Confucianism

Confucianism

Confucianism

Confucianism

Synopsis

"Confucianism" presents the history and salient tenets of Confucian thought, and discusses its viability, from both a social and a philosophical point of view, in the modern world. Despite most of the major Confucian texts having been translated into English, there remains a surprising lack of straightforward textbooks on Confucian philosophy in any Western language. Those that do exist are often oriented from the point of view of Western philosophy - or, worse, a peculiar school of thought within Western philosophy - and advance correspondingly skewed interpretations of Confucianism. This book seeks to rectify this situation. It guides readers through the philosophies of the three major classical Confucians: Confucius (551-479 BCE), Mencius (372-289 BCE?) and Xunzi (fl. 3rd cent. BCE), and concludes with an overview of later Confucian revivals and the standing of Confucianism today.

Excerpt

Confucianism is China’s oldest and most revered philosophy. In imperial times, Confucius’s standing was so great that the few writers who questioned his teachings became notorious for that reason alone. But in his own day, Confucius was taken as a wise but iconoclastic and potentially dangerous teacher of young men, and for many generations after his death, Confucians still struggled with exponents of other philosophies for primacy in the intellectual world of the so-called Warring States period (453-221 BCE). In keeping with the orientation of the Ancient Philosophies series, this book will focus on Confucianism as it was conceived and moulded by the earliest masters - in an age when Confucianism was regarded as but one of many viable philosophies, and did not yet enjoy the cultural supremacy that would come in later centuries. That later story will be reviewed briskly in the final chapter, along with a consideration of the standing of Confucianism today.

An exacting yet workable definition of Confucianism is crucial because the boundaries have been drawn both too broadly and too narrowly in the past. In this book, I shall use the term “Confucianism” to refer to the philosophy of Confucius (551-479 BCE), his disciples, and the numerous later thinkers who regarded themselves as followers of his tradition. This definition is restrictive enough to distinguish Confucianism from the many other philosophies and . . .

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