chapter  5
15 Pages

Joy and equanimity

The happy sage
ByRichard Kim

A concept that lies at the heart of the early Confucian view of psychological satisfaction or happiness is the notion of le, often translated as ‘joy.’ Returning to the earlier discussions of ethical equanimity, a substantial part of the sustained joy that is constitutive of the Confucian form of life arises from taking oneself to always be moving toward the achievement of the highest end available to human beings. For the early Confucians, the path toward virtue and sagehood would give rise to a deep form of satisfaction where both emotions and values would be integrated harmoniously. But the Confucians understood ethical equanimity as not simply reducible to a certain outlook and feeling but attached to a genuinely virtuous life. The Confucians would have taken the value of happiness or positive emotions as determined within the context of the ethical form of life they endorse. The distinction between a ‘petty’ and ‘great’ person is found throughout the early Confucian texts.