Quote of the Day: Confucian Advice for Policymakers in the Age of Coronavirus

 

The Great Learning:

所藏乎身不恕,而能喻諸人者,未之有也

James Legge translation:

Never has there been a man, who, not having reference to his own character and wishes in dealing with others, was able effectually to instruct them.

Robert Eno translation, page 16:

Never has there been a person who has not stored up within himself the disposition to treat others with reciprocity, but who is able to persuade others to follow him.

I can’t tell you who precisely said this originally, although you might learn something about the origins of this fine book from Eno’s introduction (which I mean to print and read myself later).

I also cannot tell you why “French Laundry” is the name of a restaurant.

What I can tell you is that 大學 / The Great Learning is one of the classics of ancient Confucianism and that this line is well-grounded in the teachings of Confucius himself, as one can find by studying the Analects. And, of course, I can tell you that this is some very, very good advice for certain government people who are telling Americans what to do with their lives while they go out and do very, very differently.

(I can also tell you that “大學” can also be translated as “university,” which is kind of cool. Thus, I believe, “香港浸會大學,” or “Hong Kong Baptist University,” in its etymology means something like “fragrant harbor immersion meeting great learning.” Now you know.)

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  1. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Nicely said, St. A! I fully agree!

    • #1
  2. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Saint Augustine:

    (I can also tell you that “大學” can also be translated “university,” which is kind of cool. Thus, I believe, “香港浸會大學,” or “Hong Kong Baptist University, in its etymology means something like “fragrant harbor immersion meeting great learning.” Now you know.)

    Index of /hp

    • #2
  3. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Saint Augustine: (I can also tell you that “大學” can also be translated “university,” which is kind of cool. Thus, I believe, “香港浸會大學,” or “Hong Kong Baptist University, in its etymology means something like “fragrant harbor immersion meeting great learning.” Now you know.)

    We are now immersed in this knowledge.


    This is the Quote of the Day, an ongoing project to help get more voices on the site. It can be the easiest way to start a conversation on Ricochet. (Some people do put in a lot more effort, of course.) Our sign-up sheet for December is here and waiting for you. We welcome new participants and new members to Ricochet to share their favorite quotations.

    Another ongoing project to encourage new voices is our Group Writing Project. December’s theme is ‘Tis the Season. If you’re looking to share your own thoughts rather than those of others and have some ideas about the holiday(s) season we are entering, why not sign up there?

    • #3
  4. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Saint Augustine: I also cannot tell you why “French Laundry” is the name of a restaurant.

    The bouillabaisse tastes like socks.

    • #4
  5. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Percival (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine: I also cannot tell you why “French Laundry” is the name of a restaurant.

    The bouillabaisse tastes like socks.

    With a name like that, I’d expect nothing less.

    • #5
  6. Jimmy Carter Member
    Jimmy Carter
    @JimmyCarter

    Saint Augustine: I also cannot tell you why “French Laundry” is the name of a restaurant.

    Because They gave up washing only white sheets and surrendered to a culinary calling. 

    • #6
  7. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Jimmy Carter (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine: I also cannot tell you why “French Laundry” is the name of a restaurant.

    Because They gave up washing only white sheets and surrendered to a culinary calling.

    Or maybe because of what they do with money?

    • #7
  8. Jimmy Carter Member
    Jimmy Carter
    @JimmyCarter

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Jimmy Carter (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine: I also cannot tell you why “French Laundry” is the name of a restaurant.

    Because They gave up washing only white sheets and surrendered to a culinary calling.

    Or maybe because of what they do with money?

    Nah, They capitulated that industry to the Italians. 

    • #8
  9. JoelB Member
    JoelB
    @JoelB

    I had to read the English translations a few times to understand the meaning. Would the “Message” version be something like “Don’t try to make someone else do something that you would not be willing to do yourself?

    • #9
  10. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    JoelB (View Comment):

    I had to read the English translations a few times to understand the meaning. Would the “Message” version be something like “Don’t try to make someone else do something that you would not be willing to do yourself?

