Who Was Confucius?

Learning without thought is labour lost; thought without learning is perilous.

- Confucius, The Analects, 2, 15

Podcast of the Day

Melvyn Bragg examines the philosophy of Confucius. In the 5th century BC a wise man called Kung Fu Tzu said, 'study the past if you would divine the future'. This powerful maxim helped form the body of ideas, which more than Buddhism, more than Daoism, more even than Communism has defined what it is to be Chinese. It is a philosophy that we call Confucianism, and as well as asserting the importance of learning from the past it embodies a respect for heirachy, ritual and parents.But who was Confucius, what were his ideas and how did they succeed in becoming the bedrock for a civilisation?

Listen to the In Our Time episode on Confucius

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Short Article of the Day

...Confucianism itself is not a singular thing: it has branched and permutated over the centuries into a variety of expressions. Perhaps the most essential elements, however, are those that emphasize conscientious ethical behavior that focuses on cultivating our closest loving relationships, especially with our family and friends and neighbors.

Many experts begin a description of Confucian ethics with the notion of ren - 仁 - which can be translated as “humaneness” or “goodness” or “righteousness”. It suggests in its very structure that humans are always embedded in social contexts: the left side of the character (人) is “person,” the right side (二) is “two.” We are not completely autonomous and self-determining. Rather, we find our best selves when we respond to the needs of those closest to us...

Continue reading Sam Crane's article: Confucius doesn't live here anymore

Further Reading

Confucius (551?-479? BCE), according to Chinese tradition, was a thinker, political figure, educator, and founder of the Ru School of Chinese thought.[1] His teachings, preserved in the Lunyu or Analects, form the foundation of much of subsequent Chinese speculation on the education and comportment of the ideal man, how such an individual should live his life and interact with others, and the forms of society and government in which he should participate. Fung Yu-lan, one of the great 20thcentury authorities on the history of Chinese thought, compares Confucius' influence in Chinese history with that of Socrates in the West....

Continue reading The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on Confucius by Jeffrey Reigel

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