Thinking Through Confucius

By David L. Hall & Roger T. Ames

Subjects: Chinese Religion And Philosophy
Paperback : 9780887063770, 416 pages, October 1987
Hardcover : 9780887063763, 416 pages, October 1987

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Table of contents

Foreword by Robert Cummings Neville
Wade-Giles/Pinyin Conversion Table
Some Uncommon Assumptions
1 An Immanental Cosmos
2 Conceptual Polarity
3 Tradition as Interpretive Context

I "At fifteen my heart-and-mind were set upon learning. . . ."
1 The Conditions of Thinking
2 Learning (hsüeh)
3 Reflecting (ssu)
4 Realizing (chih)
4.1 Living up to One's Word (hsin)
5 An Illustration: The Book of Songs

II ". . . at thirty I took my stance. . . ."
1 Personal Articulation: Some Alternatives
2 The Mutuality of Ritual Action (li) and Signification (yi )
2.1 Ritual Action (li)
2.2 Signification (yi)
3 The Authoritative Person
3.1 Jen as Authoritative Person
3.2 Jen and Person Making
4 An Illustration: Po I and Shu Ch'i

III ". . . at forty I was no longer of two minds. . . "
1 The Primacy of Aesthetic Order
1.1 The Aesthetics of Praxis
2 The Masses (min)
2.1 Min and Jen
2.2 Individual Absoluteness and Individual Relativity
3 Effecting Sociopolitical Order (cheng )
3.1 Cheng and Cheng
3.2 Law and Ritual Action: Hsing , Fa and Li
3.3 Shame (ch'ih) and Guilt (tsui)
4 The Exemplary Person: Chün Tzu
4.1 The Chün Tzu as Model

IV ". . . at fifty I realized the ming of t'ien. . . "
1 The Question of Confucius' Cosmology
2 T'ien and T'ien Ming
2.1 The Historical Development of T'ien
2.2 T'ien and Transcendence
2.3 T'ien Ming
3 Te
3.1 A Characterization of Te from Early Literature
3.2 Te A Philosophic Reconstruction
4 Tao
4.1 Confucius' Understanding of Tao
4.2 Tao and Transcendence
5 T'ien-jen
5.1 Field and Focus
5.2 Confucian Religiousness
6 Confucian Cosmology as Ars Contextualis

V ". . . at sixty my ear was attuned. . . "
1 The Centrality of Communication
2 Sage (sheng jen ): A Philological and Literary Analysi
3 The Sage and the Ordering of Names (cheng ming)
3.1 The Aesthetic Character of Classical Chinese
3.2 Cheng Ming : The Ordering of Names
3.3 The Sage as Virtuoso
4 Shu : The Unifying Thread
4.1 Shu as "Deference"
4.2 The Language of Deference
5 The Sage as Master of Communication
5.1 Allusive Analogy
5.2 Thinking as Attunement

VI ". . . and at seventy I could give my heart-and-mind free rein without overstepping the mark."
1 The Failings of Confucius
2 Opportunities for Engagement
3 Invitation to a Future

Bibliography of Works Cited
Finding List for Passages from the Analects


Thinking Through Confucius critically interprets the conceptual structure underlying Confucius' philosophical reflections. It also investigates "thinking," or "philosophy" from the perspective of Confucius. Perhaps the philosophical question of our time is "what is philosophy". The authors suggest that an examination of the Chinese philosophy may provide an alternative definition of philosophy that can be used to address some of the pressing issues of the Western cultural tradition. This book finds an appropriate language for the interpretation of traditional Chinese philosophical thought — a language which is relatively free from the bias and presuppositions of Western philosophy.

David L. Hall is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Texas, and author of The Civilization of Experience: A Whiteheadian Theory of Culture; The Uncertain Phoenix: Adventures Toward a Post-Cultural Sensibility; and Eros and Irony: A Prelude to Philosophical Anarchism. Roger T. Ames, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Hawaii, is author of The Art of Rulership: A Study of Ancient Chinese Political Thought, a translator of classical Chinese texts, and assistant editor of Philosophy East and West.


"What I like most about this work is two-fold: the rigor and novelty of its methodological conception and the cogency and inciveness of its execution." — Lik Kuen Tong

"This is a daring book. It develops an unconventional interpretation of Confucius, one which the authors claim is truer to the traditional texts than anything ever written in English (including Wiley and Fingarette). The authors build their case from a close reading of the key Chinese terms of Confucian texts. This painstakingly detailed analysis is always readable, never too technical for a reader who knows no Chinese, but convincing by its thoroughness and its sensitivity." — George Allan