International Conference “Homo Translator: Traditions in Translation”

Zbigniew Wesołowski SVD (Wei Siqi 魏思齊) :

Hermeneutics of Understanding the Confucian Idea of Truth: Junzi 君子 as a Truth-bearer according to Lunyu 論語

Paper presented at International Conference “Homo Translator: Traditions in Translation” (as 4th Stage of a Research Project on Promoting Internationalization at Nanzan University, Nagoya, 4–5 July 2019)

Organizers of Conference: Nanzan Institute for Religion and Culture, Nagoya, Japan


In this contribution, the author first tries to explicate the horizon of understanding the idea of truth in classical China in a comparative perspective. The Western and Chinese cultures differ in their attitudes towards truth: while the Western understanding of the category of truth is self-evident, in Chinese culture truth almost does not seem to have occurred whatsoever. Thus, the author attempts to work out the hermeneutic and methodological horizon to look at the idea of truth in classical China. The second part of this contribution is an exemplary inquiry into the idea of truth in Confucianism with the help of Lunyu  論語 (The Analects of Confucius). The first part of the present contribution contains hermeneutic and methodological problems: 1. The historicity of understanding as the first hermeneutic rule; 2. Authentic existence as a “shared meaning” in quest for existential truth within a spiritual tradition: the second hermeneutic rule; 3. The understanding of the difference between a notion and an idea (theory and attitude) as the third hermeneutic rule; 4. The triple dimension of the notion of truth in the Western philosophical tradition as the fourth comparative hermeneutic rule; 5. Hermeneutic truth as a continuous and never-ending self-understanding in the understanding the others and the world: the fifth heuristic and hermeneutic rule. Besides, the author thematizes a kind of “Sinological” hermeneutics as a help in the quest for the idea of truth in the Lunyu : 1. The understanding of the concept of classical China; 2. The nature of classical Chinese as well as the transmitted and reconstructed classical Chinese view of language; 3. Lexical candidates of the truth problematic in classical China or a possible mode of hermeneutic substitution, or even an interpretative fusion of horizons. All these hermeneutic and methodological steps serve to create a bridge between the two different ideas of truth that came into being – one in the West and one in China.

In the second part, on the basis of the Lunyu, the author explores the Confucian idea of junzi  君子 (the noble people) as the Dao-truth bearers. It is beyond doubt that the Confucian idea of truth, similarly to ancient Greece, was based upon the category of compliance (the correspondence theory of truth). What we deal with here is first of all the correspondence theory of individual and moral truth, i.e., a junzi as being in compliance with ren 仁 -humanity (human nature) and li 禮-ritual (the appropriate expression of ren-humanity and other moral attitudes in a society) as well as with the correspondence theory of social and political truth, i.e., as being in compliance with Tiandao  天道 – the Heavenly order which, according to Confucius, was implemented as early as in the beginnings of Chinese history. Both forms of this correspondence idea of truth belong to the ethical and moral dimension of truth. Moreover, from the language philosophy’s point of view, the so-called rectification of names (zhengming  正名) is in the first place a pragmatic – and not so much a semantic category.