Learning to be Reliable: Confucius' Analects

In Karyn L. Lai, Rick Benitez & Hyun Jin Kim (eds.), Cultivating a Good Life in Early Chinese and Ancient Greek Philosophy Perspectives and Reverberations. Bloomsbury. pp. 193-207 (2018)
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Abstract

In the Lunyu, Confucius remarks on the implausibility—or impossibility—of a life lacking in xin 信, reliability (2.22). In existing discussions of Confucian philosophy, this aspect of life is often eclipsed by greater emphasis on Confucian values such as ren 仁 (benevolence), li 禮 (propriety) and yi 義 (rightness). My discussion addresses this imbalance by focusing on reliability, extending current debates in two ways. First, it proposes that the common translation of xin as denoting coherence between a person’s words and deeds is inadequate. The translation fails to capture the longer-term consistency in a person’s actions and behaviours in different circumstances across time. Second, it explores how the Lunyu passages discuss the processes of learning that prepare a person for reliable action.

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Karyn L. Lai
University of New South Wales