many cultures in the world have ideas of humaneness, respect, and morality. For eastern philosophy, ren is such a concept, in it's own way. This concept of ren was developed by an ancient Chinese philosopher by the name of kung chung-ni or known in the western world as confucius, who lived from 552-479 B.C. In this essay I will focus on Confucius's notion of ren and the interpretation on the Analects rather than mencius's take and the body of literature which surrounds the Mencius. This essay will discuss the nature of ren, which is an emotion with a narrative, including, li, respect, rites, rituals, and love, for mostly leaders, or educated intelligent, gentleman.
In this 12 page essay I will first discuss briefly why it is a narrative, then move in to generally discussing ren, briefly discussing how it's ore cultural, and then going over how it is mainly respect. Then, I will discuss how it is inseparable from li, and, how being ren, is also closely with being li. Then, I will discuss wu wei li, and bu wu wei, and why this is briefly. Then, I will go in to a discussion of benevolence's role in ren. Then I will argue how it's not all ttotally communall, but communal to a certain degree. Then lastely I will argue how ren is a virtue for the future leaders, and gentleman, but not so much for the small man, and or the petty individual, who would go no where anyway.
Ren is, as other emotions are, not a one time feeling, it's a part of one's person, a longer lasting emotion than just a mere feeling. A one time feeling of benevolence or respect, or humaneness does not count. feelings and actions along with li must stretched along a timeline with the action that is caused by ren, the thoughts, and so forth. Every emotion has structure to it it is based on a continuum that contains thoughts feelings, and actions, which all is based, this Peter goldie calls a narrative. (13).
It must be understood what ren is, before we talk at length what it is. Ren is quite a complex feeling it involves many things, including as listed in the analects "respectfulness, tolerance, trustworthiness in word, quickness and generosity" (17.6). These are added together to form ren, none of these virtues make up ren on it's own. This is not the only list, that confucius gives out, but his other lists of virtues are very similar to this one in content. Ren than, is a sort of respect or humaneness.
Some others have argued that it's more benevolence or care, but on examining the virtue lists it seems more broader than this. Benevolence, care, or compassion falls more in line with Mencius's reading of confucius, rather than what confucius actually had said. (Luo 40). Benevolence is certainly a portion of Ren, but Ren is much more than just benevolence. Ren can be felt by everyone to an extent. Only conditionally, as confucius would say small men, are unable to feel or know what ren is for the gentleman, and future leaders currently seeking for leadership or hoping for it, ore current leaders. The shallow and petty can try their best in attempting to understand but as long as they stay shallow and petty they will never understand.
As to the argument of if it's a same feeling as in paul ekman's view, there may be a general sense of respect, and kindness, and benevolence in the world, but ren has a lot of things combined. Also, as goldie claims that emotions are very influenced by the culture and times. That it influences how we feel and why we feel a certain way. (88). Ren is definitely basied on the Chinese culture and the rightes and principals that were set out before confucious, and the way ren aapplies has to do with the leadership situation in China at that time. Also, goldie continues to say that emotions, and feelings are influenced by one's interest and values at the time of the emotions as in the time period. (92). Happiness in 2012 feels different than happiness in russia 1930 and vietnam in 1854, and america 1952. As Jessie prinns notes that the culturally influenced emotions is so built in to us that we feel like that they are automatic and natural. We start thinking that they are basic emotions when it's culturally influenced, and not really basic at all. (132).
The respect part and courtesy is stressed and is perhaps the most important, this sort of respect and courtesy, in ren, comes from a selfless origin. In The analects confucius tells his disciples that in establishing someone else and helping them as you yu'sd want to see yourself established, you're establishing yourself. (6.22). In being selfless and respectful, you are being upright and a gentleman. This is having ren, or a part of it. Of respect, confucius had said in the analects, that if one is respectful, this stops people from being so insolent and disrespectful towards you. (6.22).
