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« Philosophy as a Way of Life | Main | Making Too Much of Political Confucianism? »

January 27, 2011


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Luther argued against the antinomians that even redeemed Christians had need for the law: [1] as a curb (to restrain "wild, disobedient men"); [2] as a mirror (to show us our sins and call us to repentance); and [3] as a guide by which we know how to live our lives.

Could not a Confucian see this elder law functioning as [2] and/or [3] above, rather than strictly as a legal penalty (and thus [1])? Can't a Confucian allow the the law teach him his duty?

Yes, there might be a minimal function for law in a Confucian polity. He was not an anarchist, after all. But Confucius was wary of relying on law as a primary source of moral education and moral regulation. Thus his emphasis on exemplary leadership. Analects 2.3 gets at this point nicely:

The Master said: "If you use government to show them the Way and punishment to keep them true, the people will grow evasive and lose all remorse. But if you use Integrity to show them the Way and Ritual to keep them true, they'll cultivate remorse and always see deeply into things."

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