China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
This paper explores the idea of deception or falseness in the Lunyu, with occasional reference to the Mengzi. Some recent scholarship has argued for a more flexible view of Confucius in the Lunyu when it comes to issues of indirectness or deception (Raphals 2014). I take a slightly different approach and propose that deception or falseness in the Lunyu needs no defense at all because it is often portrayed ambivalently. For example, the famous passage in which Confucius defends the idea that a son should lie on behalf of his sheep-thieving father has generated a small sea of scholarship, most of which tries to explain Confucius’ endorsement of lying along consequentialist lines (D’Ambrosio 2015). That is, the lie is defensible because of its results. I will look at several instances of deception or falseness in the Lunyu and suggest that they are presented in such a way as to need no defense in the first place. Following that, I turn to the difference between authenticity and sincerity, two virtues sometimes used to differentiate Daoism from Confucianism (Moeller & D’Ambrosio 2017). The ambivalence of deception in the Lunyu raises the possibility that Confucius is less concerned with sincerity (xin 信) than is traditionally held. Deception may involve insincerity, but that insincerity allows one to remain authentic to one’s beliefs or integrity, which is an essential part of being humane (ren 仁).