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« Sun Tzu on how the Giants can win the Super Bowl | Main | Synthetic Biology »

January 23, 2008

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Yogi Berra is said to have said "half the things I said I never said." Although I have no memory of it, what Alan attributes to me is sensible and probably true.

As it happens, last night I did a class session on Confucius myself. After explaining that, as you put it so well, that no one Confucius is "transcendentally authentic," my conclusion there are "two, three, many Confucii." Do you suppose that this is the "authentic" plural of Confucius?

I vote for 孔子们 as the authentic plural.

Sam,

For some reason, I just can't seem to figure out how to work a trackback. In any case, I put up my own 2c on this great question over at my place.

The solution is to separate theology from the secular academy. By theology, I refer to the study of Classics as done in pre-modern China. I term it theology, because its basic premise is that the Classics are qualitatively different from other books. This basic premise is shared by Christian and Islamic theologies.

Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists and Christians have no problem doing the same thing with their respective sacred texts.

In the end, academic fashions come and go. (Such as the innumerable controversies of biblical archeology.) But religion is everlasting. (Such as Zhuxi and Wang Yangming's philosophies.)

The above is confirmed by Confucius and Mencius's own treatment of the Classics. Neither Confucius nor Mencius cared about the "original meaning" of the Classics. Instead, they cared about the relevance of the Classics in their own times. And they cared about their personal relationships with the Classics.

This is quite clear when you read Confucius's interpretation of poems. Mencius reinterpreted ancient customs to suit his own views. Quite clearly, both Confucius and Mencius were practitioners of creative exegesis.

Zoomzan:

Good points. I think this is pretty much what I was trying to get at myself in my own post on the subject. Just as much as Confucius (and Mencius) re-appropriated the past (through ritual, poems, stories) in order to enter into a "dialog" with their current world, students should be encouraged to do the same with the Analects.

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