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C O U R S E 
Chinese Thought: Ancient Wisdom Meets Modern Science
Edward Slingerland, University of British Columbia
C O U R S E   L E C T U R E 
Confucius: I Transmit, I Do Not Innovate
Notes taken on January 23, 2015 by Edward Tanguay
Confucius sees himself as merely passing on the Western Zhou tradition
Analects 7.1
"I transmit, I do not innovate."
doesn't see himself as a creator or an innovator
however, Confucius did actually innovate or transform Zhou thought
1. idea of a gentlemen
he's democratizing the idea of junzi
anyone can become a junzi
at least any male can
similar to the change in English
anyone who acts like a gentleman is a gentleman
we mean he's cultured, well-mannered
the Confucian way was open only to men
he in fact has quite horrific views of women
2. from outer beauty to inner beauty
the virtue of being a perfected human being
in the Zhou dynasty, definition is much more narrow
the physical appearance of a junzi (gentleman)
"handsome" or "well-formed"
Confucius internalizes ren from an external to an internal quality
not about beauty in an aesthetic sense but about being perfectly formed morally
3. democratized the "de"
in the Zhou dynasty, the de was something you could possess if you were from the Zhou royal line
for Confucius, anyone can acquire "de"
anyone who becomes a gentleman can get this power
become a morally perfected person in line with heaven is not the province of a hereditary class
is accessible to anyone (men) who adopt Zhou culture
you can see the seeds of meritocracy here which get set up later in the Chinese exam system
in theory everyone could take this exam and whoever scores the highest score is prime minister, the second highest gets the second position
being an elite is a result of commitment, learning, and making yourself of who you are
4. ritual makes us human
Confucius considers himself passing down the tradition of Zhou ritual
Zhou ritual even encompassed how you act when you are alone
Confucius universalizes ritual, it becomes the human language
the primary means by which we become human beings
a cultural and behavior language which helps us act like human beings instead of animals
anyone can adopt it
ritual is about creating virtues
at one point when Confucius can't get anyone to listen to him, he says he is going to go live among the "Eastern barbarians"
uncouth people
half naked
"if a gentleman lived among them, what uncouthness would there be?"
even the wildest Barbarians can become Chinese through the influence of the gentleman and learning Chinese culture
there is only one correct culture and it is the Chinese culture and anyone can adopt it
different than the Japanese or Jewish conception of culture which are both exclusive
so Chinese culture has been able to assimilate other cultures because of this idea that anyone who adopts the proper practices can become a properly cultivated Chinese person
5. culturally deeply conservative
human nature is not particularly helpful
xing = human nature
we are all born the same
we are all born equally crude and unformed
on the issue if human nature is good or bad, Confucius doesn't have a statement on that
human nature is neutral tending toward badness, crude and uncouth in and of itself, so we need to have culture to reshape this material
metaphor of craft formation
reshaping a raw material which, by itself, has no shape and is ugly, needing to be formed into a crafted, beautiful object
6. importance of community
modern Western view, e.g. Canada and America
the person is very individualistic
we are lone individuals striding through the world, endowed with stuff by nature that makes us who we are
we move away from our families at an early age and establish our own identity
for Confucius
culture makes us human
family and community makes us a person
we are a person in and of the social roles we inhabit
who we are is informed by the role
in the family
in the community
a big part of the Confucian way is to perfect family and social roles
not trying to cultivate an asocial excellence in people
they are social virtues which allow us to take our place in a community
7. filial piety
xiao [syow]
the virtue of being an obedient child
obey your parents and do what they say
Analects 2.5: "What is filial piety? / Do not disobey. When your parents are alive, serve them in accordance with the rites, when they pass away, bury them in accordance with the rites and sacrifice to them in accordance with the rites."
not completely unqualified obedience
Analects 4.18: "In serving your parents you may gently remonstrate with them. However, once it becomes apparent that they have not taken your criticism to heart you should be respectful and not oppose them, and follow their lead diligently without resentment."
a fairly conservative view
this is foreign to us
we have an idea that children should become independent as soon as possible
family should be a site for negotiation
is still very much alive in Asian countries
not just actions but attitude
Analects 2.8: "It is the demeanor that is difficult"
not just obeying them physically, but internally
take on their values
the most basic virtue
the root from which the other virtues grow
get this virtues right in the family