A Ku Indeed!

Zigong’s Shu Doesn’t Fit

Posted in Analects, China, Chinese Philosophy by Chris on November 15, 2008

In my thread on ritual, “Small and Great: Follow It!” the subject of “shu” 恕 came up. I suggested that shu is integral to the subject of “real” ritual performances (if the function of ritual is to play a constitutive role in the promotion of harmony). I’m hoping we can use this thread to discuss the notion of “shu” through examining the character of Zigong to see if there is, as I suspect, a fundamental connection. Below the fold I lay it all out.

I’ll try to line up the relevant text here, and then advance a modest thesis towards the end. Let’s start first with the text on Shu and on Zigong:

A. Shu and Zigong

1. “Shu” comes up in a prominent role in 4.15:

子曰:“參乎!吾道一以貫之。”曾子曰:“唯。”子出。門人問曰:“何謂也?”曾子曰:“夫子之道,忠恕而已矣

The Master said, “Shen, my doctrine is that of an all-pervading unity.” The disciple Zeng replied, “Yes.” The Master went out, and the other disciples asked, saying, “What do his words mean?” Zeng said, “The doctrine of our master is to be true to the principles of our nature and the benevolent exercise of them to others, this and nothing more.”

Here, “shu” comes up in the second part: it is said to lie in the “benevolent exercise of (the principles of our nature) them to others”.

2. Again, in 15.24:

子貢問曰:“有一言而可以終身行之者乎?”子曰:“其恕乎!己所不欲,勿施於人

Zigong asked, saying, “Is there one word which may serve as a rule of practice for all one’s life?” The Master said, “Is not reciprocity such a word? What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others

Here, “shu” is described in a way as to make it look like “the golden rule”, or that one should “do unto others as one would want them to do unto you.”

3. At 5.12, Zigong is admonished by the Master,

子貢曰:“我不欲人之加諸我也,吾亦欲無加諸人。”子曰:“賜也,非爾所及也

Zigong said, “What I do not wish men to do to me, I also wish not to do to men.” The Master said, “Ci, you have not attained to that.”

But what is he admonished for? Clearly here he is functioning as a negative exemplar of Shu. In some sense, he fails to follow the golden rule, and so fails to employ “the principles of his nature” in a benevolent way.

The reason for this, I suspect: Zigong is judgmental.

5. As 14.29 puts it:

子貢方人。子曰:“賜也賢乎哉?夫我則不暇。”

Zi Gong was in the habit of comparing men together. The Master said, “Ci must have reached a high pitch of excellence! Now, I have not leisure for this.”

4. As a result, it seems, Zigong is given a name-tag in 5.4:

子貢問曰:“賜也何如?”子曰:“女器也。”曰:“何器也?”曰:“瑚璉也。

Zi Gong asked, “What do you say of me, Ci!” The Master said, “You are a utensil.” “What utensil?” “A gemmed sacrificial utensil.”

The Master’s condemnation should be insulting; by calling Zigong an instrument or utensil of limited capacity, he argues that Zigong is not accomplished, for an accomplished scholar (and one would suppose that Zigong aspires to this, in his study of ritual) is not a utensil (2.12).

B. Talking about Rituals and He

There are many passages in the Analects that link rituals to harmony. I won’t hash those out here (unless someone thinks one is important). Instead, I’ll talk in general about them here as a way of making a modest proposal. If specific text needs to be incorportated, we can do it in the comments section below.

One place to start is here at 13.23. Here, we are told that the junzi seeks out “harmony” and “not sameness”. We are also told that the junzi “agrees without being an echo” — this raising up the image of a person who can come to agreement with others without having to be identical to those others. He can, in a sense, converge on the same end point from a different perspective or point of view.

Typically, such “agreements” or “seeking sameness” instead of harmony is done through the performance of ritual. Harmony itself is understood as reliant upon a way in which a ritual performance dance plays out; some such performances harmonize the contributions of the partners towards a common goal, some do not (there are a variety of different reasons for this, I suspect).

A general picture emerges. Two (or more) partners engage in communicative ritual performances moving towards a common goal. However, within that dance is likely a hierarchy. It could be a mother/son relationship, or a ruler/subject, or a teacher/student. So how does this play out differently with respect to the differences in power status?

One argument that has been put forth is this: the person in the situation who is the “benefactor” (the one in the higher position; mother/ruler/teacher) has, as a part of their “job”, the “benevolent” exercise of that  role’s power. In one sense, it might be argued that whether the relationship, in its performance of ritual, is harmonious depends strongly on the capacity for “shu” in the benefactor.

