Changing representations of Confucius|My homework helper

Posted: March 14th, 2023

On the Term Paper This document consists of:

1. Suggested Topics for Papers

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2. Notes on Writing papers

3. Bibliography

Suggested Topics for Papers You may write on any of these topics without my permission. Try to use at least some secondary literature. If you have a different topic you wish to write on, please consult me.

1. Changing representations of Confucius. At the time of the writing of the Zhuangzi, Confucius was already an ancient and revered teacher. What role does Confucius play in later Warring States texts?

2. Zhuangzi’s legends about “sages” are unique in the Chinese tradition. What, for Zhuangzi, makes a person a sage? You may want to discuss the importance of skills, “knack,” and the mastery of crafts. Give examples to illustrate your discussion.

3. How is an explicit view of human nature fundamental to the ethical and political thought of Xunzi? What was the nature of his disagreements with Mencius on this basic question? (How) does Xunzi’s view of human nature affect his views on other issues? For example, why is ritual so important to Xunzi, and what does he mean by the term?

4. Warfare was a major concern in Warring States China. Discuss the place of a philosophy of martiality (or its absence) in at least three Warring States texts. You may want to consider the Analects, the early Mohists, the Sunzi, the Daodejing, the Zhuangzi, the Mencius and the Xunzi. Did these writers think that conflict was inevitable? How did mastery of warfare figure in Chinese portrayals of sagacity?

5. Compare the descriptions of dao 道or “the Way” in the Analects, the Daodejing, the Sunzi and the Zhuangzi.

6. Compare the values of early Confucian ethics (in the Analects, Mencius and/or Xunzi) with one or two Western philosophers’ arguments on the similar topics.

7. Contrast the role of tian or Heaven (the heavens, nature) in at least two texts you have read.

8. Many contemporary scholars have tried to apply virtue ethics to Chinese philosophy. Critically discuss two such attempts.

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9. Discuss the topic of fatalism as it appears in at least two texts you have read this term.

Notes on Papers


● Structure your paper clearly. A good paper is not just a string of “quotes.” ● Avoid mere description of episodes. ● Relate these points, individually, to the original topic.

● Write an adequate introduction. An introduction should states what you will do, or show in the paper. Otherwise the paper may wander.

● Make outlines and stick to them! ● Be wary of flowing phrases whose exact and literal meaning is not quite clear.


● Make your reasoning explicit! Make clear connections in your reasoning. ● Take the time to say

(1) everything you mean and (2) nothing you don’t mean, and (3) cite specific sources and passages to back up your assertions.

● Try not to mix description and evaluation in one sentence. It makes the logical flow of the arguments unclear.


● Cite exact sources. ● Use a citation format that is conventional for the text you are citing (e.g. Mencius

2A3, Analects 2.8). ● Cite specific passages, rather than making general observations.

Formal language

● Avoid language that is too colloquial for a formal paper. ● Try to develop a sense for the flavor of formal, written language. Often students have

very good insights but sell them short by expressing them in a way that is better suited to conversation. It is a skill that comes over time.

● An argument in conversation sounds different than an argument in writing.


● Avoid vague generalities. “No generalization is worth a damn, including this one.” ● You can avoid generalizations by using evidence to support statements.

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● Overgeneralization and overstatement weaken otherwise good arguments, by drawing you into claims that are impossible to prove.

Grammar and spelling

● All papers should be written in correct, university-level English. Pay particular attention to:

● the correct use of apostrophes. ● tense and agreement of subject and verb. ● correct spelling. Spelling errors (especially on important names) make the author

sound ignorant, or worse.

● Do proofread your papers for grammar and spelling. Don’t trust spell checkers!

Other issues of presentation

● Ensure that your paper has a title which should reflect its content. ● Number the pages of your paper! ● Use standard type faces and margins. ● Staple the pages of your paper. If you don’t own a stapler, buy one.

Procedural Suggestions

● Give yourself time enough to think through carefully what you want to say. ● Go through your notes and decide what passages bear on your argument. ● Use an outline to connect the points you want to make to the passages that back

them up, or bear on them. ● If you have particular observations of your own, decide where they fit in, and add

them to the outline. ● Write a draft. ● Think about how each paragraph relates to the next. ● Go back to the outline and revise. ● Write another draft. ● Give yourself more time.

