by Kong Qiu

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How might Confucius have reacted to Sappho’s poems?

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While I can find no direct comment of Confucius on Sappho’ poetry, he did have exposure to Greek culture, literature, and  philosophical ideas; Sappho’s view of beauty, encapsulated in her view that “the Good will result in Beauty,” is entirely compatible with Confucius’ emphasis on living the good life, free of greed, self-serving action, and civic selfishness.  He was silent on or tolerant of variations in the manifestations of love, and insisted that good government came from tolerance of individuality inside the sheltering moral guidelines of society.  While Westerners are quite familiar with ancient (BCE) Greek moral and ethical structures, through Aristotle and Homer, they are only vaguely familiar with Confucianism as a guiding set of principles for civic behavior.

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