Confucius and the Perfect Gentlemen
April 2, 2013
In The Analects, Confucius describes the ideal person or what is otherwise known as the perfect gentleman. This person in his eye's, is not motivated by gain or by specific political beliefs, but rather what is right in every situation. The life of the gentleman is one of moderation, he is a gentleman-scholar, faithful to others, sincere in deeds, and never giving up in his efforts of self-cultivation. Earthly gains have little place for him. It is expressed through recognition of value and concern for others, no matter their rank or class. Confucius felt that every man regardless of rank should attempt to reach the ideal by leading a virtuous life, by possessing a very noble character, and by doing his duty unselfishly with sincerity and truthfulness. He who is endowed with a good character and divine virtue is a gentleman. Confucius laid down a set of philosophical concepts that defined how a proper gentleman should act. According to Confucius, the four ideal virtues of a gentleman were filial piety, sincerity, propriety and benevolence.
Confucius considered Filial Piety a foundational principle of his philosophy. It's a prime virtue in the sense that, from the Confucian point of view, it's the starting point of virtue. Humaneness is the ultimate goal, but it starts with filial piety. Filial piety focuses on sons giving appropriate respect to their parents, and in doing so, supporting the social order of society. The ideal gentleman was not only aware of his duties to his elders, but also actively fulfilled those duties to the fullest extent
possible. Confucian viewpoint holds that "kinship love" is the source of all the other qualities of the "ideal person" ; when kinship love is genuinely ingrained in one's heart, all the other qualities will spring from this as their source. Confucius, filial piety was important as a ritual and an attitude because it required genuine desire to respect superiors during their lifetime and even after death through practising rites to ancestors. Filial piety was important in Confucius’ time because he emphasized its utility in teaching people how to act and behave towards other family members and society in general. It illustrated the value of virtue, had implications in government authority, and embodied the social hierarchy within the societal structure. The Analects suggest a parallel relationship between father and son to that between ruler and subject: A superior man is devoted to the fundamental. When the root is firmly established, moral law will grow. Filial piety and brotherly respect are the root of humanity. Not only does filial piety secure virtuous conduct in the individual, it was also seen as vital in securing virtue in the nation as a whole: Analects (I:2 )
“Master Yu said, Those who in private life behave well towards their parents and elder brothers, in public life seldom show a disposition to resist the authority of their superiors. And for such men starting a revolution, no instance of it has ever occurred. It is upon the trunk that a gentleman works. When that is firmly set up, the Way grows. And surely proper behaviour towards parents and elder brothers
is the trunk of Goodness?.”
Benevolence, or Jen, is for Confucius what separated gentlemen from normal men. Jen is referred to throughout the Analects as goodness, love and humanity. For someone to achieve benevolence, he needed to be driven by a love for humanity, both for the people around him as well as himself. Benevolence must be something people cultivate within themselves before it can affect their relations with others. The best way to approach benevolence is, putting yourself in the position of others and then treating them accordingly. Analects (XV:23) “ Never do unto others what you would not like them to do to you.” For Confucius, acting according to Jen was the goal of...
Please join StudyMode to read the full document