chapter  1
11 Pages

Introduction

The nature of the Analects raises important questions regarding what it means to read it responsibly, what it means to be guided by it. While it is surely true that the best sorts of books retain a suggestively open character, the Analects permits an unusually generous set of possible, and indeed plausible, directions for inquiry. The text itself seems indirectly to acknowledge this. In describing his teaching, Confucius avers that he provides but “one corner” and invites the student to infer the other three.1 To the extent that Confucius’ claim about his teaching applies to the text itself, the reader has work she is charged to do. She must complete the square. What I wish to do in this study may in some measure be understood as an effort to make this shape, to complete the square I believe suggested by the text. However, it is perhaps more accurate to characterize what follows as a struggle with the “one corner.” As Confucius’ claim suggests, the shape we achieve in learning will depend upon where we begin. The “corner” presumably marks a boundary and circumscribes the shape one may make, yet the corner itself, the starting point, is not clearly marked.