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|4 years ago :: Feb 16, 2009 - 8:07AM #1|
Gutenberg has him here http://digital.library.upenn.edu/webbin … p?num=4094
IMO Confucius teachings revolve around two main themes.
Reciprocity and the Power of Example. Now Confucius was a savvy dude, and he had lots of smart things to say besides these two basic principles but these underly much of his teaching.
Reciprocity might be considered the basis of his Analects and the Power of Example might be considered the basis of 'The Doctrine of the Mean' as it is titled in an early translation.
Both of these have a sound basis in evolution, and in the new science of evolutionary psychology. Biologists studying primate behavior have observed reciprocity. The ethic of reciprocity is according to increasing evidence in modern science hardwired into the brains of social primates.
The Power of Example does not get as much attention as The Golden Rule or Reciprocity, but it also is almost certainly hardwired into the brains of social animals. Social animals have 'culture' that is to say patterns of behavior that are learned not instinctive. They learn these by observing and learning from the example set for them by other members of the group. In order for this learning to take place they need an instinctive drive to engage in such learning. So, the drive to learn by observing others is almost certainly an instinctive drive.
So, Confucius essential principles are solidly supported by modern science. This is not unique to Confucianism. The Golden Rule is universal in human ethical systems in one form or another. It is universal because it is hardwired into the primate brain. Pecking order is also hardwired into the brains of social animals and the golden rule is modified by social status in most societies human and other.
Societies tend to emphasize one or another biological imperative and to sort out into different kinds of governments according to this emphasis.
The important thing about Confucius is his almost unique emphasis on the power of example. Most religious and ethical teachers addressed their sermons to the poor and common man. Confucius addressed his to Princes and Rulers. He, almost uniquely among great ethical teachers, provided an ethical standard addressed specifically to the duties and responsibilities of Rulers.
His great teaching was to rule by example. Here is an example of his Analects,
"CHAP. III. 1. The Master said, 'If the people be led by
laws, and uniformity sought to be given them by punishments,
they will try to avoid the punishment, but have no sense of
2. 'If they be led by virtue, and uniformity sought to be
given them by the rules of propriety, they will have the sense
of shame, and moreover will become good.'"
As you can see, it is addressed to the duties of the ruler. When the post powerful and esteemed members of society set examples of how to behave they are instinctively (literally instinctively) followed by the majority of people.
When the President of the United States sets an example, it will be followed by others around the world. They may curse him and call him the Great Satan, but instinctively they will tend to imitate his example.
Political Scientists and Sociologists recently have observed 'new' forms of revolution in the world. More and more towards the end of the 20th Century they saw peaceful revolutions and the peaceful overthrow of governments.
This was the Power of Example. The world saw the USSR and the US settle their differences by negotiation, and they saw the peaceful transfer of power from one President to another President between warring and opposed parties in the MOST POWERFUL COUNTRY IN THE WORLD. This example set changed the patterns of revolutions for a brief period.
Recent outbreaks of violence may change this. I find this unfortunate. You can see this instinct in the world all around you. In the hero worship of athletes and movie stars. It is not a tremendously powerful force in one person but as an impulse in billions of human beings acting at the same time, it should not be disregarded.