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Transmitting and Innovating in Confucius: Analects 7:1

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Although the saying at Analects 7:1 is well-known and often mentioned in Confucian scholarship, there have been few focused discussions about what ‘transmitting’ means and in what sense it is contrasted to ‘innovating’. This article seeks to argue for the following points. (a) The ‘transmitting/innovating’ relationship should be understood in relation to the Confucian notion of filial piety. Analects 7: 1 is indeed Confucius's self-conception of what he is doing, that is, his way of philosophizing. (b) Traditionally, Confucius's transmitting has been thought to be related to his work on the ancient classics. This is not wrong, but is far from the whole story. Rather, it is primarily about the restoration of the dao. What Confucius transmits is the dao, and it is for this goal that he worked on the ancient classics. (c) Moreover, since we learn about Confucius's philosophy mainly through the Analects rather than the classics he edited, an appropriate understanding of the ‘transmitting/innovating’ contrast must be related to the ideas in the Analects.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2012-11-01

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