What Are the Qualities That an Ideal Person Should Cultivate, Possess, and Practice According to Confucius?

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What are the qualities that an ideal person should cultivate, possess, and practice according to Confucius?

1. Introduction

In this paper, I will discuss what qualities should be cultivated, possessed, and practiced for an ideal person according to Confucius. Although Confucius regards humanness, wisdom, and courage as the basic threefold towards being a junzi (superior man/ideal person, 君子), there has been an ongoing disagreement among scholars regarding the qualities that are needed to become an ideal person or a junzi. I shall accomplish my purpose by first providing a basic background of information on the topic, then identifying two conflicting interpretations of the qualities that are required by Hosung Ahn and Ha Poong Kim, adding my own critical response, and lastly offering my resolution using Antonio S. Cua’s interpretation on the topic. I will use Confucian Analects (1895) by James Legge as my primary source, along with “Junzi as a Tragic Person: A Self Psychological Interpretation of the Analects” (Ahn, 2008), “Confucius’s Aesthetic Concept of Noble Man: Beyond Moralism” (Ha, 2006), and “Virtues of Junzi” (Cua, 2007) as my secondary sources. 2. Background Information

According to Chinese tradition, Confucius is one of the most outstanding thinker, political figure, educator, philosopher, and the founder of the Ru (儒) School of Chinese thought. Our textbook “The Eastern Paths to Philosophic Self-Enlightenment: An introduction to Eastern Philosophies” (2002) written by Professor Phan points out that Confucius’s thoughts are preserved in the Lunyu (论语) or the Analects, which is one of the Four Books. It is worth noting that the Analects was not written by Master Kong Zi (Confucius, 孔子) himself, but complied by his close disciples when they recollected his “sayings” after Confucius’s death. Defined by Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Confucius’s teachings create the foundation on most of subsequent Chinese speculation on the education and comportment of the junzi (君子), and how such an individual should live his life, interact with others, and the types of society and government in which he should participate. On one hand, in 14:20, the Master said, “The way of the superior man is threefold, but I am not equal to it. Virtuous, he is free from anxieties; wise, he is free from perplexities; bold; he is free from fear.” While on the other hand, scholars have attempted to interpret the qualities of junzi differently. In the next section, I shall examine the conflicting interpretations of Ahn and Kim. 3. First Interpretation by Hosung Ahn

A. Background on Confucianism and Psychological Connotations of Junzi
In Ahn’s article, he provides historical background information on Confucianism being the most efficient ideological means of medieval and modern authoritarian governments in China and Korea (Ahn, 2008). Yet, Ahn argues that in the course of quoting Weber (1968), Confucianism and Daoism could not be introduced into modern capitalism due to their “thisworldliness.” Ahn depicts Confucianism as one of the major hindrances in the road toward modernization and industrialization and considers Confucius as a stubborn and conservative moralist whose ethical codes were oppressive. By introducing Heinz Kohut, an Austrian-born American psychoanalyst, Ahn compares Kohutian psychoanalysis such as self-psychology with Confucianism’s ideal person in the Analects. Ahn provides the basic background information in the purpose of identifying Confucianism as being neither sophisticated nor systematized; yet, Ahn suggests that the Analects could be interpreted as a pre-psychoanalytic self-psychology owing to the abundant self psychological insights in the Analects. Ahn then defines junzi as “a prince literally and a gentleman ordinarily,” and that in Confucianism, “a junzi is a noble person who attempts to actualize Confucian cardinal virtues in concrete human relationships at any cost. A junzi has often been...
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