Analects of Confucius: passages on rightness

Rightness (義/yì) refers to having the moral disposition to do the right thing or act in the right way in any given situation. Alternative translations include “righteousness”, “propriety”, “morality”, “appropriateness”, and “what is right”.

Here are all the passages in the Analects of Confucius on rightness, plus links to related articles.

Analects Book 1: Passages on rightness
Chapter 13

有子曰:「信近於義,言可復也。恭近於禮,遠恥辱也。因不失其親,亦可宗也。」
Youzi said: “If your commitments conform to what is right, you will be able to keep your word. If your manners conform to ritual, you will be able to avoid shame and disgrace. Only if you associate with reliable people will you be successful.”

Analects Book 1: Links
Book 1, Chapter 13

Analects Book 2: Passages on rightness
Chapter 24

子曰:「非其鬼而祭之,諂也。見義不為,無勇也。」
Confucius said: “Sacrificing to spirits that don’t belong to your ancestors is presumptuous. Doing nothing when rightness demands action is cowardice.”

Analects Book 2: Links
Book 2, Chapter 24

Analects Book 4: Passages on rightness
Chapter 10

子曰:「君子之於天下也,無適也,無莫也,義之於比。」
Confucius said: “In dealing with the world, a leader has no prejudice or bias: they go with what is right.”

Chapter 16
子曰:「君子喻於義,小人喻於利。」
Confucius said: “A leader is concerned about what is right; a petty person is concerned about what is in their own interest.”

Analects Book 4: Links
Book 4, Chapter 10
Book 4, Chapter 16

Analects Book 5: Passages on rightness
Chapter 16

子謂子產有君子之道四焉:其行己也恭,其事上也敬,其養民也惠,其使民也義。
Confucius said of Zichan: “He had four essential qualities of a leader: in his personal conduct he was gracious; in serving his superiors he was respectful; in caring for the common people he was generous; in employing them for public service he was just.”

Analects Book 5: Links
Book 5, Chapter 16

Analects Book 6: Passages on rightness
Chapter 22

樊遲問知。子曰:「務民之義,敬鬼神而遠之,可謂知矣。」問仁。曰:「仁者先難而後獲,可謂仁矣。」
Fan Chi asked about wisdom. Confucius said: “Do what is right for the common people; respect the spirits and gods but keep them at a distance. This is wisdom.” Fan Chi asked about goodness. Confucius said: “A person who possesses goodness is first in line to confront difficulties and last in line to collect rewards. This is goodness.”

Analects Book 6: Links
Book 6, Chapter 22

Analects Book 7: Passages on rightness
Chapter 3
子曰:「德之不修,學之不講,聞義不能徒,不善不能改,是吾憂也。」
Confucius said: “Failure to nurture my virtue, failure to discuss what I have learned, failure to follow what I know to be right, and failure to correct my faults: these are the worries that plague me.”

Chapter 15
子曰:「飯疏食,飲水,曲肱而枕之,樂亦在其中矣。不義而富且貴,於我如浮雲。」
Confucius said: “Even if you have only coarse grain to eat, water to drink, and your bent elbow to use as a pillow, you can still find joy in these things. But wealth and honors obtained by improper means are like passing clouds to me.”

Analects Book 7: Links
Book 7, Chapter 3
Book 7, Chapter 15

Analects Book 12: Passages on rightness
Chapter 10

子張問「崇德,辨惑。」子曰:「主忠信,徒義崇德也。愛之欲其生,惡之欲其死;既欲其生,又欲其死,是惑也!」誠不以富,亦祗以異。
Zizhang asked about the phrase “accumulate virtue, resolve confusion”. Confucius said: “Place loyalty and trustworthiness above everything and follow the path of rightness to accumulate virtue. When you love someone, you want them to live; when you hate someone, you want them to die. But if you want someone to live and to die at the same time, that’s confusion.”
It may not be just because she is wealthy,
It may also be out of a need for variety.

Chapter 20
子張問士:「何如斯可謂之達矣?」子曰:「何哉?爾所謂達者!」子張對曰:「在邦必聞,在家必聞。」子曰:「是聞也,非達也。夫達也者,質直而好義,察言而觀色,慮以下人;在邦必達,在家必達。夫聞也者:色取仁而行違,居之不疑;在邦必聞,在家必聞。」
Zizhang asked: “When is it possible to say that someone is accomplished?” Confucius said: “It depends on what you mean by being accomplished.” Zizhang replied: “To be recognized in public and private life.” Confucius said: “That is celebrity, not accomplishment. An accomplished person is straightforward by nature and loves what is right. They listen to what others have to say, observe their moods and expressions, and are respectful to others. Such a person is sure to be accomplished in their public and private life. Someone seeking celebrity puts on an ostentatious display of goodness while behaving in the opposite way free of any self-doubt. They will definitely be recognized in their public and private life.”

