on November 26, 1999
The only translation that is a pleasure to read for both its language and its profundity. Ames and Rosemont bury the stodgy old Confucius and introduce us to a vibrant thinker--the kind of intellectual magnet that attracted hundreds of followers in his own time and millions throughout history. Although their choice of translation for key Confucian terms may seem unorthodox, consider where our 'orthodox' translations have come from. They have come from translators with a knowledge of the Classical Chinese language but all of the built in presuppositions of Western (Christian and essentialistic) thinking (including, surprisingly, D.C. Lau). Since the standard translations (Legge, Waley, Lau), there have been great strides in understanding the philosophy of Confucius' time. Ames and Rosemont are not only experts in the language but are at the cutting edge of ancient Chinese philosophy. This book questions many basic presumptions about Confucius' philosophy and deserves thoughtful consideration.
on October 12, 2000
This particular translation of the Analects is wonderful. The author begins the book by introducing some terms that are difficult to translate or have multiple implications. In the text itself, these words are frequently left untranslated so that the reader can fully appreciate the diversity of the meaning. The english text is presented side by side with the classical chinese text, allowing the linguistically inclined one to compare the two. A great book alltogether.
on July 9, 2000
This translation questions the traditional translations of Confucius' ideas. "Ren" usually translated as "humanity" here becomes "authoritative conduct" which is closer to Confucius' original meaning of the word, which was "noble conduct." Another unique feature of the translation is that the key Chinese characters are highlighted as they appear, directly in the English translation. This is probably not the first choice for someone unfamiliar with the Analects because it is somewhat technical, but it's a must if you are looking for a deeper understanding of the classic.
on August 16, 2004
Daomonkey's reviews exhibit detailed knowledge in Chinese philosophy, and I agree with many of his criticisms. But he has made a small error in his review of this book, which is important to note.
This book is NOT by Hall and Ames, and thus does not show the proclivity towards 'pragmatization' that runs throughout their stimulating work. Rather, it is by Ames and ROSEMONT, a philosopher who has published extensively on topics in Chinese philosophy. You will find little by way of "speculative acrobatics and obsolete wheedlings" here.
The unconventional nature of the translation may seem awkward at first but repays careful reading; Ames and Rosemont provide good arguments in the introduction for adopting them.
(Also, the translation by Slingerland he mentions, published by Hackett, is indeed a fine translation with much running commentary.)
on August 17, 2004
Confucius has been much maligned since he is perceived as wanting a static rigid society. This translation attempts to show that that is not really true. The translators and editors explain in the foreword that the Chinese language is dynamic, and therefore Confucius sayings does not reflect a static society, but rather a society in a constant flux. It does come out that Confucius will not tolerate revolution, but he does accept evolution. He is not preaching a static society, but rather that all development should build on the previous.
While he stresses the importance of ritual, he also hammers in that ritual must be combined with warmth, caring, and even humour. A more gentle, less rigid, Confucius appears in this translation.
Lastly, I think Confucianism relates to Daoism as Shaolin relates to t'ai ch'i (or Bruce Lee to Yang Cheng Fu): on is concerned with the external, and one with the internal. It is just a matter of which way you chose. Ones you have achieved mastery, there is no difference.
on July 14, 2013
If you are a University of Hawaii student studying Chinese or Philosophy, you will be reading this. Be aware that while Ames has done a lot of great work in Chinese Philosophy, he is really doing 20th century postmodernism on a Chinese background. After reading this one might think that Confucius belongs to the same school as Derrida, Foucault and Rorty. That is as absurd as it gets. But academics do not make a name for themselves being correct (outside of the hard sciences that is). If they were correct, they would simply answer questions in a way that satisfactory to readers and move on to the harder questions. Instead, they rise to the top of their fields by being wrong in the cleverest way imaginable and that is what Ames has done. So a generation of American students and scholars are being taught that Confucius would be right at home with some 1970's style sophistry. It is actually kind of funny now that I think about it. I guess when you start with the premise that "truth" is a social construct, you can believe anything.
on June 16, 2012
This book consists of an introduction, a translation, and an appendix. The introduction gives an historical and textual background, and outlines the philosophical approach of the authors. The appendix has some further remarks about a new version of the Analects found in a Han tomb in 1974, and more ruminations about Chinese language and philosophy.
