Yen Yuan and Zilu being by his side, the Master said to them, “Come, let each of you tell his wishes.” Zilu said, “I should like, having chariots and horses, and light fur dresses, to share them with my friends, and though they should spoil them, I would not be displeased.” Yen Yuan said, “I should like not to boast of my excellence, nor to make a display of my meritorious deeds.” Zilu then said, “I should like, sir, to hear your wishes.” The Master said, “They are, in regard to the aged, to give them rest; in regard to friends, to show them sincerity; in regard to the young, to treat them tenderly.”
Analects 5.26 makes a clear distinction between two things: internal goods and external goods (a subject of considerable attention in the Analects). Basically the difference is this:
Every year, I forget the Master’s birthday. No surprise, I’m bad with birthdays generally (just ask my wife, sister, mother, dad, friends, just about anyone — I’m bad). In any case, yesterday was Confucius’ birthday, so I figured an acknowledgment of it is better late than never. If Confucius had lived, he’d be 2,558 years old now!
Yeah. Okay. This has been one hell of a week. Time for it to end. I’m holding my ankles now. (For an explanation of all of this, read below the fold).
After Dr. Rosemont’s talk on Social Justice and Poverty: A Confucian Meditation, I had the pleasure of speaking with him at length at dinner about the subject of his talk. I find the premise of Rosemont’s general thesis very plausible, and I’m wondering what others think. I’ll try to reproduce the argument here without a lot of unnecessary complication. Here’s it is (I’m taking some liberties here to keep things simple):
To all of my students:
Please do not forget that this week Dr. Henry Rosemont is visiting our campus to give a convocation talk and to visit with students and faculty for an informal discussion of all things Chinese (China, Confucianism, etc). My wife and I worked hard to get Dr. Rosemont here, so take advantage of it — he’s a leading scholar in the field, and it’s a real privilege to have him come and visit. Here are the two events, again:
One of the ways that I try to talk in (Values Analysis) class about the Confucian dedication to excellence is to make an analogy with sports. Let’s start with the analogy, and then I’ll connect it to what I think Confucius is saying in the Analects.
For some people, there’s a distinction between “being great” and “being excellent” in sports. Kobe Bryant — great, not excellent. Allan Houston — once great, then not so great, and never excellent (I blame him for the implosion of my New York Knicks, so I harbor some resentment here). Larry Bird — excellent. Jordan? Excellent.
What’s the difference between the two? Let’s try this way of drawing the distinction using sports:
Adam has a very interesting post on the ethics of “benevolent lying” up at Within Reason. It made me think about a few things. Are we always under the obligation to tell the truth to a person? In this case, my immediate question is this: must we tell the truth to a person when the “person” we are speaking to is not the ideal person we associate with that entity in question? That’s a lot of technical mumbo jumbo, so here’s an example:
John McCain is known for the saying that he has plastered on the side of his campaign bus. It says “Straight Talk Express”. McCain likes this, because he wants to be known as a “straight shooter” — as someone who always tells you straight out and directly what the truth is.
Given that we’ve just begun the Analects in one of my classes, I have to wonder whether Confucius would have considered himself a “straight shooter” in the same way that McCain does. I think the answer is, predictably, “yes and no” (as is mostly the case when you try to apply something to Confucius). Here are the differences, as I see them:
My wife makes fun of me a lot because I tend to watch science fiction. Well, that’s not true…if I watch television it’s almost certainly science fiction. She jokes that if I’m watching TV, you can be sure that there’s a Saturn-shaped planet in the bottom right side of the screen (if you know what that means, you watch too much sci-fi too).
So apparently Confucius has a Facebook profile. Putting aside the small fact that he’s been dead for over 2000 years, and so I’m not sure how he set up his account from beyond the grave (what e-mail address did he use?), I’d like to take up the issue of whether Confucius should have a Facebook profile. Over at Useless Tree, Sam Crane (who just got his own Facebook profile, by the way) has argued that Confucius would have been a fan of the new virtual networking utility (I say “networking” because I’m sure that’s what Confucius would call it — and he has little respect for that kind of relationship). I’m not so sure that Sam is right, so I’d like to take a moment to make out a brief case for why I think it is inconsistent with Confucianism to make Facebook a regular part of one’s life (as it is clearly becoming for more and more people).
This is an older post I made a while back, I’m bringing it back to the front for my Values Analysis students, given that we’re starting the Analects on Monday.
Analects 1.1 reads:
The Master said, “Is it not pleasant to learn with a constant perseverance and application? Is it not delightful to have friends coming from distant quarters? Is he not a man of complete virtue, who feels no discomposure though men may take no note of him?”
There are three points here, and my guess is that they are closely related, at least insofar as they make up the composition of the first aphorism of the book. My instinct here tells me that there are three lessons here of central importance to the book. The three separate points are: