Confucius on Good Government, the 6 Steps to a Harmonious Society, and Self-Discipline as the Key to Democracy

Two and a half millennia before Leonard Cohen wrote in his classic and tender ode to democracy that “the heart has actually got to open in a basic method,” the ancient Chinese thinker and statesman Confucius (551– 479 BCE) acknowledged the indelible link between personal and political morality, acknowledged that social generosity is the structure of social justice, acknowledged that democracy– a kind of government only simply created on the other side of the world in ancient Greece, not to settle in his own culture for epochs– starts in the heart.

Confucius. 1909 engraving, artist unknown. (Available as a print.) Centuries prior to the introduction of Christianity and its main tenet of the golden guideline, the Chinese sage pioneered the concept of empathy as an ethical assisting concept– an ancient idea subtly yet profoundly different from empathy, which only got in the modern lexicon at the dawn of the twentieth century as a term for projecting oneself into an artwork. On his existential reading list of important books for every stage of life, Tolstoy listed Confucius amongst the most mature reading. His mentors went on to affect centuries of poets, politicians, and ordinary individuals looking for to live nobler, kinder, more empowered lives.

Among them was the poet Ezra Pound (October 30, 1885– November 1, 1972)– a guy of enormous talent and immense blind spots, of sympathetic idealisms and unpleasant compassions– who set out to equate and put together the most long-lasting teachings of the excellent Chinese sage. The list below year, his translation was published in book type as Confucius: The Unwobbling Pivot/ The Great Digest/ The Analects (public library).

In his prefatory note, Pound observed that China was tranquil and harmonious for as long as its rulers followed the teachings of Confucius, however dynasties collapsed into turmoil and social disaster as quickly as these principles were overlooked. In a belief that uses as much to those ancient sociopolitical collapses as to the perils of the present, he composes:

The advocates of a world order will overlook at their peril the study of the only process that has consistently proved its performance as a social coordinate.

That procedure, as Confucius conceived it, was one of dealing with public excellent as a matter of personal goodness, rooted in a pureness of heart and a discipline of mind. Keeping in mind that “things have roots and branches” and that “if the root be in confusion, nothing will be well governed,” the ancient Chinese sage outlines the six actions to an unified society:

The [ancients], wanting to diffuse and clarify throughout the empire that light which comes from looking directly into the heart and then acting, first established excellent government in their own states; desiring excellent federal government in their own states, they initially developed order in their own families; desiring order in the house, they first disciplined themselves; desiring self-control, they remedied their own hearts; and wanting to correct their hearts, they looked for precise verbal definitions of their inarticulate thoughts. Wishing to achieve precise spoken definitions, they set to extend their understanding to the utmost. This conclusion of knowledge is rooted in sorting things into natural classifications.

Confucius. As soon as this work is total, Confucius counsels, the procedure is folded over and the 6 actions are backtracked back to the original goal of great federal government:

When things had actually been classified in organic classifications, understanding approached fulfillment; provided the extreme knowable points, the inarticulate thoughts were defined with precision … Having attained this accurate spoken meaning, they then stabilized their hearts, they disciplined themselves; having achieved self-control, they set their own homes in order; having order in their own houses, they brought good federal government to their own states; and when their states were well governed, the empire was brought into stability.

Complement with mathematician Lilian Lieber on how Euclid illuminates the roots of democracy and social justice and the fantastic humanistic thinker and psychologist Erich Fromm on what self-love actually suggests and how it anchors a sane society, then review Ursula K. Le Guins outstanding more-than-translation of Tao Te Ching and its ancient knowledge on the wellspring of political and individual power.

Centuries before the development of Christianity and its central tenet of the golden guideline, the Chinese sage originated the idea of empathy as a moral directing principle– an ancient idea discreetly yet profoundly various from empathy, which just got in the modern lexicon at the dawn of the twentieth century as a term for predicting oneself into a work of art. That procedure, as Confucius conceived it, was one of treating public great as a matter of personal goodness, rooted in a pureness of heart and a discipline of mind. Keeping in mind that “things have roots and branches” and that “if the root be in confusion, absolutely nothing will be well governed,” the ancient Chinese sage lays out the 6 actions to a harmonious society:

, wanting to diffuse and clarify throughout the empire that light which comes from looking straight into the heart and then acting, first set up great government in their own states; desiring great government in their own states, they first developed order in their own households; wanting order in the home, they first disciplined themselves; desiring self-control, they rectified their own hearts; and wanting to rectify their hearts, they looked for exact verbal definitions of their inarticulate thoughts. As soon as this work is complete, Confucius counsels, the process is folded over and the 6 actions are retraced back to the original objective of good federal government: