, concrete, emotional and volitional semes can stimulate the Chinese mind simultaneously in different regards: e.g., the words “jen” (goodness, benevolence), “i” (propriety, justice), “te” (virtue, morality), “ch’eng” (sincerity, seriousness) and many others. The more characteristic feature of single-character Chinese words is expressed in their special potential for causing a double emotional-volitional reaction in addition to their outwardly referential function. Because the words of virtue are directly tied to their action on the volitional effects, Chinese ethical texts are a practically and pragmatically more manipulable verbal mechanism.
While the system of single-character words prevails, the visual shapes of words are also semantically functional. This does not necessarily mean a pictographic effect in communication, but rather the regularly defined visual form of the carrier of meaning. A single visual square: the structure of strokes contained in a character, is a condensed complex of semes instantly stimulating the Chinese mind. The semantic complex is solidified into a concrete substance which seems to become an individual object or partner in ethical dialogue. One word with its sound and written shape is condensed into an active unit playing a multiply semantic and pragmatic role in unified ethical situations. The solidified semantic unit embodied in a character consisting of elements of sound, shape and semes is easily further personalized. Then, a word of virtue sounds like an individual sacred or noble object confronted and loved by the jen-man. Because of the synthetic planes of signifieds, the delimitation or definition of a word’s meaning in its context brings with it a rich association of several signifieds in the reading process. This fact also explains why Chinese words of virtue can be pragmatically used in ethical life. Such words become organic nodes or constituent parts of the sequence of ethical actions.
Therefore, single words can only present their definite meaning in textual contexts; but they can also have the independent function of communication at both the semantic and the behavioral level. The fact is, however, that the same visual unit can be used in three different categories: the carrier of different meanings in the text; the index of the special semantically synthetic body; and the tool of the behavioral process. It is characteristic that a written Chinese word becomes a complete semantic unit maintaining its independent existence outside all contexts. The principal part of the synthetically semantic body can even be combined with other notional units of other words to form the fixed index of a complete idea. Thus, a single-character word is semantically equivalent to a sentence or a set of sentences. Consequently, a separate word can be the index of definite ethical sentences or prescriptions. Moral imperatives can be signified through single characters for the individual who is the reader or receiver of the ethical words. They can also function as the index for the direction of ethical action. Thus, some Chinese virtue-characters can have a “mysterious” effect on believers through their specially organized semantic inspiration.
2. The Constitution, Reservoir and Combination of the Verbal Elements of Virtue (Words)
1). The Definition of the Verbal Elements of Virtue
The purpose of Confucian doctrine lies in building up the moral personality with its correct attitude and behavior in social and private life. A personality actually consists of a variety of moral qualities and dispositions which exist in structural and dynamic relationships. Therefore, the concrete aim of the doctrine is to form and to train the required qualities and their dynamic combinations in a man’s personality. Such moral qualities are expressed in the ancient words of virtue; however, in ancient times the existentially psychological qualities or elements and their dynamic combinations are only carried by synthetically constituted daily words.
The art of Confucian ethical rhetoric lies in structurally using these words in varying combinations in order to deal with a variety of ethical situations. The considered psychological qualities or elements can belong to the volitional, emotional and attitudinal layers. Broadly, we can call these virtuous qualities or virtues. The virtues embodied in words or characters of virtue are the basic units of Confucian ethical discourse. In distinction from the planes of reference in the external world, the words of virtuous qualities or at least the ethically related part of their semantic bodies have changed little over 2000 years. The articulation of the psychological or subjective world has changed less than that of the external one. Another reason is that the semantic constructions of Chinese words are more synthetic than analytic. The words of virtue multiply refer to different domains ranging from the psychological to the physical. With such a strong pragmatic trait, Chinese words of virtue can become an organic part of ethical behavior and ethical situations.
Being limited by this pragmatic and synthetic frame of expression, Confucius, who was probably the first person in Chinese history capable of systematic self-reflection, found a way to organize his network of causal reasoning in an intuitive manner. The actual complicated interactions of the related elements of different planes cannot be thoroughly reflected in those vocabulary units which are more roughly constructed. Thus, a profound thinker has to find more intuitive ways beyond natural language to approach the moral substance. Confucian rhetoric or the art of its expressions in the text serves this task. Only a structural reading of the text can help us grasp Confucius’ actual line of reasoning in his network of sentences. As we said above, Confucian thought displays multiple structural tendencies. In its use of virtues in ethical practice, those tendencies are expressed as the following:
a) First, a jen-man should possess in his personality a reservoir of virtues or virtuous elements to be used in any possible event. Faced with an ethical situation, he can pertinently select a group of virtues from the reservoir in order to meet the demand. The capability to deal with a concrete ethical situation refers in fact to a special set of virtues or virtuous elements. The structure of virtuous elements pragmatically corresponds to the structure of the ethically relevant features of the situation. Ethical practice consists in the manipulation of those virtuous elements in order to form an actual base in the mind for ethical actions. A jen-man should first build up a reservoir or hierarchy of virtuous elements (A) and then selectively apply the elements in various situations (B).
In ethical discourse, virtues exist in natural linguistic units, namely, words of virtue. Concerning their main semic planes, such words are not much different from corresponding terms in other cultures and languages. This is so because the normal psychological-social activities of different civilized cultures are similar and stable. In particular, words of volition and emotion everywhere reflect the common psychological habitudes of mankind. In view of the whole range of their semic planes, however, the Chinese words of virtue display the most complicated organization. For any single word or character, there can be several semic aspects, including the volitional, intentional, inclinational, emotional, expressional, linguistic and behavioral. In each aspect, there is a degree of quality related to the virtue. For any word, there are two kinds of semantic order: one is static or vocabulary-based, the other is dynamic or contextual. Confucian ethics shows the importance of the construction of the two orders. The static order involves the correct organization of virtuous elements contained in the naturally virtuous items or words. For example, cultivating truebravery,” “respect” or other virtues in one’s character means making each item possess the proportionally available constituent elements which can only be grasped intuitively with the help of a natural word of virtue. The next order involves a procedure of applying those properly formed items in concrete situations. It emphasizes the special art of wisely assessing the concrete requirements of the situation and designing a virtuous recipe for it. According to Confucius, the most difficult capability to attain among various others in ethical practice is that of synthetically arranging various elements in order to meet the demands of a definite situation. This capability can be called “ch’üan” (meaning to weigh or to measure “occurring events” from a strategical point of view). (Cf. Legge 1991, v. 1, 226) The dynamically readjusted structure of the virtuous elements amounts to a variable of the virtuous constant.
b) Second, in the Confucian text virtues or words of virtue exist in opposite ways with their morally negative counterparts being, just as in other cultures. As a matter of fact, the virtuous reservoir consists of elements existing in two dimensions. The quality of the reservoir is finally decided by the proportion of positive and negative elements, the sum of positive virtuous elements and the flexibility and efficiency of applying those elements. The task of a jen-man’s learning and training first lies in increasing his positive virtuous elements and decreasing his negative ones. Furthermore, the positive quality of a virtue or group of virtues is also partly determined by the correct proportion of the elements in the virtuous reservoir. The negative virtues are often used by Confucius for highlighting the true nature of positive virtues, particularly those which look positive but are in fact their opposite. (5:11; 5:24) Generally speaking, Confucius points out a lot of negative qualities in order to explain positive qualities.
c) Due to a lack of sufficient means for distinguishing the virtuous qualities, Confucius has to rely on the external expressions of the ethical agent. Those expressions can occur at the verbal, facial, gestural and behavioral levels. Confucius is good at observing the mutually corresponding or discordant connections of the related virtuous elements at different planes of one action in order to distinguish the right from the wrong. When Confucius says that to take one’s words and deeds together is to judge his true intention (5:9), this can be understood meaning as all external expressions of an agent. The main aspects of virtuous qualities are the potential and the inclination towards ethical action. The virtues inhere in the capability to carry out ethical projects or project moral intentions outwardly. The virtuous reservoir is a reservoir of dynamic potential. When we consider the collection of virtues as a reservoir of virtuous elements, this is of course a theoretical reformulation. Regarding the pragmatic Confucian language, the natural virtuous words are semantically synthetic in nature, frequently referring to more than one semantic plane. Only contexts can make the more relevantly directed semantic planes appear or become effective.
2) The Sets of Words of Virtue
For the sake of the easy performance of the virtuous elements, Confucian doctrine often gives some basic groups of the main virtues as the virtuous principles of ethical practice: e.g., gravity, generosity, faith, diligence and clemency (17:6); mildness, majesty and respect (7:37); benignity, uprightness, courteousness, temperance and deference (1:10). The enumerated groups of virtuous items here are semantically denoted and multiply touch on several planes, including the mental. Among the inclinational, emotional, facial. gestural and actional planes, which ones are particularly used are mainly decided by the related contexts. Listeners, however, can grasp the complete meaning of the related virtues in the definite contexts in an intuitive way. When we read divergent English translations of the same sentences about Chinese virtues in different editions of the same book, we find a problem mainly caused by the complicated semical constructions of Chinese words. Each translator may focus on different semic planes in his interpretation.
Let us now explain how Confucian doctrine practically defines the virtuous qualities.
a) The definition of virtuous qualities through external effects.
In Confucian doctrine, ethical practice can be regarded as an entire process, from the motive to external actions and effects. Each step of the process should be coherent with all other steps according to the original motive. From one step we can infer the nature of the other connected steps. Between the virtues and the external effects, Confucius raises the following examples: a main set of five virtues such as gravity, generosity, good faith, diligence and clemency, respectively, bring about corresponding results such as respect, winning others’ support, trustworthiness, success and being served by others. (17:6) The set of main virtues are taken as the basic virtues to use in social contacts. The virtues named here are in fact semantical compound variously referring to planes of facial and gestural expression and action and its effects. In contrast to the corresponding external effects, the scope of the signifieds of the words of virtue is much clearer.
b) The definition of virtuous units through the binary combination of opposite elements
In order to further define the, qualities of the required virtuous units, Confucius has to use two words to form a combination of elements contained in the natural units. For example, the special virtuous states can be described with binary combinations of the two opposite natural units, as in the following group of virtues : mildness/sternness, majesty/gentleness, respect/ease. In fact, it is very difficult to use one natural word to completely and exactly represent some specific quality defined in the virtuous personality. We can also understand the combinative ways in which a quality needs two opposite elements functioning together. It is the same whether one regards the combination as a single synthetic quality or as two related qualities. One example is “confidence in others/not being deceived by others” (14:33)
The most frequently used way to define a word of virtue is to present its opposite. For example, let us examine the following contrasts: upright/crafty (14:16); dignified ease/pride (13:26); truly steadfast/lustful (5:10). Apparent similar but effective opposites, appear in the following example: genuine consistency in life/keeping promises in small matters (15:36). Concerning the capability for ethical practice, three different degrees may be distinguished despite their mutual similarity, namely, the capacity for learning, working for the Tao and measuring the best balance in dealing with a concrete situation. (9:29) A systematic comparison of two sets of similar but opposite virtuous qualities shows that without a love of study, love of one virtue in the pairs leads to the opposite virtue. Then we have the following: benevolence/foolish simplicity; knowledge/mental dissipation; sincerity/the injurious disregard of consequences; straightforwardness/rudeness boldness/insubordination; and firmness/extravagance (17:8). The purpose of these distinctions is to point out the resultant “proximity” of the opposite motivational units and the related formative reason, with or without the necessary process of learning about the goals of ethical practice. The example also indicates that desirable virtues are something composite which are the result of creative combinations of the required virtuous elements contained in the natural virtuous units. In addition, many contrasts are formed by the two causal items: e.g., lavishness/presumption (7:35); frugality/meanness (7:35). Besides the two contrasts in this example, Confucius also forms another comparison between two bad conditions represented by two pairs. Meanness is then said to be better than presumption. Through this contrast, Confucius explains in more detail what he thinks a required or a repudiated quality is.
c) Verification through behavioral manifestations
Consistency between intention and action is a very important way of distinguishing between genuinely moral mental intentions and false ones, as in the following binary combinations: true respect for others/nice words and gestures meant merely to please others (5:24); true friendship/hypocritical friendship with a hated person (5:24); true moral intention/nicely phrased moral words intended to deceive others (5:4); sincerity for Jen-practices/lack of any intention to correct one’s mistakes (15:30); no respect for others/keeping promises no longer than a single night (12:12); being upright in mind/behaving straightforwardly (6:12); sincerity in mourning/ holding ceremonies for irrelevant gods (2:24); stability and constancy in ethical practices/inability to undertake a menial job (13:22). In all of these examples, the first item of the pair is a mental state and the second an external behavior or expression. The contrasting comparisons use the characters of external manifestations in concrete situations in order to positively or negatively reflect the exact qualities of the related virtues. Therefore, virtues or virtuous elements are frequently presented and used in combinationally or oppositionally dichotomous ways which can have an internal or external effect.
3). The Three Sections of the Reservoir of Virtuous Elements: chih (Wisdom), jen (Benevolence) and yung (Bravery)
As we mentioned in chapter 7, all of the Confucian virtuous elements can be classified into three basic sections which are connected with three different inclinational dimensions in personality. In Confucius’ time, the set of triple virtues can function at both the generic and the concrete level. Concerning the latter, the triple set of virtues represents three main virtues: wisdom, love and courage in various interpersonal actions; however, they can also play a more generic role, representing the virtuous categories. Then they are roughly equal to the dimensions of the cognitional, the affectional and the volitional. The Confucian art lies in creatively analyzing and synthesizing the natural virtuous units so as to form more precise causal networks of ethical psychology and pragmatics. With a view towards grasping the deeper and more detailed connections of the heterogeneous elements of the entire processes of internal and external ethical practice, Confucius conveys the structural connections of various motives and their corresponding effects through unsystematic formulations. For any individual context of ethical practice there should be a specific recipe of the required virtuous elements or the actual composition of the elements selected from the static reservoir of virtuous elements. The actually formed composition matches the concrete context. The capability to form such a composition from heterogeneous elements according to correct principles in three dimensions is called “ch’üan “, namely, that “properly measuring, weighing and balancing” which can effectively operate with the virtues in various actual situations.
We just said that the operation with virtues or virtuous elements in Confucian ethical practice is a process of analyzing and synthesizing, one formulated also in forms of dichotomous choice. The choosing subject operates with the related elements according to the principles. This means that they are the objects and standards of the actions of choosing, respectively. In the primitive division of the Confucian intellectual functions, we can discern a special dimension roughly equivalent to the volitional. Behind the operation, there is a choosing will which is a mechanism. The will or the ego possessing will is the substantial source of selection and measuring in ethical practice. There are as well the operative or formalist volitional elements which join in the procedure. We refer here to elements such as strength, portion, sequence, spontaneity, duration and flexibility, which underpin any combinational recipe of virtuous elements. An agent of operation should pay special heed to those formalist qualities functioning in the operation of virtuous elements. Confucian rhetoric particularly engages those formalist factors guided by the volitional agent. The Confucian art of ethical persuasion lies in a special rhetoric of virtues embodied in the structural and functional arrangement of the virtuous elements for dealing with ethical situations. Practically speaking, Confucian ethics is an art for dynamically manipulating virtues.

(12) The Symbolization of the Central Virtue-Character: jen
Let us now turn to the leading term of Confucian ethics, jen, which is also the leading term among the three Confucian cardinal virtues. Confucian ethics has been popularly described as a “jen-doctrine” or a jen-Philosophy. Now we shall attempt to analyze the meaning and function of jen in the Confucian system in more detail.
Because of their pictographic origins, stroke structure and regular square shape, Chinese characters are implicative of visually symbolic effects. Moreover, the enormously complicated semantic composition of Chinese words effects the richly connotational semantics of the Chinese language. Therefore, the symbolic potential of the Chinese vocabulary is inexhaustible. Even in the modern period of the development of Chinese which is characterized by the extensive application of two-character words, the independent semic sediment of the single characters keeps its historic effect, remaining a great reservoir of associational semantics. We intend to analyze the constitution and function of this key single-character term with respect to its specially symbolic role in Confucian ethics.
Generally speaking, the function of jen in Chinese moral language is second only to that of Tao. In the Confucian text, it also plays the role of Tao. The symbolic role of this kind of character is evidently beyond the common symbolic implication of Chinese characters. They are themselves symbols as visual figures which can independently signify and stimulate outside the text. A customary symbol as a visual picture can be conventionally ascribed a meaning which only needs to have a simple visual association with the apparent feature of the related symbol. Even if a symbol can represent a complicated object like the relation between a flag and a nation, the function of a symbol is not only signification but also stimulation. Signification is externally regulated, despite the visual similarity between the symbol and the symbolized; the signifying effect remains relatively weak and uncertain. Symbols become the stimulants of direct reactions at definitely chosen spots. The signification of Chinese character-symbols is internally, that is, semantically organized. Accordingly, their stimulating role is more internally directed in combination with the entire semantic system. The character as symbol can be more intentionally significative than behaviorally stimulating, although the role of the latter remains effective in a certain way. Nonetheless, the symbolic function of the phonetic images of the character-symbols is relatively weak, as we emphasized in chapter 10. Psychologically, the phonetic and visual images of characters have different symbolic effects. The latter is more concretely tangible and formally distinguishable and therefore is able to present more ideational concretization, such as common visual symbols.
1. The Semantic Constitution of Abstract Single-Character Words
The most characteristic traits of these verbally graphic symbols are:
a) the combination of the ideationally abstract seme and the practically concrete seme; the way of shaping abstract notions;
b) the combination of the ethical seme and the emotional-volitional seme;
c) the implicit combination of related ethical imperatives through symbolic association.
Thus, there are three necessary elements in the symbolism of moral character: the ethical idea; the link to emotional-volitional reaction; and the hint at a spiritual direction. In brief, at the behavioral level, the character is richly implicative of an ethical direction; then it is capable of stimulating emotional-volitional reaction. At the intellectual level, it is an effective index of the sets of related ethical ideas. As a synthetic index, it can cause three-dimensional effects in ethical subjectivity in a structural or interrelational way: the ideational, emotional and volitional. As an ethically symbolic index such a character can exist and function separately. The point of the pragmatic symbolic function lies in the suitable proportion of the three dimensional elements. Despite the definite link to the ideational and empirical source, the semantic composition of the character should be subjective enough to lead to volitional effects. Therefore, in our semantic analysis of the key Confucian words, the focus is placed on the attitudinal or subjective rather than on the “objective.” On one hand, the relatively weaker observation of the objective world in ancient China make those pseudo-natural and social concepts less precise and less scientific. On the other hand, the importance of those pseudo-objective concepts is also due to their subjective counterparts, namely, the subjective reactions to them. Our ethical discussions are logically linked to subjective dimensions. Still, we only use this example to explain the semantic traits of Chinese ethical terms, rather than to offer a systematic study of the subject matter. Our interest in a semantics of Chinese characters does not really lie in the subjective tendency of Chinese concepts, but instead in their uniquely symbolic and pragmatic functions, which also make explicit a general meaning for ethical practice.
