Confucius laid down a pattern of thinking followed by more people for more generations than any other human being on the face of the earth.
Posted by Paul Kjellberg
The Master said, “At fifteen, I set my mind on learning. At thirty, I took my stand. At forty, I was free of doubts. At fifty, I understand heaven’s command. And at seventy, I could follow my heart’s desire without crossing the line.” (Analects 2.4)
To begin with, I am forty-one and this is my first time blogging. So I trust people will forgive me if I cross any lines. I tried to post this before the show but evidently blogged it up. So let me start by summarizing what I think are the outlines of the Confucian view of education.
Usually when we think of an education, we think of it as the accumulation of information. While information plays an important role, a Confucian education is more a process of self-cultivation. Specifically, it is a process of becoming intelligently kind.
Like liberal education, Confucian education is not directed toward any particular form of employment. But as with a liberal education, one could use almost any form of employment to act kindly. Though he also sees kindness as an end in itself, Confucius also thinks that people who approach the task this way will ultimately be the most effective.
What does it mean to be “intelligently kind”? People can be kind without being intelligent and intelligent without being kind. Success for Confucius was learning to be both at the same time. Obviously by “kindness” here we mean something more than just being nice all the time since sometimes you have to be if not cruel to be kind, at least sanguine.
We tend to think of kindness as a feeling or a passion. Etymologically, a passion is something that happens to you, as opposed to an action, which is something you do. But Confucius, along with Aristotle and others in the West, think of at least some feelings as things we can cultivate, practice, and strengthen.
I’ll stop there for the moment. The Master said, “To study and have a chance to practice what you’ve learned—isn’t that a joy? To have friends come from far away places—isn’t that a pleasure?” (Analects 1.1) I look forward to the discussion.