In order to be a leader of the community or a gentleman, one must hold oneself up properly, and be respectful, and kind, so people will want to do the same towards you, and have no intention to harm or go against you. In yet another spot confucius said to his disciple, that when you are at hhome be rrespectful, and be reverent when not at home. He adds this is a must that you can not forsake. (13.19). These passages shows the important and centrality of respect to ren, and what it means to be a gentleman or a leader. Without Respect, reverence, or courtesy, ren is not possible or fairly useless. As the other traits can not get you very far or not possible without respect. Tolerance another aspect of ren, is very dependent on ren, In fact tolerance means to respect others and allow for things.
In respecting, there are many different ways to respect, and not all of them are the same. In respecting one's parents, filial piety, we obey their wishes, serve them generously and take care of them when they are elderly. Very few people, if anyone at all, is going to give filial piety to one's peers or friends. As respect for one's friends is very different from one's parents or families. For friends it's more on the lines of giving time and things, helping them get better when they are not ill, lending them kind words, and, compromising on likes and dislikes.
Respecting superiors, subordinates, government officials, children, and neighbors are all different. There are different ways to respect each category, and no one would agree to respect them just all the same. Knowing how to respect all these people in their stations of life is also a part of Ren. However, non-living things can be respected as well.
We should also respectfully practice and do things. Being respectful and caring to doing one's duties, and responsibilities is important. This means to do them with care, with correctness, and a certain way of doing it, such as li. (luo, 43). It's good to understand how to perform the rights and rituals correctly, and to practice these with a correct attitude. (luo, 43). This is also part of ren. The more you are ren and know how to do this, the more gentlemanly you become and are more ready to be a leader. Being understanding of li or the rights means to comply with them. This is to utilize li and to integrate li within one'sself.
ren is not enough to just stand on it's own. Ren alone does not function well. Ren is very closely associated with li. Li is following rituals and the rites. These rites is a set of moral codes and rules, which is essential to ren itself.
Confucius observe that if one does not follow li, and solely feels ren, one will be tired and be worn out by the respect and care. (8.3). This respect and care lacks substance in it's own and has no real direction, so feeling ren alone is aimless in a way. Li gives ren this direction that the feeling ren alone lacks. If you must think of ren as the feeling and li as a cognitive part of the whole thing or rather behind the cognition of ren. Confucius stresses this abundantly in the analects.
He emphasizes this is essential to ren. When being and feeling ren one must obey li. Yen yuan, a disciple of confucius asked about ren, confucius told him that it was to overcome himself if even for one day and to follow the rites. Yen Yuan, failed to understand so he asked confucius to clarify.
According to confucius following the rites is rather important and following them strictly involves these commands, "Do not look unless it is in accordance with the rites; do not listen unless it is in accordance with the rites; do not speak unless it is in accordance with the rites; do not move unless it is in accordance with the rites." (analects 12.1). This important li and the morality associated with it is useless in the absence of ren. Confucius has said if ren is absent or not practice what good is li? (analects 3.3). We can practice, obey, or follow in the rites mechanically or for whatever reason, but it lacks meaning without respect, or care. Without ren, and that gentlemanly or leadership quality, practicing the rites means little, it does not show that much, if it's even possible.
While following or obeying your parents a part of ritual is good, Part of ren, It is better to follow li, as well. Confucius is not in support of blindly following orders and then giving the reason, of oh, I just followed orders. If it goes against li, one is not to follow , obey, and to go by rituals without looking at li, or only caring in a way which is not according to li, and causes harm or damage, is not ren. Confucius tells us to oppose it but politely, and if persuasion doesn't work, than just leave it and don't follow in either the rulers, your parents, your friends, your superiors or, other authorities or friends. (44).