    I think it’s supposed to be about learning/understanding, so more like “you can’t teach someone something that you don’t yourself understand.”

    • #10
  11. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    JoelB (View Comment):

    I had to read the English translations a few times to understand the meaning. Would the “Message” version be something like “Don’t try to make someone else do something that you would not be willing to do yourself?

    That is precisely the general sentiment.

    • #11
  12. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    kedavis (View Comment):

    JoelB (View Comment):

    I had to read the English translations a few times to understand the meaning. Would the “Message” version be something like “Don’t try to make someone else do something that you would not be willing to do yourself?

    I think it’s supposed to be about learning/understanding, so more like “you can’t teach someone something that you don’t yourself understand.”

    But, to be more precise and specific, it is about teaching.

    I think the “Message” translation would be something like: “Government people can’t teach everyone else to do what they aren’t willing to do themselves.”

    • #12
  13. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    “Do as I say, not as I do” does not function.

    • #13
  14. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    JoelB (View Comment):

    I had to read the English translations a few times to understand the meaning. Would the “Message” version be something like “Don’t try to make someone else do something that you would not be willing to do yourself?

    I think it’s supposed to be about learning/understanding, so more like “you can’t teach someone something that you don’t yourself understand.”

    But, to be more precise and specific, it is about teaching.

    I think the “Message” translation would be something like: “Government people can’t teach everyone else to do what they aren’t willing to do themselves.”

    Maybe it works differently in the original Mandarin, but I don’t think it’s necessarily difficult, let alone impossible, to teach someone else how to do something you don’t want to DO yourself.  But it’s very likely impossible to teach someone something that you don’t yourself UNDERSTAND.

    • #14
  15. JoelB Member
    JoelB
    @JoelB

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    JoelB (View Comment):

    I had to read the English translations a few times to understand the meaning. Would the “Message” version be something like “Don’t try to make someone else do something that you would not be willing to do yourself?

    I think it’s supposed to be about learning/understanding, so more like “you can’t teach someone something that you don’t yourself understand.”

    But, to be more precise and specific, it is about teaching.

    I think the “Message” translation would be something like: “Government people can’t teach everyone else to do what they aren’t willing to do themselves.”

    Sounds good, but hey, it’s all Greek to me. :-)

    • #15
  16. Jim McConnell Member
    Jim McConnell
    @JimMcConnell

    Percival (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine: I also cannot tell you why “French Laundry” is the name of a restaurant.

    The bouillabaisse tastes like socks.

    In addition to the “Like” button, we need a “Grin.”

    • #16
  17. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    JoelB (View Comment):

    I had to read the English translations a few times to understand the meaning. Would the “Message” version be something like “Don’t try to make someone else do something that you would not be willing to do yourself?

    I think it’s supposed to be about learning/understanding, so more like “you can’t teach someone something that you don’t yourself understand.”

    But, to be more precise and specific, it is about teaching.

    I think the “Message” translation would be something like: “Government people can’t teach everyone else to do what they aren’t willing to do themselves.”

    Maybe it works differently in the original Mandarin, but I don’t think it’s necessarily difficult, let alone impossible, to teach someone else how to do something you don’t want to DO yourself. But it’s very likely impossible to teach someone something that you don’t yourself UNDERSTAND.

    I don’t know the Chinese either; I’m lucky when I can recognize the occasional character!

    In Legge’s translation it’s about teaching, but I guess I spoke too quickly: In the other translation it looks like it’s more about leading the people.

    But I think you’re looking at a different distinction–the distinction between knowing and doing.  I find no need in either translation to make this distinction.  In both translations, it’s about action, or about character–but not about knowledge.

    You raise this point: One can teach what he does not do.  That’s true, but one normally does it less well.  The saying may be taken to be more like a proverb and less of a universal categorization.  Less along the lines of “No people who don’t practice what they preach have ever taught anyone” and more along the lines of “You’ll be a worse teacher if you don’t practice what you preach.”