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Bibliography Note: Many of these articles (in boldface) are available on JSTOR. For books, as well as the library, you can often get parts of a book via Google Book search.

Allan, Sarah. The Way of Water and Sprouts of Virtue. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1997.

Ames, Roger T. and David Hall. Anticipating China: Thinking through the Narratives of Chinese and Western Culture. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1995.

Ames, Roger T. and David Hall. Thinking From the Han: Self, Truth, and Transcendence in China and the West. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1998.

Ames, Roger. “Taoism and the Androgynous Ideal.” In Women in China: Current Directions in Historical Scholarship, ed. Richard W. Guisso and Stanley Johannesen. Youngstown NY: Philo Press, 1981.

Cua, Antonio S. “The Conceptual Aspect of Hsün Tzu ‘s Philosophy of Human Nature.” Philosophy East and West 27 (1977), 373-389.

Cua, Antonio S. “Competence, Concern, and the Rule of the Paradigmatic Individual (chün-tzu) in Moral Education.” Philosophy East and West 42 (1992), 49-68.

Cua, Antonio S. “Confucian Vision and the Human Community.” Journal of Chinese Philosophy 11 (1984), 227-38.

Cua, Antonio S. “Dimensions of Li (Propriety): Reflections on Hsüntzu’s Ethics.” Philosophy East and West 29 (1979), 373-94.

Cua, Antonio S. Ethical Argumentation: A Study in Hsün Tzu’s Moral Epistemology. Hawaii, 1985.

Cua, Antonio S. “Ethical Uses of History in early Confucianism: The Case of Hsün Tzu.” Philosophy East and West 35 (1985), 133-56.

Cua, Antonio S. “Hsün Tzu and the Unity of Virtues.” Journal of Chinese Philosophy 14 (1987), 381-400.

Cua, Antonio S. “Hsün Tzu’s Theory of Argumentation.” Review of Metaphysics 36 (1983), 867- 894.

Cua, Antonio S. “The Quasi-Empirical Aspect of Hsün-tzu’s Philosophy of Human Nature.” Philosophy East and West 28 (1978), 3-19.

Davidson, Donald. “On the Very Idea of a Conceptual Scheme.” in Post-Analytic Philosophy. John Rajchman and Cornel West , eds. New York: Cornell University Press, 1985.

Fingarette, Herbert. Confucius: The Secular as Sacred. New York: Harper & Row, 1972.

Graham, Angus C. Disputers of the Tao: Philosophical Argument in Ancient China. Chicago: Open Court, 1989.

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Graham, Angus C. Later Mohist Logic, Ethics and Science. Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press, 1978..

Graham, Angus. C. “Relating Categories to Question Forms in Pre-Han Thought.” In Studies in Chinese Philosophy and Philosophical Literature Albany: SUNY Press, 1990).

Graham, Angus. C. “‘Being’ in Western Philosophy compared with shi/fei and yu/wu in Chinese Philosophy.” In Studies in Chinese Philosophy and Philosophical Literature. (Albany: SUNY Press, 1990).

Graham, Angus C. “The Background of the Mencian Theory of Human Nature.” In Studies in Chinese Philosophy and Philosophical Literature (Albany: SUNY Press, 1990).

Hansen, Chad. “Chinese Language, Chinese Philosophy, and `Truth’.” Journal of Asiatic Studies 44, No. 3 (May, l985): 491-519.

Hansen, Chad. “Should the Ancient Masters Value Reason?” in Chinese Texts and Philosophical Contexts, ed. Henry Rosemont. Chicago: Open Court, 1991.

Harbsmeier, Christoph 1989. “Humor in Ancient Chinese Philosophy.” Philosophy East and West 39.3:289-310.

Harbsmeier, Christoph. 1998. Science and Civilization in China. Volume 7 Part 1. Logic and Language. New York and Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Hart, Roger. “Translating the Untranslatable: From Copula to Incommensurable Worlds.” In Tokens of Exchange: The Problem of Translation in Global Circulations. Ed. Lydia Liu. Duke University Press, 1999.

Ivanhoe, P.J. “Thinking and Learning in Early Confucianism,” Journal of Chinese Philosophy 17:4 (December 1990), pp. 473-493.

Ivanhoe, P. J. “Zhuangzi’s Conversion Experience.” Journal of Chinese Religions. 19 (1991):13- 25.

Ivanhoe, P.J. “A Happy Symmetry: Xunzi’s Ethical Thought,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 59:2 (Summer 1991), pp. 309-322.