Let us examine the most important character, “jen,” as a typical example in the Confucian system. Many other key words have a similar tendency but are less noteworthy by comparison. The more objective ones like “li” (“rite”) and “hsiao” (“filial piety”) and the more subjective ones like “yung” (“bravery”) and “chih” (“will”), whose implications are respectively too complicated and too general, play a relatively decreased symbolic role as a pragmatic index. The fact is that these four key words contain more sociological and psychological elements. Jen, however, has a much more synthetic role: it is the leading operator in the Confucian system, highly capable of being combined in varying contexts.
2. The Concept “jen
It is generally agreed that the character jen was first used by Confucius as a generic ethical term, although the character itself already appears twice in the earlier text of the Book of Poetry. It originally means simply “nice” or “kind.” (Legge 1991, v. 4, 127, 158) It was Confucius who first used it as the general title for an ethical doctrine in reference to a special system of an ideal, an objective and methods. The basic seme of the term in Confucian ethics is quite simple: love or benevolence. In consideration of the different structures of Chinese and Western semantics, however, the understanding of jen should be connected more with contextually and behaviorally pragmatic aspects than with conceptional ones. It is often contended that the statement that Confucius talks little about jen itself (9:1) is wrong, for Confucius in fact mentions it many times in the text. (Harvard-Yenging 1986, 183-184) The fact remains that Confucius never elaborates or gives a definition of jen. In fact, he mainly uses it as an adjective in combination with persons and matters. The term is so important, however, that we can say that Confucian doctrine lives by the term or is essentially bound up in the traits of jen. The term jen can indeed represent the general and orientational nature of the doctrine. Traditionally, the study of jen has been too much concerned with the etymological source from which its genuine or original meaning might be derived. The origin of the character can explain why the term was chosen to play the role. Its later richer meaning as an ethical concept was gradually accumulated through expanding its new usage. Of course, the etymological source can indeed help explain the general direction of the original concerns of Confucian ethics.
The stroked figure of the character has been said to come from the picture of two persons. (See the appendix: List of Chinese Characters.) The pictographic meaning is the “standing together of two people.” (Hsü Shen, 1986, 365) It has been explained as the relationship of two persons or the proper relationship of one to the other. If so, this etymology proves that a focus on human relationships was brought to bear on the primitive Chinese moral sense. Based on this original meaning, many related ethical ideas were added to it one by one in ancient intellectual history. Moreover, until the Confucian era, it had little mythical or metaphysical meaning besides its literal humane one. In a loose fashion, it was first used by Confucius as a general term representing the spirit of the entire Confucian ethical doctrine and the major criterion and principle of the ethical practice. It is important to note, however, that with such an original sense, jen has been used variably and extensively in classical Chinese discourses. Besides the basic meaning of “interpersonal love and mutual respect,” the semantic constitution of jen at each occurrence in the text is contextually determined, which links it with other possible senses of the character. The sense-effect of each occurrence of the word presents a semantic perspective with a definite focus. The older and the newer meanings overlap and even function together in proportional variations. This tendency provides ancient Chinese ethics with a unique rhetoric of the singular word as a symbol.
1) The Synthetically Semantic Function of the Sign Jen
It is not an exaggeration to say that there could be a “semiotics of jen.” It is interesting to explore the modes of signification of this sign. We call it a sign or symbol in a quite literal sense. In the normalized written system, it still looks like a minimal picture of two human beings and its pronunciation is exactly the same as “human being” in Chinese. (In some sentences of the Confucian text, jen is the synonym of “person.” 6:24) Its appearance in either verbal channel can cause the immediate reaction of the devotional reader at the intellectual, emotional and volitional planes simultaneously. The process of reaction itself can therefore become the object of semiotic analysis. The original sense of “human being” implied by jen is given through both vocal and pictographic signs. When more and more senses or semes were added to the sign Jen, its original imaginative sense was still maintained and came to share in the total significative potential in various concrete contexts.
2) The Relevant Semes of the Confucian Concept of jen
A single significative unit, jen, has in the Confucian text the basic meaning of human being, human relationship and human love. In fact, different occurrences of the sign jen in the contexts can refer to different aspects of the signified. In the Confucian text, the possible aspects are as follows: the biological, emotional, relational, behavioral, essential, virtuous, ceremonial, volitional, systematic, symbolic, stylistic and attitudinal planes. One single word can mean many different things, with a certain link to the basic sense of human love. Of course, most of the related senses are not obviously represented by the special signifiers; they are signified connotationally through the context. The sign itself becomes a carrier of all related senses. Potentially, there are different semes of the word; and a seme realized in one context does not mean an exclusion of all other associated semes. In fact, what occurs in a context is an orderly set of the involved semes according to various priorities. Besides the denotational sense, there could be several connotational ones with various overtones. The signifying power of the sign jen lies in its synthetically semantic structure in its respective context.
3) Jen as the Psychological Signified
i) The first direct sense of jen is love for others. (12:22) Jen means love in general or love for “neighbors.” Love is the original feeling and desire which is the source as well as the goal of Confucian ethical practice. Therefore, the first aspect of jen-signification is the feeling and emotion which occurs in a man’s heart and is oriented to others. Love as a psychological state binds one to others or leads one’s inner emotional stream towards another human being outside oneself.
ii) Jen is the will to carry out the jen-projects of love. This is another psychological state or force for promoting one’s plan to realize one’s love for others. Jen is also the origin and source of a germinating force for ethical practice. (4:4; 4:5) Jen is a special will oriented towards jen-practices.
iii) jen is a kind of virtue or moral inclination. (13:27) The Chinese word “te” (virtue) can refer to both the general and the particular in sets of virtues or virtuous qualities. Accordingly, jen in this sense can also have two referents: the general collective of all virtues (1:2 ; 3:3) and the special virtue equivalent to benevolence (14:4.)
iv) jen is taken as the general attitude or inner goal of the jen-man, referring to all related internal tendencies. (4: 2; 7: 15 and 20: 2)
4) jen as an Abstract Entity
The abstract content of jen is not elaborated in the Confucian text. In the text, however, there are some original similar hints which are the main topics of abstract notions concerning jen in the subsequent Confucian philosophical schools.(4:5; 4:7; 6:30)
v) jen is Tao, which means a general orientation and a path towards the Confucian ethical goals. (4:4; 4:6)
vi) jen is a genuine human nature. (3:3)
vii) jen is a principle (4:5), a standard or model (7:34) or truth (6:1.)
viii) jen is an external goal or task. (8:2; 15:9)
5) jen as External Manifestation and Behavior (6:23; 12:20)
ix) jen is a characteristic facial expression or gesture. (13:27; 12:20)
x) jen as moral action. (12:1)
6) jen as a Man Practising the jen Goal
xi) The word jen is used as the jen-man. (1:6; 4:1; 18:1)
The above 11 types of referents of jen do not include the meaning of all words which are possibly connected with the word in the text. A jen-man or a jen-goal can have many other inclinations described by special words.
7) The sign jen as a Unity of Abstract and Concrete Semes
The word jen can be a semantically synthetic singularity in the text. The list of abstract objects represented by jen read stylistically like a concrete individual entity. For example, Confucius asks, “Is jen a remote thing? When I want jen, jen will be at hand!” (7:29) We can replace jen in this context with words denoting some concrete object or person. When speaking about jen, what faces the speaker is a singular, concrete entirety which arouses an emotional reaction more easily than an abstract idea. But what is the exact meaning of jen in the sentence? Legge translates it as “virtue” (which belongs to category “iii” in our list), a mental quality or inclination; Waley as “Goodness” (which belongs to category “vii”). Despite the different extensions of the two English terms, both of them are limited by some definite semantic extension which is much narrower than the original Chinese word jen ,which changes in various contexts. In fact, in this context jen can mean any of the above 11 senses or all of them with a specially associated focus on the goal (categories “iv” and “viii”). When the Sung scholar Ch’eng I said that the Confucian text is more difficult to read than the other classics, he may simply have meant that its simple sentences, which are not connected with any detailed contexts, can hardly refer to any more definite meanings. The rhetorical power of the Analects, however, lies precisely in such concise arrangements. In this example, jen as Tao and principle can be treated as an individual thing due to the verb “come,” which is usually reserved for walking beings. Then jen becomes a concrete object, one easily grasped at once and in its entirety. With this vivid and visual concreteness, jen can become the object of the verb “want.” If “come” here helps arouse a more tangible seme, then “want” gives rise to a volitional one. The sign jen and the whole sentence containing jen appeals in this way to one’s volitional reaction. Of course, because of its comprehensive semantic reservoir, jen signifies and stimulates more than merely the volitional aspect.
Thus, the semic structure of jen helps strengthen the potential for emotional and volitional reactions. Now let us summarize the main semantic roles of the sign jen.
a) It combines both general and particular senses in one word occurring in a context;
b) It combines both abstract and concrete senses in one word occurring in a context;
c) It combines several different aspects of reference in one word occurring in a context;
d) It is a verbal image, when standing singularly, containing referents implied in the term as the separate reservoir of the semantic elements. The paradigm itself of the jen-semes can play a separate role, with all of its possible semantic associations.