The reason for this, I suspect, is that the benefactor has it within his/her power to squash difference in the performances of the beneficiary and to thus count them as non-virtuous or suspect. Thus, the temptation lying in the role of benefactor is to see the _way_ in which roles are carried out in an overly parochial way. One very real way of doing this would be to use rituals in an overly rigid way.

An example: it may be that it is the role of a son to treat his mother in an X way in a Y situation in order to express Z. It may be, in a particular interaction, that the son is unable to X in Y, but still wishes to Z. It could be that the son could A or B in order to Z, but these are departures from “the way” things are done. It could be that allowing for A or B means “relaxing” the rituals in a way that seeks to find ways for the beneficiary to put in a virtuous ritual performance without having to live up to the “letter” of them, but instead having to live up to “their spirit” (so to speak). In this example, some imaginative projection on the part of the benefactor shows that expressing Z in this context is the spirit of the ritual, and the reasoning for Xing in Y, and some “putting oneself in the place of the other” shows that A and Bing are consistent with Z (this seems consistent with 15.29, where the Master said, “A man can enlarge the principles which he follows; those principles do not enlarge the man.”).

However, it could be that, with respect to the person the benefactor is, “giving up” or “letting go” in this way — letting the other bring something unique to the situation — requires a kind of sacrifice of the benefactor’s parochial, selfish interest. Due to an inability to overcome this (perhaps a reference to 12.1?), some benefactors fail to “open up the space” for virtue in the other, and thus rule out, through a failure of Shu, the possibility for harmonious ritual dance between the two.

It is in this context, I think, that Zigong’s failure becomes clearer. He fails at Shu because he treats the “letter” of the Li too seriously. He studies the Li not as a way to communicate in a harmonious way with his fellow relational partners, but rather as a way to beat those that he meets over the head with judgments — as the Master notes, this is his personality. He seems to enjoy “comparing people”. As a result, Li has become a tool for him — one that allows him to feel better about himself, one of the key vices and dangers that the Master points out throughout the work. he does not seek to “embody” Li, he seeks to use it as an external hammer for the benefit of his own ego.

Zigong does not seek difference, he seeks sameness. He is not interested in allowing the other to bring uniqueness to the situation at hand in a way that can yield an interesting harmony. He seeks not to blend, but to impose.

This has been a long, long, long post. So I’ll stop here. Hopefully most of the above makes sense, or at least enough to get a good conversation going.

Note: I’ll be slower in responses to this thread. I have a pile of recommendations to write, a article review to finish, and some papers to grade. So I’ll be “in and out” so to speak.

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16 Responses

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  1. Bill Haines said, on November 15, 2008 at 10:07 am

    Chris, that’s really interesting — and take your time!

    Chris, you write regarding 5.12: “But what is he admonished for? Clearly here he is functioning as a negative exemplar of Shu.”

    If the Analects were a didactic novel then I would be inclined to agree. But the Analects is a collection of snippets of conversation put together by Confucius’ followers after Confucius died, perhaps over many decades or longer (not counting the re-editing that happened much later).

    I think it is improbable that Zigong is functioning as anything here. Anyway it is certainly not clear that he is. We don’t know how that bit of conversation got into the Analects. Was it put in by Zigong, as an offering to humility? Put in by someone else, because it made Zigong look bad? (The followers were rivals and were said to have split into some eight schools.) Or was it put in because someone was putting in every crumb that looked like it might be revealing about ren 仁 ? Or maybe the main collection was assembled by the second generation of students, and they put in everything that had been passed down other than guidance about particular rituals, and that was one of the things that had been passed down? We don’t know.

    Chris, you write: “an accomplished scholar (and one would suppose that Zigong aspires to this, in his study of ritual) is not a utensil (2.12).”

    What you’re here rendering as ‘accomplished scholar’ is the term junzi 君子 – that is, an excellent person or someone qualified to lead. The term makes no special reference to scholarship or ritual.

    (Are you supposing that there is reason to think Zigong focused on ritual more than Confucius’ other students did? That is to say – Zigong was one of Confucius’ students, but is there any *other* evidence that he was interested in studying ritual? At 1.15 and 3.17, Confucius criticizes Zigong for being insufficiently concerned with ritual. Zigong doesn’t mention ritual elsewhere in the Analects.)

    Chris, you write: “There are many passages in the Analects that link rituals to harmony.”

    Sort of, yes. But there are no passages by Confucius that explicitly link ritual to “harmony” (or as you sometimes render the term in this post, “agreement”).

    Chris, you write: “at 13.23 … we are told that the junzi seeks out ‘harmony’ and ‘not sameness’. We are also told that the junzi ‘agrees without being an echo’.”

