Piety and Individuality Through a Convoluted Path of Rightness: Exploring the Confucian Art of Moral Discretion via Analects 13.18

Asian Philosophy 21 (4):395 - 418 (2011)
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Abstract

This essay presents an in-depth interpretation of the controversial dialogue in Analects 13.18 through careful and critical investigation of its historical background and philosophical significations. With a clarification of the multifaceted connotations of the word zhi (?, upright, forthright), my study brings out the play of irony in Confucius's words in Analects 13.18. According to my interpretation, not only is Confucius's reaction not inappropriate but it also demonstrates the art of early Confucian moral discretion that was informed by the teaching of quan (? moral discretion). Accordingly, Confucius's judgment of the case embodied a high and bright middle way of moral choice originating in the openness and sincerity of heart. It epitomized a singular moment of deliberation and decision that was responsible for a sinuous opening of piety and individuality within the interplay of conflicting conditions and requisitions.

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