The Ethics of Confucius, by Miles Menander Dawson, , at sacred-texts.com
THE central idea of Confucius is that every normal human being cherishes the aspiration to become a superior mansuperior to his fellows, if possible, but surely superior to his own past and present self. This does not more than hint at perfection as a goal; and it is said of him that one of the subjects concerning which the Master rarely spoke, was "perfect virtue." (Analects, bk. ix., c. i.) He also said, "They who know virtue, are few" (Analects, bk. xv., c. iii.), and was far from teaching a perfectionist doctrine. It refers rather to the perpetually relative, the condition of being superior to that to which one may be superior, be it high or low,that hopeful possibility which has ever lured mankind toward higher things.
This accords well with the ameliorating and progressive principle of evolution which in these days offers a substantial reward, both for a man
and for his progeny, if he will but cultivate higher and more useful traits and qualities. The aim to excel, if respected of all, approved and accepted by common consent, would appeal to every child and, logically presented to its mind and enforced by universal recognition of its validity, would become a conviction and a scheme for the art of living, of transforming power and compelling vigour.
In various sayings Confucius, his disciples, and Mencius present the attributes of the superior man, whom the sage adjures his disciples to admire without ceasing, to emulate without turning, and to imitate without let or hindrance. These are some of them:
Purpose: "The superior man learns in order to attain to the utmost of his principles." (Analects, bk. xix., c. vii.)
Poise: "The superior man in his thought does not go out of his place." (Analects, bk. xiv., c. xxviii.)
Self-sufficiency: "What the superior man seeks, is in himself; what the ordinary 1 man seeks, is in others." (Analects, bk. xv., c. xx.)
Earnestness: "The superior man in everything puts forth his utmost endeavours." (Great Learning, ii., 4.)
Thoroughness: "The superior man bends his attention to what is radical. That being established, all practical courses naturally grow up." (Analects, bk. i., c. ii., v. 2.)
Sincerity: "The superior man must make his thoughts sincere." (Great Learning, vi., 4.) " Is it not his absolute sincerity which distinguishes a superior man?" (Doctrine of the Mean, c. xiii., 4.)
Truthfulness: "What the superior man requires is that in what he says there may be nothing inaccurate." (Analects, bk. xiii., c. iii., v. 7.)
Purity of thought and action: "The superior man must be watchful over himself when alone." (Great Learning, vi., 2.)
Love of truth: "The object of the superior man is truth." (Analects, bk. xv., c. xxxi.) "The superior man is anxious lest he should not get truth; he is not anxious lest poverty come upon him." (Analects, bk. xv., c. xxxi.)
Mental hospitality: "The superior man is catholic and not partisan; the ordinary man is partisan and not catholic." (Analects, bk. ii., c. xiv.) " The superior man in the world does not set his mind either for anything or against anything; what is right, he will follow." (Analects, bk. iv., c. x.)
Rectitude: "The superior man thinks of virtue; the ordinary man thinks of comfort." (Analects,
bk. iv., c. xi.) " The mind of the superior man is conversant with righteousness; the mind of the ordinary man is conversant with gain." (Analects, bk. iv., c. xxi.) " The superior man in all things considers righteousness essential." (Analects, bk. xv., c. xvii.)
Prudence: "The superior man wishes to be slow in his words and earnest in his conduct." (Analects, bk. iv., c. xxiv.)
Composure: "The superior man is satisfied and composed; the ordinary man is always full of distress." (Analects, bk. vii., c. xxxvi.) "The superior man may indeed have to endure want; but the ordinary man, when he is in want, gives way to unbridled license." (Analects, bk. xv., c. i., v. 3.)
Fearlessness: "The superior man has neither anxiety nor fear." (Analects, bk. xii., c. iv., v. i.) "When internal examination discovers nothing wrong, what is there to be anxious about, what is there to fear?" (Analects, bk. xi., c. iv., v. 3.) " They sought to act virtuously and they did so; and what was there for them to repine about?" (Analects, bk. vii., c. xiv., v. 2.)
Ease and dignity: "The superior man has dignified ease without pride; the ordinary man has pride without dignified ease." (Analects, bk. xiii., c. xxvi.) "The superior man is dignified and does not wrangle." (Analects, bk. xv., c. xxi.)
Firmness: "Refusing to surrender their wills
or to submit to any taint to their persons." (Analects, bk. xviii., c. viii., v. 2.) "The superior man is correctly firm and not merely firm." (Analects, bk. xv., c. xxxvi.) "Looked at from a distance, he appears stern; when approached, he is mild; when he is heard to speak, his language is firm and decided." (Analects, bk. xix., c. ix.)
Lowliness: "The superior man is affable but not adulatory; the ordinary man is adulatory but not affable." (Analects, bk. xiii., c. xxiii.)
Avoidance of sycophancy: "I have heard that the superior man helps the distressed, but he does not add to the wealth of the rich." (Analects, bk. vi., c. iii., v. 2.)
Growth: "The progress of the superior man is upward, the progress of the ordinary man is downward." (Analects, bk. xiv., c. xxiv.) "The superior man is distressed by his want of ability; he is not distressed by men's not knowing him." (Analects, bk. xv., c. xviii.)
Capacity: "The superior man cannot be known in little matters but may be entrusted with great concerns." (Analects, bk. xv., c. xxxiii.)
Openness: "The faults of the superior man are like the sun and moon. He has his faults and all men see them. He changes again and all men low look up to him." (Analects, bk. xix., c. xxi.)
Benevolence: "The superior man seeks to develop the admirable qualities of men and does not seek to develop their evil qualities. The ordinary
man does the opposite of this." (Analects, bk. xii., c. xvi.)
Broadmindedness: "The superior man honours talent and virtue and bears with all. He praises the good and pities the incompetent." (Analects, bk. xix., c. iii.) "The superior man does not promote a man on account of his words, nor does he put aside good words on account of the man." (Analects, bk. xv., c. xxii.)
Charity: "To be able to judge others by what is in ourselves, this may be called the art of virtue." (Analects, bk. vi., c. xxviii., v. 3.)
Moderation: "The superior man conforms with the path of the mean." (Doctrine of the Mean, c. xi., vi. 3.)
The Golden Rule: "When Gm cultivates to the utmost the capabilities of his nature and exercises them on the principle of reciprocity, he is not far from the path. What you do not want done to yourself, do not do unto others." (Doctrine of the Mean, c. xiii., v. 3.)
Reserve power: "That wherein the superior man cannot be equalled is simply this, his work which other men cannot see." (Doctrine of the Mean, c. xxxiii., v. 2.)
The Art of Living. " The practice of right-living is deemed the highest, the practice of any other art lower. Complete virtue takes first place; the doing of anything else whatsoever is subordinate." (Li Ki, bk. xvii., sect. iii., 5.)
