The Moral Metaphysics


What Chung-yung envisions is not merely a moral community, definable in terms of harmonized social relations. Nor is it the approximation of a moral theology, laying claim to clear and certain knowledge of the natural law. Rather, it is a form of metaphysics which advocates that the ultimate reality is perceivable and realizable in the moral life of every person because human nature is potentially a genuine manifestation of that reality. This is predicated on the assertion that human beings, by nature, share the reality of Heaven. They are not in any sense “created” by a higher order of being that is beyond the comprehension of human rationality. Precisely because their essence is identical with that of Heaven are they said to have partaken their nature from Heaven.
In practice, however, there is no guarantee that, with his heavenly endowed nature, each human being can effortlessly form a complete union with Heaven. Moral self-cultivation is required to actualize that ideal. Although Chung-yung never addresses itself specifically to this question, the implication seems to be that the necessity of conscious endeavor, despite the lack of any ontological gap between human nature and Heaven, is prompted by a human need to become a “co-creator.” This leads us to an exceedingly interesting concept that is pivotal in the closing chapters of Chung-yungch’eng (sincerity, truth, or reality). [C&C, 70]
The Way of Heaven
& the Way of Man

Chung-yung, XX:17-18
If those in inferior positions do not have the confidence of their superiors, they will not be able to govern the people. There is a way to have the confidence of the superiors: If one is not trusted by his friends, he will not have the confidence of his superiors. There is a way to be trusted by one’s friends: If one is not in accord with his parents, he will not be trusted by his friends. There is a way to be in accord with one’s parents: If one examines himself and finds himself to be insincere, he will not be in accord with his parents. There is a way to be sincere with oneself: If one does not understand what is good, he will not be sincere with himself.
Sincerity is the Way of Heaven. To think how to be sincere is the way of man. He who is sincere is one who hits upon what is right without effort and apprehends without thinking. He is naturally and easily in harmony with the Way. Such a man is a sage. He who tries to be sincere is one who chooses the good and holds fast to it.” [C&C, 71]
  • What does “sincerity” normally mean? What do you think it means in the above context?
  • Why does the author distinguish between the Way of Heaven and the way of man?
Tu Wei-ming’s Comment
Cheng as the Way of Heaven is certainly different from “sincerity” as a personal quality. To say that Heaven is sincere seems to transform the idea of an honest person into a general description of the Way of Heaven. But before we understand fully the relationships between Heaven and man, we should not assume that “Heaven” has been anthropomorphized to demonstrate a human virtue of sincerity. On the contrary, cheng here is intended to show what the Way of Heaven is and what the Way of man ought to be. [C&C, 71]
Sincerity & Elightenment
Chung-yung, XXI
It is due to our nature that enlightenment results from sincerity. It is due to education that sincerity results from enlightenment. Given sincerity, there will be enlightenment, and given enlightenment, there will be sincerity. [A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy, 107; cf. C&C, 74-6 and SCT, 338]
  • How does this passage clarify the distinction between the Way of Heaven and the way of man?

A Trinity with Heaven and Earth

Only those who are absolutely sincere can fully develop their nature. If they can fully develop their nature, they can fully develop the nature of others. If they can fully develop the nature of others, they can then fully develop the nature of things. If they can fully develop the nature of things, they can then assist in the transforming and nourishing process of Heaven and Earth. If they can assist in the transforming and nourishing process of Heaven and Earth, they can thus form a trinity with Heaven and Earth. [C&C, 77; cf. SCT, 338]
  • How can humans assist in the transforming and nourishing process of Heaven and Earth”?

The Beginning & End of Things
Chung-yung, XXV
Sincerity means the completion of the self, and the Way is self-directing. Sincerity is the beginning and end of things. Without sincerity there would be nothing. Therefore the superior man values sincerity. Sincerity is not only the completion of one’s own self, it is that by which all things are completed. The completion of the self means humanity. The completion of all things means wisdom. These are the character of the nature, and they are the Way in which the internal and the external are united. Therefore whenever it is employed, everything done is right. [SBCP, 108; cf. C&C, 80 and SCT, 338-9]
  • What does it mean to say that sincerity is the beginning and end of things”?
  • Does “creativity” imply a creator”? How does sincerity” differ from the Judeo-Christian-Islamic conception of God?