    You make it sound as though those are two claims. In fact they are two translations of the same claim. One translation seems to think the passage is about action; the other seems to think it’s about talking. Here is the line:

    君子 Junzi
    和 harmony
    而不 and not
    同 same.

    My guess is that this is about alliances or cooperation. A junzi is able to cooperate without overdoing party loyalty. One needs a certain degree of maturity or sophistication to manage that, or to grasp that friends can be friends without wearing the same clothes or loving the same music. People who conceive friendship or cooperation in terms of clothes or music or party loyalty aren’t really friends or cooperators – hence Confucius’ complementary line, “the small person sames but doesn’t harmonize.”

    Chris writes: “Typically, such ‘agreements’ or ‘seeking sameness’ instead of harmony is done through the performance of ritual.”

    Why do you say this? (Youzi said harmony can’t be done without ritual, but I don’t see him saying that ritual is the usual salient means to harmony.)

    Separately: I suspect you mean “harmony instead of sameness” rather than vice versa.

    “Harmony itself is understood as reliant upon a way in which a ritual performance dance plays out; some such performances harmonize the contributions of the partners towards a common goal, some do not (there are a variety of different reasons for this, I suspect).”

    I wonder what passages you have in mind, and what you mean by “harmony” here. (Cooperation as opposed to no cooperation? Smoothness as opposed to awkwardness in one’s cooperation?) And I wonder what you mean by “ritual.” The term can be meant very narrowly or very widely, but I don’t think it’s meant very widely in Confucius’ day. The usual sense for him might be captured by saying it’s the topic of Book 3. Do you have in mind here a much wider sense of the term?

    Chris, you write: “One argument that has been put forth is this: the person in the situation who is the “benefactor” (the one in the higher position; mother/ruler/teacher)…”

    Whose argument is that? I think it’s false to early Confucianism to see the superior as “the benefactor.” Both parties are importantly benefactors (Mama had a little limb), except that the concept “benefactor” is kind of alien to early Chinese thought (in my opinion) because the concept of well-being or a person’s good is alien to early Chinese thought (in my opinion). These opinions of mine are still at the casual stage.

    I think Confucius thought a key part of the value of ritual, maybe the most important part, was that it restrained the powerful. Rigidity of ritual is not a tool of power, it’s a chastening of the impulses of power.

    – – – – – – –

    My image of Zigong: He was much better at being an intellectual than he was at being good. But he was pretty good. He might have had some tendency to confuse being good with getting Confucius’ approval, and (hence?) with thinking highly of Confucius. He tried to take his teacher’s admonitions to heart.

    I think the intellectualism might be sort of what you have in mind, Chris, when you write of Zigong, “He fails at Shu because he treats the ‘letter’ of the Li too seriously.”

  2. Bill Haines said, on November 15, 2008 at 11:10 am

    Oops! Those two comments above are identical.

    Chris Note: I deleted the other one, Bill. Be back soon, I’ll likely comment on your thoughtful criticism here in piecemeal.

  3. Chris said, on November 15, 2008 at 1:46 pm

    Bill,

    Let me take on a small chunk at the start of your reply first.

    We agree on a few things here: first, that the Analects is a collection of snippets and not a didactic work, and that this occurred over time. For these reasons, it is hard to know exactly why a snippet is in there (as a matter of fact, B&B seem suspicious of it as a possible late insert), or what it’s overall function is (if any) in the text.

    Still, it appears to me that while Zigong is certainly not pictured as a bad person in the work, and might even be ranked fairly highly among the disciples, he has flaws (as they all do, it seems, which might be instructive to us as readers).

    We are told that he is given to money-making, that he is not satisfied with his lot (perhaps in reverse from Hui, who seems overly satisfied with his own lot, IMO). He is also pictured as quick to judge others, and rigid as a consequence. Perhaps his desire to make money leads him to see the world in a particular way: he cultivates over time a habit of “putting things into quick categories” that allows him to make good predictions (in order to make money). I think BVD or PVI suggest a point like this somewhere, but I can’t remember who or where.

    A possible case in point: Zigong’s desire to do away with the ritual sacrifice in 3.17. Perhaps part of what Kongzi is suggesting here is that Zigong does not “embody” ritual — he “employs” them for this or that purpose. Given that Zigong’s focus is typically towards this or that “external good” (given to money-making and such) in 3.17 Zigong can’t imagine the point of continuing this ritual in the absence of the original conditions. Lambs cost money, dammit! Kongzi seems to suggest that there is a spirit of the ritual here that must be maintained, even at material cost. I get the impression here that Kongzi is suggesting again that Zigong fails to see this because his relationship to the rituals — that he is good at learning, by the way — is too external. “You love the lamb, Zigong, I love the rite.”