These words from the "Li Ki" are the keynote of the sage's teachings.
Confucius sets before every man, as what he should strive for, his own improvement, the development of himself,a task without surcease, until he shall "abide in the highest excellence." This goal, albeit unattainable in the absolute, he must ever have before his vision, determined above all things to attain it, relatively, every moment of his lifethat is, to "abide in the highest excellence" of which he is at the moment capable. So he says in "The Great Learning": "What one should abide in being known, what should be aimed at is determined; upon this decision, unperturbed resolve is attained; to this succeeds tranquil poise; this affords opportunity for deliberate care; through such deliberation the goal is achieved." (Text, v. 2.)
This speaks throughout of self-development, of that renunciation of worldly lusts which inspired the cry: "For what shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?"; but this is not left doubtfulfor again in "The Great Learning" he says: "From the highest to the lowest, self-development must be deemed the root of all, by every man. When the root is neglected, it cannot be that what springs from it will be well-ordered." (Text, v. 6, 7.)
Confucius taught that to pursue the art of life was possible for every man, all being of like passions and in more things like than different. He
says: "By nature men are nearly alike; by practice, they get to be wide apart." (Analects, bk. xvii., c. ii.)
Mencius put forward this idea continually, never more succinctly and aptly than in this: "All things are already complete in us." (Bk. vii., pt. i., c. iv., 1.)
Mencius also announced that the advance of every man is independent of the power of others, as follows: "To advance a man or to stop his advance is beyond the power of other men." (Bk. i., pt. ii., c. xvi., 3.)
It has already in these pages been quoted from the "Analects" that "the superior man learns in order to attain to the utmost of his principles."
In the same book is reported this colloquy: "Tsze-loo asked 'What constitutes the superior man?' The Master said, 'The cultivation of himself with reverential care'" (Analects, bk. xiv., c. xlv.); and in the " Doctrine of the Mean," "When one cultivates to the utmost the capabilities of his nature and exercises them on the principle of reciprocity, he is not far from the path." (C. xiii., 3.).
In "The Great Learning," Confucius revealed the process, step by step, by which self-development is attained and by which it flows over into the common life to serve the state and to bless mankind.
"The ancients," he said, "when they wished to exemplify illustrious virtue throughout the empire,
first ordered well their states. Desiring to order well their states, they first regulated their families. Wishing to regulate their families, they first cultivated themselves. Wishing to cultivate themselves, they first rectified their purposes. Wishing to rectify their purposes, they first sought to think sincerely. Wishing to think sincerely, they first extended their knowledge as widely as possible. This they did by investigation of things.
"By investigation of things, their knowledge became extensive; their knowledge being extensive, their thoughts became sincere; their thoughts being sincere, their purposes were rectified; their purposes being rectified, they cultivated themselves; they being cultivated, their families were regulated; their families being regulated, their states were rightly governed; their states being rightly governed, the empire was thereby tranquil and prosperous." (Text, 4, 5.)
Lest there be misunderstanding, it should be said that mere wealth is not to be considered the prosperity of which he speaks, but rather plenty and right-living. For there is the saying: "In a state, gain is not to be considered prosperity, but prosperity is found in righteousness." (Great Learning, x., 23.) The distribution of wealth into mere livelihoods among the people is urged by Confucius as an essential to good government, for it is said in "The Great Learning": "The concentration of wealth is the way to disperse
the people, distributing it among them is the way to collect the people." (X., 9.)
The order of development, therefore, Confucius set forth as follows:
Investigation of phenomena.
Rectitude of purpose.
The rules of conduct, mental, spiritual, in one's inner life, in the family, in the state, and in society at large, which will lead to this self-development and beyond it, Confucius conceived to be of universal application, for it is said in the "Doctrine of the Mean" (c. xxviii., v. 3): "Now throughout the empire carriages all have wheels with the same tread, all writing is with the same characters, and for conduct there are the same rules."
How this may be, is set forth in the same book (c. xii., v. 1, 2): "The path which the superior man follows extends far and wide, and yet is secret. Ordinary men and women, however ignorant, may meddle with the knowledge of it; yet, in its utmost reaches, there is that which even the sage does not discern. Ordinary men and women, however below the average standard of ability, can carry it into practice; yet, in its utmost reaches,
there is that which even the sage is not able to carry into practice."
It is, indeed, a true art of living which is thus presented, a scheme of adaptation of means to ends, of causes to produce their appropriate consequences, with clear and noble purposes in view, both as regards one's own development and man's, both as regards one's own weal and the common weal.
For the completion of its work, it requires, also, the whole of life, every deflection from virtue marring by so much the perfection of the whole. Its saintliness lies not in purity alone, but in the rounded fulness of the well-planned and well-spent life, the more a thing of beauty if extended to extreme old age. Confucius thus modestly hints how slowly it develops at best, when he says: "At fifteen I had my mind bent on learning. At thirty I stood firm. At forty I was free from doubt. At fifty I knew the decrees of Heaven. At sixty my ear was an obedient organ for the reception of truth. At seventy I could follow what my heart desired without transgressing what was right." (Analects, bk. ii., c. iv.)
That it is not finished until death rings down the curtain upon the last act, is shown in the "Analects" by this aphorism attributed to his disciple, Tsang: "The scholar may not be without breadth of mind and vigorous endurance. His burden is heavy and his course is long. Perfect virtue is the burden which he considers it his to
sustain; is it not heavy? Only with death does his course stop; is it not long?" (Analects, bk. viii., c. vii.)
Mental Morality. "When you know a thing, to hold that you know it, and when you do not know a thing, to acknowledge that you do not know itthis is knowledge." (Analects, bk. ii., c. xvii.)
In these words Confucius set forth more lucidly than any other thinker, ancient or modern, the essential of all morality, mental honesty, integrity of the mindthe only attitude which does not close the door to truth.
The same thing is put forward in a different way in the "Li Ki," thus: "Do not positively affirm when you have doubts; and when you have not, do not put forth what you say, as merely your view." (Bk. i., sect. i., pt. i., c. iii., 5.)
The Chinese sage had no delusions about the real nature of the art of living, the rules of human conduct; he knew and understood that ethics are of the mind, that sticks and stones are neither moral nor immoral but merely unmoral, and that the possibilities of good and evil choices come only when the intelligence dawns which alone can choose between them.
Mencius considerably extended this view, starting from the position: "If men do what is not good, the blame cannot be imputed to their natural powers." (Bk. xi., pt. i., c. vi., v. 6.)
Not that he did not recognize the perils of unrestrained
animal passions, ministered to, instead of guided and controlled by, a human mind which accordingly becomes their slave instead of master; for he says: "That whereby man differs from the lower animals is little. Most people throw it away, the superior man preserves it." (Bk. iv., pt. ii., c. xix., v. 1.)
