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Confucius

“Confucius said, ‘If you put the honest in positions of power and discard the dishonest, you will force the dishonest to become honest.’

Zi Lu asked about how to govern. Confucius said, ‘Lead the people and work hard for them.’

‘Is there anything else?’

‘Do not be easily discouraged.’

Zhong Gong, currently serving as chief minister to the head of the Chi family, asked about government.

Confucius said, ‘First get some officers; then grant pardon to all the petty offenses and then put virtuous and able men into positions of responsibility.’

Zi Lu said: ‘The ruler of Wei is anticipating your assistance in the administration of his state. What will be your top priority?’

Confucius said, ‘There must be a correction of his language.’

Zi Lu said, ‘Are you serious? Why is this so important?’

Confucius said, ‘You are really simple, aren’t you? A superior man, in regard to what he does not know, shows cautious reserve.’

‘If language is not corrected, then what is said cannot be followed. If what is said cannot be followed, then work cannot be accomplished. If work cannot be accomplished, then ritual and properties cannot be developed. If ritual and properties cannot be developed, then criminal punishments will not be appropriate. If criminal punishments are not appropriate, the people cannot make a move. Therefore, the noble man needs to have his terminology applicable to real language, and his speech must accord with his actions. The speech of the noble man cannot be indefinite.'”

__________

From parts 12 and 13 of the Analects of Confucius. (There are full versions of the text all over the internet — a good one is here.)

At the end of Book 12, as Confucius discusses friendship with his devotees, the following exchange occurs:

Fan Chi asked about the meaning of ren (Confucian virtue denoting the positive feeling a virtuous person experiences when being altruistic).

Confucius said “love others.” He asked about the meaning of “knowledge.”

The Master said, “Know others.” Fan Chi couldn’t get it.

Zi Gong asked about the way of friendship. Confucius said, “Speak to your friends honestly, and skillfully show them the right path. If you cannot, then stop. Don’t humiliate yourself.”

Which brings up some related reflections:

  • Socrates explains the significance of friendship
  • Epictetus summarizes his path to self-improvement