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Chinese Philosophical Texts

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  • Bryan W. Van Norden

    • Comment on 2. LÚN YŬ 論語 THE ANALECTS on September 29th, 2013

      For a discussion of several efforts to interpret this passage, see B.W. Van Norden, “Unweaving the ‘One Thread’ of Analects 4.15,” in Confucius and the Analects:  New Essays.

    • Comment on 2. LÚN YŬ 論語 THE ANALECTS on September 29th, 2013

      In the Analects, 朋 is less like our everyday notion of pals or buddies (someone you might just enjoy a beer and a laugh with) and more like compatriots (others who share our vision of and commitment to the Way).

    • Comment on 2. LÚN YŬ 論語 THE ANALECTS on September 29th, 2013

      Some commentaries interpret 時 as “continually,” indicating that we must diligently put into practice the moral lessons we have learned at all times.

    • Comment on 2. LÚN YŬ 論語 THE ANALECTS on September 29th, 2013

      Kongzi acknowledged the importance of both learning (from the wisdom of texts, teachers, and tradition) and thinking (i.e., exercising one’s own cognitive capacity).  But what should the proper balance be between these two?  This became on of the central issues that divided Confucians over the next two millennia.  (See Ivanhoe, Confucian Moral Self Cultivation, for a survey of the debates.)

    • Comment on 2. LÚN YŬ 論語 THE ANALECTS on September 29th, 2013

      There is considerable debate over how to interpret 忠.  Many scholars (including A.C. Graham and D.C. Lau) follow Zhu Xi in attributing to 忠 a very speculative meaning.  However, the basic sense of 忠 is simply loyalty.

    • Comment on 5. MÈNGZĬ 孟子 MENCIUS on September 29th, 2013

      Graham and Pulleyblank suggest that 夫 can mean, “…is it not?” and may be a fusion of 不乎.  (See Outline of Classical Chinese Grammar, p. 17.)

    • Comment on 5. MÈNGZĬ 孟子 MENCIUS on September 29th, 2013

      Students should reflect upon the tension between Mengzi’s use of a water metaphor for the goodness of human nature here, and his more common use of sprout metaphors.  Saying that human nature is good as water flows downward suggests that becoming good is something largely automatic that will happen so long as nothing interferes.  In contrast, saying that human nature is good as a sprout can grow into a plant that bears fruit (e.g., 2A2, 2A6, 6A8) suggests that ethical development is a fragile process that requires cultivation of a particular kind.

    • Comment on 5. MÈNGZĬ 孟子 MENCIUS on September 29th, 2013

      “White” is a paradigm of a term that means the same thing whatever other term it is combined with.  (It contrasts with “love,” for example, which means one thing when we are talking about a maiden loving a handsome knight, and another thing when we are talking about a sister loving her brother.)  So Mengzi asks this question because he wants to make sure that Gaozi means “nature” refers to “life” in a univocal sense, regardless of what kind of thing we are talking about.

    • Comment on 5. MÈNGZĬ 孟子 MENCIUS on September 29th, 2013

      For one possible interpretation of Mengzi 6A1-3, see Van Norden, Virtue Ethics and Consequentialism in Early Chinese Philosophy.

    • Comment on 5. MÈNGZĬ 孟子 MENCIUS on September 29th, 2013

      There is debate over how to interpret this line.  Most versions give as the text of the first phrase, 必有事焉。

    • Comment on 5. MÈNGZĬ 孟子 MENCIUS on September 29th, 2013

      Perhaps I am being overly precise, but a tautology is a statement that cannot be denied, like “business is business.”  生之謂性 cannot be a tautology, or else Mengzi could not deny it.  🙂

      Although 生 and 性 were not graphically distinguished at this point, that does not entail that they meant the same thing.  If they meant the same thing, the proper translation of the line would be “Life is what is meant by ‘life.'”

    • Comment on 5. MÈNGZĬ 孟子 MENCIUS on September 29th, 2013

      Gaozi might be tempted to “bite the bullet” and state that the natures of dogs, oxen, and humans are the same.  However, this would sound as monstrously implausible to his contemporaries as it does to us, since the ways of life of dogs, oxen, and humans are evidently different.

    • Comment on 5. MÈNGZĬ 孟子 MENCIUS on September 29th, 2013

      Another interesting aspect of this story is that it indicates that women share with men the capacity for a moral sense of shame.  Indeed, it appears from this story that some women have a more developed sense of shame than do some men.  Nonetheless, Mengzi does not challenge the views of his society about the separation of gender roles.

  • Michael T. Stowers

    • Comment on 1. Classical Chinese on October 16th, 2013

      Do you provide links to rudimentary grammar / vocab later? If not, might this be a useful feature at this point?

    • Comment on 1. Classical Chinese on October 16th, 2013

      There are several instructions to refer to a “particles and grammar” section, but I couldn’t find it. I’ll leave a comment in the Analects the first time this happens.

    • Comment on 2. LÚN YŬ 論語 THE ANALECTS on October 16th, 2013

      The “Particles and Grammar” section is first pointed to here, in relation to 而

    • Comment on 2. LÚN YŬ 論語 THE ANALECTS on October 16th, 2013

      Apologies for my own confusion earlier!

  • Quick Links: Yes, More of Them | 茶有の者 - A Man with Tea

    • Comment on 1. Classical Chinese on October 18th, 2013

      […] *Stanford has placed online what appears at first glance to be a very nice guide to Classical Chinese. It starts off by going over the basics – that a given character can have many meanings, and play the role of multiple different forms of speech (noun, verb, adjective, adverb) depending on where it is in the sentence, and the incredible importance of paying attention to character order (i.e. “word” order). The guide then goes into further detail, explaining individual particles as it leads the reader through selections from famous classical texts, including the Analects of Confucius and the writings of Mencius. […]

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