And again he refers to this inexcusable reversal of the natural order, thus: "When a man's finger is deformed, he knows enough to be dissatisfied; but if his mind be deformed, he does not know that he should be dissatisfied. This is called: 'Ignorance of the relative importance of things.'" (Bk. vi., pt. i., c. xii., v. 2.)
The "Li Ki" says of this, more explicitly: "It belongs to the nature of man, as from Heaven, to be still at his birth. His activity shows itself as he is acted on by external things, and develops the desires incident to his nature. Things come to him more and more, and his knowledge is increased. Then arise the manifestations of liking and disliking. When these are not regulated by anything within, and growing knowledge leads more astray without, he cannot come back to himself, and his Heavenly principle is extinguished.
"Now there is no end of the things by which man is affected; and when his likings and dislikings are not subject to regulation (from within), he is changed into the nature of things as they come before him; that is, he stifles the voice of Heavenly principle within, and gives the utmost indulgence
to the desires by which men may be possessed. On this we have the rebellious and deceitful heart, with licentious and violent disorder." (Bk. xvii., sect. i., v. 11, 12.)
Therefore, with acumen and discernment never excelled, Confucius divined that the mind must first be honest with itself. This indicates the essential immorality of the mind which clings to that which it does not know, with fervency and loyalty more devoted than that with which it holds to that which it does know. That one should not be swayed by what he prefers to believe, is again asserted in these words of the "Shu-King," ascribed to I Yin (pt. iv., bk. v., sect. iii., v. 2.):
"When you hear words that are distasteful to your mind, you must inquire whether they be not right; when you hear words that accord with your own views, you must inquire whether they be not contrary to right."
It is consonant with the spirit and teaching of Confucius that the philosopher Ching should have said of the "Doctrine of the Mean": "This work contains the law of the mind which was handed down from one to another"; and that Confucius himself has said: "In the Book of Poetry are three hundred pieces, but the design of them all may be embraced in one sentence: Have no depraved thoughts.'" (Analects, bk. ii., c. ii.)
It was thus that Confucius conceived the art of living, as a thing thought out, a response purposive, instead of automatic, to every impulse from
without. He says of himself, meaning thereby to instruct his disciples and inspire them to emulation: "I have no course for which I am predetermined and no course against which I am predetermined." (Analects, bk. xviii., c. viii., v. 5.)
And, as already quoted, these are among his most striking attributes of the superior man: "The superior man is catholic and not partisan; the ordinary man is partisan and not catholic." (Analects, bk. ii., c. xiv.) "The superior man in the world does not set his mind either for anything or against anything; what is right, he will follow." (Analects, bk. iv., c. x.) "The superior man is anxious lest he should not get truth; he is not anxious lest poverty should come upon him." (Analects, bk. xv., c. xxxi.)
In yet more glowing and enthusiastic terms he sang the praises of the open mind, its need, its utility, its essential beauty and sure promise, saying: "They who know the truth are not equal to them that love it, and they who love it are not equal to them that find pleasure in it." (Analects, bk. vi., c. xviii.)
Socrates said something akin to this when he rebuked the "sophists," i.e., the "wise," and modestly called himself "philosophos," i.e., only a lover of wisdom and one who devoutly wishes to learn.
Confucius sets before his disciples the apprehension and ascertainment of the bald truth
concerning the phenomena of nature, as the thing first to be desired; for he says: "The object of the superior man is truth." (Analects, bk. xv., c. xxxi.)
Of himself, his disciples present this portrayal: "There were four things from which the Master was entirely free: He had no foregone conclusions, no arbitrary predeterminations, no obstinacy, and no egoism." (Analects, bk. ix., c. iv.)
The Investigation of Phenomena. "Wishing to think sincerely, they first extended their knowledge. This they did by investigation of things. By investigation of things, their knowledge became extensive. Their knowledge being extensive, their thoughts became sincere."
These words from "The Great Learning" (Text, v. 4, 5) are meant to show how the mind, holding itself in resolution, its conclusions ready to take whatever form the compelling logic of the ascertained facts may require, must, as an essential prerequisite of a normal and well-rounded life, investigate the phenomena which are around it. These are its world, with which it must cope, and which, in order that it may cope therewith, it must also understand. Confucius says: "To this attainment"i.e., perfect sincerity"there are requisite extensive study of what is good, accurate inquiry into it, careful consideration of it, clear distinguishing about it, and earnest practical application of it." (Doctrine of the Mean, c. xx., v. 19.)
That there must be this ardent spirit of inquiry,
this insatiable thirst after knowledge, or the man is lost, is indicated by Confucius in many sayings. One of the aptest of these is: "When a man says not, 'What shall I think of this? What shall I think of this?', I can indeed do nothing with him." (Analects, bk. xv., c. xv.)
On another occasion he announced: "I do not reveal the truth to one who is not eager to get knowledge, nor assist any one who is not himself anxious to explain." (Analects, bk. vii., c. viii.)
The apprehension that effect follows cause, was rightly regarded by him the first office of the human mind and the primary moral act of an intelligent being. This was made the foundation of "The Great Learning" (Text, v. 3): "Things have their root and their fruition. Affairs have their end and their beginning. To know what goes first and what comes after, is near to what is taught in the Great Learning."
As the followers of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle soon lost the real point of view of the great lover of wisdom, by reason of their devotion to what they understood to be the positive teaching of himself and his disciples, and built up a system of prescriptive and authoritative learning which in fact stifled original investigation of phenomena, while encouraging mere speculation and dialectics, so in like manner the investigation of phenomena, enjoined by Confucius, soon degenerated into scholasticism, and the mere conning and memorizing of texts. The neglect of the true significance
of his injunction was so complete that, though apparently no other sentences are missing, the chapter of "The Great Learning" in which was given the early author's version of what is meant by "investigation of things" is lost. Only these words are still extant: "This is called knowing the root. This is called the perfecting of knowledge."
Views, ascribed to the commentator Ching, are usually supplied to fill this hiatus. They are here quoted to show how the true function of investigation, which is not the duty merely of the young and untutored mind but yet more the duty of the trained and experienced, was distorted into something altogether contrary, by passing through the intellect of the adoring scholiast: "The meaning of the expression, 'The perfecting of knowledge depends upon the investigation of things' is this: If we wish to carry our knowledge to the utmost, we must investigate the principles of all things we come into contact with; for the intelligent mind of man is certainly formed to know and there is not a single thing of which its principles are not a part. But so long as all principles are not investigated, man's knowledge is incomplete. On this account, the 'Learning for Adults,' in its opening chapters, instructs the learner in regard to all things in the world, to proceed from what knowledge he has of their principles and pursue his investigations of them until he reaches the extreme point. After exerting himself in this way for a long time, he will
suddenly find himself possessed of a wide and far-reaching penetration. Then the qualities of all things, whether external or internal, subtle or coarse, will be apprehended and the mind, in its whole substance and its relations to things, will be perfectly intelligent. This is called the investigation of things, this is called the perfection of knowledge."
