And because, finally, it is believed that such ultimate freedom and contentment can be achieved only through the cultivation of excellence as a human being, we are always mistaken when we believe we will achieve happiness through other means instead, such as wealth and honor. So, just as Socrates and Aristotle later emphasized the importance of putting such human excellence first, in the same way Confucius insists that such excellence or virtue – for Confucius, following the proper dao or path – must always come first:
The Master said, “Wealth and honor are what people want, but if they are the consequence of deviating from the way (dao), I would have no part of them. Poverty and disgrace are what people deplore, but if they are the consequence of staying on the way, I would not avoid them.”
Confucian ethics and digital media: sample applications We have seen that Confucian ethics is at the center of a major conflict between Western and Eastern attitudes and practices regarding copyright (chapter 3). As a reminder, within a Confucian framework, an exemplary person, as benevolent toward others, would want to share the important insights that have allowed him or her to become such a person with others who likewise seek such excellence. Hence, the text he or she produces to record such insights is seen not primarily as a matter of personal property, but rather as a gift to be given to others – one that, indeed, may work as a kind of essential toolkit for the larger life-project of becoming an exemplary person. The appropriate response of those benefiting from this gift might include copying it and giving it to others – first of all, as a mark of respect and gratitude for the work of the exemplary person. In this light, copying and distributing a text is not principally a matter of violating one’s personal property as articulated in terms of copyright limitations; it is rather a matter of showing respect and gratitude for the gift of a benevolent master.