October 13, 2006

Subjectivity and responsibility

One of the main problematics of Confucianism concerns the meaning of social order and the meaning of human existence within that. Confucius himself had endeavored to revitalize the ancient social order instituted by Chou-li ( ) by rendering it meaningful in a transcendental way. In pre-Confucian China, Chou-li embraced both the ideal and actual aspects of religious, ethical and political life. Ideally speaking, it represented a cultural tradition, and even a comprehensive ideal of human life in general, as was the concept of Paideia for the ancient Greek people. But in the time of Confucius, Chou-li began to lose this deeper meaning while still keeping its actual and superficial meaning as a code of behavior, social and political institutions and religious ceremonies.
Confucius tried to revitalize Chou-li by translating its ideal meaning into the concept of Jen ( ), which represented the sensitive innerconnectedness between man's inner self with other men, with nature and even with Heaven. Jen manifests man's subjectivity and responsibility in and through moral awareness, and through the intersubjectivity supporting all social and ethical life. Thereby, Confucius provided a transcendental foundation for our interaction with nature, society and even with heaven. Then, from the concept of Jen, Confucius deduced the concept of Yi ( ), which represented for him moral norms, moral obligations, our consciousness of them and even the virtue of always acting according to them. And from the concept of Yi, Confucius deduced that of Li ( ) which represented the ideal meaning and actual codes of behavior, political institutions and religious ceremonies. Through this procedure of transcendental deduction, Confucianism reconstitutes and thereby revitalizes the ethical and social order and man's sense of meaningfulness within it. CHAPTER IX STRUCTURE, MEANING AND CRITIQUE VINCENT SHEN

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