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What Are the Qualities That an Ideal Person Should Cultivate, Possess Essay

1. Introduction In this paper, I will discuss what qualities should be cultivated, possessed, and practiced for an ideal person according to Confucius. Although Confucius regards humanness, wisdom, and courage as the basic threefold towards being a junzi (superior man/ideal person, ?? ), there has been an ongoing disagreement among scholars regarding the qualities that are needed to become an ideal person or a junzi.

I shall accomplish my purpose by first providing a basic background of information on the topic, then identifying two conflicting interpretations of the qualities that are required by Hosung Ahn and Ha Poong Kim, adding my own critical response, and lastly offering my resolution using Antonio S. Cua’s interpretation on the topic. I will use Confucian Analects (1895) by James Legge as my primary source, along with “Junzi as a Tragic Person: A Self Psychological Interpretation of the Analects” (Ahn, 2008), “Confucius’s Aesthetic Concept of Noble Man: Beyond Moralism” (Ha, 2006), and “Virtues of Junzi” (Cua, 2007) as my secondary sources.

2. Background Information According to Chinese tradition, Confucius is one of the most outstanding thinker, political figure, educator, philosopher, and the founder of the Ru (? ) School of Chinese thought. Our textbook “The Eastern Paths to Philosophic Self-Enlightenment: An introduction to Eastern Philosophies” (2002) written by Professor Phan points out that Confucius’s thoughts are preserved in the Lunyu (?? ) or the Analects, which is one of the Four Books. It is worth noting that the Analects was not written by Master Kong Zi (Confucius, ??

) himself, but complied by his close disciples when they recollected his “sayings” after Confucius’s death. Defined by Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Confucius’s teachings create the foundation on most of subsequent Chinese speculation on the education and comportment of the junzi (?? ), and how such an individual should live his life, interact with others, and the types of society and government in which he should participate. On one hand, in 14:20, the Master said, “The way of the superior man is threefold, but I am not equal to it.

Virtuous, he is free from anxieties; wise, he is free from perplexities; bold; he is free from fear. ” While on the other hand, scholars have attempted to interpret the qualities of junzi differently. In the next section, I shall examine the conflicting interpretations of Ahn and Kim. 3. First Interpretation by Hosung Ahn A. Background on Confucianism and Psychological Connotations of Junzi In Ahn’s article, he provides historical background information on Confucianism being the most efficient ideological means of medieval and modern authoritarian governments in China and Korea (Ahn, 2008).

Yet, Ahn argues that in the course of quoting Weber (1968), Confucianism and Daoism could not be introduced into modern capitalism due to their “thisworldliness. ” Ahn depicts Confucianism as one of the major hindrances in the road toward modernization and industrialization and considers Confucius as a stubborn and conservative moralist whose ethical codes were oppressive. By introducing Heinz Kohut, an Austrian-born American psychoanalyst, Ahn compares Kohutian psychoanalysis such as self-psychology with Confucianism’s ideal person in the Analects.

Ahn provides the basic background information in the purpose of identifying Confucianism as being neither sophisticated nor systematized; yet, Ahn suggests that the Analects could be interpreted as a pre-psychoanalytic self-psychology owing to the abundant self psychological insights in the Analects. Ahn then defines junzi as “a prince literally and a gentleman ordinarily,” and that in Confucianism, “a junzi is a noble person who attempts to actualize Confucian cardinal virtues in concrete human relationships at any cost.

A junzi has often been considered a conformist or a conservative” (Ahn, 2008). Furthermore, Ahn states that Confucianism being established as an ethical and political orthodoxy in Korea was a rigid and authoritarian formalistic, and of which courtesy, rituals, and humanity were the fundamental standards of being a junzi (see Shun 2002). B. Ahn’s Thesis In this article, Ahn (2008) specifically points out that “a junzi is a tragic person in the Kohutian sense. Like a tragic person, a junzi follows his or her ideals with values deeply anchored in oneself even at the expense of one’s death.

” Ahn thinks the most important standards of being a junzi are courtesy and rituals; he states that, “Confucius himself severely criticizes the externalized beauty and grandeur without the internalized quality of character” (Ahn, 2008). Most importantly, Ahn addresses that the core characteristic of the Kohutian tragic person is almost identically expressed in the Analects: humanity (ren, ? ), which is the ultimate virtue of Confucianism and that a junzi would rather die than giving up his or her ideals and values; which Ahn refers to as strikingly similar to Kohut’s definition of a tragic person.

