"What Confucius Didn't Say: Nameless Virtues and Restrained Speech in the Analects"

Wednesday, October 23
Erin Cline (University of Oregon)

This paper explores the virtue of restrained speech in the Confucian Analects (Lunyu) and argues that restraint in speech is best understood as a nameless virtue. Additionally, the paper argues that restraint in speech is an important virtue for us today. I begin by considering Aristotle's account of nameless virtues, followed by a discussion of nameless virtues and restrained and unrestrained speech in the Analects. I argue that studying restraint in speech can help us to better understand Confucian philosophy in general by showing why Kongzi (“Confucius”) thought it was important to cultivate certain virtues. I explore the reasons why Kongzi maintains that it is valuable to cultivate restraint in speech, including its role in creating and maintaining certain kinds of relationships and the special role it plays in self-cultivation. In the last part of the paper, I show that many of these reasons hold in a contemporary setting, which helps to show why the virtue of restraint in speech merits careful study.