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Language and Ethics in the Analects

  • Hui Chieh Loy
Chapter
Part of the Dao Companions to Chinese Philosophy book series (DCCP, volume 4)

Abstract

The study examines what Confucius of the Analects has to say about the relationship between language and speech, on the one hand, and moral virtue or the good society, on the other hand. One consistent motif that can be found in the text is a denigration of clever or skillful speech and a corresponding commendation of carefulness or even slowness in speech. The underlying concern lies in the fact that a person’s words can be used to put up a false front so as to make him seem better than he really is. While this concern is not exactly equivalent to the so-called doctrine of “correcting names” reported in Analects 13.3, it bears crucial points of continuity with the latter. This implies that even if Analects 13.3 is, as the text-critics argue, a later interpolation, germs of a concern with language issues are already present in the earlier version of Ruist thought exemplified by the Analects. The study concludes by considering Confucius’ attitude towards the efficacy of verbal doctrines as a fit vehicle for conveying the way and an adequate guide for proper conduct. On this issue, his position is a mean between Mohist confidence on the efficacy of verbal doctrine, on the one hand, and Daoist skepticism upon the same, on the other hand.

Keywords

Filial Piety Moral Virtue Virtuous Person Ritual Propriety Feudal Lord 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Notes

Acknowledgements

Earlier versions of some parts of this paper have been presented on various occasions, with the consequence that the author has benefitted greatly from the feedback of many readers over the years. These include Bryan Van Norden, Henry Rosemont, Edward Slingerland, Lin Yue-hui, Fang Wan-chuan, and Winnie Sung, among others. A draft of the paper was read at the 2012 International Conference of Confucian Cultural Sphere at Sungkyunkwan University in Seoul, Korea, where Junghwan Lee and Myeong-seok Kim offered thoughtful comments and suggestions. My thanks to all of them, and to the editor for her work putting the volume together.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyNational University of SingaporeSingaporeSingapore

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