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Confucius: The Secular As Sacred (Religious Traditions of the World) Paperback – June, 1998


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Product Details

  • Series: Religious Traditions of the World
  • Paperback: 84 pages
  • Publisher: Waveland Pr Inc (June 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1577660102
  • ISBN-13: 978-1577660101
  • Product Dimensions: 0.2 x 5.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #677,026 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

". . . Confucius has revitalized all our thinking about the sage. . . . [it] opens up new prospects of understanding and learning from Confucius." -- A. C. Graham, Times Literary Supplement

". . . this wonderful little . . . book has become a modern classic of Confucian interpretation." -- John M. Koller, Oriental Philosophies

"Confucius is one of the most significant philosophical books on the subject to be published in a long time." -- Henry J. Rosemont, Jr., Philosophy East and West

"In the fifty years in which I have been studying Confucius, I cannot recall that I have found the work of another scholar more stimulating than that of Professor Fingarette." -- Herrlee G. Creel, Journal of the American Academy of Religion

"With superb faithfulness to the text, Fingarette discerns the deepest meaning of the thought of Confucius and, paradoxically, its application to our own time. This is another beautiful book from one of our most perceptive thinkers." -- Robert N. Bellah

From the Publisher

Title of related interest from Waveland Press: Overmyer, Religions of China: The World as a Living System (ISBN 9781577660002).

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By DocCaligari on November 26, 2000
Format: Paperback
This book is essential reading for anyone seriously interested in Confucius, Confucianism, or early Chinese thought in general. It is quite convincing on some points, but also very problematic on others.
Fingarette was a mainstream Western philosopher, who said that when he first read Confucius, he found him to be a "prosaic and parochial moralizer." However, he eventually became convinced that Confucius had "an imaginative vision of man equal in its grandeur" to any that he knew.
Fingarette is at his best explaining the importance of ritual in Confucianism. Most of us nowadays think of rituals as useless affectations. However, Fingarette shows that Confucius regarded rituals (from handshaking to funerals) as an important part of being human. It is when we participate in such ritual activities that we are most distinctively human. In addition, ritual has the power to enable humans to work together without the need for coercion. Perhaps if we in the West can recover the feeling for the importance of shared, sacred rituals, we can help give more unity to our chaotic society.
Fingarette was also deeply influenced by Western behaviorism, and this leads to some of the less plausible aspects of his book. He wishes to deny that there is any "internal" dimension to Confucius' thought. If what Fingarette wishes to claim is that Confucius did not think of human psychology the way that, say, Augustine or Descartes did, then he is quite correct. (But then who is Fingarette arguing with? No serious interpreter I know of has read Confucius as a Cartesian.) However, Fingarette sometimes seems to want to claim that emotions and attitudes are, for Confucius, perfectly public states.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By From_Plano_TX on October 1, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I very much enjoyed the originality of this book. I don't agree with the author's major premise regarding the interpretation of one of the analects, but I found the originality refreshing. This should not be your first book on Confucius. But once you are comfortable in having some understanding of his teachings, at least enough understanding to recognize when Fingarette departs from orthodox interpretations, then you will greatly enjoy this book. I think it is a "must read" for serious students! If you are interested in a practical view of Confucianism, I recommend the book by Robert Canright: "Achieve Lasting Happiness, Timeless Secrets to Transform Your Life."
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Read Taylor on April 1, 2000
Format: Paperback
As an undergraduate and graduate student I have read this book a total of at least five times. Each time, I am impressed by how clearly Fingarette clarifies the important fundamentals of Confucianism that we often forget in our attempt to exoticize this central Chinese philosopher. A short, easy to read book, it ranks with Waley's "Three Ways of Thought in Ancient China" as one of the first important texts to read to understand Chinese philosophy.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By T. Tse on November 6, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book offers a unique perspective on the Confucian vision. As someone who has studied Confucius and Confucianism in Chinese for more than ten years, I believe that Fingarette has revealed an important aspect of the original vision of Confucius even though the book has some flaws. (That is why I have only awarded it four stars.) He is as careful with the text as he can be without being an Orientalist and without expertise in classical Chinese language. This is commendable.

Fingarette's main argument is that rituals (li) played a central role in Confucius's thinking not only because of their social significance but also because of their religious or spiritual significance. In fact, Fingarette goes on to argue that the social significance derives from the religious significance. I generally agree that this is indeed one of Confucius's most important teachings, and that it is under-appreciated or misinterpreted in modern scholarship. I also agree with Fingarette's view that Confucius saw human civilization as a perfect embodiment of the Way if it is united under the central symbol of holy ceremony.

As Fingarette neatly points out, modern Western thought has gravitated towards a utilitarian view of responsibility, which is in stark contrast to Confucius's view of responsibility as personal commitment. Fingarette, to his credit, avoids framing the discussion around individual and society. For Confucius, the ethical life is largely a problem of personal commitment (or will) rather than a problem of decision. It is a pity that Fingarette did not develop the notion of committed self-cultivation further. I would recommend Confucian Moral Cultivation by P J Ivanhoe for readers interested in this important theme.
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Confucius: The Secular As Sacred (Religious Traditions of the World)
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