The Ancient World (HUM 124 - UNC Asheville)/Texts/Analects/People

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Confucius envisioned the Ideal society as a pyramid, with virtue flowing down to the people from an all-powerful emperor. He organized , from family units to regional governments, in this pyramid, and called obedience to those above you the highest virtue. Confucius, for all his revolutionary ideas, was still a man of his time, and saw the world through the lens of his time. Much of Confucius definitions of being good is listening to your betters and fulfilling your role in society. He was a huge proponent of merit-based promotion, but still held that most people must be led for them to lead good lives. Confucius teaches that anyone, no matter their birth, can rise in the hierarchy of society, but not everyone can, and for each person that rises someone else must fall.

Definition of People (in Confucius): It is quite difficult to define people, because the basic definition is a group of humans, but I believe that in the Analects there could be a deeper meaning to the word 'people'. In the Analects there is one clear thing: Confucius sees himself as all and mighty. He believes that he is better than everyone. For this I think that people can be defined as those who are below Confucius, or those that Confucius believes is below him.

Going off of that definition, in book 16 analects 9 it states "those who know things from birth come first; those who know things from study come next; those who study things though find them difficult come next to them; and those who do not study because they find things difficult, that is to say the common people, come last." This is a perfect example of ranking of the people. The common people were referred to as the lowest ranking.

In the Apology it states "In my investigation in the service of the god I found those who had the highest reputation were nearly the most deficient, while those who were thought to be inferior were more knowledgeable." which contradicts what the quote above this says or what they thought to be true about people who were inferior.


When Confucius says 'the people' he is referring to, well, the people. He leads "the people" and mentions many times how he employs them, he seems proud of that as well. For example, in book 5 analects 16 he says, "In his provision for the needs of the people he was generous, and in his employment of the people, he was righteous."


In book 12 Analects 2, it says "Employ the people as if you were officiating a great sacrifice. Do not impose on other what you would not like yourself. Then there will be no resentment against you." This statement is the equivalent or relates back to the saying "Treat people how you want to be treated". I think that statement will always be relevant and is intelligent and I really didn't expect to read something so modern, I guess you could call it, in this book. When I say modern, I mean that people these days have that thought process about not forcing your opinions and many other things on anyone, let people be who they want to be.


The Analects is originally in Chinese but then translated to English. Chinese is a gender-neutral language but when converted to to English is becomes masculine. Looking at this through a feminist point of view it comes off very sexist. First, there has yet to be many significant passages about them. When there finally is something said the toxic misogyny is brought up? In the Analects book 17 has a lot to do with 'gentlemen' and towards the end women are brought up. The quote reads, "Only women and small men seem difficult to look after. If you keep them close, they become insubordinate; but if you keep them at a distance, they become resentful." (73) This also has to do with the small men topic since it is grouped with women, but it just shows that women are compared to the small men. This is ranking women less than a man and generalizing all women into one category: manipulative. Looking at this through a feminist lens it is clear why the translated version is all masculine. He is clearly sexist and this point where he ranks women lower and generalizes them just proves that point.


To start the teachings are not meant for women, because of course in this time women have no respect. One thing that relates to Confucius is the translation of text, due to the relation of gender. This text though, can be taken a few different ways, mostly depending on the time period. This text can be taken and used to reinforce power between genders or the complete opposite: women taking power for themselves. This was not taken from one specific section of the text, this was more of a broad idea. Women could see the way they are seen in this and take that as fuel to gain rights. Although that is probably the only good take way for women from the handbook.

It became quiet obvious that women are no where viewed the same as men. In line 40 it is explicitly said that women have no value except for sex with men. From a feminist lens and even a todays lens there is everything and more wrong with that line. Confucius may not be this explicit or this extreme but the point where women are just there for the purpose of men. This is very sexist and makes me thankful to be a women in today's time period.

Classes of People

It has become apparent that Confucius despises the poor. The way the Chinese government and ranking is set up should have something to do with that. The government is set up that the kings have all the power. There is a more critical point though, Confucius was born poor. He climbed his way to the top by becoming a part of the middle class. I believe that because he came from the poor and experienced that he resents them. He thought that social order was due to how a person perceived and understood the world, for this I think that this plays to why he hated the poor.


Epictetus believes that people should not care about the hierarchy of people because in his mind it does not matter. This is mainly because it does not affect him, this is because he has privelaged. The people at the bottom of the pyramid do not get to have the privelaged he has sadly. I bet they wish they could not care, but they also are very poor and have to care to probably live. This relates back to COnfucius because both Epictetus and Confucius share the same privelaged of the hierarchy. Both of these texts show a lot of privelage overall.

Epictetus, unlike confusing, is a strict individualist. He see's morality and living a right life as a solo mission, something one must achieve alone, for ones own personal benefit. A society of stoic people is a good society, but becoming stoic is not something one does to improve society. Confucius see's individual acts through the lens of the society. Something is good because it supports society, no matter it's effects on the individuals involved. A good society will help the people, but one does not create a good society to help the people.

Bhagavad Gita[edit | edit source]

Confucius and authors of the Gita both belief in a strict hierarchical system, where everyone fulfills the roles given to them. Confucius believed that advancement in societies pyramid was possible, but only with permission from those above you, while the Gita teaches that advancement is impossible. The Gita says “It is better to live your own destiny imperfectly than to live an imitation of somebody else's life with perfection.” This clearly shows that one should stick to there role, even if another place in society would be more suited to there talents. It is better to do the job your told to do, then do the job you would be good at.

Both text's also exalt the divine right of kings to rule those below them. Confucius and the Gita are both written as advice to kings, and both provide moral and religious justification for there rule, beyond even the lip service that a text would require in order to get published. When Lord Krishna describes the cosmology of Hinduism, he says he is the King of the Gods, clearly showing that even the divine acknowledge that monarchy is the moral way to organize a society (10;22). Confucius and the Gita both honestly believe that having a king is good, right, and just.

Both Confucius and the Gita want you to focus on doing good, for the sake of doing good. The Gita says “Set your heart upon your work, but never on its reward.” The Analects reflects similar ideas, claiming that the wise man thinks not of what should be done, but what is right to do. Both philosophies are guided not by the result of any individual action, but on creating a better society.The act's of an individual don't matter on the micro scale, but on the macro scale, a thousand little choices can change the world. Both philosophers think that following there philosophy will guide your choices to change the world in the way they see fit.

Apology[edit | edit source]

Confucus and Socrates both believed in that fallibility was inherent to man. Socrates most well known quote is “One thing only I know, and that is that I know nothing'.” It is a firm renunciation of the idea of knowing everything, of knowing anything. It is a rejection of the human ability to make right choices. Confucius also believed that man was inherently fallible, but instead of relying on the introspection of Socrates, took refuge in tradition. For the work of one man is always flawed, but a hundred hands can sand the flaws away.