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Analect Two - Respect the Elders

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YouTze said: "Those whom are serving the filial duty to their parents, respect the elder brothers; but they like to affront their superiors are very seldom. Those whom do not affront their superiors but like to rebel, even that had never happened. A gentleman puts all his effort on the fundamentals; after the fundamentals were established, then the principals of morality are formed. Thus serving the filial duty to the parents and respect to elder brothers are considered to be executing the fundamentals for the principals of kindness.

Edited by ChiDragon
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I like Legge's translation of the first portion:


"The philosopher Yû said, "They are few who, being filial and fraternal, are fond of offending against their superiors. There have been none, who, not liking to offend against their superiors, have been fond of stirring up confusion." (


So, if you start with a group of 100 kids. Some of them (let's say 60) respect their parents and their siblings, and some (40) don't. Then, let's toss out the 40 who don't. :) Of the 60 kids who are respectful, very few of them (let's say 5) will go on to disrespect their superiors. We'll throw those ones out, too. And now, we have 55 left. The passage would suggest that these 55 are guaranteed not to "stir up confusion" (or "rebel" [above] or become "troublemakers" [Muller]). Or, basically, they're kind people.


I like how this gives a tremendous amount of gravity to the simplest of things. If you can't learn to be nice to your brother, you're going to have a hard time respecting your boss; and if you can't respect your boss, you're going to have a hard time... (fill in the blank). It's a negative domino effect. But if you fix it early with your brother, then you build the dominoes in a different direction and become insusceptible to hatred, confusion, and trouble, and perhaps incapable of contributing to them.


Now looking to Muller for the second portion...


"The noble man concerns himself with the fundamentals. Once the fundamentals are established, the proper way appears. Are not filial piety and obedience to elders fundamental to the actualization of fundamental human goodness?" (


Focus on the fundamentals. I think this is one of the reasons that Confucianism lacks some of the "glamour" of other traditions. There's not much allure in talking about being a nice brother or a respectful daughter. But this is the fundamental. It's the root that leads to the branch (see Great Learning 3). If you can get these things down, then you are on the path to the actualization of fundamental human goodness. Now, it's a little more glamorous. This is borderline mystical language. Ren is just something else... totally within us and unique to us, but almost out of this world.


A quote from later in the Analects on this point:


"Yanyuan sighed in admiration saying: “Looking up to it, it gets higher. Boring into it, it gets harder. I see it in front, and suddenly it is behind me. My master skillfully guides his students a step at a time. He has broadened me with literature, disciplined me with propriety. I want to give up, but I can't. I have exhausted my ability, yet it seems as if there is something rising up in front of me. I want to follow it, but there is no way.”" (9:11, Muller translation:

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