Author: Roger T. Ames, Professor, Department of Philosophy, Pekin University; Professor Emeritus, University of Hawaii
Because Confucianism was introduced into the Western academy by missionaries, the key terminology of this tradition was translated in a way that would syncretize it with an Abrahamic worldview. Tian 天 became (and still is) “Heaven,” li 礼 became (and still is) “ritual,” and dao 道 became (and still is) “the Way.” It is for this reason that Confucian philosophy is shelved in the religion section of our libraries and taught in religion and Asian studies departments in our universities. Yet if we allow this tradition to speak on its own terms, it provides an alternative model of religiousness that takes family and human beings rather than a transcendent God as its core idea. In this essay, I want to use the canonical texts of the Confucian tradition itself to try to reconstruct a religious vocabulary that expresses a distinctively Confucian form of religiousness.
li礼, tian天, dao道, religiousness, transcendence
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