Justice is different from virtue and benevolence. It is the nature of justice to act and enforce its pretensions.
True or superior virtue is here called "unvirtue" because it does not make a
show of virtue; it does not "act virtue." A difference between virtue and justice is that justice doling out punishments must make a show of its power, and so "acts and makes pretensions." It is obvious that here the Confucian conception of virtue is criticised for the reason that it is always in evidence and is therefore inferior,--it is shoddy.
Traditionalism (tsien shih, "of times bygone the knowledge") which is mentioned further on in this chapter is a characteristic feature of Confucian ethics.
In former editions I took tsien in the sense of "early" or "premature" and translated "quickwittedness"; but we must bear in mind that we have before us a criticism of Confucian ethics with its rules of propriety based upon a reverence for the past, clinging tenaciously to tradition. Lao-tze says that this respect for bygone times, this traditionalism is not commendable. It is but "the flower of reason," meaning thereby that it makes a display or show of virtue;
it parades morality but it does not contain the fruit.