But, while it may have been, and indeed was, called "the investigation of things," by Ching and by many of the scholiasts since his day, it is obviously far from that enduring open-mindedness and spirit of impartial inquiry which Confucius held to be the first essential to the art of living. The words of Confucius, therefore, have clearer and higher significance in this scientific age than in all the centuries during which Asiatic students have memorized them in the schools.
That Confucius meant no such blind following of authority is clear from this saying: "Hwuy gives me no assistance. There is nothing that I say, in which he does not delight." (Analects, bk. xi., c. iii.)
Investigation and the spirit of free investigation, in order that knowledge may ever be subjected to repeated tests, are "the root," according to the reasoning of Confucius, from which the conduct of life must proceed. Therefore and referring thereto, the philosopher Yew is quoted as saying: "The superior man bends his attention to what is radical. That being established, all
practical courses naturally grow up." (Analects, bk. i., c. ii., v. 2.)
This is set forth at length in yet more enthusiastic language: "When we minutely investigate the nature and reasons of things till we have entered into the inscrutable and spiritual in them, we attain to the largest practical application of them; when that application becomes quickest and readiest and personal poise is secured, our virtue is thereby exalted. Proceeding beyond this, we reach a point which it is hardly possible to comprehend; we have thoroughly mastered the inscrutable and spiritual and understand the processes of transformation. This is the fulness of virtue." (Yi King, appendix iii., sect. ii., v. 33, 34.)
Learning. "Learning without thought is labour lost; thought without learning is perilous." (Analects, bk. ii., c. xv.)
The emphasis is put upon thinking in this statement of the Duke of Kau, quoted in the "Shu King," by Confucius with approval: "The wise, through not thinking, become foolish; and the foolish, by thinking, become wise." (Pt. v., bk. xviii., 2.)
To the idea expressed in these astute words thus adopted by Confucius, he has added a personal application elsewhere, emphasizing the emptiness of mere speculation: "I have been the whole day without eating and the whole night without sleeping, occupied with thinking. It was of no
avail. The better plan is to learn." (Analects, bk. xv., c. xxx.)
The idleness of thought, desire, and conduct proceeding upon insufficient data is set forth by the sage in great detail, in the following: "There is the love of being benevolent without the love of learning;the beclouding here leads to a foolish simplicity. There is the love of knowing without the love of learning;the beclouding here leads to dissipation of mind. There is the love of being sincere without the love of learning;the beclouding here leads to an injurious disregard of consequences. There is the love of straightforwardness without the love of learning;the beclouding here leads to rudeness. There is the love of boldness without the love of learning;the beclouding here leads to insubordination. There is the love of firmness without the love of learning;the beclouding here leads to extravagant conduct." (Analects, bk. xvii., c. viii., v. 3.)
Therefore the necessity for patient, unremitting study, not merely of books but of men, animals, and things, of the phenomena of animate and inanimate nature, is urged by the great teacher again and again: "Learn as if you might not attain your object and were always fearing lest you miss it." (Analects, bk. viii., c. xvii.) "Is it not pleasant to learn with constant perseverance and application?" (Analects, bk. i., c. i., v. 1.)
In this regard, he leaves this picture of himself,
in words which he spoke to one of his disciples: "The Duke of She asked Tsze-loo about Confucius and Tsze-loo did not answer him. The Master said, 'Why did you not say to him: He is simply a man who in his eager pursuit of knowledge forgets his food, who in the joy of attaining it forgets his sorrows, and who does not perceive that old, age is coming on?'" (Analects, bk. vii., c. xviii.)
And this is also declared to be an essential characteristic of the superior man: "The superior man learns and accumulates the results of his learning; puts questions and discriminates among those results; dwells magnanimously and unambitiously in what he has attained to; and carries it into practice with benevolence." (Yi King, appendix iv., c. vi., v. 31.)
That one must be modest as to his ability and acquirements, in order to learn, was as obvious to the mind of Confucius, as to that of Socrates. These words of Yueh in the "Shu King" are illustrative of this: "In learning there should be a humble mind and the maintenance of constant earnestness." (Pt. iv., bk. viii., sec. iii., i.)
And these are the words of Tsang, referring to his friend, Yen Yuan: "Gifted with ability and yet putting questions to those who were not so; possessed of much and yet putting questions to those possessed of little; having, as though he had not; full, and yet counting himself as empty; offended against, and yet entering into no altercation." (Analects, bk. viii., c. v.)
Though the mentor of princes, Confucius did not himself depart from such modesty in giving instruction, even as he adjured his disciples to observe it always in receiving t; for he gives this testimony concerning his course: "From the man bringing his bundle of dried flesh upwards, I have never refused instruction to any one." (Analects, bk. vii., c. vii.)
There comes before the mind of the modern student of Confucius, therefore, the same picture of humble companionship with the lowly as with the great, which the sojourn of Jesus, of Socrates, or of Epictetus among men also conjures forth. That such would be the universal consequence, were there universal instruction, i.e., that learning is essentially democratic and not a respecter of rank, riches, or even of persons, he affirms in this sentence: "There being instruction, there will be no distinction of classes" (Analects, bk. xv., c. xxxviii.), which declaration, accepted and followed, has preserved China from that stifling death into which the caste system of India has forced its unhappy people.
Yet by no means unto all, the scoffer as well as the earnest student, the dull as well as the discerning, did Confucius consider that all knowledge should be imparted; instead he said: "To those whose talents are above mediocrity, the highest subjects may be announced. To those who are below mediocrity, the highest subjects may not be announced." (Analects, bk. vi., c. xix.)
The course which he who would learn must follow is given by Tsze-hea in these words: "He who from day to day recognizes what he has not yet attained to, and from month to month remembers what he has attained to, may be said to love to learn." (Analects, bk. xix., c. v.)
And that thoroughness and completion of all tasks are absolutely requisite, in these: "The prosecution of learning may be compared with what may happen in raising a mound. If there lack but one basket of earth to complete the work, and I there cease, the cessation is my own act." (Analects, bk. ix., c. xviii.)
That gravity and earnestness are requisite, he thus affirms: "If the scholar be not grave, he will not call forth any veneration, and his learning will not be solid." (Analects, bk. i., c. viii., v. 1.)
The reward of learning he declares to be: "It is not easy to find a man who has learned for three years, without coming to be virtuous." (Analects, bk. viii., c. xii.)
If observation in these twentieth-century days does not confirm this, is it not because of this, that investigation and study are but too often undertaken only in support of propositions to which the students are already committed, or, to put it otherwise, that such are rather the labours of the special advocate to establish his cause than of the impartial seeker after truth? And, if so, how could the result be as Confucius said? Moreover, in which of our schools are the rules of mental ethics,
of correct study and thought, imparted? Is not the fault rather that education is not what it should be, than that there is education?
One of the disciples of Confucius testified concerning his instruction, "He enlarged my mind with learning and taught me the restraints of propriety" (Analects, bk. ix., c. x., v. 2), by which is meant the rules of conduct, mental and within one's self, as well as mental though outwardly expressed. Another disciple said: "There are learning extensively and having a firm and sincere aim, inquiring with earnestness, and reflecting with self-application; virtue is in such a course." (Analects, bk. xix., c. vi.)
Confucius himself remarked: "By extensively studying all learning and keeping himself under the restraint of the rules of propriety, one may thus likewise not err from what is right." (Analects, bk. xii., c. xv.)
And in the "Li Ki" this is found: "To acquire extensive information and remember retentively while yet modest; to do earnestly what is good and not become weary in so doingthese are characteristics of him whom we call the superior man." (Bk. i., sect. i., pt. iv., v. 27.)
By emphasizing that learning should be extensive, he did not mean to advise serious study of every idle speculation which the invention and ingenuity of human intellects can produce. Instead, the course which he marked out is that of close and careful observation of facts and pains-taking,
cautious reasoning about them. Of the perils of the other, he says: "The study of strange doctrines is injurious indeed." (Analects, bk. ii., c. xvi.)
Notwithstanding this, he did not subordinate, and much less did he eliminate the need for, attention to the broad conception of the universe, while keeping one's eye upon the particle of dead matter or the infinitesimal forms of life. That the laws which operate in the phenomena of nature are the very laws of God, was ever present in his mind, and that narrow views of these phenomena, as if they were unrelated and independent, are not and cannot be true knowledge. Therefore is it, as he said, that "in order to know men," one "may not dispense with a knowledge of Heaven." (Doctrine of the Mean, c. xx., v. 7.)
That everything cognizable is the field of learning is suggested in the words: "Accordingly, the sage, looking up, contemplates the brilliant phenomena of the heavens and, looking down, examines the definite arrangements of the earth; thus he knows the causes of darkness and of light. He traces things to their beginning and follows them to their end; thus he knows what can be said about death and life." (Yi King, appendix iii., c. iv., v. 21.)
The great utility to him who would round out his own life by knowledge of the achievements of ancient worthies was enforced as follows: "The
scholar lives and associates with men of his own dime; but the men of antiquity are the subjects of his study." (Li Ki, bk. xxxviii., v. ii.)
The great, the all-important place of learning, so defined as a moving force in the scheme of life, and, within the measure of his capacity, its claim upon every human being, he thus affirmed: "Knowledge, magnanimity, and energy, these three are the virtues which are universally binding." (Doctrine of the Mean, c. xx., v. 8.)
The union of a sublime trust and an earnest struggle to learn is thus praised by the sage himself: "With sincere trust he unites the love of learning; holding firm unto death, he is perfecting the excellence of his course." (Analects, bk. viii., c. xiii., v. i.)
Genius and Inspiration. It is characteristic of Confucius that, where he did not know, he did not affirm. His saying, "When you do not know a thing, to acknowledge that you do not know it, is knowledge " (Analects, bk. ii., c. xvii.), is far from being: "If you do not know a thing, affirm that it is not true."
Therefore, especially since, as all candid souls must ever have been, he was impressed with the marvellous insight which the minds of some of earth's children had shown, he was not a doctrinaire concerning the possibility of quicker, surer, and deeper discernment of facts and truths than that of which ordinary human beings are capable. Accordingly he says of this: "Those who are born
in the possession of knowledge, are the highest class of men. Those who learn and so acquire knowledge, are next. The dull and stupid who yet achieve knowledge, are a class next to these. Those who are dull and stupid and yet do not learn, are the lowest of the people." (Analects, bk. xvi., c. ix.)
Though he is now reverenced by millions in the Asiatic world as the greatest mind that has been incarnate among them, Confucius makes no claim to such inspiration and internal perception of knowledge without external observation, for himself; instead, he says: "I am not one who was born in the possession of knowledge; I am one who is fond of antiquity and earnest in seeking it there." (Analects, bk. vii., c. xix.)
In view of the fact that others were not able in his day to find what he set forth, in the archives of mankind or even in the contemplation of nature, and the further undeniable fact of his wonderful penetration and clarity, it may be questioned whether, in addition to his tireless industry, there was not present also the full measure of illumination from without and, let us reverently say, from above, which has attended others of the world's great moral teachers and leaders in all time.
That it was not all pure grindnay, more, that it should never be all pure grindbut, instead, the organic absorption of knowledge into himself and as inherent parts of himself, blending into a
harmonious, developed whole, these words indicate: "The Master asked, 'Tsze, you think, I suppose, that I am one who learns many things and keeps them in his memory?' Tsze-kung replied, 'Yes, but perhaps it is not so?' 'No,' was the answer, 'I seek unity, all pervading.'" (Analects, bk. xv., c. ii.)
That there might not be foolish reliance upon internal light as a means of escaping the onerous labour of learning, he spoke this parable: "The mechanic who wishes to do his work well must first sharpen his tools." (Analects, bk. xv., c. ix.)
Preparation for the practice of the art of living, he taught, is necessary unto all men, saying: "Let every man consider virtue as what devolves upon himself; he may not yield the performance of it even to his teacher." (Analects, bk. xv., c. xxxv.) And also that perfection is a plant of slow growth, matured only by steady progress in development, in this saying as in many others: "I saw his constant advance. I never saw him halt in his progress." (Analects, bk. ix., c. xx.)
Sincerity. "Their knowledge being extensive, their thoughts became sincere."
The foregoing from "The Great Learning" (Text, v. 5) is challenged more frequently, perhaps, than any other of its propositions; for the mind immediately recurs to the remembrance of many Machiavellian characters who were well-informed, even erudite, and yet insincere. And, although Confucius here speaks of sincerity within
a man's self and toward himself, as counter-distinguished from sincere speech and action, yet, notwithstanding that one cannot read the inmost thoughts and purposes of another, few there are who have pondered deeply and observed widely and closely, that do not know that sincerity of thought must itself be cultivated or at least be preserved.
Confucius had no mind to say otherwise for he puts it thus in "The Great Learning" at the very outset: "Wishing to think sincerely, they first extended their knowledge as widely as possible. This they did by the investigation of things"; and he himself says, elsewhere: "Leaving virtue without proper cultivation; not thoroughly discussing what is learned; not being able to move toward righteousness of which knowledge has been gained; and not being able to change what is not good: these are the things which occasion me solicitude." (Analects, bk. vii., c. iii.)