In terms of Ahn’s arguments for supporting his claim, he brings out the topic of xiaoren (small man, ?? ) and defines it as “those whose ideals and values are superficially situated on the psyche as compared to junzi in the Analects” (Ahn, 2008). Ahn then identifies the difference between a xiaoren and a junzi employing Confucius’s saying, “The gentleman (junzi) is conversant with righteousness; the small man (xiaoren) is conversant with profit” (Analects, 4. 16). Ahn points out that because a xiaoren focus on what is beneficial to him or her only, he or she cannot but be vulnerable to the external vicissitudes.

Similarly, according to Kohut, a xiaoren would “quickly and opportunistically adjust his or her convictions under the influence of external pressures” (cited in Ahn, 2008); whereas a junzi is determined to “adhere to the good (Way) until death” (Analects, 8. 13). Ahn then considers this determination as courage, and he quotes Kohut (1985) that “The culminate peace (in his death) achieved by the hero is…the ultimate ascendancy of a firm and life-affirming self” (p. 27).

Ahn further proves that Confucius has expressed the same idea through: “If a man in the morning hears the right way, he may die in the evening without regret” (Analects, 4. 8). Thus, Hosung Ahn summarizes that a junzi, according to Confucius, is a person who searches for “the achievement of a psychological synthesis at all costs” (Ahn, 2008). In other words, Hosung Ahn interprets that Confucius thinks the quality an ideal person should cultivate, possess, and practice is the spirit of achieving a psychological synthesis or preserving his or her ideals and values at all costs. 4.

Second Interpretation by Ha Poong Kim A. Background on Aesthetic Concept of a Noble Man In Kim’s article, he provides historical background information of the Analects being narrowly and moralistically interpreted. Kim points out that Confucius’s remarks such as from “the Book of Songs and Music” are commonly given an ethical meaning owing to the tradition of Confucius’s key term ren (humanness, ? ) as being an ethical term. Through offering a historical basis as a foundation, Kim attempts to broaden Confucius’s humanistic interpretation of ren as humanness or the human spirit.

In details, Kim (2006) addresses that “while the word ren only rarely occurs in the pre-Confucian literature, it is used in works such as the Songs and the (Book of) History, essentially as a synonym of ren. ” To demonstrate that Confucius’s teaching ren for the first time as the supreme principle of human existence and that Confucius is the discoverer of the human spirit in Chinese civilization, Kim introduces and explains other meanings and definitions of ren used in other Confucius or Mencius materials.

Also, Ha Poong Kim offers the background information of “one-dimensional image of the Confucian junzi as a rigid moralist, a man whose distinguishing mark is just a fastidious observance of li (rites, ? )” (Kim, 2006). With all the background information and explanation provided by Kim, he expresses the fact that some of Confucius’s sayings in the Analects are purely aesthetic and any attempt to moralistically interpret them distorts their meanings. B. Kim’s Thesis Kim (2006) agrees with the normativity of Confucius’s concept of ren, yet he argues that the ground of its normativity is fundamentally aesthetic.

In supporting his claim, Kim applies Confucius’s teaching: “Recognize beauty in abiding in ren. If one chooses not to stay in ren, how can one be considered to have attained wisdom? ” (Analects, 4:1) Kim interprets this saying as Confucius stressing the recognition of the beauty of ren as a necessary condition of human wisdom, which is equivalent to the awareness of the human spirit. Kim defines this recognition as an aesthetic awareness. Then, through applying Confucius’s saying: “To become a junzi Ru (noble scholar, ??? ), not a xiaoren Ru (common scholar, ???

)” (Analects, 6:11); Kim points out the difference between a junzi and a xiaoren ultimately comes from the noble man’s awareness of the beauty of ren, which the small man (xiaoren) lacks. Kim explains that since a junzi has this aesthetic sensibility of humanness, he naturally desires, loves, and delights in ren and every manifestation of it. For the purpose of backing up Kim’s claim, he states Confucius believes that by studying the Songs, one would be best awakened, which then explains why Confucius repeatedly urges his pupils to study the Songs.

Kim argues that Confucius’s teaching is to help the students become a junzi, who is a lover of ren, through arousing humanness that is obtained through the study of music. In this particular main argument, Kim (2006) summarizes that “for Confucius’s spiritual awakening, specifically the aesthetic awakening to ren, is the presupposition of the education of junzi. Without this wakening, the learner or scholar will remain a xiaoren Ru, no matter how well versed he may be in ritual subjects, and regardless of how blameless he may be in his ethical conduct.

” Next, Kim offers another important argument that during Confucius’s years of wandering from state to state in search of a good ruler, he rarely parted with his lute. Sima Qian, an Ancient Chinese historian, revealed that once, surrounded by two hostile armies, Confucius and his disciples ran out of provisions in the wilderness between the states of Chen and Cai. With some of his disciples falling ill and being unable to get up, Confucius calmly continued singing songs and plucking his lute.

Kim regards Confucius’s act as a man capable of forgetting everything else while enjoying music. Thus, in Kim’s point of view, what fundamentally separates Confucius’s junzi from the rest of humanity is the junzi’s aesthetic sensibility to ren. In other words, Kim believes that according to Confucius, the quality a junzi should cultivate, possess, and practice is the aesthetic awareness. Nevertheless, Kim mentions that through stressing the junzi as an aesthetic man, he is not denying a junzi’s many-sidedness. 5. Critique

I agree with Hosung Ahn’s claim regarding junzi as a noble person who attempts to actualize Confucian cardinal virtues, and that courtesy, rituals, humanness, and courage are important criterions of becoming a junzi. Moreover, I agree with Ahn’s claim that a junzi would follow his or her ideals and values deeply anchored in oneself even at the expensed of death. However, I strongly disagree with Ahn’s opinion of Confucius’s teaching or his classification of a junzi as a tragic person. In my point of view, Ahn has made an inaccurate interpretation of one Confucius’s saying from the Analects.

In 4:8, Confucius teaches that “If a man in the morning hear(s) the right way, he may die in the evening without regret. ” Ahn interprets this saying as Confucius’s advocating of a junzi who must search for “achievements of a psychological synthesis at all costs” (Ahn, 2008), and this remarkably resembles a tragic person. As the exercise we conducted in our philosophy class on textual hermeneutics of the Confucian Dao in the Analects, this Confucius’s saying represents the importance of the Dao (way, ?

); which according to Confucius, with the experience of hearing the Dao, one could die without regrets afterwards. Thus, this person or this junzi would be a happy person since he contains the very important factor “Dao”, and that he is absolutely not a tragic person as Hosung Ahn considers as. In terms of Ha Poong Kim’s interpretation of a junzi, I agree with Kim regarding the fact that Confucius repeatedly urges his disciples to study the Songs and Music because it would indeed help his pupils awaken and broaden their minds, enjoy the six arts, and commit to the Dao.

I also agree with Kim that a junzi is many-sidedness. What I do not agree with Kim is his differentiation of a junzi and a xiaoren through aesthetic awareness. As I mentioned above, Kim (2006) summarizes in this particular main argument that “…without this wakening, the learning or scholar will remain a xiaoren Ru, no matter how well versed he may be in ritual subjects, and no matter how blameless he may be in his ethical conduct. ” In my opinion, apart from pointing out Confucius advocates his pupils to study the Songs and Music, Kim has not given sufficient evidence to support this claim.

He has not shown any Confucius’s teaching that could demonstrate the fundamental difference between a xiaoren’s and a junzi’s aesthetic awareness, but rather Kim provides claims simply from his own exploration of Confucius’s thoughts. To further prove that Kim’s interpretation is inaccurate, there are numerous examples of junzi lacking of musical talents and xiaoren being extremely talented in aesthetic. In my opinion, Confucius does believe that music could change one’s mind, adjust one’s mood, smooth one’s qi (energy) and etc. , but Confucius certainly does not identify a junzi from a xiaoren based on aesthetics.

6. Resolution: Interdependent and Dependent Virtues of Junzi According to Antonio S. Cua, junzi is a paradigmatic individual who sets the tone and quality of the life of ordinary moral agents, and a junzi is a person who embodies ren (humanness, ? ), yi (righteousness, ? ), li (rites, ?). In addition, unlike Ahn or Kim, Cua recognizes that except the basic, interdependent, and cardinal virtues of ren, yi, and li, a junzi also involves particular dependent virtues such as filiality (xiao, ? ), magnanimity (kuan, ? ), trustworthiness (xin, ? ), and courage (yong, ? ).

Cua regards these as dependent virtues in the sense that their ethical significance depends on connection with the basic, interdependent, and cardinal virtues; and Antonio S. Cua further stresses that dependent virtues are not subordinate or logical derivatives of the basic virtues. In 14:30, the Master said, “The way of the superior man is threefold, but I am not equal to it. Virtuous, he is free from anxieties; wise, he is free from perplexities; bold, he is free from fear. ” As we interpreted in class that according to Confucius, to become a junzi, one must be morally good, intellectually wise, and psychologically brave.

