New book: Li, Reshaping Confucianism: A Progressive Inquiry

Oxford University Press has recently published Chengyang Li’s book Reshaping Confucianism: A Progressive Inquiry. See here for more information or read on.

As a living and evolving tradition, Confucianism has been continuously defined and redefined in response to the changing political and social context of China’s history. Extending this effort in reconstructing Confucianism, philosopher Chenyang Li critically analyzes and develops a series of core ideas that originated from classic Confucian texts and does so in the context of contemporary scholarly discourse. These core ideas include he (dynamic harmony), ren (care-centered virtue), li (ritual propriety), xiao (filial care), bie (gender equilibrium), you (friendship), shou (longevity), sheng (sagehood), ziyou (freedom), ping (equality), zheng (politics), and jiao (civic education). Li combines in-depth analysis of historical teachings with systematic deliberation on their contemporary significance, reflecting the current state of the field of research.

Each chapter shows how seminal ideas in Confucianism were conceived and developed by ancient thinkers and how these ideas can be reconstructed and aligned in a sensible Confucian philosophy that responds to contemporary challenges. Over the course of its survey of Confucian philosophy, the book raises and investigates fundamental questions: How central is harmony as a Confucian value? Can Confucian sages be wrong? Is Xunzi’s philosophy of filial care more progressive than Confucius’ and hence more suitable in contemporary society? What is the best form of Confucian gender equality today? Is the model of “politics without politicians” a viable way for realizing the Confucian political ideal of the good society? Study questions are provided for each chapter to assist students to comprehend key points and develop their own views.

Table of Contexts

Introduction: Progressive Confucianism
I. Foundational Concepts
Chapter 1: Dynamic Harmony
Chapter 2: Care-Centered Virtue
Chapter 3: Ritual as Cultural Grammar

II. Self and Others
Chapter 4: Filial Care
Chapter 5: Differentiated Gender Equilibrium
Chapter 6: Friendship
Chapter 7: Virtuous Life and Longevity
Chapter 8: Can Sages be Wrong?

III. Socio-Political Reconstructions
Chapter 9: Freedom through Choosing
Chapter 10: Two Forms of Equality
Chapter 11: Kingliness without Kings
Chapter 12: Education for Humanity

24 replies on “New book: Li, Reshaping Confucianism: A Progressive Inquiry”

  1. From the book:

    “Kongzi’s disciple Youzi places brotherliness at the roots of ren (Analects 1.2). Brotherliness is characterized by reciprocal care. When a child grows up in a brotherly (or sisterly) environment and develops brotherliness for others, he or she has a good foundation to cultivate such a virtue to become ren as a virtuous person in the comprehensive sense.” (p. 65)

    I disagree with this passage on four points.

    1. “Ti” as a virtue between siblings was never reciprocal, though insofar as it was conceived as respectful deference rather than care it could be regarded as reciprocating an older brother’s care. The character is associated with ladders, ordering, secondariness; and kin to calling siblings by their number.

    2. Youzi was not talking about childhood roots; he was talking about something for a junzi to attend to in himself. No interest in the home life of children is displayed in the Analects.

    3. By “ti” Youzi meant respect for elders as such, i.e. not particularly in the family (cf. the other places in the Analects where xiao and ti are paired (1.6, 13.20). The overall point of 1.2 is not “family first” (filial piety etc.). On the contrary, the overall point is “elders first” (inside and outside the family).

    4. Youzi was not Kongzi’s disciple.

    • Youzi was Confucius’s disciple. Youzi refers to You Ruo 有若, sometimes called Ziyou 子有. He’s listed as Confucius’s disciple in both Shiji and Kongzi jiayu.

    • Oh, I see now that where I meant to be stating points of disagreement, my phrasing would too easily give the impression that I was speaking as though I had authority just to tell. I apologize for that.

  2. Thank you, Paul. Yes, it is true that I am an ignoramus about many of the relevant sources, but on the topic of Youzi that doesn’t put one at a disadvantage. His presence on the lists in the Shiji and Kongzi Jiayu is the first reason to think him a disciple that I presented and addressed in my paper in PEW Oct. 2008 (p. 472f.).

    I think we don’t have a record of anyone calling him 子有, though the Kongzi Jiayu says that was his style. The Shiji gives 子若 instead, and I think I recall reading some scholar saying such things might be invented for appearance’s sake.

    • Fair enough. I didn’t realize that your “Youzi was not Kongzi’s disciple” meant “Some people doubt that Youzi was Kongzi’s disciple.” And my “Youzi was Confucius’s disciple” means, more accurately stated, “The tradition has accepted that Youzi was Confucius’s disciple.”

      Jiang Boqian’s arguments in this case, which you cite in your PEW article, are far from dispositive; in particular, his interpretation of the story about You Ruo in Mencius 3A.4 is highly conjectural. Information about Confucius’s disciples is so sketchy that one could plausibly doubt the associations claimed for the vast majority of them.

    • “Information about Confucius’s disciples is so sketchy that one could plausibly doubt the associations claimed for the vast majority of them.” This is the key point, I would’ve thought.

      Given the dearth of evidence, employing rhetoric like “wildly wrong” and suggesting others don’t “bother trying to get that historical question right” seems to me like an aggressive and unwarranted move.

    • (J. Williams is referring to material lower on the page.)

      No, I didn’t use “wildly wrong” in connection with the question whether someone was a disciple, or indeed about any views Paul has aligned himself with.

      I don’t agree on the other matter.

      To this:
      “ ‘Information about Confucius’s disciples is so sketchy that one could plausibly doubt the associations claimed for the vast majority of them.’ This is the key point, I would’ve thought.”

      I agree with Paul’s point (especially if we take “them” here to mean the 75 or so people on the lists). The point seems to accept that we can make reasonable judgments about some cases. I would note that whether it’s reasonable to try to make a judgment depends partly on whether anything significant is at stake.

      I think the point isn’t “key” here, in the sense that it doesn’t speak at all to the following four proposals:

      Youzi differs greatly from the other “disciples” who are interesting in the Analects in the following four ways:
      1. There is much less reason to think he was a disciple than to think they were.
      2. What we have suggests more strongly that he wasn’t a disciple than that he was.
      3. Leading features of much scholarly opinion about the Confucius of the Analects depend heavily on the premise that he was a disciple of Confucius, indeed an exceptionally faithful one. Without that premise those features are pretty plainly indefensible.
      4. Investment in the premise of his discipleship has had the effect of preventing people from understanding the statements with his name on them.

      I wish I could say that in academic writing one should never say e.g. “Youzi was a disciple” without meaning it literally; and similarly for “Mencius said” and “Zhuangzi said.” I think Paul strongly sympathizes with this concern in general. On the other hand, of course we all know that’s too simple. Conveniences can be harmless, even if we think they’re not in harmony with the preponderance of the evidence. I just don’t think this particular convenience is harmless.

    • It depends on what one is doing, I suppose. If one is interested in how the works were predominately understood in culturally relevant contexts, then such legends, semi-historical or wholly fictional, frame how these works were discussed. Much like Aesop or Diogenes of Sinope in our own tradition: nobody in their right mind thinks the fables of Aesop were written by a slave philosopher of that name, and nobody in his right mind takes the anecdotes surrounding the latter as historical fact, but the figures nonetheless play a significant cultural role. If one wishes to construct one’s own interpretation of what sections comprising the Analects might have meant before latter-day editors culled them together, then matters are different. But the evidence is scanty and the resultant interpretations are highly speculative.

    • Since Li is discussing Confucianism qua “living tradition”, it makes sense to discuss Youzi as the figure he is traditionally understood to be. Whether the Confucian tradition is “wildly wrong” is neither here nor there, since one presumes the tradition is the object of study in a book that “Connects traditional Confucian philosophy with modern sensibilities”.

    • Li is clear at multiple points in the introduction that he cares to get the details right about the early Confucians. For example, on the first page, Li claims that he provides “an in-depth analysis of historical teachings with a systematic deliberation on their contemporary significance, paying attention to the current state of the field of research.”

      On page 3, Li claims that the progressive Confucianism he is developing must “take into consideration what ancient Confucian thinkers have said about various issues.” On p.9, Li points out that “[w]e want to know what views ancient thinkers actually held”, and a bit further down on p.10 he points out that “this book incorporates both historical and philosophical approaches”, hence that “I examine not only what ancient thinkers actually said on various issues and make appropriate assessments accordingly”.

      If Haines (and D.C. Lau in the Appendix) are correct that Youzi was not a particularly faithful Confucian, and that the Youzi material in the Analects must be questioned, and if Haines is moreover correct about “ti” not being a reciprocal virtue, then I think these are valid points that can be raised against Li – at least with regard to Li’s claim that a care-based interpretation of ren is textually defensible. In response, one might pull the “Li is not interested in historical accuracy” card. But I don’t think that’s right, especially in Chapter 2. He uses expressions such as “[X] captures the meaning of ren” (p. 56) or “[t]he meaning of ren as care is evident in Mengzi” (p. 64), which at least to me suggest that Li aims to get it right about ren. But he is too willy-nilly about the sources to get it right.

    • @ Grad Student

      Thanks for the clarification. In that case, the considerations concerning the historical figure do appear to have a bearing on his interpretation and my attempts at charity are undercut.

    • @ Bill Haines

      Please disregard my previous comments. I now have a clearer sense of what is at issue.

    • Thanks Graduate Student!

      While I haven’t looked carefully at Li Chenyang’s argument about ren in the early tradition, I would be surprised if his argument that ren centers on caring is very heavily dependent on 1.2.

      Separately – I meant that the basis for the faithfulness view is rebutted in Lau’s Appendix, not that the faithfulness view itself is rebutted there. (I’ve done that elsewhere.) And my memory was faulty. What Lau does at p. 260f. in an appendix to his Analects translation is to display the supposed ancient testimony that Youzi’s views were distinctively close to Confucius’ views. And the evidence cannot look adequate, for several reasons.

      One immediately apparent reason is that it’s the testimony of people who would be among the main “others” of any claim that Youzi caught the Master’s views better than others.

      Another reason, which Lau points to, is that the testimony admits of various interpretations.

      A reason he doesn’t point to is that in one of the passages a disciple takes great exception to the view that Youzi is an adequate substitute for Confucius in the latter’s absence. And there are several other reports of testimony to that effect by people who knew both.

    • Thanks J. Williams!

      I was unaware of Li Chenyang’s declarations of intent (though the use of “Kongzi” can be a signal of such intent), and I don’t think they’re necessary for the legitimacy of my points.

      Someone genuinely concerned mainly to present traditional understandings of the early texts rather than to interpret the texts themselves, and not to be misunderstood about that, should not write pages like the ones I looked at. Instead they should look at comments about the early texts more than at the early texts themselves, and they should take care not to be misunderstood.

      When my original comment said of “ti” that it “was never reciprocal,” I meant to include the tradition generally, not just the one ancient moment. Li’s claim that “ti” at 1.2 is reciprocal is extremely idiosyncratic. Also the idea that “ti” in general focuses on care more than respect is not the universal view.

      Early texts involve a great variety of views. The tradition involves a great variety of views. Any of these might be presented and then “reshaped.” I think the idea of reshaping is independent of what it is that one might present and reshape. Sometimes what one wants to reshape is some generally interesting theoretical structure; sometimes it’s a symbol of cultural pride.

      I don’t think such language as your “nobody in his right mind” is necessarily improper in academic discussion, and I wouldn’t tell people you are suggesting that I fall into that bucket.

    • @ Bill Haines

      I do not know if you “fall into that bucket”. It is possible you have evidence you are withholding, I suppose.

    • As it is, you are not providing any new evidence. You are just providing an overwrought interpretation of the scanty and perhaps unreliable evidence. You are free to do that sort of thing until you are purple in the face, but it does not change the initial lack of evidence.

    • Thanks J. Williams!

      On the bucket:

      The question how far ancient reports of the words of Kongzi and Youzi can be taken to reflect the words or thoughts of actual people with those names is a live question in academia, not a dead one. Paul Goldin and Christoph Harbsmeier have done some fine work rebutting some arguments for extreme despair regarding the Analects as evidence especially about Kongzi. Regarding Youzi the issues are somewhat different.
      Goldin, “Confucius and His Disciples in the Lunyu: The Basis for the Traditional View”
      Harbsmeier, “The Authenticity and Nature of the Analects of Confucius”

      On my not providing new evidence:

      That’s the usual thing in scholarship about very old philosophy; one tries to reason better from the evidence that has long been available.

      On the other hand, not so fast. Some evidence is just objectively harder to find than other evidence. And some evidence is subjectively harder to see or take account of than other evidence, e.g. because it goes against something we want to think or publish. And some evidence is objectively harder to see because scholars suppress or conceal it. I talk about the latter two kinds of situation here in connection with Youzi:

      Aside from Youzi’s name, another thing scholars have had a hard time seeing is the presence of “ti” in Analects 1.2. A respectable minority of respectable scholars reads it as referring to general elder respect, which reading would block the usual view that Youzi is saying family is first in some sense. But there has been no discussion in print of the grounds for choice, nor even (to my knowledge) no mention in print (except very obliquely in one footnote) of the fact that there is an intepretive choice to be considered. Scholars in about a hundred recent refereed works have said that Analects 1.2 identifies the root as filial piety, period.

