Word Philology and Text Philology in LY 9:1
E Bruce and A Taeko Brooks
Bryan Van Norden (ed), Confucius and the Analects (Oxford 2002) 163-215
This article itself deals, at greater length than was possible in The Original Analects, with a part of the formal argument on which that book's conclusions rested. The key elements of that argument are formal, including the tendency to pairing of sayings in the Analects, which often permits the identification of intrusive passages without the need for a circular argument from content. The article might be outlined roughly as follows:
1. The Analects belongs to a little-studied type of text which has a continuous identity without being homogeneous in the way that a single-author text is homogeneous.
2. LY 9:1 famously states that Confucius "seldom spoke of rvn," whereas everyone perceives rvn as one of the chief values of Confucius. Recent critics and commentators (Durrant, Dawson, Nan Hwai-jin at the end of a three-page note) have concluded that there is a problem here which conventional remedies are powerless to resolve in a satisfactory way. This failure certainly invites further study.
3. One suggestive fact is that 9:1 stands outside a pattern of paired sayings in the chapter, a pattern in which the clearly parallel sayings 9:2 and 9:3 participate. The pairing of sayings, and even the pairing of pairs of sayings, in this chapter is demonstrated in some detail.
4. In somewhat less detail, it is shown that this pattern of paired sayings applies to the whole of the Analects, and a chronological sequence of Analects chapters is derived from this and other evidence.
5. It is shown that if the Analects material is taken in this proposed sequence, historically plausible developmental sequences result, in such areas as the increasing aggrandizement of the founder Confucius, the shift in the Warring States economy, and the emergence of an ideal of philosophical consistency.
6. The relation of the Kung Family to the progress of the Analects is explored, as is the problem, noticed by Maspero and others, of the year of Confucius's death. The claim of continuous Kung Family custody of Confucius's successor school, based on fantastic precocity or legendary longevity or both, is shown to be untenable. It must then be acknowledged that a period of disciple headship intervened between the death of Confucius and the arrival of the Kungs. The boundary between the respective zones of control is equated with areas in the text where either rvn or li (propriety) predominate.
7. The solution of the LY 9:1 problem is now within reach. It is that 9:1 is a Kung family interpolation into the earlier disciple portion of the text, designed to neutralize the prominence of rvn within that portion, and to clear the way for their own sponsorship of li as the cardinal value of the school.
8. The parallel case of LY 12:1 is explored as relevant to the proposed solution of 9:1. No difficulty is found in explaining 12:1 on the basis previously established.
9. [The extension of "word philology" to text philology, which now makes up the whole of the article as finally published, was originally followed by a section noting that in the end, all texts in a corpus, such as the corpus of pre-Chin philosophical texts, must be solved together in order for the solution of any one detail to be absolutely secure. This section was removed from the article at the insistence of the volume editor. What is left of that section is the following two paragraphs from the end of the LY 12:1 section, with one note incorporated into the text]:
That such large developments also go far toward clarifying the whole text, and recovering its evolving agenda over the more than two centuries of its compilation, is a claim for which we must refer the reader to our extended study, The Original Analects. The present, necessarily limited, argument attempts to demonstrate that this solution of the text can accommodate the most insightful of traditional and recent scholarly observations, while at the same time solving recognized problems that are beyond the power of the old explanatory structures, that it reveals the text as possessing an unexpected aesthetic finesse and an unappreciated philosophical and pedagogical subtlety, that it reveals the interplay of rival viewpoints in the formation of opinion and the impingement of life upon thought, and that it meets without internal contradiction the basic tests of textual, institutional, and historical plausibility.
Our final suggestion, in terms of our announced theme, is that the way to understand one word is to keep an eye on the whole text in which that word appears, and ultimately the whole corpus of which that text is in turn a part. Many readers will recognize that this advice is very close to what has always been the traditional Chinese way of working with texts. Among the most important traditional statements on the importance of context in interpretation are LY 11:20 and MC 5A4. We may claim it as a final merit of our current solution of both texts that it puts these passages close together in time, as they are clearly kindred in intent, LY 11:20 as an interpolation of c0270, and MC 5A4 as an original statement of c0272. We may venture to repeat an observation from n75 above: It is the great if unsung merit of Confucius's successors to have kept him or his image so current with the philosophical trends of later centuries that he also registers in the philosophical consciousness of later millennia.
E Bruce Brooks
A Taeko Brooks
Reviews and Responses
- Jeffrey L Richey, in JAS v62 #2 (May 2003) 599-601. Notes that we "exhibit precisely a degree of confidence in philological research and evidence that others in the volume manifestly lack."
1 April 2004 / Contact The Project / Exit to Publications Page