This October, the OUP Philosophy team honors Confucius (551 BC–479 BC) as their Philosopher of the Month. Recognized today as China’s greatest teacher, Confucius was an early philosopher whose influence on intellectual and social history extended well beyond the boundaries of China. Born in the state of Lu during the Zhou dynasty, Confucius dedicated his life to teaching, and believed he was called to reform the decaying Zhou culture.
A symbolic and controversial figure, his philosophy is primarily moral and political in nature. Confucius taught that moral order must be brought about by human action. His lessons emphasized moral cultivation, stressed literacy, and demanded that his students be enthusiastic, serious, and self-reflective. Confucius taught that all persons, especially members of the ruling class, must develop moral integrity through ritual action, expressing care and empathy in order to become a consummate person. An innovative teacher, his school was open to all serious students. Of the 3,000 students he is said to have had, only 72 mastered his teachings, and only 22 were close disciples. The legacy of Confucius survives through his teachings, recorded by his disciples in a text known as the Analects.
Featured image: Kaohsiung, Taiwan, Kaohsiung Confucius Temple. Photo by CEphoto, Uwe Aranas. CC-BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.