"I cannot claim to have discovered wisdom and virtue. What I can say is that I never waver on the path I pursue and am tireless in my efforts to teach others this and nothing more." These are the words of the great Chinese sage Confucius. During his lifetime, he taught over 3,000 students. Many of them became philosophers and added fresh twists and turns to his thought. Drs. C. Alexander and Annellen Simpkins succinctly chart and elucidate the multi-layered wisdom of this Chinese teacher.
Confucius is mainly remembered for his celebration of the virtues of humanness, filial piety, loyalty, duty, sincerity, righteousness, and prosperity. According to the authors, the fountainhead of virtues is "jen" or altruism. This is cultivated in our relationships with family, friends, and work associates.
"Shu" or reciprocity expresses the Confucian version of the Golden Rule. Virtue is not an ivory tower abstraction but a way of behaving in relation to others. It is spelled out in duties, familial obligations, and civic responsibilities. The full flowering of a human being in the Confucian ideal includes a love of music, the fine arts, poetry, and architecture. It also reaches into the political arena where leaders are challenged to practice benevolence.
At one point, Ralph Waldo Emerson called Confucius "the George Washington of the world of thought." In our times when incivility seems to be the norm we desperately need his emphasis upon the development of virtues.