Class #37

Reading:  "The Doctrine of the Mean" (Part I), in The Great Learning and the Doctrine of the Mean," pp. 22-33

Lecture PowerPoint Deck

On Wednesday and Friday we will discuss The Doctrine of the Mean, a second Confucian summary text, dating from late in the Warring States era or from the brief period of the Qin Dynasty (221-208 BCE).

The Doctrine originally was a companion chapter to The Great Learning, the two essays appearing together as chapters in the Liji (Records of ritual), a compendium of Confucian texts brought together during the Former Han Dynasty (202 BCE - 9 CE).  The Doctrine is much the longer of the two essays, and is more theoretical in its discussion, although it too appears to be a practical handbook for Confucian self-improvement -- perhaps meant as a Confucian "persuasion" to the First Emperor of the Qin, whose governing principles were Legalist, but whose early reign seems to have allowed free expression of ideas, so long as these were communicated within the confines of the Imperially controlled court.

The Doctrine is traditionally divided into 33 chapters of vastly uneven length. The translation you have has devised new divisions, seven in all, designed to bring out more clearly the thematic structure of the text. On Wednesday, we will focus on the first four sections.