The ignorance of Confucius
Confucius was a philosopher who lived in China during the Zhou dynasty, some two thousand five hundred years ago. It was said that he was the wisest person in the known world and everyone had great respect for him.
One day he was on his way to the fountain to fetch water when he observed a young couple arguing in earnest. Confucius stopped to listen.
“The sun is nearest us when it rises and furthest away at midday”, said the young man.
“No”, said the young woman, “it is furthest away when it rises and nearest at midday.”
The young man did not agree and said,
“When it rises, it is the size of a huge wheel. It is like a big dish. This is because when it is nearer you see it bigger, and when it is further away you see it smaller.”
But the young woman had a different argument,
“When it rises, it is still cold, but at midday it warms us up. This means that when it rises, it is far away, and at midday it is closer to us.”
The young man fell silent, thinking. Thoughtful like the man who was eavesdropping on their conversation.
The young man nudged the young woman with his elbow; she too had realised that an elderly man was listening to them. Both of them recognised the wise man.
“Tell us, great Confucius”, asked the young man, “which of us is right?”
And Confucius confessed that he didn't know which of the two was right because the sun appears to be, by its size, nearer at sunrise but, by its heat, nearer at midday. And so the girl, annoyed, said to the wise man,
“And you are the wisest person in China!”
Text: Koldo Izagirre
Translation: Joe Linehan
Voice: Tim Nicholson