Ivanhoe, P.J. Confucian Moral Self Cultivation. New York: Peter Lang, 1993.

Ivanhoe, P.J. , ed., Chinese Language, Thought and Culture: Nivison and His Critics. La Salle, Il.: Open Court Press, 1996.

Ivanhoe, P.J. and Paul Kjellberg, eds. Zhuangzi and Skepticism. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1996.

Lau, D.C. “Theories of Human Nature in Mencius and Shyuntzyy,” Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 15:3 (1953), pp. 541-565.

Lloyd, G.E.R. 1996. Adversaries and Authorities: Investigations into ancient Greek and Chinese science. Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press.

Lloyd, G.E.R. 2002. The Ambitions of Curiosity: Understanding the World in Ancient Greece and China. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press.

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Machle, Edward J., Nature and Heaven in the Xunzi (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1993).

Nivison, David. “Hsun Tzu and Chuang Tzu.” Chapter 6 in Chinese Texts and Philosophical Contexts, ed. Henry Rosemont. LaSalle: Open Court, 1991.

Nivison, David. “Mencius and Motivation” Journal of the American Academy of Religion Thematic Issue S, a supplement to JAAR 47:3 (September 1980), pp. 417-432.

Raphals, Lisa. 1996. “Skeptical Strategies in the Zhuangzi and Theaetetus.” In in Zhuangzi and Skepticism. Ed. P.J. Ivanhoe and Paul Kjellberg (Albany: SUNY Press, 1996.). Also in Philosophy East & West, 1994

Raphals, Lisa. 1998. “On Hui Shi.” In Free and Easy Wandering through the Zhuangzi. Ed. Roger T. Ames. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Reding, Jean-Paul. 1986. “Greek and Chinese categories: A reexamination of the problem of linguistic relativism.” Philosophy East and West 36.4 October 1986: 349-374.

Reding, Jean-Paul. 1986. “Analogical Reasoning in Early Chinese Philosophy,” Asiatische Studien 40.1, 40-56.

Shun, Kwong-loi. “Moral Reasons in Confucian Ethics,” Journal of Chinese Philosophy, 16:3/4 (September/December 1989), pp. 317-343.

Shun, Kwong-loi, “Mencius and the Mind-Inherence of Morality: Mencius’ Rejection of Kao Tzu’s Maxim in Meng Tzu 2A:2,” Journal of Chinese Philosophy 18:4 (December 1991), pp. 371-386.

Van Norden, B.W. “Mengzi and Xunzi: Two Views of Human Agency,” International Philosophical Quarterly 32:2 (June 1992), pp. 161-184.

Volkov, Alexei. 1992. “Analogical Reasoning in Ancient China: Some Examples,” Extrême- Orient, Extrême-Occident 14, 16-45.

Wong, David, “Is There a Distinction between Reason and Emotion in Mencius?” Philosophy East and West 41:1 (January 1991), pp. 31- 44.

Wong, David, “Xunzi on Moral Motivation.” Pp. 202-223 in Chinese Language, Thought, and Culture, ed. P.J. Ivanhoe (1996).

Yu, Jiyuan. 1999. “The Language of Being: between Aristotle and Chinese Philosophy”, International Philosophical Quarterly 39.4: 439-454.

Yu, Jiyuan. 2001. “Saving the Phenomena: An Aristotelian Method in Comparative Philosophy” (With N. Bunnin), in Two Roads to Wisdom: Analytical and Chinese Philosophies. LaSalle IL: Open Court.

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  • Suggested Topics for Papers
  • Notes on Papers
    • Structure
    • Reasoning
    • Citations
    • Formal language
    • Generalizations
    • Grammar and spelling
    • Other issues of presentation
    • Procedural Suggestions
  • Bibliography


In later Warring States texts, Confucius continued to be revered as a teacher and a model of virtue. However, his role and portrayal varied among different schools of thought. The Confucian school, founded by Mencius, emphasized Confucius as a moral exemplar and teacher of ethics, while the Legalist school, represented by Han Feizi, criticized Confucius for his focus on ritual and moral cultivation rather than practical political advice. The Taoist school, represented by Laozi and Zhuangzi, also had a complex relationship with Confucius. While they did not directly criticize him, they often used his teachings to critique the Confucian emphasis on hierarchy, tradition, and moral norms.

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