3. The Function of jen
The Concretization of the Confucian abstract idea in the image-based word converges the plural senses into a single visual body which highlights the relationship between the subject and its concrete object so as to more forcibly stimulate the feeling and desire of the subject to act in an ethical direction. The simplified and shortened relational distance between the subject and its concretized and synthesized object in the intellectual understanding increases the sensitivity and acceptability of the object jen in the subject’s mind. On the other hand, the ambiguity and uncertainty in the conceptual definition of the word jen further helps the subject focus on the relationship of the object to the subject, rather than on the object as such. The focus of attention is equal to a focus on the attitudinal and volitional aspects. The would-be constitutional problem of the object jen turns to be that of the subject’s attitude towards the object. This transformation is favorable for a triggering mechanism shaping ethical resolve. The concretization of the idea jen can even bring about an effect of the personification of the word jen. It looks like not only a concrete matter but moreover a quasi-living thing which becomes a dynamic partner in dialogue. As the subject of ethical practice, I directly face my partner in ethical dialogue. With such synthetic effects, jen as a sign becomes my loved object or even loved companion. In a word, jen becomes my love. This potential sense is effectively aroused by the pictographic origin of the word jen itself: two persons and their relationship, The relationship between two persons becomes the archetype of all human relationships whose proper definition becomes the basic concern of Confucian ethical reflection.
The lack of the conceptual definition of jen highlights its positional lacuna in the human world or its relationship to the subject, rather than its substantial content. This arrangement strengthens the importance of jen itself, which is the result of the subject’s valuation. The special semantic structure of the word jen produces the axiological significance of the word rather than its inner conceptual constitution. Consequently, jen exists merely for the subject: it is the product of the subject’s selective practice. Thus, the attitudinal relationship between the subject and the object precedes the quality of the relationship. The special semantic structure of the word can play two signifying roles: signifying and stimulating. In Confucian rhetoric, the latter seems to be more important. Despite its strong pragmatic character, jen as the central index or general title of Confucian ethics keeps its inner conceptual sense as the basic value of human social and historical practice. In addition, as seen in another example, “ch’eng,” which is closer to the purely volitional dimension, a semantics of jen keeps a multiple balance in its denotationally, connotationally and pragmatically signifying functions.
In conclusion, there are four main semantic layers of jen:
a: the subjectively affectional state (feeling);
b: the mutually justified relation (ideal);
c: practical methods for “a” and “b” (means);
d: the subjective attitude to “a,” “b,” “c” (attitude).
All of the above-mentioned aspects of the meaning of jen exist in one or more layers. Each layer plays a different role in ethical practice. Different doctrines of jen can lead to different focuses on the treated layers. For example, the related term “i” (propriety, justice) is more about c, so it can complement the practical aspect of jen. On the other hand, however, the term itself as the paradigmatic compound of semantic elements becomes an independent carrier of all Confucian ethical instructions.
In addition to the categories of the layers and aspects of semantics of jen, it is also the generic index of all practical realms in Confucian ethics, ranging from the motivational to the political. Thus, we have the title “jen-doctrine.” An ethical energetics of jen, besides its historical effects in China, also bears a general meaning for ethics as such. The rhetorical potential of jen ostensibly reveals the necessary functional position in an ethical system: i.e., the separate aspect of triggering ethical actions. Confucian ethics uses its own verbal rhetoric to play this practical logical role. The method cannot be proved to be universally effective, but it displays the necessity of a functional step in any ethical system.

(13) The Symbolic Modes of Heroic Narrative in the Confucian Text
The discussion of Confucius’ narrative in the first part of the book involves the hermeneutic identity of the historical text. The present chapter relates the narrative of Confucius’ heroes to the rhetorical effects of the Confucian art of ethical persuasion. In the first chapter, we pointed out that a more reasonably organized story of the Confucian practitioners provides the necessary background for reading the basic Confucian text in view of its patchwork structure and historical unconfirmability. Among the many historical legends about Confucius’ career and life, besides those contained in the two original Confucian texts, only Ssu-Ma’s account has been widely accepted, despite the fact that some of its details look like mere fiction and have been doubted particularly in modern times. This story presents a rough chronology of Confucius’ life which has actually been accepted by Chinese readers. Although, as many scholars have indicated, we can confirm little or even nothing objectively of Confucius’ life, we have to accept the general idea of the story as the narrative background for reading the text in its historical context. In other words, we shall use the category of “historical legend,” in distinction from pure fiction, as the acceptable and usable narrative type for our hermeneutic reading of the text. The sole reason for this is that the story has been almost universally accepted in Chinese history and therefore it has been effectively included in the reading process of Confucian thought in China. The historically accepted and currently still acceptable story of Confucius has already gained a functional basis for this hermeneutic reading. It is acceptable information for an ethical hermeneutic reading which itself is historiographically, if not historically, reliable. In other words, except for some particularly unacceptable details, Ssu-ma’s account is a necessary part of reading the Confucian text. After all, the main part of Ssu-ma’s narrative and Confucius’ text are fused into a self-supporting totality within an effective framework of reading.
1. The Hermeneutic Criterion for the Chosen Narrative
Once again, we would like to make a functional demarcation in our reading strategy between the three stylistic types of historical texts: history, historical legend and fiction. Our study is not historical but rather hermeneutic. Of course, the story is only selectively acceptable. We must disregard many evident false details which are either contrary to or irrelevant for a consistent and meaningful reading of the text.[32]
Despite their differing identity with reference to historical reality, the three types of historical texts (the historical, the historically legendary and the purely fictive) contain the same mode of narrativity. Although the narrative represents singularly and concretely diachronic events, it can play the role of a synchronic situation. In the historical texts concerning Confucius, his disciples and followers, the diachronically presented situations of their narratives can help display interpersonal relational patterns.
In combination with the text of the Analects, the career of Confucius given in the story has been for Chinese literati a model of the ideal personality. In our description, we shall mainly accept those relevant parts according to the morally genealogical scheme fabricated by Ssu-ma. Then we shall focus on the general line of the Confucian type of personal development. The stories about some of the leading Confucian disciples are even less reliable and more sketchily described, but they are also necessary parts of Confucian thought, for they present the role of the pupil. In distinction from many noted hermits, Confucius was never lonely. Instead, he lived with his spiritual followers in the world. What historically existed was really a Confucian group. The independent story and records in the Analects express the same picture consisting of the ethical ideal, political obstacles and volitional resistance. The narrative is only another mode of similar ethical content. The narratives within and outside of the original text become both the background and symbolic indications of the Confucian ethical significations.
2. The Master Confucius
According to the story, Confucius’ entire life of allegedly 73 years (551-479 B.C.) can be divided into five stages:
a). The beginning stage: until the initial awareness and choice of his orientation in life (from birth to 15 years of age).
b). The preparative stage: concentrated learning and the establishment of his will (from 15 to 30 years of age).
c). The stage of practice and trial: engagement in politics and teaching (from 30 to 55 years of age).
d). The stage of political wandering and escape: vain searches and dangerous experiences (from 55 to 69 years of age).
e). The final stage: the last days of teaching and wishful anticipation for future generations (from 69 to 73 years of age).
Concerning the historical facts, what we can say about Confucius’ life is only that he was a self-taught sage born in the Lu state and a successful teacher. He had great aspirations for political reform, but eventually failed as a politician. His real achievement and influence consist in the moral and cultural education passed on to hundreds of his disciples.
a) Separation from the social context: Several factors of the social context are especially stressed in the first stage: his birth in an illegal marriage; his growing up with his mother alone and so without a father; their poverty and low social position; his filial piety; his innate impulse to learning ceremonial practices; his sincerity; his manual labor as a youth; his becoming conscious of his ethical devotion at 15 years of age. Therefore, Confucius was a talented sage without any direct support from his social and cultural contexts.
b) The independent spiritual preparation: continuing self-study and teaching activities; his lower official jobs; his finally obtaining ethical and political knowledge and establishing his will for ethical pursuits.
c) The formation of the missionary group. This period of 25 years is the main part of Confucius’ political and educational efforts after his learning stage. Despite modest achievements in political affairs, he finished his ethical doctrine and established a special group of ethico-political practices outside the official organization. The doctrine and group became an independent spiritual force during a deteriorating political period. This was a period of testing and forming a spiritually defiant group ordained with an unprecedently great mission. The historical combination of the Master, the doctrine and the spiritual group means more than the actual historical conditions.
d) Political failure and spiritual success. After the failure of his political efforts, Confucius with his faithful disciples wandered through over dozen states. This period of expectation and flight saw further tests and hopeless efforts. The strength of the doctrine and the spiritual group were tested, examined and reinforced for a future greater task: the formation of the Chinese cultural spirit. The symbol of the wandering group and the four legends of great danger has a meaning at the spiritual rather than the political level. There was a transformation of the goal in the Confucian mission: it shifted from the political to the spiritual. The process of political failure was the very process of spiritual success.
e) The cultural preparation of the nation. The return to the native state Lu for rest of his life brought a calm conclusion to Confucius’ heroic vicissitudes. The death of his favorite disciples Tzu Lu and Yan Hui during these final days signified the close of their practical worldly projects and the formation of a spiritual seed for the nation. The last work of Confucius was to compile the traditionally transmitted literature and to prepare the spiritual sources of the national culture, although the details of this final period cannot gain any reliable historical support. (Cf. Er-shih-wu Shih v. 1, 225-228)
Despite their fictionalized details, the five genealogical steps of the development of the Confucian spirit can be reduced to the three main periods of the formation, practice and transformation of Confucian thought. The first is a process during which a man forms his will, knowledge and goal; the second is a process during which a man tries to reform the surrounding reality through ideal ethical norms; and the third is a process during which ethical practices are forced to turn from the political to the cultural level. This three-step narrative logic of Confucian practice became the traditional model of the spiritual endeavor of the moral individual for Chinese literati. The developmental logic of the ethical personality includes a number of factors. In the objective side, we have the following features of the Confucian mission:
- “hardship” in private and public life;
- “wandering” symbolizing that there is no fixed locality for the existence of the sage and his group in social reality;
- “danger” caused by the existing powers threatening the missionary group.