    Just some quick thoughts on the start of your reply.

    More later.

  4. Bill Haines said, on November 15, 2008 at 9:11 pm

    What you say about Zigong in this comment sounds to me plausible, in whole or in large part. I’ll have to think about it more. The passage you focus on in this comment is one I had somehow omitted from my own collection of Zigong passages!

    11.19
    子曰:The Master said:
    “回也 [Yan] Hui (particle)
    其庶乎,his OKness, hey!
    屢空。Often empty.
    賜 Zigong,
    不受命,doesn’t accept fate/orders
    而貨殖焉,and property/wealth accumulates there.
    億則 YI ZE
    屢中.” frequently correct/in-line

    YI 億 might mean “calculate”, but I have to look into it more before I’ll be satisfied about it. Conceivably the character here should be yi 意 instead.
    ZE 則 probably means “then, therefore”, but it can also mean “principle, rule.”

    I’ll think about that.
    ________

    I’m puzzled by the idea that a snippet (pericope?) could have an “overall function in the text” in this kind of text. I think a snippet might have a function in a single book of the Analects if there are signs of a compiler’s general intent there.

    I agree that Zigong has flaws and that we might be able to figure some of them out, especially from the places where Confucius is describing or criticizing him (though he might have changed over time). And I agree that one should think about his character for purposes of interpreting the things Confucius says to him because sometimes Confucius says prima facie conflicting things to different people depending on what he thinks people need to hear. Though I worry: the more we accept that point about Confucius (that the things he says in general terms might in his view apply only to certain individuals), the less we accept the evidential value of the Analects as to Confucius’ views, and so the less philosophical value the text has.

    (Even if the Analects has no evidential value as evidence of Confucius’ philosophy, it has evidential value as to the philosophies of the later parties who revered the text. In that sense one can speak of a function of a snippet. But for that purpose there is a limited value in using one’s own ingenuity to uncovering features of the text that might not previously have been noticed.)

    Since the golden rule (or silver rule, which distinction I’m happy not to worry about until it starts to seem specifically relevant) is something Confucius offers as a kind of summary of his way or of ren 仁,it’s not surprising that he would say of the people he knows that they don’t meet the standard. That he says so of Zigong doesn’t strike me offhand as revealing of anything in particular about Zigong, or even potentially informative about Zigong.

  5. Chris said, on November 16, 2008 at 8:18 am

    Bill,

    First part (above line):

    B&B suggest here (on the final lines): “Hui meditates, Zigong calculates. Both succeed” implying that being satisfied with his lot, Hui looks to what is internal, whereas Zigong, not being satisfied, “rebels” (B&B’s term), looking outward to profit.

    Second part (below line):

    1. On this first question of the overall function (or non-function) of sayings (or snippets), I must admit that I just don’t know. I don’t (yet) know enough about Brooks and Brooks-type analysis of the work (who wrote what? what order was it really in? what’s an interpolation? which compiler has what agenda? etc). Up until this summer, before I read B&B, you could have fit my knowledge of this sort of thing in a thimble (not that it’s that much bigger now).

    So I’m just not used to this approach, and haven’t figured out how to factor it into my own way of approaching the text. Many things that I have for years taken as “obvious” (as, apparently, have other writers) are being challenged by these approaches as “obviously false” or at least highly suspect when seen through this lens. Example: there are whole large pieces written on the centrality of “the one thread” (4.15) to the work’s “theme”; this summer, Steve seemed ready (far as I remember) to (generally) ignore it, given that B&B take it to be a textual interpolation. Given how I take 4.15 to be central myself, this left me scratching my head quite a bit!

    In the end, this might mean that at this point I’m left at the more rudimentary interpretative level of thinking of the text as having a unified theme and purpose, something that I may well have to springboard from to the next level at some point.

    On a second unrelated question, this brings up the difficult question of how to teach or present the work to students.

    2. On the one hand, I understand that if we take Confucius’ replies to students as having no meaning separate from that particular context (because his replies are meant to respond to the needs of particular individuals in those contexts), then there’s little philosophical value — we learn little about what the Master thinks himself. So what do we do? We do know that he directs content to specific individuals (11.22). With that in mind, it seems that we need to draw up character typologies as a way to understand what he’s up to, and then from there use other “themes” in the text to see from Confucius in general is trying to say.

