Saturday, December 27, 2008

子曰:必也正名乎 Confucius: Rectification of Names

子曰:‘必也正名乎?…….. 名不正,则言不顺,言不顺,则事不成,事不成,则礼乐不兴,礼乐不兴,则刑罚不中,则民无所错手足。故君子名之必可言也。言之必可行也。君子于其言,无所苟而已也。’
Confucius held that in order to have a well-ordered society, the most important thing is to carry out what he called the rectification of names. That is to say all things should be called by their proper name.
Zilu said, ‘The ruler of Wei awaits your taking on administration. What will you consider the first thing to be done?’
Confucius replied, ‘What is necessary is to rectify names . . . . If names are not rectified then language will not flow. If language does not flow, then affairs cannot be carried on to success. If affairs cannot be carried on to success, ritual and arts will deteriorate; if the rites and arts deteriorate, justice goes astray; and if justice goes astray, the people will stand about in helpless confusion. Therefore a superior man considers it necessary that the names he uses may be spoken appropriately and also that what he speaks may be carried out appropriately. What the superior man requires, is just that in his words there may be nothing incorrect.'
The rectification of names also means that things should conform to the name they already have. Every name in the social relationships implies certain responsibilities and duties. Ruler, minister, father, and son are all the names of such social relationships, and the individuals bearing these names must fulfil their responsibilities and duties accordingly.
Therefore, Confucius said: ‘Let the ruler be ruler, the minister be the minister, the father be the father, and the son be the son.’

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