    • How you get from my “scanty and perhaps unreliable evidence” to “extreme despair” concerning the historical veracity of the Analects is unclear and disconcerting. (To take an analog from another field: those working on Diogenes of Sinope have scanty and perhaps unreliable evidence, but they are in no way in extreme despair. The work cautiously from the received materials when the goal is to understand the historical figure.)

      Yes, scholars working on early manuscripts have to work from scanty and perhaps unreliable evidence. That you think anything I said indicates otherwise is disconcerting. I would think that rhetoric like “wildly wrong” would be inappropriate against this backdrop, which is what I was saying in the first place. The jump from the sparse and perhaps unreliable evidence to your cocksure rhetoric is all I wanted to draw attention to.

      That you are only concerned with the past one hundred years of the reception history is even more disconcerting. Scholars of ancient texts do indeed work from scanty evidence of varying and questionable degrees of reliability, but they also work against the backdrop of how the figures were traditionally understood. (Those specializing in Diogenes of Sinope, for instance, know the reception history inside and out before cautiously chancing an explanation of the historical figure independent of the celebrated cultural figure of the various anecdotes surrounding him. Moreover, they do not caution against saying “Diogenes said…” with regard to the cultural figure just because the picture of the historical figure will always be shrouded in a non-trivial degree of mystery. That was my point in bringing him up in my earlier comment, and it was not to suggest anything whatsoever about you. As far as I am concerned, the conversation is about the texts, not you.)

      I do not agree that this is an “academic conversation” at this stage. Interlocutors need to make an effort to understand each other for it to warrant that designation.

    • My thanks to J. Williams for these clarifications.

      In reciprocation I will try to clear up some points where I may have invited misunderstanding.

      To this:
      “Scholars working on early manuscripts have to work from scanty and perhaps unreliable evidence. … I would think that rhetoric like “wildly wrong” would be inappropriate against this backdrop. … The jump from the sparse and perhaps unreliable evidence to your cocksure rhetoric ….”

      Here’s a much fuller version of my earlier reply to a similar point about the phrase.

      What is “wildly wrong,” I have claimed, is “the usual scholarly understanding of the Confucius of the Analects.”

      The claim, as I mean it, is independent of ancient historical fact, and hence independent of the quantity or reliability of evidence about that.

      By the term “the Confucius of the Analects” I mean the aggregate of statements attributed (explicitly or tacitly) directly to Confucius in the Analects – the philosophy that that aggregate would evidence if it were known to be the whole surviving work of one author. (I think that’s more or less what the term standardly means.) By “wildly wrong” I mean that certain leading ideas that scholars tend to see as lying at the core of the whole vision in the material are (in my view) absent from the material. Ideas in prima facie tension with those ideas are present (some pervasive) in the material. My defenses of these claims are lengthy; I’ve supplied links and I’m prepared to summarize, answer objections, and/or fill gaps.

      Also I should be more precise and say that by “the usual understanding” I mean the dominant view in Anglophone scholarship in recent decades, with the possible exception of the years after I posted my main arguments on this blog in 2016, after which I have paid less attention and have had fewer resources for paying attention.

      Also my “wildly wrong” claim is not even heavily dependent on whether we toss the Youzi material into the pile along with the Confucius material as though they were by one imaginary author. Here’s why.

      If we add the Youzi material (1.2, 1.12, 1.13, 12.9) to the pile, the imaginary author is modified somewhat. On the one hand, the addition enables us to say that the pile includes the idea of a broad virtue growing from a narrow analogous one. (The image of a person’s moral progress that pervades the rest of the pile is about absorbing forms from outside oneself, and/or being absorbed into outside forms, like a vine growing to the shape of a trellis.) On the other hand, if we add the Youzi material to the pile that we are trying to read as though it is the real work of one author, then we greatly strengthen the (otherwise adequate) case for reading “ti” at 1.2 as general elder-respect whose emblematic arena is outside the circle of close kin, because that reading of 1.2 makes it far better fit the usage and ideas of the great bulk of the pile, the other work of the “same author.” So we don’t end up with a pile in which we can find the idea “family is fundamental,” nor an interest in the home life of children, nor the idea of the family as the model for the state (a causal model, a thinker’s interpretive model, or a model that should be used).