    Using Zigong as an example: it seems to me that the text as a whole does present us with a general picture of his character, along with his strengths and his weaknesses. That Confucius criticizes Zigong for his failures in shu (however understood at this point) doesn’t tell us anything specific about him, you’re right (well, even this relies on whether shu is sufficient for ren, I suppose); if shu is at least necessary to ren, then it is likely that many people have the same problem. With this in mind, it may be over-reaching for me to say that he is the text’s “negative exemplar” of the concept, given that lots of criticisms of other people might point to shu-deficiencies as well (if shu is sufficient for ren, then everyone falls short, and then everyone is a “negative exemplar” in some way).

    Perhaps it is more accurate to say that the text can be used to uncover two specific things about Zigong: first, that Confucius mentions him in relation to shu because Zigong brings it up himself — Zigong presents himself as a master of shu. Confucius suggests that he is not. Of course, this is informative itself — Zigong toots his own horn too much here. We all do, sure — but perhaps Zigong is particularly egregious and the fact that we are being told this is meant to give us pause about being certain that we possess particular abilities (which is a more general theme discussed in the work).

    However, it’s also the case that the way in which a person can fail at shu are numerous. From this point we can use the general characterization of Zigong as a way of understanding what that specific way is, one that may give us insight into what the concept itself means to Confucius (philosophically). Perhaps Zigong has a particularly undeveloped imagination. Perhaps he lacks empathy. Perhaps he is insecure. Perhaps he misuses rituals. Locating what he think Confucius is admonishing, we can look to the rest of the text to see if there are more general sayings that deal with that issue.

    In this specific case of Zigong, my suspicion is that we can do just that.

  6. Bill Haines said, on November 16, 2008 at 9:32 am

    I think maybe by “B&B’s approach” you mean the idea that the Analects is a scattered collection. I think that was the standard view before they came along, but I don’t know for how many decades or centures it was the standard view. The Brookses do think the book was put together over a much longer period than other people think.

    Before B&B came along it was not, and it still is not, especially controversial that that books 4-9 are probably earliest and the other books are later in proportion to their numerical proximity to 4-9. (My Youzi paper presents an argument against a detail of this view, but I usually assume it’s at least roughly right.)

    I associate B&B rather with the idea that the Analects is a highly structured philosophical composition put together on constant principles, though with changing views, by a philosophical community over a period of centuries.

    I find B&B’s book on the Analects more useful for its factual tidbits and its fresh ideas on particular passages than for its reasoning about dating, interpolations, or the philosophical themes and structures of the several books. Though with the factual tidbits one has to be careful: often what they introduce as a speculation in one part of the book they present as a fact in another part of the book – not necessarily a later part of the book.

    The reading of 11.19 that you report from them strikes me offhand as quite a stretch, but I’ll have to check out their argument for it. I don’t have their book with me today.

    Bryan Van Norden has argued pretty plausibly against the authenticity of at least the latter part of 4.15 (and also against 13.3), most recently in his book “Virtue Ethics and Consequentialism in Early Chinese Philosophy.”

    I present the Analects to students as a largely unorganized collection of bits that were chosen we know not how, probably mostly reflecting the views of Confucius. I ask them to investigate and report on the book’s ideas on various topics. It’s training in active readership.
    ___________

    In 11.22, Confucius doesn’t offer any general views. He answers Zilu with a question, and he tells Ran You what to do. So 11.22 isn’t evidence that he offers conflicting general views to different people. 2.5 might be evidence that he’ll knowingly say conflicting things to different people. I think that the assumption that Confucius is a good thinker itself argues that he did not pull that sort of trick very often. It’s in tension with intellectual integrity.

    The golden rule is a very flexible sort of slogan. It can be meant in a modest way and in a very broad an demanding way. Possibly Zigong invented it and meant it modestly, and Confucius wanted to broaden his view. (When Confucius offers it to him in 6.30 he offers it in a very different form.)

    You write, “the way in which a person can fail at shu are numerous. From this point we can use the general characterization of Zigong as a way of understanding what that specific way is, one that may give us insight into what the concept itself means to Confucius (philosophically).”

    I think you’d have a stronger case if Confucius had been the one who brought up the golden rule to Zigong.

    Anyway the interesting thing is to look at the details of what we find out about Zigong from other passages.

  7. Chris said, on November 16, 2008 at 10:35 am

    Bill,

    Just a quick note, I’m in the middle of a pile of student recommendations (which seem to always take lots and lots of time to write).

    I didn’t mean to imply that the views of B&B is new, I know it isn’t. I meant rather that this way of approaching interpretations of the text doesn’t seem prominent in much of the literature I’ve read over the years. At the very least, people seemed to ignore it, or at best treat it as an aside in a footnote. I realize that very recent scholarship is highlighting it, however.