    In any case, the Eno translation appears to avoid this issue: It is a less effective leader who tells the people “Do this!” and who does not do it himself.

    Hence: Gavin Newsom, and all the other hypocritical coronavirus petty tyrants.

    • #17
  18. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    JoelB (View Comment):

    I had to read the English translations a few times to understand the meaning. Would the “Message” version be something like “Don’t try to make someone else do something that you would not be willing to do yourself?

    I think it’s supposed to be about learning/understanding, so more like “you can’t teach someone something that you don’t yourself understand.”

    But, to be more precise and specific, it is about teaching.

    I think the “Message” translation would be something like: “Government people can’t teach everyone else to do what they aren’t willing to do themselves.”

    Maybe it works differently in the original Mandarin, but I don’t think it’s necessarily difficult, let alone impossible, to teach someone else how to do something you don’t want to DO yourself. But it’s very likely impossible to teach someone something that you don’t yourself UNDERSTAND.

    I don’t know the Chinese either; I’m lucky when I can recognize the occasional character!

    In Legge’s translation it’s about teaching, but I guess I spoke too quickly: In the other translation it looks like it’s more about leading the people.

    But I think you’re looking at a different distinction–the distinction between knowing and doing. I find no need in either translation to make this distinction. In both translations, it’s about action, or about character–but not about knowledge.

    You raise this point: One can teach what he does not do. That’s true, but one normally does it less well. The saying may be taken to be more like a proverb and less of a universal categorization. Less along the lines of “No people who don’t practice what they preach have ever taught anyone” and more along the lines of “You’ll be a worse teacher if you don’t practice what you preach.”

    In any case, the Eno translation appears to avoid this issue: It is a less effective leader who tells the people “Do this!” and who does not do it himself.

    Hence: Gavin Newsom, and all the other hypocritical coronavirus petty tyrants.

    Yes I can see that.  But just from a pragmatic and maybe pedantic point of view, just because someone doesn’t choose to do something as their occupation, for example, doesn’t mean they don’t know how to do it very well, and would be quite capable of teaching it to someone else.  Indeed they might prefer teaching it – fishing, trash collection, artificial insemination of cattle, whatever – rather than EVER doing it THEMSELVES (again?).

    • #18
  19. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Yes I can see that. But just from a pragmatic and maybe pedantic point of view, just because someone doesn’t choose to do something as their occupation, for example, doesn’t mean they don’t know how to do it very well, and would be quite capable of teaching it to someone else. Indeed they might prefer teaching it – fishing, trash collection, artificial insemination of cattle, whatever – rather than EVER doing it THEMSELVES (again?).

    Sure. But the book isn’t talking about that. It’s a work of social-political philosophy.

    • #19
  20. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Yes I can see that. But just from a pragmatic and maybe pedantic point of view, just because someone doesn’t choose to do something as their occupation, for example, doesn’t mean they don’t know how to do it very well, and would be quite capable of teaching it to someone else. Indeed they might prefer teaching it – fishing, trash collection, artificial insemination of cattle, whatever – rather than EVER doing it THEMSELVES (again?).

    Sure. But the book isn’t talking about that. It’s a work of social-political philosophy.

    I understand that, but it doesn’t seem very smart.

    • #20
  21. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Yes I can see that. But just from a pragmatic and maybe pedantic point of view, just because someone doesn’t choose to do something as their occupation, for example, doesn’t mean they don’t know how to do it very well, and would be quite capable of teaching it to someone else. Indeed they might prefer teaching it – fishing, trash collection, artificial insemination of cattle, whatever – rather than EVER doing it THEMSELVES (again?).

    Sure. But the book isn’t talking about that. It’s a work of social-political philosophy.

    I understand that, but it doesn’t seem very smart.

    A G’Kar reference is worth a like.