      As for the place of the claim about “wildly wrong” in the argument (above) – – the argument is that one big thing at stake in the question whether Youzi studied with Confucius is that if we think he didn’t study with Confucius, then “that will encourage us” to look at the Confucius pile and the Youzi pile separately, which in my view will enable us to read both much better. (My view is based on what I found when I tried.)

      “Encourage to look at” sounds mild; but my view (defended at a link given above) is that many scholars in recent decades have been deeply invested in not looking there or anywhere near there, and in discouraging readers from doing so.

      Indeed I think a genuine skepticism about the relation between the two should lead us to look at the two piles separately, as is almost never done. Not because we assume the collection of statements is authentic, but because (a) we have open minds about how authentic it might be, and (b) looking at the piles separately is part of what one has to do to evaluate authenticity, and because (c) even if we don’t yet see that the Youzi material shows strong and distinctive internal parallels, still the bulk of it is clustered in one small part of the collection, suggesting a common origin even if there is not a common origin for the bulk of the Confucius material.

      Or if we at least go through the process of considering the main things one should consider in order to see whether the evidence tends to support one view or the other on the historical question, then we will look at those piles separately, because that’s one of the main things.

      Here’s another point on which I haven’t expressed my position adequately:

      I said earlier, in a brief list of points, “Leading features of much scholarly opinion about the Confucius of the Analects depend heavily on the premise that he [Youzi] was a disciple of Confucius, indeed an exceptionally faithful one.”

      That is and isn’t what I think. I’ll spell out better the position I’m prepared to defend, in two points.

      The dominant view of the Confucius material depends heavily on doing both of the following things: (a) interpreting 1.2 in a way that I think is mistaken (family virtue is the root of ren), and (b) using the vision of 1.2-so-understood as main crystal-seed around which one builds one’s sense of the whole pile of Confucius material. (Doing both (a) and (b) is what makes it possible, I think, to read a few Confucius passages – 1.6, 2.21, 13.18 – in ways that I have to refute in order to make out my claim that the supposedly core ideas are “absent from the material.”)

      Granted, (a) and (b) could all be done without any actual view about real ancient people. But I think that for many scholars (including perhaps such leading scholars as Li Chenyang) they are bound up with views about the actual people, views that may be held more or less firmly or take the form of working hopes. And among other scholars (with the possible exception of the most recent years) the presentation/defense of the reading is often done in such a way that (at least) any casual reader would think the claims are being made about the historical people. Of course there are questions of degree, and there is legitimate convenience. How well does a scholar have to flag that she’s not prepared to stand by claims as being about historical individuals when challenged by peers, in order for us to say that she is not responsible for what readers are more or less likely to take away? How thoroughly does she have to avoid making statements or arguments that make sense only on the assumption that she is talking about real historical figures? How clear is a scholar in her own mind, on the matter? While Diogenes scholarship may not go too far, I suppose we agree that there is such a thing as going too far. This would not be the place to get down to cases.

  3. Not “Some people doubt that Youzi was Kongzi’s disciple,” but rather “I think Youzi was not Kongzi’s disciple.” I was listing my points of disagreement with Li Chenyang, rather than just asserting things as I (and you) seemed to do at first.

    I offered several arguments in my paper beyond Jiang Boquan’s. And as you suggest, we don’t hold out for dispositive arguments in this field – or anyway not arguments that would be dispositive in other fields. My sense is that the evidence against Youzi’s disciplehood is stronger than the evidence for.

  4. Here are the main arguments as I understand them.

    PRO evidence:

    I. Youzi is prominent in the Analects.
    II. Other sources show some of Confucius’ disciples taking him seriously; indeed the Mencius says some wanted to make him their Master after Confucius died, and the Shiji says they actually did for a while.
    III. The Mencius shows Youzi praising Confucius.

    IV. Youzi is on the lists.
    V. Tradition says he was a disciple.

    Rebuttal of IV and V as distinct reasons:
    The Brookses argue that the lists vacuumed up any remotely plausible name in the Analects.



    The available evidence better fits the following story:

    Youzi was an impressive Ru who met most of the group a few years after Confucius passed, when they were dispirited rivals, and pulled them back together for a while, and initiated the compilation of the Analects.


    A. Youzi’s three remarks in Analects 1 share a general vision of moral psychology: that a narrow virtue or practice for face-to-face interactions can grow into an analogous broad virtue, and remains a key support for the broad virtue. (The main focus is on the latter point.) This idea seems quite absent from the Confucius material in the Analects. But it’s a plausible idea on a topic of great concern to Confucius, so if Confucius had heard it we would have seen him using or mentioning it.