In my point of view, I highly agree with Cua’s claim and I think although Confucius identifies humanness, wisdom, and courage as the superior man’s three core virtues, interdependent virtues and dependent virtues work together to form the junzi. To clarify, Antonio S. Cua borrows Xunzi’s distinction, a Chinese Confucian philosopher who lived during the Warring States Period and contributed to one of the Hundred Schools of Thought, the cardinal virtues ren, yi, and li are generic terms, and dependent virtues such as xiao, kuan, xin, yong are specified terms.

In other words, “specified terms are terms that specify the concrete significance of the cardinal virtues in particular contexts of discourse” (Cua, 2007). To demonstrate further, in the Analects, we could find fragments of Confucius’s remarks that mention both cardinal virtues and dependent virtues in the same contexts. For example, “There were four things which the Master taught: letters (wen, ? ), ethics (xing, ? ), devotion of soul (zhong, ? ), and truthfulness (xin, ? ). ” —Confucius, The Analects, 7. 25

And in 14:28 we could find Confucius’s teaching of ren, zhi (wisdom, ? ), and yong (courage, ? ); in 3:19 li and zhong; in 13:4 li, yi, and xin and so on. For heuristic purposes, Cua regards dependent virtues as two different groups: supportive and constitutive virtues. Cua explains that the distinction between are that the former are “genial or helpful, though not necessary, to the development of the cardinal virtues such as ren, yi, and li;” whereas the latter, are those that are “both supportive and constitutive of the quality of the cardinal virtues actualized” (Cua, 2007).

Also, depending on the character and temperament, a constitutive and supportive virtue varies, that is, what is merely a constitutive attribute in one person may be a supportive merit for another. Thus, Cua believes that Confucius’s idea of the junzi is flexible or adaptable, and I highly agree with him. To sum up, in my point of view, according to Confucius, what qualities a junzi should cultivate, possess, and practice is the unity of virtues that consists of ren, yi, and li as the basic cardinal virtues, and combining with other qualities such as xiao, yong, zhong, xin, kuan, etc.

Depending on each different person and situation, the mapping of the virtues of junzi is in the distinction between basic, cardinal, interdependent and dependent, supportive and constitutive virtues, which may be referred to “the way of the superior man is unityfold. ” 7. Conclusion On this paper, I provided background information of the topic; I discussed and dissected two interpretations made by Hosung Ahn and Ha Poong Kim. In response to Ahn’s and Kim’s argument, I have made a personal critique that a junzi is not a tragic person and that a junzi is not required to possess aesthetic awareness.

I then offered my resolution along with employing Antonio S. Cua’s interpretation of this topic. In short, by presenting a map of junzi’s virtues that consists of both interdependent and dependent virtues; it reveals that the Confucius’s conception of junzi is a unity of virtues with flexibility. Works Cited Ahn, Hosung. “Junzi as a Tragic Person: A Self Psychological Interpretation of the Analects. “Pastoral Psychology, 57. 1/2 (2008): 101. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 1 Apr. 2012.

“Confucius (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy). ” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Metaphysics Research Lab, CSLI, Stanford University, 3 July 2002. Web. 1 May 2012. Cua, Antonio. “Virtues of Junzi. “Journal of Chinese Philosophy, 34 (2007): 125. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 28 Mar. 2012 Kim, Ha Poong. “Confucius’s Aesthetic Concept of Noble Man: Beyond Moralism. ” Asian Philosophy, 16. 2 (2006): 111. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 28 Mar. 2012 Kohut, H (1985). Self psychology and the science of man.

In Humanities and self psychology: Reflections on a new psychoanalytic approach (pp. 73-94). New York: Norton. Legge, James. Confucian Analects. In Vol. I of Chinese Classics. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1895. Print. Phan, Cha? nh Co? ng. The Eastern paths to philosophic self-enlightenment: an introduction to Eastern philosophies. Dubuque, Iowa: Kendall/Hunt Pub. Co. , 2002. Print. Shun, K. -L. (2002). Ren ? and li ? in the Analects. In B. W. Van Norden (Ed. ), Confucius and the Analects: New essays (pp.53-72). New York: Oxford University Press. Weber, M. (1968).

The religion of China (H. Gerth, Trans. ). New York: Free Press. ——————————————– [ 2 ]. The numbering of the book/chapter of a passage from the Analects follows James Legge’s in his translation of the text (1895). [ 3 ]. The cited phrase comes from The religion of China by Weber, M. [ 4 ]. Ren ? and li ? in the Analect. Confucius and the Analects written by K. Shun, as cited in Hosung Ahn’s article.


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