    On teaching it: I do it the same way, actually. I meant rather this: should we start students off by informing them that this book is actually later than that one, that this or that is an interpolation, and so on, or should we gloss over that and just treat it as a puzzle to be sorted through via active readership. For ex., over the summer one of the seminar participants suggested that he would teach the Analects through reading B&B. I wouldn’t do that.

    Below line:

    1. I agree he doesn’t offer conflicting _general_ views in 11.22. In fact, the “general view” of 11.22 seems to embody the overall philosophical point of 11.16, doesn’t it? As such, I think we learn something about Confucius’ philosophical views here by looking at a confusing passage (11.22) where he speaks specifically to certain individuals, and then looking to other places (11.16) for evidence that he does indeed have a more general and philosophically interesting point to make in 11.22, and then even further, in conjunction with passages about the role of learning and knowledge of these two characters, we can learn even more (philosophically) about what is going on in 11.22.

    2. Perhaps, though I think I’d read 6.30 as a way of making shu more specific (if, of course, we think 6.30 is about shu at all; I don’t see the character used there, leaving us to connect shu to “the method of ren”. I think the connection is strong, but I can see a person resisting).

    Zigong’s expression is just “don’t do to others what I don’t want them to do to me” (which, in part, could just be an injunction that permits you to simply ignore people, and so could be read negatively — I don’t like people stomping on my toes, so I’ll move to a deserted island where I can’t do it to others) whereas 6.30 seems to have a prima facie positive dimension, referring to the need for “enlarging” others.

    Another possibility is that 6.30’s gloss might not be apparent to a person who literally accepts 5.12. Whereas 5.12 might require simply being mindful of one’s conscious wants, 6.30 might require a more enlightened notion of “interests” not immediately apparent to a person.

    3. I see your point about who brings up what in 5.12, if we are wondering whether Confucius is using Zigong to bring out a point about shu. He may not be, but may simply be noting that Zigong comes up short in this regard. Next we want to ask why, and then perhaps our task is to compile what Confucius says about shu and put them up against what is said (negatively) about Zigong, and see if we can put together a picture. I think we can make some stabs at this.

    A counterpoint here, though, might be that 5.12 is completely separate from everything else said negatively about Zigong, and so one shouldn’t be read as highlighting the other. Perhaps they are just scatter-shot criticisms. This is always a possibility, I admit.

  8. Chris said, on November 16, 2008 at 10:35 am

    Every time I say “quick” it turns out to be anything but. 🙂

  9. Chris said, on November 17, 2008 at 9:30 am

    Bill,

    I’m thinking over some of your later points in your first reply. Still looking for time to carve out a decent reply there to some of your points.

    But in the meantime, something struck me:

    You said, in reply to my suggestion that we could use a character study of Zigong to learn about specific ways of failing with respect to 恕: “I think you’d have a stronger case if Confucius had been the one who brought up the golden rule to Zigong.”

    True, this does not happen at 5.12 (which is, I think, what we were in the midst of discussing). But it does happen here at 15.24, which I think I have up top somewhere:

    子貢問曰:“有一言而可以終身行之者乎?”子曰:“其恕乎!己所不欲,勿施於人。

    Zi Gong asked, saying, “Is there one word which may serve as a rule of practice for all one’s life?” The Master said, “Is not reciprocity such a word? What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others.”

  10. Bill Haines said, on November 17, 2008 at 3:51 pm

    Hey there Chris,

    I still haven’t got around to checking out B&B on 11.19.

    I’m sorry, I seem to have been droning on saying things that I know you already know. Regarding B&B, what I was mainly worried about, and still not completely sure about, is what sort of “way” you have in mind when you say “B&B’s way” — what do they saliently represent for you. My ear doesn’t tend to hear their names as bywords for (a) carefulness about the historical provenance of the text or (b) the idea that the text is not an intricately structured product. I think they’re today’s biggest enemies of (b). Maybe you mean (c) a tendency to regard passages as inauthentic reports.

    On the numbered points from a couple of comments ago:

    1. Excellent big points.

    2. I think you mean to be disagreeing with me here, but I’m not sure in what respect, and I think we may have different readings of what I said. So I’ll elaborate my earlier thought. My main thought was that on the day when Zigong made his claim at 5.12, he might have meant it as something modest, and Confucius might not yet have offered the silver rule as a core principle of his own. I think the flexibility of the silver/golden rule is not just that the silver (negative) version of the rule is weaker than the golden, but that they’re each foggy enough to admit immense legitimate variation in how they’re is taken, including how strongly they’re taken. (I think arguments about the equivalence or nonequivalence of the silver and gold generally overlook that elephant in the room. You clearly don’t overlook it; rather it’s at the root of your interest in 5.21.)

