Analects 1.4

(1.4) 曾子曰:「吾日三省吾身─為人謀而不忠乎?與朋友交而不信乎?傳不習乎?」

TRANSLATION: Master Zeng said: “Daily I inspect myself in three regards: for others have I done my utmost? In my engagement with friends have I not been trustworthy? Have I not practiced what I’ve been taught?”

COMMENTARY: not much to say abouyt this one. I just ought to point out the word zhong here (I’ve translated it “doing one’s utmost” following Ames and Rosemont), as this is an important concept in the Analects, and causes massive headaches in the context of 4.15 (the “one strand” passage). Also, notice the xi (practice) in the last part of this passage, marking the practical element of Confucian thought, which must be kept in mind. We tend (myself included) to get carried away sometimes with interpretations of Confucius that make him too theoretical, more concerned with theory than he was. In fact, the divide between theory and practice would not have been one Confucius recognized. Though I think there may be a somewhat similar division, in Confucius’s distinction between learning (xue) and cogitating (si). (See Analects 2.15–「學而不思則罔,思而不學則殆。」) One of the projects I plan to pursue is a study of how close si comes to “theory” both in our contemporary sense of the word, as well as the ancient greek theoria. I suspect there are some parallels, but not a ton. Understanding the differences though might help us to understand the difference between xue and si.

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