A Ku Indeed!

Hall and Ames on Analect 1.2

Posted in Analects, Chinese Philosophy by Chris on March 4, 2008

I was prepping a lecture for my Confucianism course and I came across Hall and Ames reading of Analect 1.2. Here’s Legge’s translation (which I don’t care for, but it’s on the web):


The philosopher Yu said, “They are few who, being filial and fraternal, are fond of offending against their superiors. There have been none, who, not liking to offend against their superiors, have been fond of stirring up confusion.

“The superior man bends his attention to what is radical. That being established, all practical courses naturally grow up. Filial piety and fraternal submission,-are they not the root of all benevolent actions?”

I was interested to see that my reading and Hall and Ames’ reading, thought not far apart, did differ on a small point. I’ve always read 1.2 to make at least two central points:

1. That filial piety and fraternal submission are central to Jen

2. That character cultivation is important because it determines how one “sees” the world, and all of one’s actions will flow from this way of “seeing”.

Hall and Ames don’t read (2) so much, and emphasize (1) only. They read “the radical” (or “the root” in Rosemont and Ames translation) as those two virtues, pointing out the centrality of family, whereas I’ve always read “the root” as a much larger point about the need to develop the right character states in general (2). Here I’ve always read (2) in light of Mencius’ claim to “be careful” about choosing one’s occupation (2A7, I think), since different occupations cultivate different dispositions which in turn develop different ways of seeing and thus to different actions.

That’s how I would read Legge’s “That being established, all practical courses naturally grow up.” I read “that” as “character pruning” and that when this is done, “all practical courses” (all ways of disposing oneself to the world in feeling/action) will “naturally grow up.” This point generalizes to all character states.

Not a big difference in our readings, but there is a difference in emphasis on certain parts of the passages in any case.

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One Response

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  1. Imogenzx said, on March 24, 2008 at 10:55 am

    thats it, brother


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