Category Archives: Confucian Analects

Morals and art will deteriorate

Dalrymple tells an interviewer:

I suppose I am a bit of a Confucian in the matter of the rectification of language. And I am afraid that in the present climate, the connotation of words has often taken over in importance from their denotation. Thus, since irrational racial antagonism is a manifestation of prejudice, all prejudice comes to partake of the quality of irrational racial antagonism, and the right-thinking person thinks he has to overthrow prejudice as such. This is not realistic: no one has ever lived or could ever live as if this were the case. Hence we live in a state of humbug.

Extract from the Analects:

If language is not correct, then what is said is not what is meant; if what is said is not what is meant, then what must be done remains undone; if this remains undone, morals and art will deteriorate; if justice goes astray, the people will stand about in helpless confusion. Hence there must be no arbitrariness in what is said. This matters above everything.


The Guardian is the sole remaining daily newspaper in Britain whose content is mostly devoted to serious matters

Screen Shot 2015-01-09 at 22.00.53The country, writes Dalrymple, has ‘only one important newspaper‘, and that is the Guardian.

He cites its reporting of the killing of Muath al-Kasasbeh, a Royal Jordanian Air Force pilot, by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. The London (formerly Manchester) paper ‘is to be commended‘, he says, for calling this act (al-Kasasbeh was put in a cage and burnt)

Screen Shot 2015-02-20 at 07.23.52murder, which is what it was; by contrast, it called the killing of terrorists in Jordan, executions, correctly, for the terrorists had been sentenced according to law, with at least an opportunity to defend themselves. Whether or not you are in favour of the death penalty, there was an important difference between the two modes of proceeding, a difference important to preserve by means of the words used to describe them. All too often the distinction is not made in our prints.

‘If names be not correct, language is not in accordance with the truth of things.’ (Analects, book XIII, ch. 3, Legge tr.)


Dalrympian Confucianism

analectsDalrymple draws attention to Analects 13.3:

子路曰。衞君待子而爲政、子將奚先 子曰。必也正名乎。子路曰。有是哉。子之迂也 奚其正 子曰。野哉、由也 君子於其所不知、蓋闕如也。名不正、則言不訓。言不訓、則事不成。事不成、則禮樂不興。禮樂不興、則刑罰不中。刑罰不中、則民無所措手足。故君子名之必可 言也、言之必可行也。君子於其言、無所苟而已矣。。

Here, Dalrymple explains, Confucius pointed to

the political dangers of saying what is not meant. If language is the medium of thought, then loose language undermines proper thought.

Leys renders the chapter thus:

Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 19.07.39Zilu asked: ‘If the ruler of Wei were to entrust you with the government of the country, what would be your first initiative?’

The Master said: ‘It would certainly be to rectify the names.’

Zilu said: ‘Really? Isn’t this a little farfetched? What is this rectification for?’

The Master said: ‘How boorish can you get! Whereupon a gentleman is incompetent, thereupon he should remain silent. If the names are not correct, language is without an object. When language is without an object, no affair can be effected. When no affair can be effected, rites and music wither. When rites and music wither, punishments and penalties miss their target. When punishments and penalties miss their target, the people do not know where they stand.

‘Therefore, whatever a gentleman conceives of, he must be able to say; and whatever he says, he must be able to do. In the matter of language, a gentleman leaves nothing to chance.’


Why Dalrymple must shun politics

Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 10.41.01In appealing to Dalrymple to resist at all costs the temptation ever to have anything to do with political action or government in these times, we his supporters remind him of this passage in Confucius (Analects, 15.7, Leys tr.):

The Master said: What a gentleman was Qu Boyu! Under a good government, he displayed his talents. Under a bad government, he folded them up in his heart.

People ask also why Dalrymple, despite his considerable abilities, the acuity of his vision, his willingness to face unpleasant facts (making him the heir to Orwell), and the urgency and importance of what he has to say, is still relatively little known — snubbed by large sections of the Western media, for example the British state broadcaster — and remains a person of modest means. Again the answer is to be found in Confucius (Analects, 8.13, Leys tr.):

The Master said: In a country where the Way prevails, it is shameful to remain poor and obscure; in a country which has lost the Way, it is shameful to become rich and honoured.


The Master said: To see what is right and not to act is want of courage

Screen Shot 2014-09-13 at 04.19.39Simon Leys, writes Dalrymple, did not want courage. Throughout the Cultural Revolution, he

mocked and excoriated the Western sympathisers, who were legion, of that dreadful revolt against civilisation.

(The Master said: ‘To worship the ghosts of strangers is fawning.’)

During those locust years, the great Belgian sinologue

defended the immemorial refinement of Chinese civilisation from the brutality of the assault upon it in the name of ideological purity, and defended intelligence and decency from stupidity and cruelty. He was almost alone.


What is courage?

Screen Shot 2013-05-03 at 01.36.15Courage is ‘to go against received wisdom and act upon it’, says Dalrymple.

This is a (possibly unconscious) restatement or reworking of Confucius:


The Master said: ‘For a man to sacrifice to a spirit which does not belong to him is flattery. To see what is right and not to do it, is want of courage.’

(Analects, Book II, Ch. XXIV, 1,2; Legge tr.)