To meet the objective challenge, there are three main subjective virtues: “wisdom,” “love” and “bravery.” A constant confrontation appears between objective pressure and subjective resistance throughout the story. These six factors contained in the logical development of the ethical mission and the ethical personality became the concrete objects of all Confucian literati.
In view of the dramatic movement of Confucius’ life, we can note the artistic presentation of binary contrasts such as the following:
- worldly meanness vs. spiritual nobility;
- the self-taught sage without a definite teacher vs. the first great teacher of the Chinese people;
- birth in the world without ceremony vs. the teacher of Chinese ceremonial systems;
- passionate political pursuit vs. constant political failure;
- constant political failure vs. ever-strengthened spiritual aspiration;
- temporary social failure vs. permanent spiritual success;
- individual devotion to public morality vs. official disregard of moral effort;
- the Confucian search for official support vs. the Confucian escape from the threats of office;
- functional respect for institutional authorities vs. individual challenges to power;
- the option for existence in society vs. actual existence in nature;
- Confucius’ criticism of escapism into nature vs. Confucius’ own constant withdrawal to nature;
Therefore, the contrast or contradiction between internal intention and external experience becomes the basic tendency of the Confucian narrative. This forms an important context for reading his moral teaching.
3. The Spiritually Defiant Group
Confucius became the founder of the Chinese ethical mission because he for the first time gathered a number of private disciples for the independent study of individual and political ethics outside of political power or loyal office. There are many self-contradictory sayings about Confucius’ political career. As we pointed out before, he never attained any remarkable political achievements. A more interesting fact is that there were also no successful politicians among Confucius’ direct disciples. As Hsiao Kung-ch’uen observes, “there were few successful practical agents among Confucius’ disciples; the best ones in the Confucian pedagogical category of virtue were mostly hermits; and in the political category we see more utilitarian or impetuous opportunists.” (Hsiao 1965, 54) The image and the character of the Confucian group were definitely not political, although it certainly took politics as a field of effort.
The Master and his pupils formed a spiritually and socially independent group for ethical learning, spreading this learning, applying it to social reality and, finally, following their frequent failures, transmitting the learning to subsequent historical generations. It was a missionary group for organizing the national work of ethical study, establishing ethical criteria and promoting ethical activities separately from the authorities in power. Besides the material power represented by the current regimes, Confucius established a spiritual power embodied in a self-educating group. We use the term “defiant” to indicate its divergence in spirit, purpose and practice from the current authoritative institutions based on brutal and coercive control. The contrariety between the rulers and the Confucian group in the original narrative context lies in the orientational opposition of their main interests. The result was naturally doomed to failure. The actual failure of its moral-political efforts, however, can reveal the real or deeper meaning of Confucian thought: the ethical orientation of the Chinese spirit, culture and society.
Likewise, the image of Confucius as a sage or teacher portrays a spiritually defiant hero in an ethical and cultural sense. At this level, the Confucian became the strongest force stimulating and impelling Chinese cultural history. With a passionate wish to cooperate with the rulers, Confucius was compelled by history to actually refuse to cooperate with the rulers due to the basic opposition of their principles: the moral ideal and the political reality. The Confucian personal drama establishes a permanent archetype of the essential confrontation between existent political power and the ideal ethical will. The impossibility at the political level leads to possibility at the ethico-cultural level. Thus, the image of the independent Confucian group functions as a permanent critique of evil reality.
4. Two Opposite Styles of Ethical Practice and the Ideal Medium
Confucius and his closest disciples commonly formed a missionary sect for a great social ideal in the midst of national adversity. This was a group intending to carry out both internal and external ethical practice. The failure of external practice and the success of internal practice occurred simultaneously. Ethically defiant practices also formed two styles of action: the “k’uang” (aggressive search for the good) vs. the “chüan” (careful withdrawal from evil). Confucian ethical practices are described in a more stylistic than a substantial way. As we pointed out before, the k’uang is a style of energetic outward action, while the chüan is a style of prudential self-control. In the Confucian art of praxis, the two inclinations for carrying out ethical practice are praised with a sober criticism of the undesirable aspect of both. While the k’uang is more related to efforts at the political level, the chüan is involves efforts at the level of self-cultivation. The two styles are required by the opposite directions of ethical practice. As an art of ethical practice, the Confucian doctrine created this stylistics of moral action in dealing with various ethical situations. The two are represented respectively by Confucius’ two closest disciples Tzu Lu and Yan Hui. The Analects uses personal images to signify a typology of ethically pragmatic styles which are directly linked to ethical energetics.
1) The Image of the Outwardly Energetic Hero
If Confucius had a greater respect for Yan Hui among all of his disciples, he had a much closer relationship in daily life to Tzu Lu than to the others. Tzu Lu was the Master’s most direct companion and even his bodyguard. He was most faithful and brave, following his Master in many dangerous and difficult situations. An outwardly brave man, he seemed to be less intelligent than Yan Hui. Confucius, with deep affection, often pointed out his rashness and carelessness even as he greatly valued his integrity, firmness and courage. He became the type of energetic and serious action with a strong will for difficult tasks. Therefore, Tzu Lu is the type of absolute resolution and sincere action in the missionary group. That he died shortly before Confucius himself signifies the closeness of their common practical mission in actual life.
The energetic inclination towards bold action hints at a persistent spontaneity in joining in the missionary struggle against existent evil forces. The true purpose of outward ethical action is to confront evil. If the Chüan style involves the conscious avoidance of evil conduct, the K’uang style involves fighting it straightforwardly. All anti-jen phenomena can be interpreted as evil objects. We can take two equally appropriate attitudes towards evil (the opposite of the ethical goal): to fight it or to avoid it. The two types of behavioral style of Confucian ethical practice are thereby concretely given. The interesting point is that the two types are mainly stylistically defined. Confucian ethical praxis is also a behavioral stylistics.
2) The Image of the Inwardly Energetic Hero
In the Confucian story, Yan Hui is the only definitely praised disciple. It is curious that he, as the first model of Confucian practice, engages in political efforts, entirely concentrating on his own virtuous cultivation throughout his short life. Confucius chose a man without any outward achievement or intention as the first important model of the agents of his ideal ethical mission. A great learner himself, Confucius singled out only Yan Hui as a true lover of learning among all of his followers, although there are no concrete details about the content of Yan Hui’s study in the text. The choice of the model of ethical practice proves that Confucius laid more emphasis on the importance of the inward direction than that of the outward one. Furthermore, inward achievement itself can be regarded as an essential completion of the ethical mission. External works are in any case secondary concerns in importance and necessity. This fact also indicates that Confucius was himself closer to inward than to outward practice. This innate preference for inward concentration eventually proved to be of strategical meaning in Chinese ethics in general.
There is another reason for this almost absolute praise of the complete Confucian personality. With such a high aspiration for political reform, Confucius was quite careful in the valuation of the actual political behavior of his disciples. According to Confucian political ethics, it is difficult to distinguish an true ethical political action from a false one, which could be motivated by some selfishly profitable intentions. Energetic actions for political affairs can be promoted by two opposite motives, and Confucius was always sceptical of whether there was a pure motive in the heart of political practitioners. His prudential attitude towards the political ambitions of his disciples shows that he was clearly aware that natural inclinations for money, fame and power are extensively mixed with genuine ethical inclinations. Thus, the political hero Kuan Ch’üng in the Ch’i State could be still be criticized by Confucius for acting contrarily to the li-principle. (3: 22) By contrast, the successful examples of concentration on inward ethical efforts prove the motivational purity and sincerity of ethical practitioners, particularly when the process is full of material and social adversity which itself can disclose the true state of a moral mentality. One’s record in concentrating on serious suffering becomes the test for ethical motivation, always the first object of Confucian concern. Confucius regarded pure motivation as the spontaneous source or origin of ethical projects. It is half innately and half consciously given. A man with such motivation can be taken as a most valuable model of the ethical practitioner. Confucius’ general hesitation in valuing political conduct proves the essential lack of political tactics or technique in his ethics.