    B. ALTHOUGH it appears that Confucius’ disciples or most of them wanted to make him their leader after Confucius passed (stories in the Mencius and the Shiji), NEVERTHELESS:

    B1. The disciple’s reason as reported in the Mencius had nothing to do with Youzi’s prior status among the disciples, nor his relationship with Confucius, nor Confucius’ having shown him favor or said something about him. Rather, the reason was that they found him similar to Confucius.

    B2. Youzi seems not to have been in Confucius’ inner circle. Evidence for that:

    B2a. He did not study long with Confucius: In 487 Youzi was a soldier for Lu (Zuo Zhuan), at the age of 21 (Shiji) or 28 (Kongzi Jiayu). Confucius returned from Wei to Lu three years later and died five years after that.

    B2b. Youzi is not one of the 20 or so disciples shown in conversation with Confucius or a disciple in the Analects.

    B2c. Though there are comments about several main disciples in the Analects, there is no comment about him in the Analects except “Youzi said…” or “You Ruo said…”

    B2d. He is never shown in any other ancient text interacting with Confucius, except once in the Kongzi Jiayu where it rather seems that his brief question to Kongzi is a mere device to introduce a speech that doesn’t sound like the character Kongzi we meet in the Analects.

    B2e. In the Tangong he is shown in a realistic-sounding conversation with Zengzi, asking whether Confucius had ever said anything on a certain topic; Zengzi reports a statement that Zengzi and Ziyou had known of for some years.

    C. Distrusting Zengzi’s report, Youzi said “That doesn’t sound like a junzi,” not “That doesn’t sound like the Master.”


    Rebuttal of I above (that Youzi is prominent in the Analects) as supporting the disciple hypothesis over the alternative:
    Some scholars since the Cheng brothers have thought that Youzi or his particular followers may have been partly responsible for collecting the Analects. One would expect a newcomer after Confucius’ passing to be especially interested in collecting sayings, and we have a report of Youzi soliciting reports of sayings. A politic newcomer might also solicit reports of disciples’ sayings and include them in a Book.

    Rebuttal of III above (that Youzi praised Confucius) as supporting the disciple hypothesis over the alternative:
    Youzi had heard about Confucius from the disciples, and his praise came on an occasion when people were taking turns praising Confucius. The praise is cast in such a way as to suggest that people as exceptional as Confucius might come in pairs.

  5. Why does it matter whether Youzi studied with Confucius? That is, why should we bother trying to get that historical question right?


    It’s relevant to how much attention we want to give to Youzi as a thinker. Three signs that he isn’t getting proper attention:

    Aside from my paper (and a summary of it), the only published overview of his philosophy in English appears in Antonio Cua’s Encyclopedia of Chinese Philosophy, which is based mainly on misidentifying him with Ziyou (子游=言偃) because the encyclopedist misread a comic book (where the account also appears). The account mentions none of Youzi’s statements.

    (a) The scholarly literature on Confucius, early Confucianism, and Confucianism generally rely heavily on two of Youzi’s statements in An.1, and (b) there is controversy about their meaning, and (c) his third statement in An.1 is notoriously hard to interpret. A serious effort to interpret one of the statements would look at other things attributed to Youzi. But aside from my paper (and a summary of it), in Anglophone publications there is no interpretive discussion of any statement by Youzi that makes reference to any other statement by Youzi. And in fact (as I argue elsewhere) his statements in An.1 are usually misinterpreted.

    Also his statements are commonly misattributed. For example, though that Encyclopedia quotes or cites his words in ten articles, it nowhere hints that any of the statements are by him. Four of the articles attribute the words to Confucius, including one article that stresses the distinction between Confucius’ views and disciples’ views.


    The usual scholarly understanding of the Confucius of the Analects is wildly wrong and is based on (misreading 1.2 and) projecting the idea people find in 1.2 onto Confucius. A leading excuse for the projection is that Youzi was an especially faithful disciple of Confucius. The basis for the “especially faithful” part is rebutted in D. C. Lau’s Appendix; stronger medicine is called for.

    Recognizing (or thinking) that he was not a disciple encourages us to notice that two sharply different broad philosophical visions pervade (a) the Youzi material in the Analects and (b) the Confucius material in the Analects. That recognition thus would seem to give us much better access to the work of one or two important thinkers. Since the vision of (a) was popular later in early Confucianism, the fact that the Confucius material is pure of it is a weight on the scale in favor of the sorta-authenticity of the Confucius material.

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