    Offhand there seems to be a tension between the idea that in conversations between the two of them, Zigong was the first one to mention the formula, and the point that Confucius offers the formula to Zigong on another occasion without nodding somehow toward that fact. I was worried about 6.30 in that connection, so I said in parentheses that 6.30 at least looks different. I should have been more worried about 15.24, an important passage you’ve just reminded me of. Or maybe the “tension” isn’t a big deal?

    Zigong’s statement in 5.12 does look astoundingly arrogant if the 15.24 exchange happened earlier. That’s one reason to think the 15.24 conversation was later.

    Another astounding and therefore questionable thing is that such a major statement as we see in 15.24 would be recorded only in a book as late as 15 is thought to be, if it is an authentic statement. I don’t like that thought. I have yet to develop my own views about the relative ages of the different books. I think the sorting we see (e.g. 16 has passages with numbers, books have similar lengths) suggests that the age of a book doesn’t tell us much about the ages of its passages.

    Separately: In the Analects, Confucius uses shu 恕 once (15.24). I wonder whether that’s enough to justify us in thinking it was, for Confucius, a name for a rule. His one use is on its face inconsistent with Zengzi’s use of the term in 4.15.

    3. “whether Confucius is using Zigong to bring out a point about shu.” Do you mean, whether Confucius was making such a point to the immediate audience other than Zigong (if any)?

  11. Bill Haines said, on November 17, 2008 at 3:58 pm

    I wrote, “My ear doesn’t tend to hear their names as bywords for (a) carefulness about the historical provenance of the text…” That’s not because I think they’re not careful about that. It’s that I think plenty of other people are careful too, but in different ways. One kind of care is not drawing big conclusions from small evidence. Granted, that’s not the kind I most enjoy.

  12. Chris said, on November 17, 2008 at 9:03 pm

    Bill:

    First, you are hardly droning. I don’t recall you ever doing such a thing.

    1. Let me clear up what I mean on B&B, because I don’t want to give off a misunderstanding on this. I think all three things you mention are ways in which I take “B&B’s way” to mean (though “c” plays a prominent role as you note due to the need to think about interpolation). But that said, I don’t want to give off the impression that I think this approach is new by any means. I don’t think they are the first to do it, and surely not the only ones doing it now (so the possessive “B&B’s” is meant lightly here).

    More importantly, I don’t want to give off the impression that I disapprove of this approach to the text. I don’t at all — in fact, I find B&B’s work fascinating. I think in mentioning it at all here I am simply aiming to highlight the fact that my own approach to the text may perhaps be naive. I think it is simply taking some time for me to take in all of these extra variables, all of which enrich readings of the work, though no doubt make the task that much harder to undertake (not that difficulty is a bad thing). Part of this means that many elements of the text’s meaning that I had previously taken for granted (I think, along with some writers) must be re-investigated. And that’s fine, it just takes time to do it.

    2. I wasn’t trying to state a disagreement here; rather, I was just trying to take the idea that 6.30 was a further elaboration on a modest proposal of shu in 5.12 a step further.

    On the dating of 5.12 and 15.24: I think you are certainly right that Zigong’s comment comes off that way if it is taken as part of a later conversation. You may be right here, but why should we take such a consequence as a prima facie interpretative constraint? It may well be the case that Zigong is, in fact, being arrogant. Or at the very least — and this may fit with other text about Zigong — it illustrates that Zigong is overly attached to speaking (in 11.3 he and Zaiwo are singled out in this respect, in 11.19 Zigong over-values speech over action). As such, his words do not always match his actions, making his claim about shu in 5.12 less about arrogance and more about glibness.

    B&B list 15.24 as an interpolation, by the way. Note also that 15.3 appears to deal with shu, though just in the sense that 15.3 speaks of “a single thread” running through the Master’s life’s work. Unfortunately, B&B list it as an interpolation too.

    On your separate question: I’m not entirely clear what the inconsistency is you are referring to. I’m thinking you could mean a few things here, so I’ll wait to see what you mean.

    3. Could be either. In any case, it does seem to carry some weight whether it is Zigong or the Master who brings up shu.

    4. A separate note: we should also note — in trying to figure out the place of the concept in the text — that it also does come up in 12.2, though it is not Zigong who is the conversational partner there. It is Zhonggong. Book 12 is taken by B&B to be a “middle book” age-wise, somewhat earlier than 15. B&B do not list 12.2 as an interpolation.

  13. Chris said, on November 17, 2008 at 9:11 pm

    Also, on 11.19, here’s exactly what B&B say:

    Translation:

    The Master said, Hui is almost there, is he not? He is often empty. Zigong does not accept his fate, and has traded to advantage. If we reckon up his results, then he is often on the mark.