3) The Confucian Tension in Personality between Progress and Escape in Socio-political Practice
The special emphasis on the moral type exhibited by Yan Hui also reflects Confucius’ own priority of life-choice. Between the two types, he is closer to Yan Hui than to Tzu Lu, although he is engaged in outward efforts together with the latter. Confucius describes to his disciples his wish to enjoy a peaceful life in nature (11:25) rather than to undertake political activity. A Confucian man attempts something which cannot be done; his motive is based on ethical necessity rather than on actual possibility. In the text, despite Confucius’ highly consistent practice, there are several emotional expressions in weak moments when he is tired by and disappointed in view of his lasting suffering and frequent failures. Then he expresses the wish to escape from society to the wild sea (5:7). These emotional expressions are symbols of a tension between natural human feeling and ethical human effort. The tension signifies the seriousness of the test for the ethical mission: the jen-man has no other way than to continue his heroic devotion. We can see three different types of Confucian personalities represented by Tzu Lu, Yan Hui and Confucius himself. The first two are inclined towards one-sided practice in opposite directions, while Confucius chooses the middle way, taking up both the outward and the inward sides and suffering from the tension caused by two oppositional directions of practice fraught with adversity. The tension is not directly connected with actual difficulties but rather with orientational hesitation: to go out into society or to remain at home. The frequent laments of Confucius about the bad fortune of his political efforts are signs of this tension. By contrast, the two kinds of concentration on outward and inward practice can be more easily carried out because of the homogeneity of their ethical intentionality. The constant and brave social and private actions represented by the k’uang and the chüan or the political and the philosophical heroes are the basic types of spiritual effort in Chinese history. The middle or roundly ideal type combining the two is embodied in Confucius alone. In the mixed type, we find more heterogeneous expressions of the apparent tensions.
5. The Escapist from Political Reality
With his strong passion for social affairs, Confucius had to escape from a variety of political situations, moving from one place to another over fourteen years of wandering. Departure and escape became a normal feature of his life. In fact, each departure is due to a disappointment in or pressure caused by the states which he left. Confucius is frequently on the road or in the wilderness between states. While underway, he and disciples sometimes meet true escapists living in disconnection from society. Then Confucius finds he was in fact in the same situation as these escapists. The emphatically described confrontations between the escaping activist and the passive escapists is a symbolically significant image in the Confucian narrative. Confucius’ explanation of his active view of life before the escapists (18:6) looks like self-questioning rather than a retort. The Confucian teaching also maintains the ethical tactic of necessary escape from the agents of power when they cannot promote ethical devotion. There is indeed a philosophy of escape in Confucian ethical aesthetics. There also exists an overlapping and ambiguous borderline between the Confucian and the hermits, who can be regarded as primitive Taoists. According to Confucian valuation, the escapists are to be highly esteemed for their abandoning contact with the corrupt power - but they are only the keepers of a one-sided truth. For the Confucian, outward social escape and inward social committment form a spiritual tension. An aesthetic irony, however, indicates that Confucius himself was forced to become a permanent escapist. Historically, the Confucian agents were doomed to exist in an axiologically ambiguous borderland.
Not infrequently, there are many descriptions of Confucius’ wanderings which are signs of his frequent failure in political efforts and his refusal to collaborate with the rulers. The really important point of such frequent encounters with escapist hermits lies in the comparison with an opposite/analogue complex, an important symbol of Confucian ethical aesthetics. It is even a symbol of the characteristic intellectual composition of Confucian ethics: the impossibility of the outward realization of inward devotion. If so, a Confucian political philosophy never exists; however, the feeling of conflict between the external and internal aspects effectively indicates the existence of two realities or dimensions of Confucian ethical practice. In the external dimension, there are two directions of ethical choice which are tied with outward society or groups; in the internal dimension, there is only one direction of choice which is tied with subjectivity. Therefore, there are two Confucian strategies, one for internal practice and the other for external practice. Consequently, there are two sets of Confucian ethical aesthetics: the inward and the outward, in addition to the two fields: the individual and the public. For whatever reason, Confucius and his followers took a direction of life against that of the existing powers embodied in various state rulers, who were mostly described as morally unqualified. Confucius and his disciples chose a challenging attitude critical of these powers, but their efforts failed almost every time. The constant failure of their political contact with power is another roadsign pointing towards the a-political domain. A symbolics of Confucian narrative must first be grasped in its negative relation to political power.
6. Failure and the Decree of Heaven in Confucius’ Narrative
1) Fortune and Heaven
Confucius’ failure at political practice is frequently expressed through his appealing to Heaven. (3:13; 9:5; 11:9; 14:35) It is true that Heaven and Heaven’s decree play a less important role than ethical concepts in Confucian doctrine, but they are signs indicative of the direction of Confucius’ narrative. They are signs of both the failure and the ideal implicated in his story. We already said that the Confucian concept of Heaven involves only a word designating the unknown force influencing one’s fortune or its external results. Furthermore, even when Confucius uses the term in a more supernatural or quasi-religious sense, the term remains pragmatically functional rather than religiously faithful. This acceptance is due to the functional requirement demanded by his ethical system, which is more empirically operational than metaphysically philosophical. Confucian statements and laments about Heaven in the text are equivalent to a signifier of the limitation of human capability. A human being cannot predict exactly where the necessary boundary of his behavioral efforts will fall. In other words, he only knows about the general existence of the limitation of his future possibilities, remaining ignorant of its future details. The concrete details of the limitation only appear when the behavior is finished. There is then no possibility for taking further corrective measures. The emotional laments embodied in the idea of Heaven is only a moment in understanding the realized details of the general limitation. The restrictional term “Heaven” therefore indicates the innate limitation of human conditions.
2) More Pragmatically Functional than Theoretically Logical
A more subtle problem concerns whether some apparent details of the limitation are the final limitation or a challenge to be overcome. The Confucian intelligence must exactly, bravely and creatively assess all hindrances confronted on the basis of an aesthetics of ethical practice and try to do the utmost to overcome every hardship and achieve some more favorable condition for further improvement or progress in ethical practice. In the delicate situation of judging the nature of a difficult condition, the use of the concept of Heaven can be quite suitably functional. Here, it signifies the uncertainty of the final result of a project, hinting at or warning of unknown forces partly determining the progress of one’s efforts. This hint indicates that the will of the subject will not be affected by the actual result, for any divergence between the intended or expected result and the actually realized one is logically acceptable and bearable. More precisely, the unexpected factor can be put outside the operational scope of the project. The designer of a project does not need to take the possible results or probability of success of his political projects into consideration. The unknown entity Heaven, whatever nature it may have, plays logical role in the line of Confucian ethical reasoning. This role is completely empirical and operational, for in actual life many unknown and uncontrollable forces exist. In the text, Confucius only points out the existence of uncontrollable factors and their meaning for ethical decisions. The rationale of Confucian ethics lies not in the actual realization of a project, but first of all in the correct process of realization within the subject. Confucius comforts himself with his own logic, forcing himself to recognize the unpredictable logic of actual life. The almost unavoidable differentiation between wish and result is implied in Confucian ethics. This fact further proves the inward-directedness of this ethics. Emotional descriptions of disappointment at a moment of hopelessness only indicate the tension between the logic of human practice and the natural reactions of human subjectivity. This is part of typical Confucian rhetoric, which uses the tension between facts and wishes, a tension between two kinds of logic: the inward-subjective and the outward-objective.
According to Confucian doctrine of practice, a man should do his best to expand his possibilities in the world. This is the only reasonable attitude. Firm resolution comes from the unknown determinative force which makes a jen-man solely responsible for what he can do. For the rest, namely, the final result, it is Heaven who is responsible. Considering the fact that there are two kinds of realization, the internal result can be attained by the agent, while the external one is dependent half upon man and half upon the unknown or Heaven. The point is that man should only concern himself with his own portion. The knowledge of this division of responsibility can enable man to act more resolutely and firmly without worrying about what is beyond the reasonable and possible. Therefore, the term “Heaven” represents what is beyond possibility; humanity needs such a notion of limitation in order to grasp the effective scope of its effects. Thus, we have the proverb “do your best without worrying about the external result.”
The notion of Heaven as a limiting force certainly arrives from the meanger ancient knowledge of the world. Compared with modern man, the ancients were much weaker in dealing with their projects. The first reasonable choice for mankind is to demarcate the basic dichotomy of responsibility and possibility. We can call human possibility “human business” and human impossibility “Heaven’s business.” In this context, Heaven means what lies beyond human possibility. Despite the weakness of external rationality, the related concept of Heaven can paradoxically indicate another kind of operative positivity in the ethical Chinese mind. The positivity of Heaven in Confucius’ doctrine can be interpreted through such an operative and empirical term.
3) The Utility and Symbolic Value of the Term “Heaven”
With such a clear consciousness of the limitation of man’s power, however, how could the ancients design their projects in a hard world? Within their knowledge, there is still the positive field of human relationships and simple technical affairs. They indeed think there exists a controllable causality between moral consciousness and political behavior. If the rulers’ mind can be changed, all other desirable things will follow. Learning and education can bring about teachers capable of transforming the rulers’ mentality. This is a simplistic but positive knowledge of human affairs. It kind of knowledge forms a firm foundation for the further elaboration of politico-ethical practice. The uncontrollable scope therefore decreased and the controllable scope increased. The active role of Heaven lies in its easing the mental tension of decision by making the process of choice, which mostly happens inside the subject, more reasonable. With a meager knowledge of nature and society, Confucius and his group cannot deal with their social projects successfully. Limiting their attention to the inside and themselves, however, leads them to create an important doctrine of the logic and art of ethical choice within subjectivity and the process of performance. The concept of Heaven mainly plays its role within the field of subjective effort. It helps to reasonably realize the subjective process of ethical choice.
