Sunday, March 30, 2014

344. Thomas Paine and Confucius

Thomas Paine (1737-1809), the famous polemicist of republicanism, regarded Confucius as one of the world's great moral teachers. In his Age of Reason, 1791-1792, Paine listed Confucius with Jesus and the Greek philosophers as one of the world's great moral teachers. Paine reiterated this point in an article he wrote a decade later for The Prospect, a New York magazine: As a book of morals there are several parts of the New Testament that are good, but they are no other than what had been preached in the East world several hundred years before Christ was born. Confucius, the Chinese philosopher, who lived five hundred years before the time of Christ says, ‘acknowledge thy benefits by the turn of benefits, but never revenge injuries.’ Remarkably, Paine used Confucius’ moral codes in his political dispatches with the Federalists.

Paine criticized the moral faults of some federalists and told them to follow Confucius teaching. He told them if they would follow this commandment, they would be “leaving off lying.” “As to the hypocritical abuse thrown out by the federalists on other subjects, I recommend to them the observance of a commandment that existed before either Christian or Jew existed. "Thou shalt make a covenant with thy senses, "With thine eye, that it beholds no evil. "With thine ear, that it hear no evil. "With thy tongue, that it speak no evil. "With thy hands that they cemmit no evils.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Confucius was translated to Latin in late 1600s by Jesuits, published in 16th century and taken to Europe where ideas from The Analects influenced the Enlightenment.
Adam Smith, Thomas Paine and others who had contact with Jefferson were notable men, contemporaries who read and whose writings were influenced by Confucius.
Was Thomas Jefferson a reader of the philosophy and teachings of Confucius?