    But what are you talking about?  “It doesn’t seem very smart” is an interesting conclusion, but what is your premise for it?

    • #21
  22. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Yes I can see that. But just from a pragmatic and maybe pedantic point of view, just because someone doesn’t choose to do something as their occupation, for example, doesn’t mean they don’t know how to do it very well, and would be quite capable of teaching it to someone else. Indeed they might prefer teaching it – fishing, trash collection, artificial insemination of cattle, whatever – rather than EVER doing it THEMSELVES (again?).

    Sure. But the book isn’t talking about that. It’s a work of social-political philosophy.

    I understand that, but it doesn’t seem very smart.

    A G’Kar reference is worth a like.

    But what are you talking about? “It doesn’t seem very smart” is an interesting conclusion, but what is your premise for it?

    Well, without going back over all the details again, if this is supposed to be an ethereal maxim at least worthy of Confucious if not actually from him, why is it so easy for me to… ridicule?… dismantle?… it?  Am I really that much smarter than Confucious (or whoever), or was it just poorly thought out, or poorly written to start with, or poorly translated, or…?

    • #22
  23. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    kedavis (View Comment):
    Well, without going back over all the details again, if this is supposed to be an ethereal maxim at least worthy of Confucious if not actually from him, why is it so easy for me to… ridicule?… dismantle?… it?

    It’s not so easy to dismantle. You didn’t dismantle it. And it’s not ethereal either.

    • #23
  24. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):
    Well, without going back over all the details again, if this is supposed to be an ethereal maxim at least worthy of Confucious if not actually from him, why is it so easy for me to… ridicule?… dismantle?… it?

    It’s not so easy to dismantle. You didn’t dismantle it. And it’s not ethereal either.

    Well, seems like it to me.  At least if that’s a good translation.

    I remember years ago reading Bertrand Russell describing how Aristotle (I think it was) came up with “wisdom” such as that women have fewer teeth than men, but he never bothered to ask Mrs Aristotle to open her mouth so he could count them.  Basically it was something he just “deduced” as being “obvious” or something.

    If I ever knew much about the life story of Confucious, I don’t remember it now. Did he ever DO anything, like build houses or boats or something? Or was he a Jonah Goldberg type, sitting around and thinking and writing and talking, while other people did the work including the work to actually keep him alive? If Confucious never really DID much, then maybe that could explain why he might have been somewhat mystified by people who DID things, and made up rather nonsensical “philosophy” about it.  The same way Jonah often does in the modern age.

    • #24
  25. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):
    Well, without going back over all the details again, if this is supposed to be an ethereal maxim at least worthy of Confucious if not actually from him, why is it so easy for me to… ridicule?… dismantle?… it?

    It’s not so easy to dismantle. You didn’t dismantle it. And it’s not ethereal either.

    Well, seems like it to me. At least if that’s a good translation.

    Ethereal? If it is, there must be aspects of it I can’t see. What I can see is what we’ve just been paraphrasing; Percival’s paraphrase in # 13 may have been the best one.

    It might not even be clever. I don’t think either I or Percival or Confucius or the author(s) of The Great Learning were trying to be clever. We’re just trying to understand what’s right–even if should happen to be thoroughly simple.

    Do you wanna talk about your view that you dismantled the saying?  I read everything you said here, and saw nothing of the sort.

    • #25
  26. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    kedavis (View Comment):

    I remember years ago reading Bertrand Russell describing how Aristotle (I think it was) came up with “wisdom” such as that women have fewer teeth than men, but he never bothered to ask Mrs Aristotle to open her mouth so he could count them. Basically it was something he just “deduced” as being “obvious” or something.

    Sounds more like induction; but yes–Aristotle’s empirical philosophy was not sufficiently well developed as to recognize the need carefully to test our conclusions derived from experience.

    If I ever knew much about the life story of Confucious, I don’t remember it now. Did he ever DO anything, like build houses or boats or something?

    In the sense in which Moses, Jesus, and John Locke never “did anything,” neither did Confucius.

