Confucianism: Intelligent kindness
Guest Contributor

10 May 2005

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.

Comments (6)


nick's picture

nick

Monday, May 16, 2005 -- 5:00 PM

My understanding of philosophical education is tha

My understanding of philosophical education is that it is primarilly about cultivating friendship through growth in wisdom and secondarily about my own love of wisdom, both speculative and practical. I acquired this notion of philosophy from T.K. Seung at the University of Texas at Austin in a class on Kant's political and moral philosophy. I don't think a class went by where he failed to use exapmles of Kant's main ideas that involved friendship. Friendship and kindness where the two most prominent themes.

Guest's picture

Guest

Tuesday, May 17, 2005 -- 5:00 PM

Plato had four levels: control of the emotions thr

Plato had four levels: control of the emotions through Temperance, Spirit through Courage, Reason through Wisdom, and then making the leap through Eros to the Forms and Beauty. Abraham Maslow had his own development: securing physiological needs, safety, love, self-esteem, and then self-actualization in ascending order. I have my own levels of actualization which involve a human?s ability to understand and use: Logic, Epistemology, Morals, Ethics, Theology, Logos and then bringing them into the world through the Science, State, Religion, and God in ascending order.

Guest's picture

Guest

Wednesday, May 18, 2005 -- 5:00 PM

I am a Chinese American currently living in Asia,

I am a Chinese American currently living in Asia, mainly between Taiwan and mainland China. Confucianism with its emphasis on social relationships and kindness had been the clue that held the Chinese society together for thousands of years. Unfortunately, due to historical developments in the past 100 years, Confucianism has been corroded and almost disappeared in present day China and Taiwan. The errosion of Confucian values in China was mainly brought about by the red cultural revolution. During the revolution, the Communist party encouraged children to turn against their parents and students to turn against their teachers; values and behaviors that were contrary to Confucian morals were encouraged. Confucianism had been preserved on the island of Taiwan during the revolution. However, due to the rise of pro Taiwan independence movement and changes in political landscape, Confucianism along with all things "Chinese" have been suppressed and discarded in Taiwan over the years. The pro independence majority wants to establish their new cultural identity and severe their historical and cultural ties with China.
The decline of Confucianism in both Taiwan and China saddens me deeply. Although people in Taiwan and China read, write and speak in Chinese, their values and morals are no longer Confucian. Both Taiwan and China are in a moral vacuum. American cultural imperialism and the values conveyed in American media, have much influenced Taiwan, China and much of Asia. Sex, violence, scandals, obscenity and all things sensational are ubiquitous in Taiwan's media. China's state controled media is actually preferable to Taiwan's tabloid news.
I hope the Chinese people will once again discover the wisdom of Confucianism.

Guest's picture

Guest

Sunday, November 20, 2005 -- 4:00 PM

Confucianism had been preserved on the island o

Confucianism had been preserved on the island of Taiwan during the revolution. However, due to the rise of pro Taiwan independence movement and changes in political landscape, Confucianism along with all things "Chinese" have been suppressed and discarded in Taiwan over the years.
Both of those sentences are ridiculous. The KMT did not preserve Confucianism -- that was killed by the Sung Neo-Confucians centuries ago -- they simply wrapped an authoritarian state around his name. The independence movement in Taiwan is Taiwan-centered, but that does not mean that all thing Chinese have been suppressed. Not a single temple has been closed, the traditional arts flourish, and mandarin is still the official language.
Michael

devidemorson's picture

devidemorson

Saturday, January 17, 2015 -- 4:00 PM

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UK Assignment Writing Help Service Says:
 
I also think like this that peoples never know where it is start from and where it is end and peoples new teach this to other peoples that because it is self creating thing.
 
 

devidemorson's picture

devidemorson

Saturday, January 17, 2015 -- 4:00 PM

UK Assignment Writing Help

UK Assignment Writing Help Service Says:
I also think like this that peoples never know where it is start from and where it is end and peoples new teach this to other peoples that because it is self creating thing.
 
 
 
 

 
 

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