He also said, referring to knowledge: "A man can enlarge his principles; the principles do not [i.e., of themselves] enlarge the man." (Analects, bk. xv., c. xxviii.) The same is also implied, as well as that a man of character, while ready to serve, will not permit himself to be used, by this saying (Analects, bk. ii., c. xii.): "The superior man is not an utensil," i.e., his usefulness is not confined to one thing.
Therefore, not to one who must as a matter of mere consequence comply, but to one who may
exercise a choice whether to obey or not, learned though he may be, he directs this injunction: "Hold faithfulness and sincerity as first principles and be moving continually toward what is right." (Analects, bk. xii., c. x.)
Mencius puts it, beautifully, thus: "There is no greater delight than to be conscious of sincerity upon self-examination." (Bk. vii., pt. i., c. iv., v. 2.)
In the "Doctrine of the Mean," Confucius says: "Is it not just entire sincerity which marks the superior man?" (c. xiii., v. 4); and in "The Great Learning": "The superior man must make his thoughts sincere." (C. vi., 4.)
The same idea Mencius presents in this pleasing trope: "The great man is he who does not lose his child's heart." (Bk. iv., pt. ii., c. xii.)
This sincerity of thought, as of action, Confucius included among the five qualities essential to perfect virtue, saying: "To be able to practise five things everywhere under heaven constitutes perfect virtue: Gravity, magnanimity, sincerity, earnestness, and kindness." (Analects, bk. xvii., c. vi.)
That it should not be found in every man, however imperfect and however unstable, was incomprehensible to him, since to his view it is the very breath of life for an intelligent being. This he declares in these terms: "Ardent and yet not upright; stupid and yet not attentive; simple and yet not sincere: such persons I do not understand." (Analects, bk. viii., c. xvi.)
Yet that he did not expect those who were uninstructed to be sincere, is plain from this expression in the "Doctrine of the Mean": "If a man do not understand what is good, he will not attain sincerity in himself." (C. xix., v. 17.)
This is but a negative statement of what has already been quoted (Doctrine of the Mean, c. xx., v. 19): "To this attainment"i.e., of sincerity" there are requisite extensive study of what is good, accurate inquiry concerning it, careful consideration of it, clear distinguishing about it, and earnest practical application of it"many things, in short, besides and beyond mere knowledge, essential as the intelligent perception of things as they are, may be. As much is also implied in: "He who attains to sincerity chooses the good and firmly holds it fast." (Doctrine of the Mean, c. xxi., v. 8.)
That the attainment of sincerity is an essential prerequisite to self-development, this book strongly asserts. "Sincerity," it says, "is that whereby self-development is effected and the path by which a man must direct himself " (Doctrine of the Mean, c. xxv., v. 1); and again: "It is only he who is possessed of the completest sincerity that can exist under Heaven, who can give full development to his nature." (Doctrine of the Mean, c. xxii.) In the "Yi King" (appendix iv., sect. i., c. ii., v. 3), it is said: "He is sincere even in his ordinary words and earnest in his everyday conduct. Guarding against depravity,
he preserves his sincerity. His goodness is recognized in the world but he does not boast of it."
This beneficent power he is also not confined to exerting upon himself and for his own development only. Instead, it is of broader and even universal application; for Confucius says: "The possessor of sincerity develops not himself only; with it, he also develops others." (Doctrine of the Mean, c. xxv., v. 3.)
By means of sincerity, it is taught in the " Doctrine of the Mean," and by it alone, man becomes, and is welcomed as, the co-operator with Heaven, and may thus beneficially influence and even transform others. There is psychological import in the words: "It is only he who is possessed of the completest sincerity that can exist under Heaven, who can transform." (Doctrine of the Mean, c. xxiii.)
This is but one of the many alluring rewards that the sage saw to attend sincerity, which is, besides, sufficiently its own reward. Insight and foresight are others, concerning which it is said in the "Doctrine of the Mean": "He who has sincerity without effort hits what is right and discerns without laborious thought; he is a sage who naturally and readily follows the path." (C. xx., v. 18.) "It is characteristic of the completest sincerity to be able to foreknow." (C. xxiv.) "When calamities or blessings are about to befall, the good or the evil will surely be foreknown by
him. He, therefore, who is possessed of the completest sincerity, is like a spirit." (C. xxiv.)
Extreme as these statements may appear, who is there among earnest thinkers and students that has not seen or experienced something very like this? It is obvious that the mind can the better fulfil its highest offices, if steadily applied thereto and never to the grovelling arts of deception or, lower yet, of self-deception. If gross self-deception, as by cowardice, self-seeking, prejudice, or superstition, renders the mind incapable of perceiving the simplest truths concerning the phenomena of nature, it may well be that complete absence of the wish to deceive or to be deceived bespeaks clarity of vision and of -previsionwhich is, perhaps, only clear reasoning from the known and now, to the unknown and to bethough it otherwise seem impossible.
"The Great Learning" teaches that a large measure of this clear vision may be attained; for, immediately after saying, "The superior man is watchful over himself, when alone," it is added: "There is no evil to which the inferior man will not proceed, when alone. When he beholds a superior man, he tries at once to disguise himself, concealing his evil under a display of virtue. The other penetrates him as if he saw his heart and reins" (Text, vi., v. 1, 2).
And this is said (Great Learning, vi., v. 2) to warn the inferior man and encourage the superior: "What is in fact within, will show without";
and the Master is quoted in the "Doctrine of the Mean" (c. xx., v. 18), as saying with an enthusiasm no more than commensurate with the subject: "Sincerity is the path of Heaven. The attainment of sincerity is the path for men," and the "Doctrine of the Mean" adds yet more rapturously in its praise: "Sincerity is the end and the beginning of all things; without sincerity, there is nothing. Therefore, the superior man regards the attainment of sincerity the highest excellence." (C. xxv., v. 2.)
This eloquent passage in the "Shu King" (pt. v., bk. ix., v. 2) is evidently at one with the view of Confucius: "Awful though Heaven be, it yet helps the sincere."
Rectification of Purpose. "Their thoughts being sincere, their purposes were rectified."
In "The Great Learning," from which this is taken (Text, v. 5), the following brief explanation of it is given: "This is meant by 'Self-development depends upon rectifying one's purposes': If a man be swayed by passion, his conduct will be wrong; and so also if he be swayed by terror, by fondness, by sorrow, by distress. When the mind is not dominant, we look but see not, we hear but comprehend not, we eat but taste not." (C. vii., v. 1, 2.)
The same thought Confucius expresses at another time when addressing one of his disciples: "Chang is under the influence of his passions; how can he be pronounced firm and unbending?" (Analects, bk. v., c. x.)