    Commentary:

    (down a bit): Hui accepts poverty, turning inward to emptiness. Zigong rebels, turning outward toward commerce. Hui meditates, Zigong calculates. Both succeed.

  14. Bill Haines said, on November 20, 2008 at 12:41 am

    In your penultimate comment you ask what inconsistency I see between 15.24 and 4.15. I’m just thinking of the simple point that in 15.24, shu is the one guide, while in 4.15 it’s half of the one guide.

    ***

    When B&B identify a passage as an “interpolation,” that’s not the same as their saying it’s not a report of an actual conversation. Rather it means they think it has been shifted from its original place in the Analects, or was put into a book at the time when a certain later book was added (table on p. 329). However, they’re pretty skeptical, I think, of the historical accuracy of any sayings by Confucius that aren’t in (what they take to be) the original Book 4.

    ***

    Here’s what B&B say about 11.19:

    “Hui’s ‘empty’ … rhymes with Zigong’s “on the mark” …. For ‘empty’ as a metaphor of meditation, see 8:5n.”

    [I did. 8:5n simply says “for ‘empty’ as a codeword [pertaining to meditation] see” a very hard-to-find book by LaFargue. I have just looked at the cited pages. These pages mention neither meditation nor the word for ‘empty’ used in 11.19. They discuss various other implications of other words for emptiness as used in the Daodejing, not arguably connected to meditation; and they say that in the Zhuangzi words for emptiness refer to still, clear, or receptive states of mind. Very often in reading the Bs I find that two questions are hard to answer: “What are they explicitly citing to support this point?” and “What is the connection supposed to be between what they’re citing and the point?”]

    Regarding 11.19, they continue:

    “From about this date, a meditation group seems to have existed in Lu. The group’s text was the Daodejing, whose oldest chapter, DDJ14, expresses the mysteriousness of the meditative vision. Zigong’s wealth through trade is a sign of the newly commercial times.”

    They cite no evidence for the claim about Lu; for all we know their evidence is largely 11.19 itself.

    There is no agreement on what chapter of the DDJ might be oldest. Also I’m pretty sure there is negligible agreement that DDJ14 is about meditation. I’m going to quote it here for purposes of questioning the argument provided. I’ll use the translation from LaFargue’s book:

    —————–
    “Look for It, you won’t see It: It is called ‘fleeting’.
    Listen for It, you won’t hear It: It is called ‘thin’.
    Grasp at It, you can’t get It: It is called ‘subtle’.”
    These three lines
    are about something that evades scrutiny.
    Yes, in it everything blends and becomes one.
    Its top is not bright
    Its underside is not dim.
    Always unnameable, It turns back to nothingness.
    This is the shape of something shapeless
    the form of a nothing
    this is elusive and evasive.
    Encountering It, you won’t see the front
    following It, you won’t see Its back.
    Keep to the Tao of the ancients
    and so manage things happening today.
    The ability to know ancient sources,
    this is the main thread of Tao.
    —————–

    Now, Chris, I ask you what is the point of citing that chapter in connection with 11.19? Citing that chapter does give the impression that B&B are marshalling evidence – but is that what they are doing?

    Here’s an extra kick: compare that DDJ chapter with what Yan Hui says at 9.11. Note that B&B do not draw a connection there. It would interfere with the chronology they like.

    ***

    I wrote in an earlier comment on this string, “the concept “benefactor” is kind of alien to early Chinese thought (in my opinion) because the concept of well-being or a person’s good is alien to early Chinese thought (in my opinion). These opinions of mine are still at the casual stage.”

    But a key word in early Chinese philosophy that is often translated as “benefit” is li 利 (see e.g. the first lines of the Mencius, or Manyul’s Nov.19 post on maximization). Maybe ‘benefit’ is a fine translation, and maybe I’m wrong about the concept of individual well-being. Or maybe one can have the concept of benefit without the concept of an individual’s good. One reason I don’t leap to see this concept in early Chinese thought is that I think it’s kind of a fake concept; I think it combines different ideas that pull in different directions, and there’s nothing to resolve matters.

  15. Bill Haines said, on November 20, 2008 at 1:03 am

    When B&B write, “Zigong’s wealth through trade is a sign of the newly commercial times,” the times they mean are the times when they think Book 11 was “written,” i.e. about a hundred years after Zigong died (pp. 69, 333).

  16. Chris said, on November 22, 2008 at 6:45 pm

    Bill,

    I’ll be back soon — currently buried. I’m ticking off the days (25) to sabbatical, when I can actually think about these problems all day without other crap piling up as a consequence.


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