Self-cultivation, society and metaphysics: An existential reading of the "Analects" (Confucius, China).
Yan, Zhonghu.
209 leaves.
Microform, Thesis
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Source: Dissertation Abstracts International, Volume: 65-10, Section: A, page: 3855.
dissertation note
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Toronto, 2004.
general note
Adviser: Vincent Shen.
If we are asked what is the single most influential work in Chinese history, the answer will definitely be Lunyu, the Analects . Its influence on the Chinese is comparable to that of the Bible on the Western world. Yet contemporary scholarship tends to trivialize or impoverish Confucius's teaching by denying either the general integrity of his work or the transcendental or religious dimension of his thought. This thesis argues that the Analects should be treated as a generally integrated whole, reflecting the vision of Confucius. An existential reading of the Analects, as this author proposes to do here, has revealed that this foundational text has three organically connected levels of thought, proceeding from self-cultivation, through the mediation of the social to the metaphysical level of Ultimate Reality. These three levels of thought correspond well to the structure and reality of human existence as Paul Tillich interprets them. On the metaphysical level, Dao, the Way, de, virtue, shen, the spirit and ming, destiny are discussed, which proves that Confucius indeed had transcendental concerns. On the social level, three key concepts are emphasized: ren, benevolence, yi, moral rightness, and li, the rites. These three concepts form a hierarchy with ren at the top, yi in the middle and li at the bottom. It is to this social level that Confucius seemed to direct most of his attention. Finally, on the personal level, the concept of ji, self is discussed. In Confucius's conception, the self has physical, psychological and sociological aspects, which have both positive and negative tendencies. Self-cultivation is an effort to overcome negative tendencies inherent in these structures as well as to develop positive attributes such as xue, learning, zhi, wisdom, and yong, courage. I conclude this thesis by stating that because the Analects answers existential needs and offers a practical way to harmonize the individual, society and cosmos, its appeal in the Chinese world will continue and its appeal to non-Chinese will grow.
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