The Analects is a collection of teachings that communicate Confucian. The work represents an early Chinese culture and the fundamental principles that constitute its form and content, among which jen plays a significant role. This paper will investigate the concept of goodness in order to demonstrate how the idea of jen is represented in the Analects. The textual analysis of the reading demonstrates that the idea of the embodiment of jen does not develop gradually through the Analects. Instead, jen, which means “being good” and “goodness,” is transcendent to people’s daily experiences. Besides, it is manifested through the rules of conduct and by being a gentlemen, allowing a good man to merge with the sacred jen.
Jen, translated as “goodness,” works as a rule of conduct that adjusts the behavior of individuals on the social level. Goodness may be defined as proper behavior towards parents and elder brothers. It allows interpreting jen as respectfulness of the younger towards the older, focusing on the social hierarchy in both family and society. Hence, to be good means to treat other people appropriately, with the consideration of own position and viewing oneself as a part of the whole. This is the first and the primal level that demonstrates how the idea of jen works through the Analects: the recognition of social hierarchy and respectfulness towards such a custom.
The idea of jen provides practical recommendations towards becoming a gentlemen and a good man on the individual level. Next, being good is possible if one follows certain manners and is not frivolous. Thus, a more concrete level of jen may serve as a guideline for daily life. Taking into account the significance of rituals according to Confucian views, jen entails conducting rituals in a harmonious manner. Apart from adhering to rituals, being a gentleman requires practicing then preaching, not vice versa, as well as an ability to recognize multiple aspects of one thing without logical biases. Therefore, being good involves being intelligent, thoughtful, and critical. Based on the translator’s explanations, to be gentle and to be a gentleman are also manifestations of goodness. The first and most important thing for a gentleman is faithfulness towards superiors, reliability, and refusal from friendship with aliens. Therefore, a gentleman must spend time with those who are like him. Thus, jen is expressed via a sense of belonging to the community, which might be equalized to being faithful and patriotic.
The idea of jen involves the sacred, transcendent, and supreme character, though it is not religious as in Abrahamic religions. According to the Analects, jen is transmitted via social norms and precise recommendations to individuals. Though a young man’s duty is to be kind towards everybody, he should seek intimacy in the good. This phrase proves that the good is something outside the sphere of interpersonal relationship, which also means that goodness is not a characteristic that can be found in social relationships. Thus, jen evolves from respectfulness towards the social hierarchy to daily guidelines and, finally, to something that does not belong to the world of social relationships. Thus, jen is a sacred transcendental principle to which people should strive to feel intimacy with. Sanctity should be distinguished from religiousness: jen, or goodness, is treated as sacred, and those who think that it is important do not worship it. The transcendence of jen is developed in the Analects through Book IV. The goodness is the source of neighborhood’s beauty; without goodness people would not be able to endure adversity and enjoy prosperity for long. According to the teachings, goodness is immaterial, transcendent to daily existence; goodness is the supreme source of everything that is manifested as good among people. This argument transcends the nature of jen, making rituals and respectfulness the guidelines for daily life and most honorable characteristics, which are just an embodiment of the sacred Jen. The good is sacred because a good man can rest content with it, as if the part of the good in a man strives to merge with goodness (jen), giving a sense of peacefulness and confidence to a man.
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The textual analysis demonstrates that the idea of jen is manifested in different layers of the human life. On the individual level, the guidelines to be good are provided, while on the social level, the rules of interpersonal behavior are established. People may develop some characteristics of jen and strive to reach it via respectfulness, recognition of social hierarchy, engagement in rituals, and spiritual and intellectual self-improvement. Nevertheless, Jen remains immaterial and transcendent in nature, treated with sanctity and respect.