I’ve been reading through Daniel Gardner’s Zhu Xi’s Reading of the Analects again, as I’ve been working on a paper on the psychologization of the concept of ren, for which I primarily blame Zhu Xi and the Buddhists. Here’s an example of Zhu’s thinking on the topic, from his 論語集註 (Lunyu Jizhu):
Ren, for Zhu Xi, as we can see here, is a de (virtue…even though I’m not in love with this translation) of the xin (mind-heart). It is not particular behavior itself which is ren, but rather something which underlies behavior. One has to apply one’s strength to practice ren. Of course, the behavior manifested in this practice is not itself ren, Zhu Xi wants to be insistent about that. It is, rather, xing ren, which I previously translated as “practice of ren“, but I think now it better illustrates Zhu Xi’s purpose to translate this as “manifestation of ren“. The ren person shows that he is ren through his practice–he doesn’t become ren through his practice. When one is able through strength to manifest ren, as considered in Zhu’s quote above, although this may be difficult, it is desirable.
One interesting thing to notice is that if this is what Zhu Xi is on about, it looks like he holds a view of de unlike Aristotle’s view of arete, in that practice is unnecessary. One can possess de (in this case the de of ren) without doing ren-like acts, and it is the existence of ren in the mind-heart that makes it possible for there to be ren-like activity. This is the reverse of Aristotle’s view that arete depends on practice first–one practices activities the virtuous person would do and thereby becomes virtuous. This seems also to show that Zhu Xi cannot be considered in any way a behaviorist, and that we might see ren for him as something like an emotional state. There’s more than a little bit of Buddhism lurking here…