In light of the above explanation of Heaven, we now turn to another aspect linked to this single quasi-supernatural term in the Analects. In reading the narrative, we are impressed with the fact that Confucius and his group are doomed to failure owing to the unknown intention of Heaven, that is, owing to nothing clearly given. The result seems a heroic tragedy: political failure in the present world. The narrative can be also read, however, at the symbolic level: the significance of Confucius’ narrative is directed to the ethically spiritual level, which has a necessary link with the original situation of Chinese social history. In this connection, Heaven becomes the sign of the unknown key factor effecting the fundamental split between the politically practical and the politically ethical or, briefly, politics and ethics. The predetermined failure in the Confucian narrative is therefore symbolic of the successful transformation of the political into the ethical, or of the socially practical into the spiritually ethical. This transition is also indicated by “Heaven’s Decree,” which gives Confucius the more definite mission in the ethically spiritual realm of composing the measure or standard for humanity. (3:14) Therefore, Heaven becomes a logical part of the Confucian narrative, functioning as the index of the interpretative reason of failure and of the cultural transcendence of the Confucian mission.
7. The Ethical Meaning of the Special Relation between Confucius and his Favorite Disciple Yan Hui
The transition from the politically practical to the ethically spiritual is first realized in the transitional relation between teaching and learning in the intellectual, cultural and pedagogical realms.
1) The Ethical Love between Master and Disciple
The personal relationship between Confucius and his favorite disciple, Yan Hui is vividly described in several episodes: a) the firmness of Yan Hui’s devotion manifested through his peaceful contentment in poverty (the images “plain rice and water” and “a shabby lane to live in”) and his concentrated learning. b) Confucius’ profound sorrow at Yan Hui’s death; c) Confucius’ high praise given to Yan Hui concerning the love for learning despite the lack of details about the content of learning. d) Yan Hui’s utter loyalty to the Master’s mission manifested through his will to accept in danger in order to follow the Master.
a) This is one of the most moving descriptions of the firmness of one’s devotion to jen. The images used are: adverse living conditions (food and abode); the concentrated practice of self-cultivation; the innate love of learning; and mental tranquillity under material hardship without expectation of external success. The hard conditions, firm practice, love of self-improvement and no preparation for social and material achievements form a consummate model of a great lover of ethical truth. The genuineness of devotion is proved by the extreme material and social adversity. The example shows that Confucius thought this type of pursuit to be the most difficult and valuable. In the story, what is presented is only the process of outward effort without any content of the practice; the described process indicates the narrative’s focus on the state of attitude. In other words, the quality of the attitude towards the mission is manifested by the characteristics of the outward process.
b) The death of Yan Hui becomes a situation describing Confucius’ attitude or affection towards him. This affection is so human that it is beyond what there could be between a Master and a disciple. The disappearance of the favorite follower or companion seemingly signifies the end of the life-long Confucian effort. The death of Yan Hui is a symbol of the disappointing end of the Confucian business in this world. The depth of Confucius’ sorrow expresses his feeling of the loss of his most loved one and only hope of a direct successor. Among his many disciples, he says that only Yan is a true lover of learning (6:3). The genuineness of love for the ethical is defined first by strength to withstand lasting adversity and persistent concentration on internal effort. The two factors have nothing to do with the expectation of the satisfaction of external appetites, which are said to be strong misleading factors.
c) Yan is said by Confucius to be the unique disciple who truly loves Jen. Therefore, he is given a reasonable long period of three months for carrying out jen-practice without a pause (6:7). Love of jen is also love of learning. Learning means learning how to practice jen. A further description of Yan’s love for learning concerns his attitude towards his own mistakes: he never repeats his mistakes as long as he gets to know of them, thus showing firmness and resolution to correct his own wrongs. The correction of behavioral mistakes is said by Confucius to be a substantial part of ethical learning. Symbolically, the correction of moral mistakes can be equal to the readjustment of any kind of effort or progress. Progress is a change from the old to the new; it means a change from worse to better and is thus equivalent to correction in general. Correction, change, progress and improvement are displayed as the same process in one’s ethical practice. The fact that no mention is made of the content of Yan Hui’s learning emphasizes the internal states of the learner rather than the content of his knowledge of external objects and objectives. The example of Yan Hui’s love of learning concretely displays how much attention Confucius pays to the attitude of the ethical practitioner.
2) The Functional Meaning of Yan’s Image
In Yan Hui’s case, we see a typical Chinese rhetorical ambiguity, one using contrasting labels in describing personality and style. The contrast between k’uang and chüen can be interpreted in multiple fashion in connection with motive, external behavior, internal behavior and social goal. The chüan embodied by Yan can variously mean:
- self-control over immoral desires and actions
- constant emphasis on the internal process of ethical choice; giving up social commitments
- temporary withdrawal from social activities out of tactical necessity, but in preparation for and anticipation of social commitment in the future
- self-control over daily desires and fortitude for hardship
According to the Confucian text, the two styles contain two patterns concerning two levels: that of motive and goal and that of style and character. The k’uang refers to a passionate style in performing the external goal and chüan means a reserved style in performing the internal goal. The possible situations of stylistic contrast, however, involve more than the two levels. In fact, there could be three categories of practice in which the involved inclinational elements appear:
a) Personal character-behavioral style: energetic vs. peaceful, active vs. inactive, passionate vs. tranquil;
b) Goals of practices: internal vs. external, political vs. non-political, social vs. a-social or anti-social, cultural vs. natural, social vs. subjective;
c) Actional area: social vs. individual, external vs. internal, physical vs. psychological.
Despite the somewhat fixed impression primarily obtained through reading the Confucian text, the possible combinations of inclinational elements implied by the two written characters can be regrouped. For the three categories respectively containing the dichotomously contrasting elements, the basic contrast of k’uang and chüan does not necessarily accord with those formed in each category. As a result, there can be several different types of the k’uang and chüan contrast each of which is formed by a different combination consisting of several individual elements contained in the three categories. Concretely, one possible k’uang and chüan contrast consists of several elements in the three categories. For example, there can be both political and non-political k’uang styles, both social and psychological k’uang styles and both political and non-political chüan styles. A personality style, which is richer than the behavioral style, can express its traits in the three categories with different inclinational elements.
Thus, we see why Yan Hui’s example can be flexibly interpreted. If we mark the contrasting elements with the positive + and negative - , we get the following types:
a+/b-/c- (energetic/the internal goal/internal action); a-/b-/c- (peaceful/the internal goal/internal action); a+/b+/c- (energetic/the political goal/internal preparation). In fact, the possible combinations can be extended further because of a lack of limitation set by narrative details. Logically speaking, as the first model of Confucius, Yan Hui should be the type “a+/b+/c-,” namely, an energetic agent of internal preparation for the political goal. Because of a lack of detail about his interest in politics, he can also be interpreted as a Taoist giving up the social goal. He can be an internal k’uang-type person or an internal chüan-type person; he can also be an external chüan-type or an internal chüan-type person. A deeper implication could be that he is the very type described above, but one having decided to permanently prolong the stage of internal preparation. Then Yan Hui as an narratively imaginary index becomes a medium to convey several different types of personality. His premature end signifies the necessary failure of the Confucian external objective. It seems that Chinese literati need stylistic more than substantial guidance, because it is the stylistic trait which leads to the volitional sphere.
The personalities in the narratives are more stylistic than substantial for understanding Confucian ethics. They form a pragmatic stylistics of ethical actions through the character and events of the heroes. With their special focus on the style of behavior, the images and narratives are suitable means for conveying the formalist feature of ethical practice. This fact conforms with the general stylistic emphasis of Chinese poetry and arts. (Cf. Youzheng Li 1993, )

[1] In our study, the term “Confucian” and the term “Confucianist” are strictly separated to refer respectively to original Confucian thought and to the socio-cultural institutionalization of which Confucius is the alleged founder.
[2] The ahistorical treatment of Confucian ethics in the present study will be linked to a historical treatment of the Confucianist ideology in another volume. The structural analysis of the original text will be combined with the ideological analysis of the historical usage of the original text in the Han dynasty, when historical examination first became possible in China.
[3] Fingarette’s statements reflect a typical misconception. Cf. Fingarette (1972, 32, 45, 55)
[4] Concerning the fabrication of the historical text, the difficulty of determining the authentic meaning of the text reflects the impossibility of confirming the original material produced by the first authors. There is then the question of which of the several possible additional textual creations finished in different times is more “authentic” than the others ?
[5] Fu Ssu-nian points out, “We are not even in a position to corroborate the fact of Confucius as a person.” (Fu 1980, v. 2, 108)
[6] The relation of the Analects to Ssu-ma’s historical work is important and must be critically explored. The first Chinese historian trained in a family of official historians, Ssu-ma Ch’ien suffered serious personal tragedy due to unjust corporal punishment. His ambitious moral and academic creativity was strengthened by this painful personal experience, which might well be indirectly expressed in his composition of Confucius’ biography.
[7] It is generally accepted that the main recorders and editors were the pupils of Confucius’ direct disciples Tseng-tzu and You-tzu, for the Analects contains many quotations of them.
[8] It is generally accepted that the book contains two main parts, each of which contains 10 chapters, the last of which functions as a conclusion. The first part ends with the description of Confucius’ behavior and the second with his connection to the imperial lineage. Therefore, the two conclusive chapters could have been inserted or added by later followers in order to emphasize certain points of moral and political indoctrination.
