Posted on April 30, by Scott Alexander I.
Theodicy Those familiar with Enlightenment-influenced presentations of Confucius as an austere humanist who did not discuss the supernatural may be surprised to encounter the term "theodicy" as a framework for understanding Confucius' philosophical concerns.
In fact, as a child of the late Zhou world, Confucius inherited a great many religious sensibilities, including theistic ones. For the early Chinese c. Thus, theistic justifications for conquest and rulership were present very early in Chinese history.
By the time of Confucius, the concept of Tian appears to have changed slightly. For one thing, the ritual complex of Zhou diviners, which served to ascertain the will of Tian for the benefit of the king, had collapsed with Zhou rule itself. Yet, in the Analects, a new aspect of Tian emerges.
For the Confucius of the Analects, discerning the will of Tian and reconciling it with his own moral compass sometimes proves to be a troubling exercise: If Heaven is about to abandon this culture, those who die afterwards will not get to share in it; if Heaven has not yet abandoned this culture, what can the men of Guang [Confucius' adversaries in this instance] do to me?
I neither resent Heaven nor blame humanity.
In learning about the lower I have understood the higher. The one who recognizes me - wouldn't that be Heaven?
Heaven has abandoned me!
Graham has noted, Confucius seems to be of two minds about Tian. At times, he is convinced that he enjoys the personal protection and sanction of Tian, and thus defies his mortal opponents as he wages his campaign of moral instruction and reform. At other moments, however, he seems caught in the throes of existential despair, wondering if he has lost his divine backer at last.
Thus, to the extent that the Confucius of the Analects is concerned with justifying the ways of Tian to humanity, he tends to do so without questioning these three assumptions about the nature of Tian, which are rooted deeply in the Chinese past. Harmonious order The dependence of Tian upon human agents to put its will into practice helps account for Confucius' insistence on moral, political, social, and even religious activism.
In one passage At any rate, much of Confucius' teaching is directed toward the maintenance of three interlocking kinds of order: The instrument for effecting and emulating all three is li ritual propriety.
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