C O U R S E L E C T U R E
The Transition to Becoming Sincere
Notes taken on February 3, 2016 by Edward Tanguay
anyone who has wu-wei as a spiritual goal is going to face the tension of trying not to try
the paradox of wu-wei in the Analects
Analects 3.3: "A man who is not Good, what has he to do with ritual? A man who is not Good, what has he to do with music?"
ritual and music are the way you become good
Confucius is saying: you shouldn't be doing the practice unless you are already Good
Goodness is cultivated by means of the Confucian practices
it can't be rote, you can't just be going through the motions
you have to be involved with what you are doing at a certain level
while we may offer candy to a child in order for them to play chess, to develop a higher skill and interest
virtue seems to be something that we desire for its own sake
Analects 3.3 says "you shouldn't be messing with ritual unless you are doing it for the right reasons"
to become a gentleman, you need to love the Way
you can't be a hypocrite
Confucius is worried about
say the right things but don't practice what you preach
goes through the motions but doesn't feel it
you can't point to anything they are doing that is wrong
they do all the rituals property
they know all the odes by heart
and yet, they're hollow
motivated by salary or prestige
"Is Goodness really so far away? If I simply desire Goodness, I will find that it is already here."
what it is about is motivation
if you really want it, you've got it
Confucius is constantly frustrated with people who don't love the way
Analects 9.18: "I have yet to meet a man who loves Virtue as much as he loves female beauty."
he is saying that the Way is something that someone should desire as much as sex
Analects 5.10: "Zai Wo was sleeping during the daytime."
"Rotten wood cannot be carved, and a wall of dung cannot be plastered. As for ai Wo, what would be the use of reprimanding him?"
the metaphor is: his raw material is ruined
someone who has the right material
as they say in Canada, he is a keener
Duke Ai asked, "Who among your disciples might be said to love learning?"
Confucius answered, "There was one named Yan Hui who loved learning. He never misdirected his anger, and never made the same mistake twice. Unfortunately, his allotted lifespan was short, and he has passed away. Now that he is gone, there are none who really love learning, at least I have yet to hear of one."
Confucius is constantly shaming his students in this way.
Yan Hui was born learning and loved it.
What do you do if you weren't born loving it?
How do you make someone into a Yan Hui?
if you apply yourself, you will eventually love it
fake it until you make it
you'll start to feel the right things
this applies to basic skills
but how this transition happen when it comes to virtue
as opposed to a craft skill
how do you become sincere suddenly
the lurking danger in the background is that you won't make the transition
you become a village honest person, one of these counterfeit people
how is acquiring virtue different from acquiring a skill
carving and polishing a beautiful object
there's an important disanalogy between acquiring virtue and skills
recognized by Aristotle
the disanalogy between crafts and virtues
the products of a craft determine by their own character whether they have been produced well, and so it suffices that they are in the right state when they have been produced
so a bowl is a good bowl when it is finished
but for actions expressing virtue to be done temperately or justly, and hence well, it does not suffice that they are themselves in the right state, rather the agent must also be in the right state when he does them
if you go to a piano recital, it's beautiful, then you find out afterwards that they were actually thinking about what they were going to have for dinner, or they were counting seats and seeing how much money they were going to make
they produced something and that produce stands on its own merits
there was a viral picture of a policeman putting boots on a homeless man in winter
implicit is the idea that this is motivated by the right internal motivation
if we found out later it was a public relations stunt, everything would change
it would not be a compassion act anymore
this is why it is not necessarily the case that if you are not compassionate, just by working in a soup kitchen you will compassionate, since something inside has to change, not just that your skills improve
in the end, Confucius sees little other way for those who don't feel sincerity to be sincere but to practice sincere acts
if you act out compassionate behavior in a ritual way, you will become compassionate
but the danger is you will just become someone who simply acts compassionate, a kind of hypocrite