子曰,德之不修 學之不講 聞義不能徒 不善不能改 是吾憂也
Confucius said: having virtue but not cultivating it; studying but not learning; hearing but not following-- things such as these cause me grief
Reading along in Fingarette, I have to admit I hit a kind of stumbling block last night in chapter three: "the locus of the personal." Let me start by re-stating my note to Chris concerning his Fingarette: Confucius Hates Choice:
To say that Confucius did not philosophize in terms of “pychological concepts” seems like a very wise and helpful thing to say. But to then extrapolate from this to say that there was no inner theater or that there is no choice– could be seen as inappropriate. The reason being is that the notion itself is so firmly based in the psychological ontology that you would only get a partial answer since the question is in a big sense missing the point (a point of emphasis).
Others have made this same point far better than I ever will be able to do, but Fingarette is going through elaborate steps to present the analects in such a way as to bypass the ideas of self that are inherent to our modern, secular understanding. I don’t think, however, by trying to bypass modern understandings of self that means there is no self (no self meaning a self is comflatable to a person’s action which seems to be the move you are/or Fingarette are trying to make) .
Responding to this Patrick S O'Donnell left a very interesting and persuasive series of comments at Chris' place to explain the way in which-- indeed-- this is not behavioralism. The Fingarette quote that O'Donnell provided, I think, very nicely illuminates the way in which agency is in fact essential to moral choice in the analects according to Fingarette. Here is the quote:
Consider a fine violinist’s presentation of the Bach Chaconne, or consider Zhi, the Chief Musician, and his performance of the ‘Ospreys.’ Plainly what governs–especially when this is an artistic performance and not an excuse for mere showmanship–is the musical conception brought forth by Bach, the poetic-musical conception of the ‘Ospreys.’ It is this musical concept, corresponding to the dao, that transcends individual will, and that constitutes the ground of the will for each ideal performer. The essential conception is *encoded* in the musical score, or in the Book of Songs; but the musical concept itself is embodied, actualized, in the developing structure of sound, or word-in-sound, through time. Ideally, the performer’s willed conduct is the medium *through* which the musical concept get embodied, becomes actual.
Yet we know that there are legitimate personal aspects of the musical performance, aspects that are irreducible and valuable. Without the wholehearted and and unwaveringly diligent will to follow through properly, there is *no* performance, or it simply breaks down. Beyond this, the personal dimension of style, temperament, and interpretation shine in and through the embodied Chaconne. Zhi’s performance is singled out by Confucius for its special brilliance. Yet, although style and interpretation may be unique to the performance, that is, personal, it remains basic that the true artist’s style *serves* the work; the personal interpretation is a genuine interpretation *of* the work. Style and interpretation must not dominate, obscure, or distort the concept of the Chaconne or the ‘Ospreys.’ Confucius remarks that though the musicians in ancient times were given a certain liberty, the tone remained harmonious, brilliant, consistent, right to the end.
Unique personality has a role because, no more than any concept, even that of the dao–the musical concept cannot resolve unambiguously *every* aspect of the concrete reality to be actualized.”
Unfortunately, we are still left with Fingarette's own words in Secular and Sacred in which he says:
The thing we must not do is to psychologize Confucius' terminology in the Analects. The first step is seeing that this is so is to recognize that jen and its associate "virtues," and li too, are not connected in the original text with the language of will, emotion and inner states. The move from jen as referring us to a person on to jen as "therefore" referring us to his inner mental or psychic condition or processes finds no parallel in the Analects.
This is what could perhaps be described as Fingarette's own ambiguity on the issue of self and agency. And indeed, I utterly disagree with this characterization of the Analects-- for in fact we see over and over in the analects that our moral strivings are connected to our inner states. They are just not evaulated as good or bad via our inner states (more on this below). Just look at the quote at top for example-- a quote which is nothing if not about a person's moral will and emotional response.
I want to go back, however, to Fingarette's presentation of jen as the opposite of "yu." It is here where I think Fingarette gets himself into trouble. The charcater "Yu" （憂） is surprisingly ancient (another 会意文字）and is thought to have started out its calligraphic life signifying the appearance of someone in mourning. For my translator associates, it has an interestingly good mapping on to the old Japanese classic image of a "confused heart" 心が乱れる→擾（みだれる). And for those who haven't noticed, this is also the image par excellance for Huizong's poor long-suffering lover, the mistress of this blog (that would be me, MW!).
To suggest that the opposite of jen is yu, would be to suggest somehow that jen is a state of such perfect bliss- whereby action and self are so integrated that no such worries or sadness or upheavals of heart/mind any longer arise for that person. Patrick S. O'Donnell in his comments at Chris' place is persuasive when he compares this to a Master craftsman. And, it is probably true, for example, that a master potter no longer has to think about each and every step when throwing or applying glaze as its all become somehow like second nature-- that is, embodied know-how. OK. That makes sense. Like a master potter a Lady of Jen no longer experiences kokoro-midare (worry, hesitation, grief, etc.) except for the fact that again the quote at top shows that the Master does in fact experience just these emotions. Fingarette himself I am pretty sure suggested the same thing when he said, there is never any "arriving" when it comes to dao.
What, then, is the word jen, really signifying?
Is it not really about human excellence? And more is it not a descriptive way for evaluating human excellence?
To me, this is the absolute key point in this issue of agency. And, it is to ask whether jen is nothing other than the definition of "excellence" vis-a-vis human relations? Japanese books gloss it as "affection and love expressed in terms of others"-- but, of course these "others" are not just anyone, but it is in terms of the context of that person's human relations, right? Yes: 人間関係.
Jen-as-human excellence (vis-a-vis our treatment of others)- is one of the "5 cardinal virtues" 五常の徳 often coupled with "yi" 仁義
I would like to feebly attempt to compare the Lady of Jen with my man Senor Borges (the librarian of this blog). As many of you are no doubt aware, my man Borges spends his days in the ziggurat painting pictures of red roses in beautifully cultivated Persian gardens. He actually appears to think that if he can just get the perfect image of a persian rose that he would be able to express the perfecton of God. He doesn't care to eat or sleep-- he doesn't even much care about me (leaving me alone for weeks on end as he goes about his painting of roses). For Borges the end result can only be evaluated by his inner state. And, because Borges lives in such a world where-- like Augustine suggested-- when we want to look for God we should look within our own self-- his mission in the end will be thusly evaluated. Did he find the perfect image of God within himself?
Whether Borges finds this image or not-- this does not mean the outer world does not exist but rather speaks of the way his moral strivings are not necessarily evaluated by how well he treated his mother or his loving girlfriend Peony.
Confucian excellence is the opposite. Jen is evaluated precisely by the way we treat others and to achieve this, in the words of one French scholar, requires
“...an effort lasting every minute of one’s life, by control of the smallest details of conduct, by observation of the rules of life in society (i), by respect for others and for oneself and by the sense of reciprocity (shu)”
A task to last a lifetime; the cultivation of self as expressed through our social interactions, relationships and contributions. The key word being "as expressed" because I do not think that the self can ever be conflated to our actions alone; will and motivation being very key concepts to this philosophy.
Whether for Sartre or for Kongzi I think choice/motivation/the state of the heart was ultimately of the highest importance-- as their expression was in fact tied up with notions of self-building (and walking the line). In both cases, valid or invalid/ authentic and inauthentic choices were bound up with cultural norms and personal creativity. In neither case were they seen as the mere expression of preference nor as strictly deteremined behaviorally.What is different, to my way of reading this, is their standards of evaluation; particularly are these standards found in an individual person's heart or are they collectively existentially understood? In either case, making choices is an essential aspect and expression of person-making, I think.