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“Why Use an Ox-Cleaver to Carve a Chicken?” The Sociology of the Junzi Ideal in the Lunyu

From: Philosophy East and West
Volume 59, Number 1, January 2009
pp. 47-70 | 10.1353/pew.0.0033

Abstract

Abstract:

Central to Confucian teachings in the Analects is the ideal of self-cultivation—in particular that of the junzi 君子 (“gentleman” “nobleman”) ideal. At the same time that Confucius recommends that individuals follow such an ideal, he also places limits on who actually might attain it. By examining statements involving such terms as the junzi, the “petty man” (xiao ren 小人), and the “masses” (min 民, or zhong 眾), or common people, this essay highlights the sociopolitical and gender restrictions informing one of the most basic, yet lofty, ethical goals of the text. A new means is also offered of discussing these socially delimited discrepancies in moral cultivation by referring to leading, or self-determining agency in association with junzi on the one hand, and to conformist agency for women and common people on the other.