Read Complete Research Material




Confucius' Views

Confucius ultimately promoted a society of harmony and order built on virtues. He asserted that the moral basis of social bonds derived from an individual's social station. He delineated five relations of mutual moral responsibility: ruler and minister, father and son, elder brother and younger brother, husband and wife, and one friend and another. For instance, in an emperor-minister relationship, he deemed it proper for an emperor to treat the minister with benevolence, while the minister deferred to the emperor with noble reverence and loyalty (Fingarette, 2007). Among the many virtues he advocated, filial piety and brotherly respect remain the two fundamental moral traits that one should possess.

Confucian thought is humanistic and rational. It maintains that everyone has the mental and moral potential to fully realize themselves in the fulfillment of their social roles and that the world can be understood through the use of human reason alone. This is why Confucius sought to promote “education without class” and is remembered as the “greatest teacher of all time” in China. If Confucius implied only that human nature was good, Mencius took it a step further to declare that man was equipped with innate knowledge and ability to do good (Fingarette, 2007). In contrast to Mencius's Idealistic Confucianism, Xunzi adopted a position known as Realistic Confucianism, and he argued that humans were born selfish and asocial. Nevertheless, both believed in the perfectibility of all humans through education.

At the heart of the Confucian intellectual tradition is a social, political philosophy that centers on “government by virtue.” To govern is to correct. Confucius compared two different ways to achieve this end: government by regulations and punishments versus government by moral examples and persuasion. His conclusion was that there would be shameless evasions under the former, but shame and correctness under the latter. Government by virtue was one of benevolence. Three tenets figure large in its building: self-cultivation, rectification of names, and the Doctrine of the Mean (Fingarette, 2007).

Benevolence, or ren, was central to Confucian morality, which also included such virtues as righteousness, loyalty, filial piety, fraternal love, devotion, courtesy, and so on. Self-cultivation involved engaging in an unwavering pursuit of virtues, practicing industry and hard work, and exercising control over desires and emotions. Asceticism was a necessary ingredient of self-cultivation, and not everyone could go through the arduous journey to complete moral perfection and become a junzi, or profound person. In Confucian political thought, it was the privileged responsibility of the profound person to assume a position of leadership and render public service to society. Behind the Confucian stress on self-cultivation was a moral idealism that identified the cultivation of virtues with ideal statesmanship. Not only did this moral idealism advocate a political elitism, but it also linked Confucianism to the state through the civil service examinations that were based on Confucian texts (Fingarette, 2007).

The moral examples set by the profound person were expected to include the practice of li, literally “rites,” and the adherence to the Dao, literally ...
Related Ads