Sunday, January 22, 2017

Confucius in 90 minutes - Paul Strathern

Confucius (Kungfutzu)

  • Circa 600BC in North central coastal China. 
  • Started a successful school for bureaucrats
    • Taught his philosophies of conduct and ethics. 
    • Students were often sons of rulers. 
  • Later in his life traveled through China,  meeting and advising rulers of various states.


  • A philosophy that evolved out of his teachings. 
  • Teachings were practical rather than religious or metaphysical. 
  • Dealt with the conduct and morality of rulers, bureaucrats, and citizens . 
  • Central premise: Ordinary activities of individuals are sacred and must be conducted in an ethical manner. 
  • Central concept: "jen" - a quality of magnanimity, virtue and honesty which every individual should strive for. 
  • The goal was to produce a society of individuals who live a life of harmony and virtue.
  • Contrast with the other major philosophy of the time, Taoism ("the way"), which dealt with metaphysics.
  • Encapsulated in pithy sayings documented in his books of sayings - the Analects. 
  • Confucianism has other sacred texts (some predated Confucius, others were edited by his followers):
    • Four books (one of which is the Analects)
    • Five Classics (among which are IChing: Book of Changes, dealing with metaphysics and the cosmos as an interaction of yin and yang, the Book of Poetry, the Book of History).