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Analects | Book 18 | Summary

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Summary

Many chapters in Book 18 address the question of whether the virtuous person should withdraw from a chaotic world. In Chapter 8 the Master evaluates a number of figures who "retired from the world." Although he praises them for their resolve, consistency, and incorruptibility, he pointedly says he is different from them. In both the story of the Master and Zilu speaking with two farmers (Chapter 6) and the story of Zilu staying with an old man, whom the Master calls a recluse (Chapter 7), the Master and Zilu say they cannot withdraw from the world. They, as gentleman, have a duty to serve and do what they can, even in a society not following The Way.

The last three chapters of Book 18 do not fit the collection and appear to be fragments from other sources.

Analysis

The philosophy of Daoism (Taoism) would gain influence in China after the Master's death. Its followers would hold recluses, who withdrew rather than be a part of a society dominated by feuding warlords, as ideal examples.

It is likely these chapters of The Analects that talk about these recluses were created later to respond to a rise in the influence of Daoism. They clearly demonstrate a respect for the virtuousness of those who chose to withdraw but emphasize the Confucian belief that one must engage with society, typically through public service, to change it. However, based on the Master's final statement in Chapter 8, he follows no particular rules about how to do so, emphasizing the importance of superior moral judgment.

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