When I bought this book I was a bit skeptical about the subtitle "A Philosophical Translation" -- What kind of hybrid monster would that be? What would made a translation "philosophical"? Is this like saying: a "deep" translation or an "insightful" translation? And what does this choice of subtitle mean for other translations on the market? Are they now, by contrast, all "unphilosophical"? But... I decided to give the writers the benefit of the doubt, and see what they had to say.
Unfortunately, after reading the philosophical introduction, I came away sorely disappointed and almost disgusted by the intellectual laziness and sloppiness of the writers. Instead of two people trying to think through the real issues that Confucius addresses, issues that are interesting *either* because they are completely out of date (merely of historical interest) *or* because they still may be relevant for people today, whatever their cultural background, I find two muddle-headed academicians spouting nonsense about the "basically substantive and essentialistic" nature of the English language (sometimes generalized to all Indo-European languages) versus the "more eventful", "relational" nature of the Chinese language. If you just squint your eyes a bit, and pretend to sort of vaguely understand what that might mean, and consider the evidence for this view, you find mostly smoke, pipe dreams, the half-digested remains of past metaphysical discussions. You find stupid, plain falsehoods, like the claim that all Indo-European languages have articles. You find a severely misleading account of Chinese grammar -- underlining the supposed ambiguity and vagueness of written Chinese. You find arguments like "The very expression 'thing' ... -- dongxi '' literally, 'east-west,' -- is a nonsubtantial relationship." -- Deep!
The book could, I suppose, still be saved by the translation. Unfortunately, philosophy gets in the way and leads the writers to use some very awkward new terms, like "the authoritative person" for "ren".
The writers are aware of the awkwardness and try to justify their selections of certain key terms -- which is good --, but mostly I found their arguments, again, unconvincing and disappointing. The arguments are often either circular or straw-man arguments.
All in all, I didn't find special merit in this translation compared to earlier translations by others. The language often seems clumsy without need. Especially clumsy if you know enough classical Chinese to see that the original is pretty straightforward and seems very natural. As an example, here is the first paragraph of the first book:
"The Master said: "Having studied, to then repeatedly apply what you have learned -- is this not a source of pleasure? To have friends come from distant quarters -- is this not a source of enjoyment? To go unacknowledged by others without harboring frustration - is this not the mark of an exemplary person?"
"Having studied, to then repeatedly" - that's in my eyes just clunky and wooden.
"a source of" - the original merely has: "is (this) not pleasant".
Compare this with the old Legge translation (1861/1893):
"The Master said, 'Is it not pleasant to learn with a constant perseverance and application? Is it not delightful to have friends coming from distant quarters? Is he not a man of complete virtue, who feels no discomposure though men may take no note of him?'"
The last line in Legge's translation is quaint -- after all, this translation is more than a 100 years old, but the first two lines sound more natural to me. (Ames and Rosemont claim that "junzi" doesn't have a gender basis, so would probably object to "a man of", but that seems nonsense to me: women are hardly even mentioned in the Analects, and from a purely linguistic standpoint I also doubt that their claim is true.)
on February 14, 2003
This is by far one of the most well thought out and justified translations I have come across. Though true that it can be "wordy", I find that it clearly conveys ideas that have been missed by others who avoid the time to clearly articulate the depth of certain concepts. Sometimes brevity is not the most important factor in a good translation. The use of 'authoritative', especially after reading the explanation given by the translator, I find to be one of the better translations I have come across. It asks the reader to put aside a certain negatice "baggage" that goes with this vocabularty, but conveys a sentiment that I find very accurate to the word itself and the religion. This is a fablulous traslation with wonderful commentary from the translator. I would consider it a first choice for anyone serious in studying the analects.
on April 5, 2009
Roger Ames and Henry Rosemont offer a new translation of this Chinese classic of Confucius. While I am not qualified to comment on the accuracy or integrity of the translation, Ames and Rosemont have explained and offered justifications for their translations quite thoroughly. The result is an informative version of this classic text attributed to Confucius. Heavily discussing the ethics of ritual propriety and the need to be a "junzi" or "exemplary person", Confucius believed in wisdom and the law of reciprocity (the "silver rule"). Clearly he was concerned with preserving a moral tradition extracted from the collective understanding of the past. While parts of Ames and Rosemont's introduction are tedious and could be better written, overall they have made a valuable contribution to the understanding of Confucian thought.