Notes on The Analects of Kong Fuzi

I just finished reading two translation of The Analects, or Lun yu in Chinese–one by D.C. Lau (Penguin books) and the other by David H. Li. (The quality of the second one might be questionable.) The book is a collection of sayings by Kong fu zi or Kongzi, otherwise known as Confucius in the West. In this thread, I plan to jot down some notes, starting with some general impressions. These comments draw not only from the Lun yu, but what I learned from a Great Courses series on Kongzi, as well as what I learned from school.

Here are some random thoughts and impressions:

  • When learning about Confucianism in the past, at some point, I wondered why it was considered a religion. This reading reinforced that impression. Indeed, the book seems concerned with the keys to a harmonious society–specifically, the type of leaders needed for this–not unlike a book written by a a modern political philosopher or political scientist, albeit one with a more conservative bent. Indeed, if we assume social conservatives have genuine convictions in the principles they espouse (e.g., personal responsibility, importance of character, respect for authority, etc.), I would think much of Confucianism would appeal to them.
  • Religion is also concerned with the good society, but, off the top of my head, I would say that the individual is the starting point for most religions–specifically, the individual’s relationship to God or gods or a way for the individual to achieve spiritual enlightenment. The way the individual treats other people is critical, but this is a byproduct of one’s relationship to God. Kong fuzi, on the other hand, puts society at the center. Moral conduct, personal character, and learning are valuable because they are critical qualities for the type of individuals–especially, the political leaders and government officials–that are essential for a good society. To me, this is largely a worldly endeavor, or at least I get this sense from Confucianism. In a way, the ideas remind me of Plato’s philosopher king, and the Republic, which I largely view as secular and worldly endeavor.

More later.

(Note: For some reason, the Western names rubs me the wrong way–it seems disrespectful somehow–and so I will use the Chinese names, and I hope I’m using the most respectful and appropriate name. On the other hand, I feel awkward using the Chinese word “Ruxue” for Confucianism, so I will just use the latter.)

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