Xin (living up to one’s word) in the Lunyu has often been explained in terms of its ideogrammic composites, to symbolise a person standing by his word. Although this captures an important aspect of xin—matching deeds with words—it fails to reflect the relational context within with xin is evaluated. Conversations in the Lunyu focus on the place of xin in a people’s trust of their leader or government (A 12.7; 17.6; 19.10) and in the context of friendship (A 1.4; 1.7; 1.8; 5.26; 9.25). I suggest a longitudinal account of xin, one that looks at a person’s actions and commitments over time. This account is part of a research project that examines the underpinning epistemological assumptions of knowledge in the Lunyu (that is more closely aligned with knowing-how in western epistemology, yet not a perfect fit with it). In particular, the project investigates the picture of knowledge as reliable practice, wherein an exemplary person reliably knows to act appropriately in the moment.
Karyn Lai is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of South Wales, and works in pre-Qin Chinese philosophy. Her books include Introduction to Chinese Philosophy (Cambridge University Press 2008), Learning from Chinese Philosophies: Ethics of Interdependent and Contextualised Self (Ashgate 2006), and New Interdisciplinary Perspectives in Chinese Philosophy (ed.) (Blackwell 2007).