Confucius's aesthetic concept of noble man: Beyond moralism

Asian Philosophy 16 (2):111 – 121 (2006)
Abstract
The prevailing interpretation of ren (humanness) in the Analects is ethical. One consequence of this interpretation is the one-dimensional image of the Confucian junzi (noble man) as a rigid moralist, a fastidious observer of li (ritual). But there are numerous passages in the Analects that resist such a one-sided representation of the junzi, especially Confucius's remarks related to the (Book of) Songs and music. My basic thesis is that Confucius's concept of junji is aesthetic. This is implied by his notion of junji ru (noble scholar) as opposed to xiaoren ru (common scholar). The noble man is one awakened to the beauty of humanness. It is because of this awareness that he 'sets his mind on the Way, depends on virtue, relies on ren and enjoys the arts.' Confucius included the Songs and music in his curriculum precisely for the purpose of cultivating in his pupils this aesthetic sensibility.
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