Confucius Interpreted by a Confucian: Feng Youlan's Interpretations of the Analects

Jack Chun

Research output: Chapter in book / Conference proceedingChapter in an edited book (as author)Academic researchpeer-review


I introduce the entanglement principle as a general approach to the deconstruction of the process of interpretation. I propose that the use of the entanglement principle provides a new perspective in understanding Feng Youlan’s different interpretations of Confucius and the Analects approximately from 1934 to the end of the 1980s. The case of Feng clearly demonstrates that his interpretations of Confucius’ the Analects are intermingled with his different philosophical agenda at different phases. I divide Feng’s interpretations into four phases. In the first phase, his theory of the sphere of living is the yardstick by which he interrogates Confucius and the Analects. From the second to the fourth phase, he adopts a Marxist model of class struggle in making sense of Confucius’ class identity and the meanings of the Analects. While he is dissatisfied with his interpretation in the third phase, Feng is caught in a dilemma in the second and fourth phases as to how to navigate through Marxism and his own sympathetic understanding of the class-transcendent values of Confucian philosophy through his theory of abstract inheriting methodology. In conclusion, I briefly show how Feng’s interpretations can be evaluated through the three criteria of the entanglement principle. Namely, the criteria are whether they are responsive in answering the call of his era, whether they are internally consistent, and finally, how they are philosophically interesting. I conclude that the reflexive use of the entanglement principle can heighten the problem with critics who reject Feng’s interpretations too readily.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLiving Confucianisms
Subtitle of host publicationStrategies for Optimizing Harmony
EditorsJames D. Sellmann, R. James Ferguson, Rosita Dellios
Place of PublicationLanham, Maryland and London
PublisherRowman & Littlefield
Number of pages21
ISBN (Electronic)9781538181058
ISBN (Print)9781538181034
Publication statusPublished - 6 Dec 2023

Publication series

NameEast Asian Comparative Ethics, Politics and Philosophy of Law


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