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6 - Confucian Perspectives on Poverty and Morality

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 June 2012

William A. Galston
Affiliation:
Brookings Institution, Washington DC
Peter H. Hoffenberg
Affiliation:
University of Hawaii, Manoa
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Summary

It is difficult to essentialize any tradition, but for various reasons Confucianism seems more difficult than most. For one, Confucianism lacks the kind of doctrinal statements that characterize many religious traditions, and there are no noble truths as in Buddhism or creeds as in Christianity. Over centuries, however, there did emerge a constructed lineage of authorities whose writings have attained both intellectual and official acceptance as orthodox Confucianism.

Although there is no Confucian scripture with prophetic claims, from the very start Confucianism embraced a curriculum, and it has always held learning to be a central activity. Confucius (552–479 bce) himself stressed knowledge of the poetic, historical, and ritual tradition that was already centuries old, and in this sense “Confucianism” can be said to antedate Confucius, who spoke of himself as the transmitter of an ancient tradition rather than the inventor of a new one. Within a century or two of Confucius’s death, this curriculum comprised Five Classics, works the mastery of which was deemed to be fundamental to the training of a junzi or gentleman. In later times these works were superseded by the more familiar Four Books, which included the major canonical writings of Confucius’s Analects and the writings of Mencius (391–308 bce).

Type
Chapter
Information
Poverty and Morality
Religious and Secular Perspectives
, pp. 115 - 133
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2010

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