Confucius on the Five Constant Virtues


Abstract Human by nature are social beings. They tend to connect and relate with one another in spite of the individual differences they possess. As to the famous quote of an English poet John Donne, “No man is an island.” Man should necessarily relate with one another in order to thrive. But bearing in mind the individual differences of human beings, we cannot exclude the possibility of chaos, disorder, and discordance. That is why in a diverse society, man needs a moral guide in order to achieve a harmonious social life. Man needs to resort to ethical views and principles in order to enrich their nature as social beings. Throughout the history of philosophy, there were various ethical views being introduced by different philosophers. One of the great traditions that offered major contribution in the field of ethics was the Chinese or Oriental tradition. The most notable philosopher in Chinese thought was Confucius. In this paper, the researcher will investigate the concept of Virtue in the light of the Confucian Ren, Yi, Li, Zhi, and Xin. These are considered to be the five constant virtues of Confucianism. Ren is the virtue of benevolence and humanity; Yi is that of honesty and uprightness; Zhi is knowledge and wisdom; Xin is faithfulness and integrity; and Li is propriety, good manners, and worship. The researcher will try to discuss each concept in order to have a better outlook on Confucian ethics. These virtues serve as the basis in developing a harmonious society and good government. The main question of this paper is: What is Confucius’ view on the five constant virtues? This paper only limits to the book of Confucius entitled, “The Analects” which is also supplemented by different secondary sources. The first part of this paper will discuss the background of Confucius and the five constant virtues in general. The second part of the paper will be an exposition of the five constant virtues. Then, the third part of the paper will be a brief discussion on the notion of gentleman – the end of the five constant virtues. The last part is the conclusion of the paper.

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Robert Joseph Wahing
University of Sto. Tomas


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