Original Analects Supplement
Appendix 2

Pages: 250 252 254 256

General. This is where the hypothesis which was derived by purely formal arguments in Appendix 1 receives its first independent test. That hypothesis involved the removal of suspected interpolations from the text. The test of any interpolation hypothesis is in seeing if the text makes better sense without the interpolations than it did with them. If so, the hypothesis is to that extent confirmed.

Specifically, we ask here if the remaining, noninterpolated 72% of the text makes plausible sense as history. It is assumed that things happen in history, and that the movement of things in history is orderly: complex states of something follow simpler states of that same thing, and derived meanings of words grow out of basic meanings of words. It turns out that the purified, interpolation-free text does present just such a rational, developmental picture.


250-251. In the nature of things, it is highly unlikely that the image of Confucius would evolve from that of a high-ranking, widely traveled and richly provided minister of state to that of a hard-luck kid who had to acquire his learning where he could, got around on foot and not in a chariot, and never saw his personal or dynastic ambitions realized. The opposite development, the development from poor to rich, is overwhelmingly more likely. So if the image of Confucius in the text as we have reconstructed it moved from high to humble, or if that image simply mixed high and humble Confuciuses randomly over the twenty chapters of the book, our hypothesis would have failed the test of historical plausibility. The sequences given here show that, on the contrary, the hypothesis handsomely passes that test.

Material and Social Developments

252-253. Even more limited by objective probabilities are such developments as the loss of hunting land to continual agricultural expansion, the growth of silk weaving as the industry most compatible with intensive agriculture, the growth of the mass army, and the emergence of the common people as having a role in the doings of the state. If our text hypothesis implied a world in which fields were being turned back to forests, in which the silk industry vanished and plant-fiber cloth replaced silk for clothing, and the mass army of destruction was abandoned and replaced by a small chivalric chariot force, our text hypothesis would be in big trouble. As the reader of these two pages will see, our text hypothesis is in no trouble whatever on this front. The history glimpsed out of the window of our hypothesis is very much like the history which probably happened in those centuries.

Unpredictable Developments

254-256. We don't know, at the outset, that Confucius was the earliest of the classical philosophers, so it is not a confirmation of our theory that contacts with other philosophers do not seem to arise until the middle of the text as we have reconstructed it, namely in the vicinity of LY 12-13. It is merely interesting. So also with the shift from the core value rvn to the core value li, and the later reappearance of rvn in a socially and philosophically different form. There is no a priori reason why these things had to happen in exactly that way. With the classical texts Shr and Shu, however, though the developments are not predictable, it would be very hard to imagine them running in the opposite direction. It would be strange, for instance, if the Shr was a standard school text at the beginning of our reconstructed Analects, and was rarely or never mentioned at the end of it. And the transition from a generally oral culture to a culture in which texts were thought of as recorded and preserved primarily in written form, is very likely to have gone in that direction and not in the opposite direction. Finally, the onset of philosophical maturity, in the sense of a desire that statements should be compatible with each other, and that they should together form a system with a coherent and consistent message, is also hard to imagine as coming before a phase in which Confucius dropped the previous curriculum and began teaching by isolated wisdom sayings. The isolated sayings are very likely to have preceded the systematic treatment of those sayings. Here again, the reconstructed text presents the sequence of events which is the more likely to have occurred. This result thus properly counts as evidence in favor of the reconstruction.

All these are very strong confirmations. But the final confirmation is simply the generally plausible aspect of the reconstruction. As Chadwick said of Ventris's decipherment of the Linear B script, in the end it doesn't matter what hypothesis was used to establish the theory. The proof of the theory is that it gives meaningful and reasonable results, no matter what angle you examine it from.

256. Two of the items listed under Philosophical Maturity should be corrected as follows:

*15:3(15a) Disciple told that Confucius's sayings have a linking principle
*15:24(15a) Disciple asks for a maxim applicable in all circumstances

The larger argument is not affected.

256/Summary. We here repeat our earlier remark, made at this point in TOA. It should not be held against our theory that not all the results it yields give new or startling information. It would be truly startling if everything that was previously known or suspected about the Warring States period, or about the Analects or Confucius, was wrong. It should be enough that our theory puts the familiar elements into a new, and more plausible, relationship, and that it adds a bit of new information on top of that. The old but still valid information is revitalized by being put into coherent context (much as the famous LY 2:11 passage envisions), and the new information is a bonus.

If this sounds too dull to be endured, consider the alternative. The alternative is to put the interpolations back, and immediately re-enter a world where Confucius both expounds rvn (LY 4:1-7) and never speaks of rvn (9:1); where he advises us on the same day to learn morality by watching other people (7:22), and to learn it by memorizing the Shr (16:13); where in one breath Confucius says he doesn't know what the rituals of Sya were (3:9), and in the next breath assures us that they are not only known, but that the future of ritual changes can be securely extrapolated from that knowledge (2:23). In short, the alternative is the confused Confucius. The moment we restore the interpolations, all that chaos and internal inconsistency comes back. It is the merit of the present hypothesis to have banished that chaos.

It is the choice between these two options that is at issue here. We recommend the second.


This Supplement is Copyright © 2001- by E Bruce and A Taeko Brooks

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