Analects 2.5: on filiality and what is in li

Now, with a new semester started (way too early, I might add…), it seems like a good time to get back into my project of worrying about passages in the Analects.  2.5 seems like a good place to jump back into the mix, and this passage gets us into some interesting territory concerning filiality and its connection to 禮 li (ritual). 2.5 reads:

2.5: 孟懿子問孝。子曰:“無違。”樊遲御,子告之曰:“孟孫問孝於我,我對曰‘無違’。”樊遲曰:“何謂也?”子曰:“生事之以禮;死葬之以禮,祭之以禮。”

translation:  Meng Yizi asked about filiality.  The master said, “Do not be defiant.”  As Fan Chi steered the chariot, the master told him, “Meng Sun [Meng Yizi] asked me about filiality.  I answered him ‘do not be defiant.'”  Fan Chi asked, “what does this mean?”  The master said, “when they [parents] are alive, serve them using li, when they are dead bury them using li, and offer sacrifices to them using li.”

There are two things I find interesting about this passage.  First, the explanation and questioning in the second part of the passage (between Fan Chi and Confucius) seems awkwardly connected to the first part, Confucius’ exchange with Meng Yizi.  I suspect that the latter long section was added to the short exchange between Confucius and Meng Yizi at a later date than the writing of the first part.  Why, for example, does the first line even exist, if this was all written together at one time?  No meaning would be lost if the passage began with Confucius’ recounting his conversation with Meng Yizi to his chariot driver, as he does in the second part.  This is my main reason for suspecting the last bit of the passage to be later than the earlier bit.  How much later?  This is hard to know.  In addition–does the view expressed in the later addition (the Fan Chi section) match the view expressed in the early part (the Meng Yizi section)?  It seems to me there is no way to know.

Second, if we concentrate on the (more interesting, in my opinion) Fan Chi section, the author is making a connection between filiality (xiao) and ritual (li) that the author of the Meng Yizi section fails to make.  Is this the insertion of a later “ritual-focused” school (maybe associated with some guy named 荀…)?  Or maybe I’m just seeing ghosts here where there are really only hat racks…

3 responses to “Analects 2.5: on filiality and what is in li

  1. Hi Alexus. It hadn’t occurred to me that the second part might have been added later, though now that you mention it, it has some plausibility, for the reason you give.

    I’d thought of 2.5 as being somewhat like 11.22 (in which Confucius gives two differing answers to the same question): in 2.5 Confucius says something to one person and then glosses it to another in a way that changes the import. I used to think Confucius was urging on Fan Chi a more limited obedience to the parents. But 3.18 suggests the opposite.

  2. Alexus, you ask, “Why … does the first line even exist, if this was all written together at one time? No meaning would be lost if the passage began with Confucius’ recounting his conversation with Meng Yizi to his chariot driver, as he does in the second part.”

    The redundancy of 2.5 seems strange under your later-amendment hypothesis too.

    Here’s a hypothesis that could explain the redundancy: Two reports were circulating, perhaps both early. (A separate Meng Yizi report could even have derived from an original Fan Chi report.) The first compiler or editor decided to keep both, and from then on they appeared to be a single report. So they were preserved together here.

    A worry about the Tendentious-Addition hypothesis is that the account of the conversation with Fan Chi is very terse. As you say, it is highly obscure to us what the amendment might accomplish, and that point undermines the theory of Motive. Is it an attempt to limit the idea that we should always obey our parents, making ritual trump their authority? Or is it simply an attempt to increase the requirements on children, saying that it is not enough to obey, one must obey with bells on?

    One way to support the hypothesis would be to show that one or the other of those readings neatly fits some known controversy or concern of later times, such as an expressed concern by Xunzians that the authority of parents was being overblown by other Ru. Do you know of any record that would suit?

    The hypothesis’s plausibility depends in large part on how much, to our knowledge, the rest of the Analects is full of tendentious meddling. Are you convinced that there’s a fair amount of that?

  3. Hi Bill–
    great point-you’re right that the redundancy doesn’t show that the Fan Chi part is a later addition. It does seem to suggest that they are distinct accounts, though. I guess the main reason I suspect the Fan Chi is later (although this is more of a hunch than anything) is that it is a more detailed account, and it seems to me the tendency of later material is to be more explicit in explaining cryptic-sounding quotes like “無違” (in the same way commentators often add to the end of passages “what Kongzi meant by this was…” As someone who reads a lot of commentaries, the “何謂也?” sounds suspiciously “commentarial” to me. Of course, this isn’t conclusive, and I wouldn’t want to let anything major in my interpretation depend on it–just call it a hunch.

    Also–you’ve caught me! I am indeed of the view that there’s a non-negligible amount of tendentious meddling in the Analects. That’s part of what I think is going on in the Book 18 “Proto-Daoist” passages, as well as in 4.15 (the 忠恕 stuff) and the 正名 passages (indeed I’m trying in my paper on this do just what you suggest in your comment–show that the debate seems to surround, or suggest, the question of what is included in 性, which suggests a later date of authorship, perhaps by more Mencian-minded Confucians). Different schools with different agendas. It would be a lot easier to cull out the different agendas if we had an accurate “Confucian family tree”–listing who was the student of who, from, say, Kongzi himself down to at least Mencius and Xunzi. There do seem to me to be a number “Mencian”, “Gaozian” and “Xunzian”, and even “Yangist/Proto-Daoist” lines to the text-but this could just be that I’m wearing goggles colored by the later debates. I’m trying to make the argument in the paper on 18.5-7 I posted bits from here that the author(s) of 18.5-7 were influenced by, but clearly doctrinally distinct from whoever wrote the majority of the Book 4 passages, which link 仁 to being in community. Some of that stuff will make it into my next post on Book 18 with the Zhuangzi bit.

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