Another aspect is love, kindness, care, or benevolence. Mencius is right in a small aspect. While ren is not solely benevolence it is one aspect of ren. Ren makes you a good person, and if you don't deviate it will keep you straight. As the analects says that If one has ren than he will not be evil. (4.4).
there is a part of ren that is love. And loving others is essential to courtesy, respect and care, and tolerance, and all the other virtues that confucius lists. Even though respect is a essential part love is somewhat there. If one doesn't perform ones duties, responsibilities, and rites and rituals for others. Without it, one would be doing it simply out of necessarity without feeling some part of ren, which is not is because ren is a narrative, in taking out ren or the love it involves, you are changing it, taking out a pretty important component, of the whole structure.
Li is a action and while part of the narrative, not part of the feelings. So In effect you would only have li a virtue or a moral thought or a set of moral thoughts. (goldie 13). in the analects, confucius answers one of his disciples, Fan Ch'ih by saying that one must love his fellow men in order to have ren, when Fan Ch'ih asked what ren is (12.22). In loving one's fellow men, one must be kind and respectful, and generous. One must honor the people and their feelings and person.
In another passage in the analects, this one directed at kings and rulers, or future officials or kings, confucius repeats his advice to love ones fellow men but also, conveys the message of if you are to use the people's labor use it wisely, and kindly. More precisely only use it when necessary in the correct season. Another thing he says in the same passage is not directly talking about kindness, but hints at it, confucius tells them to not to spend money in excessive amounts. This relates to kindness, because it would be disrespectful, and uncaring if a ruler takes the people's money and spend it irresponsibly. (1.4). In the same general passage confucius mentions something else.
Not only kings have to be kind but so does a good son or a gentleman. The gentleman too has to be caring, loving, and benevolence to the multitude. Confucius says in the analects that a good son should not talk a lot, but yet be kind, and make friends with the masses. And try to be kind, and care about them. Making himself friends instead of just passing them by. (1.4).
It's not only important that one should either be friends with the multitude, or to employ them with respect, benevolence, kindness, and care, but it's also to deal with them in respect. This is being a ren king or ren gentleman. Confucius responded to chung:kung, in the analects, he says to deal with them while employing them as if overlooking a sacrifice. (12.2). And, in a sacrifice, you are suppose to do it with care and kindness, and a good heart.
Now we have defined ren in a way, I will proceed to point out why ren is communal only into a point. While, I don't totally disagree I think that it is to a point, but not everyone in that group can have ren. I will proceed to argue for why while it's for everyone, it's more for future ruleers or office seekers and people who wishes to be a gentleman, perhaps to lead a small community, or be an intellectual. I will defend why confucius's idea of ren only applies to people who are intelligent, and not the petty or small man on the street.
Some say that renis communal such as alexus mcleod, who believes that ren is only applicable as a whole group instead of individually and collectively, that no one can be ren in general, and others who believe that everyone in the community has ren, they also believe that most people can have ren if they want it.
The argument that one can not possess ren alone, but a whole community can possess it. Mcleod claims that one community must perform and have the disposition to perform and the skills sets required to do this, and proof of frequent use of ren and having ren as a group to be called a ren community. (507). But if I am correct in saying that confucius talked to his disciples as knowing that they would or could possess a virtuous code, and ren, in oneself. Confucius also did not teach a group how to have ren, he did not go around trying to polish groups of disciples to be ren groups. Multiple times confucius said, "love your fellow men" (analects 12.22, 1.4). This is speaking to a group of people that can potentially ppossess ren in oneself. If it was belonging to a group this might instead be, love the group and work in harmony and love. Also, when Mcleod talks about ren talks about book 4 being a proof of communal ren. (507). Book four only focuses on the community bcause it is speaking to gentleman, nd leaders about how to lead these communities well. In this case the ruler will have ren, not the community, and certain gentlemen in that community. In the analects confucius says this: "Of neighbourhoods benevolence is the most beautiful. How can the man be considered wise who, when he has the choice, does not settle in benevolence: (4.1). In this passage he means that the gentleman should have love in his neighborhood, and love his neighbors and be willing to do good for them. It talks about the neighborhood, and the eaty, this is true, but the subject here still seems to be the gentleman. Also, mcleod, thinks that one can be virtuous, but cannot have ren. (518). But when, the group has ren because of these gentleman and kings, that means that one would impose ren on a group, or use ren on a group or for it, rather then the group preforming ren, together, or to show others. One man can have love, but a community could only have a feeling of love as in what confucius said in 4.1.