Analects Book 12: Links
Book 12, Chapter 10
Book 12, Chapter 20

Analects Book 13: Passages on rightness
Chapter 4

樊遲請學稼,子曰:「吾不如老農。」請學為圃,曰:「吾不如老圃。」樊遲出,子曰:「小人哉,樊須也!上好禮,則民莫敢不敬;上好義,則民莫敢不服;上好信,則民莫敢不用情。夫如是,則四方之民,襁負其子而至矣;焉用稼!」
Fan Chi asked to learn about cultivating grain. Confucius said: “You’d be better off asking an old farmer.” Fan Chi asked to learn about raising vegetables. Confucius said: “You’d be better off asking an old gardener.” After Fan Chi had left, Confucius said: “What a petty person! When a ruler loves ritual, the people don’t dare to be disrespectful. When a ruler loves rightness, the people don’t dare to be disobedient. When a ruler loves trustworthiness, the people don’t dare to be deceitful. If such a ruler existed, people would flock to them from everywhere with their children strapped to their backs. What need would there be to learn about farming?”

Analects Book 13: Links
Book 13, Chapter 4

Analects Book 14: Passages on rightness
Chapter 12

子路問「成人」。子曰:「若臧武仲之知,公綽之不欲,卞莊子之勇,冉求之藝,文之以禮樂,亦可以為成人矣!」曰:「今之成人者,何必然?見利思義,見危授命,久要不忘平生之言,亦可以為成人矣!」
Zilu asked how to define a “complete person”. Confucius said: “Take someone as wise as Zang Wuzhong, as free from desire as Gongchuo, as brave as Zhuangzi of Bian, and as cultured as Ran Qiu, as well as being accomplished in ritual and music, and they may be considered a complete person.” Then he added: “But must a complete person be exactly like this today? Someone who thinks of what is right at the sight of profit, who is ready to risk their life when faced with danger, and who can endure hardship without forgetting the teachings that have guided their daily life may also be considered a complete person.”

Chapter 13
子問「公叔文子」於公明賈,曰:「信乎?夫子不言不笑不取乎?」公明賈對曰:「以告者過也!夫子時然後言,人不厭其言;樂然後笑,人不厭其笑;義然後取,人不厭其取。」子曰:「其然!豈其然乎?」
Confucius asked Gongming Jia about Gongshu Wenzi: “Is it true that your master never spoke, laughed, nor took anything?” Gongming Jia replied: “Whoever told you this exaggerated. My master spoke, but only at the right time, and so no one ever thought he spoke too much; he laughed, but only when he was happy, and so no one ever thought that he laughed too much; he took things, but only when it was right, and so no one ever thought that he took too much.” Confucius said: “How commendable! Assuming of course it is true.”

Analects Book 14: Links
Book 14, Chapter 12
Book 14, Chapter 13

Analects Book 15: Passages on rightness
Chapter 17

子曰:「群居終日,言不及義,好行小慧,難矣哉!」
Confucius said: “I can’t stand people who can spend a whole day together indulging in idle chatter without ever reaching a deeper truth.”

Chapter 18
子曰:「君子義以為質,禮以行之,孫以出之,信以成之,君子哉!」
Confucius said: “A leader takes rightness as their essence, puts it into practice through ritual, manifests it through humility, and brings it to fruition through trustworthiness. This is how a leader behaves.”

Analects Book 15: Links
Book 15, Chapter 17
Book 15, Chapter 18

Analects Book 16: Passages on rightness
Chapter 10

孔子曰:「君子有九思:視思明,聽思聰,色思溫,貌思恭,言思忠,事思敬,疑思問,忿思難,見得思義。」
Confucius said: “A leader focuses their thoughts in nine ways: when looking they focus on seeing clearly; when listening they focus on hearing properly; in their facial expression, they focus on appearing friendly; in their demeanor, they focus on being respectful; in their speech, they focus on sincerity; when at their duties, they focus on being respectful; when they have doubts, they focus on asking questions; when angry, they focus on the negative consequences; when faced with an opportunity for profit, they focus on rightness.”

Chapter 11
孔子曰:「見善如不及,見不善而探湯,吾見其人矣,吾聞其語矣!隱居以求其志,行義以達其道,吾聞其語矣,未見其人也!」
Confucius said: “‘Seeing good and pursuing it as if they were unable to reach it; seeing evil and recoiling from it as if they were scalded by boiling water’ — I have seen such people and I have heard such words said of them. ‘Living in seclusion to pursue their aspirations; doing what is right to attain the way’ — I have heard such words, but I have never seen such people.”

Analects Book 16: Links
Book 16, Chapter 10
Book 16, Chapter 11

Analects Book 17: Passages on rightness
Chapter 23

子路曰:「君子尚勇乎?」子曰:「君子義以為上。君子有勇而無義為亂,小人有勇而無義為盜。」
Zilu said: “Does a leader prize courage?” Confucius said: “A leader prizes rightness above all else. A leader who is courageous but lacking in rightness could create chaos; a petty person who is courageous but lacking in rightness could become a bandit.”

Analects Book 16: Links
Book 17, Chapter 23

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I live in Taiwan and am interested in exploring what ancient Chinese philosophy can tell us about technology and the rise of modern China.

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Richard Brown

Richard Brown

I live in Taiwan and am interested in exploring what ancient Chinese philosophy can tell us about technology and the rise of modern China.

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