The Ancient World (HUM 124 - UNC Asheville)/Texts/Analects/Sage
Sheng definition[edit | edit source]
The focus of major Chinese schools of thought surrounded human self-perfection; they envisioned the end results of their teaching to be different models of excellence, most common was sheng, shengren. The depiction of "the sage" or "sage person" was one that could hear the dao better than ordinary people; they are also spoken of as someone who has ethical and political perfection. The concept of being sage is intertwined with Ren ((Humanity; Goodness) which a person of humanity who is "thoroughly relational in their thoughts, feelings, and actions". This adds to the idea of achieving self perfection as "ren" also refers to having qualities associated with constructive social leadership. Achieving the status of a sage means that they also have ren and moral righteousness as they are commonly paired together.
The theme of being a "sage" is introduced in analect 6.30 as Tzu-kung asks the master "if there were a man who have extensively to the common people and brought help to the multitude" to which the master responds that someone like that would be called a sage.The master continues to say "...on the other hand a benevolent man helps others to take their stand in so far as he himself wishes to that his stand..." This shows that the master is establishing a contrast of a man who has benevolence and one who is a sage. Although the master is one giving advice and teaching the disciples he claims he is not one who is a sage or ren but one that is "tirelessly in pursuing it, unflagging in teaching others" (analect 7.34) this shows that to be a sage you must have utmost perfection in the life they are living. This theme continues in analect 9.6 where dialogue reveals that the Master is on path to sagehood and is skilled in menial things however a gentleman does not need to be skilled in them.
Sage is considered very important and high in power. This is shown in analect 16.8 in which it says "There are three things which the gentleman holds in awe: he is in awe of the decree of Heaven, he is in awe of the great men, and he is in awe of the words of sages. The small man, being unaware of the decree of Heaven, is not in awe of it. He is rude to great men and ridicules the words of sages." This analect brings light to the difference in views of a sage, gentleman, small man and sage and how to classify each. Additionally, in analect 19.12 Tzu-hsia states "...perhaps. the sage is alone whos, having started something, will always see it through to the end". This quote shows that the sage lacks human errors as the dialogue was focus around the disciples and young followers not finishing the common house work.
Ambiguity relating to "sage"[edit | edit source]
These ideal standards that Confucion praises are achieved by following Dao, which was evolving throughout the centuries and dynasty changes. The rulers established rituals which were very important to harmony and a sage was usually seen as following these rituals and trying to keep harmony intact for their peace and that of society. With these evolving ideals it leads to a gray area of what qualifies as person who is a sage in each era and brings up the following questions: If there is a change in dynasty would a person who was once considered a sage be looked down upon? Would the change in rituals and ideas change what is morally right? Several times throughout the analects the master states that he is only on the path to sagehood he is not there yet so it also makes us question what indicates when someone has reached sagehood.
Worldviews[edit | edit source]
Hierarchy[edit | edit source]
In analect 16.8 and 19.12 there is significant contrast that is established between what a man is considered based on their actions. In 16.8 when describing what a gentleman is in awe of he states "...the decree of Heaven, he is in awe of the great men, and he is in awe of the words of sages" this quote shows that the words of sages are at held at the level of decree of heaven. The analect continues to contrast between what a gentleman is in awe of and what a small man is in awe of. In 19.12 there is emphasis on the fact that sages can do things that the commons cannot. The dialogue shows that there are certain characteristics that classifies a sage, gentleman, great man and small man. The comparison establishes a hierarchy based on their lifestyle and the ideals that they follow. Confucius also states that just because someone is a master does not mean that they are a sage, so to be one requires more discipline and selflessness (analect 6.30). The idea of being a great being states that they are above everyone else and has capabilities above that of a common man or even with the belevelonce; this installs the worldview of there being a hierarchy.
Relevance of worldview[edit | edit source]
In modern times we see this worldview prevail in politics and experts. To maintain civility in society we have established an idea of a government in which we elect people to make laws deemed necessary to maintain order. We chose these certain people because we believe that they will pass laws with the betterment of the public as their motive and that they know more about what is right. This plays into the idea of a sage that has the betterment of the people in mind and does good for the people, however as Confucius states that being a sage is extremely difficult and many are just on the journey it applies to politicians. Although they preach the betterment of the people there are many obstacles that prevent them into doing good for all due to the concept of hierarchy. The people who we give power of governance to and we the people who praise their worlds are played into the analogy of a gentleman to a great man rather than a sage. In the midst of a pandemic it is clear the reliance on the medical experts to keep us safe, so just like the great men described by confucius we are relying on the words of the the experts (sages) to lead us to a safer life.
During our times there is hierarchy installed by the occupation of a person and they authority they hold, this is different from the times of Confucius as they focused on the hierarchy being reinforced by the character and following of a person. Although there is still an idea of hierarchy it is created by different motives, one that Confucius had no concept of. The idea of being a sage in modern times is very hard as there have been many changes and divides based on opinion. During the Zhou dynasty the people tried to follow "dao" however in the 21st century the mass has created different ideas on what the prime lifestyle looks like and what the ideal way of thinking really is; therein making it nearly impossible to have a true sage.
