Confucius on Awareness of Limits and Lao-Tzu

Confucius on Awareness of Limits

The philosophy of Confucius is not a knowledge that regards itself as complete and an underlying feeling that everything can and will be set aright.

Confucius never thought himself in possession of complete knowledge and never thought such knowledge possible. “To represent what you know as knowledge and what you Jo not know as ignorance: that is knowkdge.”

Confucius is aware of the evil in the world. It is rooted in the failure of man. He laments: “That good predispositions are not cultivated, that what men have learned is not effectual, that men know their duty and are not drawn to it, that men have faults and are unable to correct them: these are things that grieve me.”

Sometimes he says he can no longer find a single true man. “It is all over. I have met none able to see his own faults, to look strictly intact. For he does not take the community as an absolute. For him the Encompassing is a background, not a theme to work with; it is the limit and foundation to be co11sidered with awe, not the immediate task.

The essential difference is the difference between Lao-tzu’s direct way to the tao and Confucius’ detour by way of the human order, hence the divergent practical consequences of the same fundamental view.

The tao which Lao-tzu puts before and above everything else is for Confucius the One. But Lao-tzu immerses himself in it, while Confucius lets himself be guided by his awe of the One as he moves among the things of the world. At times Confucius also shows a tendency to shun the world; at the limits he too discloses the notion of acting by inaction and so keeping the world in order. Though the two philosophers look in opposite directions, they stand on the same ground. Their unity has been embodied by great historic figures, not in a philosophy that systematically embraced both sets of teachings, but in the Chinese wisdom of a life illumined by thought.

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