Saturday, January 07, 2017

Exemplary Ritual Activity

Confucius's belief that sociopolitical harmony could be achieved without force, without action, is one of the cornerstones of his philosophical vision. Law and coercive punishment, while perhaps necessary evils, simply do not promote human morality effectively, nor do they create a social order based on mutual respect. Rather, an exemplary person and exemplary ritual activity are much more helpful guides. According to Confucius, without coercion of any sort they have the power to inspire in others model social behavior, born not of fear but of voluntary respect for others. In short, a man of virtue--the North Star--using ritual expression helps promote among the people a sense of shared values, creating thereby a strong communal identity, or what one scholar called "a fiduciary community based on mutual trust."

Daniel K. Gardner, Zhu Xi's Reading of the Analects, Cambridge UP (New York: 2003), p. 123. The quotation is from Tu Wei-ming's Centrality and Commonality: An Essay on Chung-yung.

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