Others and sometimes the same folks believe that everyone can have ren or practice some part of ren. This is not correct, confucius does not look lightly on the small petty man. He only thinks ren and the other virtuous feelings are only for people who are intelligent, or wish to lead wisely. A small man does not care for virtue or wisdom, and does not wish to follow ren, or does he care. He has no care for li, and the relation it has to ren. Confucius said in the anaects that the small man is rude and unkind to the gentleman and does nto see him with respect, and has no respect for wise words and ven makes fun of this. (16.8). How can he be one of these people to practice wren, when he does not care for loving other men, respecting those who are wise and his neighbors? He simply can't do this at all, and has no want to do this maybe he is able to if he becomes less ignorant and disrespectful. Mcleod however still asserts that by being a part of the ren community one will have ren and li and can get it this way. (508. This does not make sense when every community will have some petty individuals, and confucius has already says that the etty wman does not care for ren, and can not feel it and much less li, or any rites or rituals they must uphold. People like Mcleod also talk at length about how everyone can overcome themelves and let themselves be communal and part of the family of the community. This way being able to establish others and be one with the community. But his is not what a small man wants, he does not care or can not feel this because he is too petty and about himself. As confucius says in the analects He is only at ease when arrogant, he doesn't need to be selfless, he doesn't need to learn ren, and fit in with others and serve others, or follow rites, and be respectful, because he knows more, yet than the gentleman and that much better because of being himself. Where as a gentleman, can feel comfortable without being arrogant, and thinking that they are all mighty and the most respectful. (13.26).. For this reason it is not able to be for everyone and anyone, as a small man can not have ren and blend in for this reason. Besides, being a ren person and having li is a big thing. It takes a lot to be this. Confucius had said in the analects that a small man is only capable of small thing and being appreciated in that but can not achieve the big things while a gentleman can achieve great things, but in reverse is not really good at the small trivial things in life. (15.34). also, in many places as Luo notes, that confucius has made it clear that what can get you a position as an leader, or official is ren. (17). Ren is for leaders and will help the seeking politician or leader get a position. Because it helps to respect people when serving, and following the rights. Ren is well made for this type of work. Ren, is. Most of confucius's students was wanting to be future leaders so confucius made his teaching applicable to them. (luo 16). While anyone can use ren, it's more effective for leaders and gentleman, and you really are able to use it and have these groups consider these things important. As said before, the everyday, small man, does not really care, and most of these values add up to someone who would respect, care, and lead well, in some capacity or another. Besides giving these values to a person who does not care to lead, it might seem trivial, and random, and irrelevant. Why would a minimum wage worker such as a cashier at target need ren? He can respect his elders at home but not much else is rreally applicable. He has no extra means of leading. And, how is he to help others get in to positions, or serve his superiors? Maybe someehat but, not as applicable as for a gentleman, a future leader, or a leader. One need not be a official leader to listen, one ahas to want it or be qualified or willing to learn hw to feel to qualified. So, it is opened to certain people with these conditions. Confucius himself was not a official and had no real opportunities. (18). But it mattered little. All this knowledge and one could feel ren as long as one is willing to learn how to properly feel it and is good enough and has enough potential to be a leader and deserves it. The small men does not deserve, but people who are willing to get over one's superiority, because one was themselves were able to learn from him and feel these feelings. They were able if they were really capble of deserving to be a leader even, if no state will employ them, because the ruler himself was not virtuous enough.