Dao
, Volume 9, Issue 3, pp 257-274,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

On “Trust and Being True”: Toward a Genealogy of Morals

Abstract

This Nietzschesque “genealogy of morals” presents the Confucian virtue of xin (trust and true) so basic to friendship as a civic virtue rooted among social equals. Among non-equals, a servant has to prove his trustworthiness but not yet vice versa. The script 信 (xin) tells of living up to one’s words. Yanxing 言行 (speech and action) describes actively keeping a verbal promise. The Agrarian school endorses xin as the primary virtue in its utopia of virtual equals. It knew oral trust and had no use for written covenants. In debating Mencius, Gaozi kept to that earlier primacy granted public speech as tied to one’s social reputation. Mencius turned inward and elevated mind as the inner good of moral intent instead. In the Doctrine of the Mean, inner xin would expand outward into becoming the ultimate truth, the sincerity of Heaven and Earth. The essay ends on an aside on the case of the Cretan Liar.