    If Confucious never really DID much, then maybe that could explain why he might have been somewhat mystified by people who DID things, and made up rather nonsensical “philosophy” about it.

    He was not mystified by them; at least, I’ve never heard of such a thing.

    • #26
  27. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    I remember years ago reading Bertrand Russell describing how Aristotle (I think it was) came up with “wisdom” such as that women have fewer teeth than men, but he never bothered to ask Mrs Aristotle to open her mouth so he could count them. Basically it was something he just “deduced” as being “obvious” or something.

    Sounds more like induction; but yes–Aristotle’s empirical philosophy was not sufficiently well developed as to recognize the need carefully to test our conclusions derived from experience.

    If I ever knew much about the life story of Confucious, I don’t remember it now. Did he ever DO anything, like build houses or boats or something?

    In the sense in which Moses, Jesus, and John Locke never “did anything,” neither did Confucius.

    Moses was a carpenter etc, as was Jesus…  Locke was a physician…

    If Confucious never really DID much, then maybe that could explain why he might have been somewhat mystified by people who DID things, and made up rather nonsensical “philosophy” about it.

    He was not mystified by them; at least, I’ve never heard of such a thing.

    My point there is that at least some of his philosophy seems to suggest that he was.

    And if I was a philosopher who had never milked a cow to get the milk for my own morning tea, I might philosophize that a one-legged stool was ideal because it required consciousness and will to maintain balance, etc.  Completely missing how useless that might be for milking a cow, among other tasks that a stool might actually be USEFUL for.

    • #27
  28. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    I remember years ago reading Bertrand Russell describing how Aristotle (I think it was) came up with “wisdom” such as that women have fewer teeth than men, but he never bothered to ask Mrs Aristotle to open her mouth so he could count them. Basically it was something he just “deduced” as being “obvious” or something.

    Sounds more like induction; but yes–Aristotle’s empirical philosophy was not sufficiently well developed as to recognize the need carefully to test our conclusions derived from experience.

    If I ever knew much about the life story of Confucious, I don’t remember it now. Did he ever DO anything, like build houses or boats or something?

    In the sense in which Moses, Jesus, and John Locke never “did anything,” neither did Confucius.

    Moses was a carpenter etc, as was Jesus… Locke was a physician…

    You are right: Technically, yes, they did some things in that sense of “doing things.”

    Moses was a shepherd, not a carpenter.  He did nothing memorable as a shepherd other than find the burning bush while minding the sheep.  The point is that we don’t remember them for any of these things; those things they did were not the important things they did.

    If Confucious never really DID much, then maybe that could explain why he might have been somewhat mystified by people who DID things, and made up rather nonsensical “philosophy” about it.

    He was not mystified by them; at least, I’ve never heard of such a thing.

    My point there is that at least some of his philosophy seems to suggest that he was.

    First I’ve heard of it.  Where in his philosophy are you finding this?

    And if I was a philosopher who had never milked a cow to get the milk for my own morning tea, I might philosophize that a one-legged stool was ideal because it required consciousness and will to maintain balance, etc. Completely missing how useless that might be for milking a cow, among other tasks that a stool might actually be USEFUL for.

    So you would be a lousy designer of stools for dairy farm use if you were a philosopher who had never needed to use a stool on a dairy farm?  Yeah, I would be too.  I don’t get your point.  Is this supposed to be an objection to Confucius?  Or maybe to something some other ancient Confucian thinkers said?

    • #28
  29. She Member
    She
    @She

    Saint Augustine:

    James Legge translation:

    Never has there been a man, who, not having reference to his own character and wishes in dealing with others, was able effectually to instruct them.

    IOW, Matthew 7:

    1Judge not, that ye be not judged.

    2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.

    3 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?

    4 Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?

    5 Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.

    Lot of wisdom in those old parables, all round.

    • #29
  30. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    BTW, I’m opposed to policymakers as a general category.

    • #30
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