Rarely in any of the books edited by Confucius, composed of his sayings or purporting to set forth his views, is anything advanced as the very word of God. Yet upon this topic the following is found in the "Shi King" (Major Odes, decade i., ode 7): "God said to King Wan: 'Be not like them who reject this and cling to that! Be not like them who are ruled by their likes and desires!'"
And in the "Li Ki" is found this account of the methods and purposes of the ancient kings, already once quoted: "It belongs to the nature of man, as from Heaven, to be still at his birth. His activity shows itself as he is acted on by external things, and develops the desires incident to his nature. Things come to him more and more, and his knowledge is increased. Then arise the manifestations of liking and disliking. When these are not regulated by anything within, and growing knowledge leads more astray without, he cannot come back to himself, and his Heavenly principle is extinguished.
"Now there is no end of the things by which man is affected; and when his likings and dislikings are not subject to regulation (from within), he is changed into the nature of things as they come before him; that is, he stifles the voice of Heavenly principle within, and gives the utmost indulgence to the desires by which men may be possessed. On this we have the rebellious and deceitful heart, with licentious and violent disorder." (Li Ki, bk. xvii., sect. i., v. 11, 12.)
The starting-point for such rectification is vividly portrayed by the sage in the following passage, also from the "Li Ki" (bk. vii., sect. ii., v. 20): "The things which men greatly desire are comprehended in meat, drink, and sexual pleasure; the things which they greatly dislike are comprehended in death, exile, poverty, and suffering. Likes and dislikes are the great elements of men's minds."
If to the three things desired by all men were added "air," the four primal animal requisites to self-preservation and race-preservation would have been named, each good and well adapted for its own purposes and not one of them subject to any abuses by the unthinking beast.
That the mind of man, in possessing which he differs from his brother animals, should fail to subordinate each of these and at the same time more perfectly and accurately to adapt it to its own purposes, constitutes abandonment by him of his highest heritage; and such abuses of normal appetites as are involved in feasting, drinking, abandoned venery, or snuff-taking, or tobacco or opium smoking, each an exercise in an abnormal way of a special function for its own sake and without design that the consequences of its healthful exercise should follow, obviously are perversions of the mind and well illustrate that saying of the sage: "The progress of the superior man is upward; the progress of the ordinary man is downward." (Analects, bk. xiv., c. xxiv.)
The destructive results of setting the heart upon blind indulgence in these refinements of sensual pleasure were sung in "The Odes" by one of the ancient bards:
And this bald fact, abundantly shown in this age by the vital statistics of every country, was spoken by the Duke of Kau and handed down in the "Shu King" (pt. v., bk. xv., v. 2): "They sought for nothing but excessive pleasure and so not one of them had long life."
The greater longevity of men who were earnest students and vigorous, forceful thinkers, not given to dissipation of their energies in any of the ways described, had already been remarked, indeed, centuries before the time of Confucius. Yet he had more respect for misguided seekers after pleasure, at bottom, than for the smug lovers of safe comfort; the former at least lived, however mistaken their view of life's true aim, the strenuous existence, making sacrifices to obtain that which they desired. He would not have been ready to go so far, perhaps, as Ibsen who says through the lips of Brand:
But much more clearly than any of the other great ethical teachers of ancient times, Confucius recognizes the true opposite of lofty purpose when he puts the contrast thus: "The superior man thinks of virtue; the ordinary man thinks of comfort." (Analects, bk. iv., c. xi.)
He thus sets one against the other the highest and the lowest aims of which man is capable; for all other low aims involve at least some sacrifice, while he who seeks comfort only, thinks that he would be happier as a mere parasite. Of such, Confucius says: "Hard is the case of him who will stuff himself with food the whole day, without applying his mind to anything. Are there not gamesters and chessplayers? Even to be one of these would be better than doing nothing at all." (Analects, bk. xvii., c. xxii.)
In this age, when comfort is the sole god of the many, who also deem themselves good and virtuous and even superior, surely these truths need to be held before all men without surcease, lest the race degenerate and perishdegenerate because of low aim and its successful attainment, and perish because they whose god is comfort tend to cease to propagate. Was it not to this the
sage referred when he said, "Your good, careful people of the villages are the thieves of virtue" (Analects, bk. xvii., c. xiii.), and, as quoted by Mencius, "I hate your good, careful men of the villages, lest they be confounded with the virtuous"? (Bk. vii., pt. ii., c. xxxvi., v. 12.)
The Duke of Kau is represented in the "Shu King " (pt. v., bk. xv., v. 1) to have said of old: "The superior man rests in this, that he will indulge in no injurious ease."
Confucius was ever insistent upon contrasting the love of virtue with the love of comfort as in these sayings: "The scholar who cherishes the love of comfort is not fit to be deemed a scholar." (Analects, bk. xiv., c. iii.) "A scholar, whose mind is set on truth and who is ashamed of poor clothes and poor food, is not fit to be discoursed with." (Analects, bk. iv., c. ix.)
Scarcely less apposite to the conditions of the present day is this contrast which he makes: "The mind of the superior man is conversant with righteousness; the mind of the ordinary man is conversant with gain." (Analects, bk. iv., c. xxi.)
Yet he holds that one may receive and welcome his reward, albeit that to secure it should not be his purpose in doing an excellent thing or service. Indeed, one must not even set before him the purpose to secure rewards which are real, though not material, such as fame or even success and self-approbation. The course of virtue, leading
to singleness of purpose and thoroughness of work, is thus marked out: "The man of virtue makes the difficulty to be overcome his first business, and success only a subsequent consideration." (Analects, bk. vi., c. xx.)
This he adverts to again, saying: "If doing what is to be done be made the first business, and success a secondary consideration, is not this the way to exalt virtue?" (Analects, bk. xii., c. xxi., v. 3.)
And repeatedly in the "Li Ki" this idea is presented in such varied and beautiful forms as these: "The Master said: 'The superior man will decline a position of high honour, but not one that is mean; will decline riches, but not poverty. . . . The superior man, rather than be rewarded beyond his desert, will have his desert greater than the reward.'" (Bk. xxvii., v. 7.) "The Master said: 'There is only now and then a man under heaven who loves what is right without expectation of reward, or hates what is wrong without fear of consequences.'" (Bk. xxix., v. 13.) "A superior man will not for counsel of little value accept a great reward, nor for counsel of great value a small reward." (Bk. xxix., v. 36.)
Yet more reprehensible, if possible, he deems it that in learning the purpose be not solely the attainment of truth and the acquisition of know- ledge, but also or even exclusively the praise or favours of others; for he says: "In ancient times men learned with a view to their own improvement.