Connection[edit | edit source]
Epictetus’s Handbook[edit | edit source]
In view 48 Epictetus states that "...a non-philosopher: he never looks for benefit or harm to come from himself but from things outside. The position and character of a philosopher: he looks for all benefit and harm come from himself." "Signs of someone making progress: he censures no one; he praises no one; he blames no one; he never talks about himself as a person who amounts to something or know something." This quote displays similarities in the idea of what classifies a philosopher and non-philosopher and when Confucius talks about a man with belevelonce and a sage and a man on a path to sagehood (analect 6.30). The difference in characteristics of a philosopher and of a sage is that the idea of a philosopher is one that stems from an individualistic culture whereas the one of a sage comes from a collectivist culture. This is evident in their definition as Confucius states that a sage is one that looks for the good of the mass but Epictetus states that a philosopher is one that looks for all benefit and harms that comes from within himself. This theme prevails through the handbook as in view 5 he states, "What upsets people is not things themselves but their judgment about the things...An uneducated person person accuses others when he is doing badly; a partly educated person accuses himself, an educated person accuses nor himself or others". This connects to the idea of a sage as one that is contrasting since sage is seen one that teaches other whereas philosopher is self-centered t their views and does not express contempt or engage with the mass.
In view 23 Epicetetus states that "If it ever happens that you turn outward to want to please another person, certainly you have lost your plan of life. Be content therefore in everything to be a philosopher, and if you want to seem to be one, make yourself appear so to yourself, and you will be capable of it". This quote also goes along with what Confucius states about the idea a philosopher is different from a sage. This is supported in analect 6.30 of Confucius.
In view 14 of Epicetetus states that"....A person's master is someone who has power over what he wants or does not want, either to obtain it or take it away. Whoever wants to be free, therefore, let him not want or avoid anything that is up to others.Otherwise he will necessarily be a slave". This quote has similarities with Confucius's ideas about a master and being a sage. In analect 9.6 Confucius states " Your master is a sage, is he not? For what about his many abilities.......". Being a sage is considered very high in power and well respected. A sage being a master would hold power over someone and make their decisions.
Teaching of Amenemope[edit | edit source]
Essentially the entirety of the teachings of Amenemope are ones that guide a man to be prestige just like the disciples learning from the Master to be on a path to sagehood. In Chapter 3, 9 and 10 he discusses on how to deal with a hot headed man which connects to the concept of a sage who hear better than common people and is ethically perfect. This ideas align in the sense that Amenemope is teaching that it is not rational to engage with a hot-headed man (similar to a small man) because they will not be focused on rationality and Confucius states that a sage is one that that has "relational in their thoughts, feelings, and actions". The audience of Teaching of Amenemope is a common man, seen in Chapter 22 "do not provoke your adversary and in 6 " do not move markers of a field", this shows that the purpose of the chapter is to help the people be on a journey to be a better man. These teachings are similar to the progress being made by a man to be a philosopher discussed by Epictetus in Epictetus’s Handbook.
Plato’s Euthyphro[edit | edit source]
Socrates asks Euthyphro to teach him holiness and throughout him teaching Socrates he continues to question the definition of holiness as it could not satisfy everyone. This is similar to confucius teaching as he talks about doing things that will be morally perfect. Socrates questions this view in his own take by saying that something cannot be "perfect" because everyone has a different view. These connect through the concept of holiness as Euthyphro is preaching that by practicing holiness you will be a prime person and Confucious is saying that being a sage is a being a prime person. A big difference between the two views is one is religiously influenced where Confucius is more ethically influenced.
Adding on to the reference above, in Plato's Euthyphro on page 4 Socrates says "Perhaps you seem to make yourself but rarely avaliable and not be willing to teach your own wisdom, but I'm afraid that my liking for people makes them think that I pour out to anybody anything I have to say, not only without charging a fee but even glad to reward anyone who is willing to listen". This goes along with the belief that Euthyphro is considered to be a sage and his teachings are important.
Plato’s Apology[edit | edit source]
In the apology the concept of judging people is one that plays into the idea of being on the path to sagewood. In the apology on page 23 it states " This is my first appearance in a lawcourt, at the age of seventy; I am therefore simply a stranger to the manner of speaking here. Just as if I were really a stranger you would certainly excuse me if I spoke in that dialect and manner in which I had been brought up, so too my present request seems a just one, for you to pay no attention to my manner of speech-be it better or worse-but to concentrate your attention on whether what I say is just or not, for the excellence of a judge lies in this, as that of a speaker lies in telling the truth". This is showing the importance of judging people in order to become a sage. It is important to know your mistakes and be judged for them as Confucious supports.