Confucius on What Makes us Human


Confucianism and What Makes us Human

Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.
-Confucius

Confucianism is attributed to a man named Kong Qiu (K’ung Ch’iu) who was later named Confucius by latin interpreters, who lived 552 BCE – 479 BCE. He believed he held the ideas that would create an ideal world, but considered himself a failure as in his lifetime he was not well known. He travelled between provinces in China with a group of students who would later become important government officials.

The main ideas he put forward were mercy, social order, and fulfillment of responsibilities.

http://confucianism.freehostingguru.com lays out the ethics and morals with their Chinese titles:

“Li: includes ritual, propriety, etiquette, etc.
Hsiao: love within the family: love of parents for their children and of children for their parents
Yi: righteousness
Xin: honesty and trustworthiness
Jen: benevolence, humaneness towards others; the highest Confucian virtue
Chung: loyalty to the state, etc.”

The central principle is voiced by Confucius when he says, “Do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself.” (sound familiar…?)

The social aspect is considered more important than the personal aspect as each individual has a certain place within the social realm that includes responsibilities that they must uphold. This includes respecting your elders (teachers, parents, older siblings, etc.) as well as upholding your duty within your family dynamic, work dynamic, and political/social dynamic.

However, Confucius also taught that we should learn from the people around us (be attentive), and honor other’s cultural norms.

There is a system laid out called “Li” which reinforces certain rules of interaction. This emphasizes a control of emotions, restraint, obedience to authority, conformity and how you present yourself (“face”). But, the strict guidelines of unquestioning obedience and hierarchy of authority we associate with him today weren’t introduced by Confucius himself, rather they were added later by authoritarian sources.

According to Confucianism, only through engaging with society and playing your role will you excel on a personal level. They consider three conditions of being human: the self, community, and tradition.

“The fundamental concern of the Confucian tradition is learning to be human.” –Tu Wei-ming.

There are considered three aspects of being human:
1. Cheng – inactivity, stillness, authenticity. Could be linked to our true Self.
2. Shen – spirituality (interesting here that in traditional Chinese medicine there are the five Shen which make up the psyche…) This could be linked to our ability to concieve of a larger existence (macro vs. micro)
3. Chi – the energy which allows transformation and desicion making, ultimately driving a person to conduct good or bad acts. The energy which makes up all activities of our bodies and minds.

What determines whether an act is good or bad? According to Confucius, the community. Through politics, collective memory, ritual, and our responses to the world, we cannot escape the necesity for interdependence. Therefore, mainting peace was of utmost importance.

Do you think it is important to have ethics and morals? Do they define us as human beings? Does our ability to interact with others determine our humaneness?

What are your thoughts? I open the floor.

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