Philosophy East and West 57 (3) (2007)
Abstract: Confucian wisdom is commonly assumed to consist in the Confucian value perspective as humanism in a naturalistic outlook. In fact, Confucius and Mencius sketched out a far more interesting notion of wisdom (zhi) as rooted in cognizance and flexibility and expressed in sensitive discernment and the ability to read and respond to complex, changing circumstances-to read (and respond to) the writing on the wall. Whereas the notions of tradition and the Way are thought to weigh heavily in the Confucian perspective, the deeper insight and innovative action of the "wise" can transform everything and recast tradition and the Way on a more adequate basis. In his commentaries and discourses on the Four Books, Zhu Xi grasped this notion of "wisdom" and explicated its connection to several related notions, including chung (hitting the mark), yi (appropriateness), quan (weighing, discretion), and chongyong (hitting the utmost propriety in the common situation). This inquiry reveals an innovative, critical spirit in classical Confucianism that has largely lain dormant since the rise and persistence of a bureaucratic, authoritarian China after the Qin-Han period
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