[paragraph continues] Nowadays men learn with a view to the approbation of others." (Analects, bk. xiv., c. xxv.)
From the book of Mencius the following is taken: "Yang Hoo said: 'He who seeks to be rich will not be benevolent; he who seeks to be benevolent will not be rich.'" (Bk. ii., pt. i., c. iii., v. 5.)
The following inspiring saying from the "Li Ki" (bk. xxix., v. 27) points out the goal to attain which the sincere mind must perforce direct all its power: "The services of Hau Ki were the most meritorious of all under heaven. . . . But all he longed for was that his actions should be better than the fame of them, and so he said of himself that he was simply 'a man who is useful to others.'"
Mencius supplies these infallible indications that one's purpose is not unmixed with selfish designs, and therefore that it requires careful scrutiny and rectification: "If a man love others and that love is not returned, let him examine himself as to his love of others. If he rules others but his government is not successful, let him examine himself as to wisdom. If he is polite to others but they impolite to him, let him examine himself as to real respect for them. When by what we do we do not achieve our aim, we must examine ourselves at every point. When a man is right, the whole empire will turn to him." (Bk. iv., pt. i., c. iv., v. 1, 2.)
Rectified Purpose. "Exalted merit depends on high aim."
This precept, taken from the "Shu King" (pt. v., bk. xxi., v. 4), in altered form and otherwise applied, runs through these sentences of Confucius: "Do not be desirous of having things done quickly. Do not look at small advantages. Desire to have things done quickly prevents their being done thoroughly. Looking at small advantages prevents great affairs from being accomplished." (Analects, bk. xiii., c. xvii.)
Stern self-examination is inculcated in the "Li Ki" as the first duty of him who aspires to be of service, or who assumes responsibilities: "For one who wished to serve his ruler, the rule was first to measure his abilities and duties and then enter upon the responsibilities; he did not first enter and then measure. The same rule applied when one begged or borrowed from others or sought to enter their service." (Bk. xv., v. 19.)
And yet more pointedly in this from the "Shi King" (Major Odes, decade iii., ode 6): "He was always anxious lest he should not be equal to his task."
Thoroughness, continuity of purpose and persistence are strongly urged; but, above all things, that rigorous judgment of a man's self which alone can keep his effort directed toward the goal. On this point, Confucius sadly and repeatedly warns his disciples against over-confidence that
these things will come of themselves, saying: "I have not seen one who loves virtue as he loves beauty." (Analects, bk. ix., c. xvii., bk. xv., c. xii.) And again: "I have not yet seen one who could perceive his faults and inwardly accuse himself." (Analects, bk. v., c. xxvi.)
Nevertheless the necessity for constant self-inspection was held before his disciples, as in this parable (Great Learning, c. ii.): "On the bathtub of Tang the following words were engraved: 'If you can purify yourself a single day, do so every day. Let no day pass without purification!'"; and the same he said, even more vigorously, thus: "To assail one's own wickedness and not assail that of others, is this not the way to correct cherished evil?" (Analects, bk. xii., c. xxi., v. 3.)
On another occasion Confucius illustrated it by referring to archery and saying: "In archery, we have something like the way of the superior man. When the archer misses the centre of the target, he turns around and seeks the cause of his failure within himself." (Doctrine of the Mean, c. xiv., v. 5.)
His disciple, Tsang, thus describes the scrutiny to which he habitually and daily submitted his own thoughts and conduct: "I daily examine myself on three points: whether, in transacting business for others I may not have been faithful; whether, in intercourse with friends, I may not have been sincere; and whether I may not have
mastered and practised the instructions of my teacher." (Analects, bk. i., c. iv.)
This the "Doctrine of the Mean" enjoins as necessary in order that one may justly cherish true self-respect, saying: "The superior man examines his heart that there may be nothing wrong there and that he may have no cause for dissatisfaction with himself." (C. xxxiii., v. 2.)
Both emulation of the virtues of superior men and this unrelenting introspection are urged in this counsel: "When we see men of worth, we should think of equalling them; when we see men of the contrary character, we should turn inwards and examine ourselves." (Analects, bk. iv., c. xvii.)
Mencius illustrates this and enlarges upon it thus: "To support the resolution, there is nothing better than to make the desires few. Here is a man whose desires are few; in some things he may not be able to maintain his resolution, but they will be few. Here is a man whose desires are many; in some things he may be able to maintain his resolution, but they will be few." (Bk. vii., pt. ii., c. xxxv.)
The emphasis which the sage thus puts upon desire and purpose, does not imply that he deems the act good or bad, only according as the motive is virtuous or evil. The act will be judged by its effect and the motive also by its result. The act may affect for weal or woe the man or others or both, entirely independently of the purpose; but
the wish and intention immediately affect the development of the man himself, and make him more or less a man.
Therefore is it that from earliest youth one must be careful about that which he most earnestly desires, not because he will not obtain it, but because he will, to his making or his undoing; and the teachers of the young have greater reason to direct with care their wishes, longings, and ambitions than merely their present application to study and work.
Mencius refers to this when he aptly says: "Let a man stand fast in the nobler part of himself and the meaner part will not be able to take it from him." (Bk. vi., pt. i., c. xv., v. 2.)
He also points out how men are distinguished by the loftiness or lowness of their purposes, thus: "Those who follow that part of themselves which is great, are great men; those who follow that part of themselves which is little, are little men." (Bk. vi., pt. i., c. xv., v. 1.)
The intimate and immediate connection between sincerity and purity of purpose is self-evident; only by the most searching sincerity can the human intellect be prevented from deceiving itself, where elemental appetites, useful for the purposes for which they exist but destructive if unrestrained, plead for freedom from restraint and even for stimulation as ends in themselves and not in furtherance of the cosmic purposes of self-preservation and race-preservation for which they were given.
This glorious picture of achievement Confucius puts before those of his disciples who will preserve in thought and action unswerving integrity of purpose and of aim: "Contemplating good and pursuing it as if they could not attain to it, contemplating evil and shrinking from it as they would from thrusting the hand into boiling waterI have seen such men as I have heard such words." (Analects, bk. xvi., c. xi., v. 1.)
There may, then, be such men; no impossible standard is here set up. Confucius had long held his conduct up to it and says of himself: "With coarse rice to eat, with water to drink and my bended arm for a pillow, I still have joy in the midst of these things. Riches and honours, acquired by unrighteousness, are to me as a. floating cloud." (Analects, bk. vii., c. xv.)
2:1 I have been much concerned about the word which should be given for the Chinese word appearing here. Legge renders it "mean," meaning thereby "average." I discard his word as ambiguous and choose "ordinary" as nearest to the idea, which is "the average among men who are not superior." This expression must not, however, be taken as a term describing the common people; as will be seen, Confucius reverenced them, as in our age did Abraham Lincoln.