Chapter 6. "The Doctrine of the Mean" by Confucius

Table of Contents
Ideas of Interest from "The Doctrine of the Mean"
The Reading Selection from "The Doctrine of the Mean"
Topics Worth Investigating

Confucius, Thoemmes

About the author…

Confucius (551-479 B.C.) sought to impose an integrated socio-ethical order in an attempt to secure the peace among warring states in China. Several talented and influential disciples adopted Confucius' philosophy during his time, but apparently Confucius, himself, never obtained the opportunity to apply his cultural changes from high office. Confucius thought the foundation of social order is to be based on the jen or "human-heartedness" of the chün tzu or "superior man." The path to jen, the highest virtue, is reached through the practice of li, the principles of social order. The ruler is an ideal man or superior man, a chün tzu, who governs by jen. Confucius' ideas gained influence through successive generations of his students and were finally adopted during the Han dynasty six centuries later.

About the work…

In the The Doctrine of the Mean,[1] one of the writings attributed to Confucius, many of the central doctrines of Confucianism are elaborated. The characteristic of jen is articulated in terms of a cluster of related moral terms including the Five Relationships, the principle of reciprocity (the Golden Rule), and various forms of virtue. The heart of Confucianism is explained here as the adoption of the policies of inculcating virtue in people by the example of tradition and the jen of the superior person.

Ideas of Interest from "The Doctrine of the Mean"

  1. List some of the essential characteristics of the chün tzu or superior man. Does Confucius allow that women become superior persons? Explain your answer.

  2. Interpret the Confucius' description of the cultivation of energy according to the Mean.

  3. What is the principle of reciprocity?

  4. Speculate as to the reasons filial piety (hsiao) is necessary in a stable and ordered society.

  5. What are the duties of universal obligation? How are they related to the three universally binding virtues?

  6. Relate the description of benevolence jen with the development of character and filial piety.

  7. According to Confucius, how is virtue obtained by the ideal person?



Confucius. Doctrine of the Mean. 500 BC. Translated by James Legge.