[9] The first number refers to the chapter, the second number to the paragraph of the Analects.
[10] Here two characters have the same pronounciation but different stroke structures; in fact, the shape of the word “rectify” is the part of the word “govern.” The basic meaning of the shared part is “right.”
[11] It is not morally but pragmatically significant that Confucius rejects killing an extremely evil king (11:23). This attitude signifies that his jen doctrine lacks all reference to the politically strategical level. A more flexible attitude towards this issue appears in his follower Mencius later. This indicates a delicate shift of the discursive layer from Confucius’ ethics to Mencius’ ethics. We shall discuss the problem further in the second section.
[12] This is what we can reasonably ascribe to him, for there is no detailed record of Confucius’ educational activities. His favorite topics are given through the characters “shih” (poetry), “shu” (historical book), “li” (rites) and “yue” (music) (7:18; 11:1; 13:3; 16:2). The more frequently used phrases made with those characters are the set of double-characters (word equivalents): “li-yue” (rite-music) and “shih-shu” (poetry-history). This usage makes the phrases look more like generic terms about definite cultural areas than the names of educational subjects which had yet not been established. As late as the Han period, the same characters were used to represent definite classical books and their doctrine. Different referents of the same written units can cause confusion about the content of Confucius’ teaching. Even the name “Six Arts” as a reference to cultural categories had not yet appeared in Confucius’ time.
[13] Confucius does not think in an abstract way, but he occasionally hints in his words of more abstract connections, for example, when he talks about li as a general situation in the earlier Hsia and Shang periods (2:23; 3:9).
[14] The psychological terms of Confucian discourse are bound to concrete relations. “ching” is used mostly in the concrete sense of an inferior’s attitude to his superior of any kind. There are only a few cases in which the term describes a general mental state without reference to personal hierarchical relations. (In “13:19” ching denotes the treatment of things in general; in “14:42” ching refers to a general state of mind.) Therefore, for Confucius, the psychological state is expressed through its external manifestation. It was Mencius who later uses another central term, “ch’eng” (“sincerity”) to refer to the general mental state without a concrete medium. Confucius, however, cannot employ this abstract sense of the term ch’eng. In the Analects there are only two occassions of the word used in the sense of the adverbs “certainly” (12:10) and “sincerely “(13:11). Nevertheless, there is a category of the mental state, whether called ching or ch’eng, innate in the Confucian ethical system shared by both Confucius and Mencius.
[15] In accordance with the Chou feudal system, Confucius emphasizes the primary significance of the subordination of the inferior to the superior, focusing on the principle of self-control as well as the stability of the feudal order itself. As we said before, the social order was unconsciously accepted as naturally objective.
[16] Western readers must always pay attention to the semantic flexibility of Chinese words, for their meaning is closely related to their context. Regarding the relationship between jen and li , ancient scholars could maintain a different focus. At a general level, jen is superior to li in the aspect of categorization, but at the practical level both can refer to the aspect of operation. At each level, two terms can overlap or function synonymously in changing contexts.
[17] In pre-Ch’in texts the word shu is used mainly as a procedural term: it means an introspective method for knowing the valuational relation between oneself and others. Later, through combination with other characters, it means “forgive” in a popular sense. In the Confucian text there are only two occurrences of the character (4:15; 15:23); while in the Mencian text there is only one occurrence of the character (7A / 4).
[18] It is generally accepted that the li-ceremony originated in primitive religious custom. The modern historian Wang Kou-wei asserts that the character “li” refers to the instrument used to pay respect to the gods or spirits the character “yü” (“jade”), which was the customary instrument employed in serving the gods. This character, which mainly referred to the material, was gradually extended to refer to the religious ceremony in general. Its more complete meaning is “praying for happiness.” (Wang 1983, v. 1, 6:15)
[19] Compared with the stronger pragmatic rhetoric of Mencius, Confucius presents rather general maxims rather than ethically pragmatic details. The propositions “It is by the Rules of Propriety (li) that the personality is established” (8:8) and “A jen-man must be bold” (14:5) only indirectly refer to the pragmatic logical tie of one’s intention to hold to li.
[20] The example can be better compared to his criticism of the formalist use of the related instrument (say, a piece of silk) as properly completing the rite. (17:9) The apparently contradictory viewpoint concerning the material content of ritual signs is semiotically interesting: it is sometimes important and sometimes unimportant, depending on the contextually effective signifying potential of the signs concerned.
[21] Mencian political ethics uses the biological substratum of filial piety more theoretically to strengthen “ethical energetics” - a view which we shall discuss in more detail in the second section.
[22] Two controversial examples of Confucius’ doctrine of filial piety are that he says the son or father should conceal the misconduct of the closest other (3:18) and that son is pious if he does not diverge from the ways of the father after the father’s death. (1:11). (Cf. Legge,v. 1, 143, 270) These two principles are evidently contrary to each other as well as to generally accepted principles about honesty and propriety. If the father happens to be bad or incapable, how can the son blindly obey him? These self-contradictory examples, however, can be taken as hyperbolically emphasizing the absoluteness of parent-child love. In both the Confucian and Mencian systems, hyperbolic descriptions are directly linked to their uniquely empirical “ethical energetics”. The examples look foolish in a normal reading, but the “absoluteness of love” which they signify can be taken as part of a “pragmatic logic” of ethical practice.
[23] Given empirical support, the religious divination of primitive ages when human knowledge of the world was limited can be said to be rational to the extent that a practical decision or choice in a urgent situation must be interpreted as pragmatically rational. The same tendency is reasonable in modern times under the condition that the available knowledge is not sufficient for grounding a successful choice. In a similar way the Ming Confucianist philosopher Wang Yang-ming said, “there is no more important reason than that of divination. People wrongly take divination as the insignificant art of the Eight Diagrams. In fact, however, all of our discussions about learning and practice also belong to the category of divination. Divination only excludes doubt and hesitation through making our mind as sane and sober. When a person is in doubt and unable to believe his own judgement, he appeals to Heaven through the Book of Changes.” (Wang 1972, 307)
[24] In Legge’s translation, the semantically flexible zone of “jen” cannot be represented by the English word “virtue.”
[25] The semantic scope of a Chinese single-character word can be changeable in different historical and stylistic contexts. The visual characters become the carriers which can be quite freely semantically charged as long as the new semes obtain the use-value.
[26] For example, in making a table, the object in a narrow sense is the wood; and in a broad sense the object can be the wood, the tool and the goal alike with reference to the different projects implicated in its production. In the process of design, the goal (table) is the object; and in consideration of the method, the tool and steps of production can be the object. The term “object” is defined with respect to the chosen operation.
[27] It is generally recognized that the meaning of Confucius’ maxims depends on their concrete contexts. This is due to the rhetorical blend of the marked trait and its related natural event. It is the marked traits rather than the natural events which form Confucian ethical logic, which is characterized by the consistency of its different patterns of choosing. Therefore, the meaning of a pattern of choice is grasped through the interaction or interconnection of these patterns. In short, each pattern functions as a necessary link in the entire ethical-pragmatic sequence. Many similar examples are repeated in the text but with differently emphasized features. Different metaphors can also be used to stress the same attitudinal states. An orderly pragmatic sequence is realized throughout these unsystematically collected patterns
[28] Many Confucian teachings can only be relatively understood. For example,”(only make friends with your moral superior” and “help others to advance themselves” can be correct alike, if they can be understood in the sense of “be closer to your moral superior” and “be friendly to everybody, including your inferiors.” There could be different semantic focuses of the phrase “making friends” for each special case. One is about the way to improve oneself, the other about the way to help others.
[29] We are not concerned with the phonetic or visual origin of individual characters. In the pictographic system, both are possible. According to ancient Chinese legend, the origin of words lay in knotted cords – a hint at a visual origin of word-formation. In daily life, however, the phonetic origins may be more frequent.
[30] In classical Chinese philology, there is a distinction between the principal meaning and the “borrowed” meaning of a character, the latter being defined by the context. Therefore, there are different dictionaries (the dictionary of individual words and the dictionary of the words used in the classical texts) to deal with the two kinds of meaning. (See Hu P’u-an 1968, 164, 172. )
[31] So, for example, many different ethical words (characters) can share similar semic constituents in different semic organizations. e.g. the leading words: jen, i, Tao, te and li. The semantic organizations of these characters were formed during long practical usage in the historical and intellectual contexts of ancient China. There are double systems of semantic relations between the moral characters. One is the quasi-logical, which can broadly classify the functions of the characters and organize mental inclinations. The other is the associative, which overlaps and conveys semes in a practical and emotional way. In any ancient context, the two systems act simultaneously. The first system can maintain a rule of identity in a fuzzy context. The second system, however, makes identity itself fuzzy. Hence, Chinese-Western categorical comparisons can hardly be carried out because of their different semantic organizations of conceptual words. A meaningful comparison between the two can only be realized first at the semantic and functional levels.
[32] For example, the accounts of his meeting with another legendary figure, Lao Tzu, his decision to execute the official Shao and some of his unfounded political achievements, which were recorded in several historical texts after the Han period, are excluded by us for both historical and hermeneutic reasons. As Mei Ssu-ping points out, the political achievements of Confucius given in the historical texts are mostly mere fabrications. There were several successful aristocratic politicians before Confucius, such as Cheng Tzu-chan and Yan Ying. Confucius had less political experience and made fewer observations about the major political powers. (See Ku Chieh-kang 1963, v. 2, 187)