Confucianism and WOMEN


Tu Wei-ming,

A Confucian Perspective on Learning to be Human


Confucian Thought: Selfhood as Creative Transformation (Albany: 1985), 51-66

Confucius_2362124bThe Confucian commitment to the human community is firm and comprehensive.

This commitment means that the whole Confucian enterprise begins with the person living here and now.

It also means that the person in ordinary daily existence is the basis for the full realization of humanity.

The Confucian insistence that learning is for the sake of the self — an end in itself rather than a means to an end — speaks directly to this.

Learning, for the Confucian, is ‘to learn to be human‘.

Learning to be human means becoming aesthetically refined, morally excellent, and religiously profound, but the primary concern of Confucian learning is character formation defined in ethical terms.

If the primary Confucian concern is to learn to become a good person, what does this entail? The living Confucian must be aware that the idea of learning for the sake of the self does not mean a quest for one’s individuality. “Self,” in the classical Confucian sense, refers to a center of relationships. It has a communal quality that cannot be conceived of as an isolated or isolable entity. Confucian self-cultivation is a deliberate communal act.

Nevertheless, the self is not reducible to its social roles. The dramatic image of the modern person who assumes a variety of social roles is definitely un-Confucian. The idea of my assuming the role of son in reference to my father and simultaneously assuming the distinct and separate role of father in reference to my son is unnatural, if not distasteful. From my own experience, as far as I can remember, I have always been learning to be a son. Since my own son’s birth, I have also been learning to be a father, and my learning to be a son has taken on new significance as a result of becoming a father myself. Furthermore, my being a son and a father is also informed and enriched by being a student, a teacher, a husband, a colleague, a friend, and an acquaintance. These are ways for me to learn to be human.

Confucianism and WOMEN lessonsSelf-cultivation can very well be understood as the broadening of the self to embody an ever-expanding circle of human relatedness. But ethicoreligious growth, for the Confucian, is not only a broadening process but also a deepening process. As I myself resonate with other selves, the internal resources inherent in me are multiplied. I acquire an appreciation of myself through genuine communication with the other; as I know more of myself, I apprehend more of the other.

In today’s pluralistic world, the Confucian, like his or her counterpart in the Buddhist, Jewish, Christian, Islamic, or Hindu community, must learn to live an ethicoreligious life as a deliberate choice. It may not be far-fetched to suggest that the modern approximation of the traditional Chinese idea of Ru (“Confucian”) is the scholar in the humanities.

However, in the highly professionalized atmosphere of the academic setting, a scholar in the humanities captures only one aspect of what the Ru purports to stand for. The contemporary use of the term “intellectual,” especially in the sense of one who is engaged in and concerned with the well-being of humanity, comes close to the idea of Ru.

To be religious, in the Confucian sense, is to be engaged in ultimate self-transformation as a communal act. Salvation means the full realization of the anthropocosmic reality inherent in our human nature.

Questions for Comprehension

(For Discussion only: COMMENT ABOVE)

  1. What is the Confucian view of the “self“? What is the relationship between this view of self and the social context of being, as a father, a husband, a son, a mother, a wife, a daughter, a teacher, a student, etc.?
  2. What does it mean to “learn to be human“?
  3. What is the author’s contemporary definition of Ru?
  4. Contrast this view of the “self” with the Western view. How does the “anthropocosmic” conception of Confucianism differ from the individualist conception of the West?

Confucianism and WOMEN

Li-Hsiang Lisa Rosenlee – Author

A Celebration of Women™

reminds all the Women of our World that especially during a recovery,it is critical to ‘give yourself a break‘ expressing self-love and kindness. 

Through that process you will give the World around YOU one, as well.

As we say around here: 

‘Welcome to the Human Race’.



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