The politics of historical vision: Use of the past in the Analects

European Journal of Political Theory 16 (4):392-410 (2017)


This paper is about how the historical vision of Confucius was constructed in the Analects of Confucius. This analysis concentrates on its particular aspects like the notion of Zhou – the historical dynasty from which Confucius takes much of his guidance on culture, virtue, and refinement. The first part of this paper is to open up a space for a multidimensional and conceptually rich approach to what we might call Confucius’ ‘vision of history’. It challenges some problematic assumptions and approaches that have constituted an obstacle to inquiry into the study of Confucius’ thought – among them, the idea that Confucius was a ‘traditionalist’ who sought to bring back the ritual practices of the early Zhou. Then, I proceed to present a fine-grained textual analysis of the Analects and consider some broader conceptual issues involved in it. In particular, I argue that Confucius’ recognition of meta-knowing infuses the subject with new depths, which link Confucian ritual performance with agency and self-consciousness. In the next section, by establishing as an object of inquiry the imaginary category of ‘Zhou’, rather than the ‘factual’, evidentiary category of ‘Zhou’, I position Confucius’s vision in a comprehensive discussion of political identity.

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References found in this work

The World of Thought in Ancient China.David S. Nivison - 1988 - Philosophy East and West 38 (4):411-419.
Confucius--The Secular as Sacred.Henry Rosemont - 1976 - Philosophy East and West 26 (4):463-477.
Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy.Edward Craig - 1999 - Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 61 (4):813-820.
Confucius, the Man and the Myth.Derk Bodde - 1950 - Journal of the American Oriental Society 70 (3):199.

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