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Confucianism Is Defined As A System

Confucianism is defined as a system of philosophical and ethical teachings founded by Confucius. Confucius was a Chinese teacher, editor, politician, and philosopher during the Spring and Autumn period of Chinese history. On the other hand, legalism was defined in ancient China as a philosophical belief that human beings are more inclined to do wrong than right because they are motivated entirely by self-interest. These two ideologies have very different views of human nature. One puts emphasis on social order and filial responsibility, as the other emphasized social harmony and a peaceful way of living.

Confucius was born at a time of extreme social anarchy, the Chou dynasty had just collapsed, and China was in a constant state of war and violence. A lack of social harmony was mainly to blame for this time of destruction. Traditions and customs were a large part of early Chinese society that helped to provide a sense of unity within each community. The conflict came about due to the deterioration of traditions and a sense of individuals wanting to remove themselves from a group mentality. Confucianism has many different values that form this idea. Filial Piety is a significant value which is also known as loyalty to one’s parents. Parents were to be respected by their children under any circumstances. Another significant value of this ideology in regards to a family was ancestry. Ancestry was known as a child being obligated to have respect for their ancestors even after they have passed. These two ideas alone show that family and respect for a family was an essential component to Confucianism towards human nature. Behavior and emotion was also another critical component to Confucianism. This can be seen through the values of humaneness and the importance of behaviors. Humaneness is known as the care and concern for other human beings which shows how emotion plays a significant role in Confucianism. The importance of behavior is broken down into loyalty, obedience, and hierarchy. These were some necessary customs of behavior that were known and accepted among all people following Confucianism. There was also a considerable emphasis on the importance of education. As Confucius was a brilliant and well-educated man, it is quite apparent on why there would be an emphasis on education. One final thing that was very important to Confucianism was relationships. Five central relationships were to be followed and respected. These relationships were Ruler to subject, father to son, husband to wife, elder to younger, friend to friend. These were the basic principles of Confucianism, and they were to be followed as stated.

Legalism was adopted into the administration system in China. It dealt with how citizens conducted themselves, especially in times of war. Legalism was able to control the people through the constant threat of harsh punishment. Any books that did not support the philosophy of legalism were destroyed, and anybody who was spreading contradictory beliefs was then executed. Legalism assumed that all humans were inherently bad and that they were more inclined to do the wrong thing. This is because legalism believed that their self-interest motivates all men. Morality was not a concern in their system, and humans selfish desires were gratified by service in the army. Penalties for breaking the law in a legalist society were very severe. The basis of this philosophy focused on three elements of proper government; power and position, administrative techniques and methods, and a comprehensive system of laws. This allowed for total political control over the people. For example, laws included the proper way to address superiors. Under a legalist government in China, books and education were seen as wastes of time, labor, and resources. Instead, these societies put great emphasis on the importance of weaving and farming. Legalism had the power to turn China into an active military state, and even after its decline, its influence continued to live on.

These two philosophies varied greatly in their beliefs and views on human nature. Marcus Tullius Cicero was a Roman statesman, orator, lawyer, and philosopher, who served as counsel in the year 63 BC. He came from a wealthy municipal family of the Roman equestrian order and is considered one of Rome’s greatest orators and prose stylists. Based on Cicero’s essays, “Treatise on the Commonwealth” and “Treatise on the Laws,” it can be seen that Cicero would have most likely agreed with the ideas of Confucianism. There are many different examples throughout these essays that support this belief. Cicero believes that a nation that wants to succeed must have kindness, gratitude, and mindfulness. This goes along with the values of Confucianism including behavior as well as the value of humaneness. The idea that every individual citizen must be kind and show mindfulness as well as gratitude goes hand in hand with the ideas of humaneness and the importance of behavior. Without these ideas or values, these nations would not be able to succeed and cooperate as they would be if they included these traits. Another idea that also goes along with the values of humaneness and behavior is that arrogance, cruelty, and unthankfulness is detested. With these different forms of mal intent, Cicero feels that these behaviors need to be detested in order to be a successful nation. Cicero also speaks of nature in its “genuine purity,” and not in a corrupt sense as well as the idea that nature gives us the right reason. Right reason as Cicero says, is enjoying what is good and forbidding what is evil. Both of these things go against the Legalistic beliefs which state that every person is born essentially bad and was more inclined to do the wrong thing. The idea of legalism states that this is because all humans were motivated by their self-interest and not the common good. Cicero believes that human immoral behavior comes from the fact that they think nature and morals are different things, not because they are born evil. Nor the fact that they are more motivated by self-interest. These two factors are key reasons why Cicero would most likely support Confucianism over legalism. Cicero also believes that citizens are very deceitful if they choose to practice good behavior for the advantage of the possibility of an afterlife or other selfish reasons. Rather than just acting good for the sake of naturally being a good person. He believes that humans should follow one law, and one law only. This law he speaks of is right reason, and anyone that rejects the right reason is intrinsically wicked. Cicero believes that elite morality can only be attained with the ideas family affection and that these ideas formed the ideal Roman nobility. This goes along very well with the family values of Confucianism that children must respect their parents as well as their ancestors. He believes that it is necessary to care for your family dearly in order to be a true noble in Roman society. These ideas are extremely similar to the values of Confucianism. With the use of these examples from Cicero’s essays “Treatise on the Commonwealth” and “Treatise on the Laws,” it can be seen that Cicero would have agreed with the ideas and the values of Confucianism over the ideas or values of Legalism.

Legalism and Confucianism are two very different ideologies that both have incredibly different contrasting views of human nature. Cicero was a man who believed in the common good of the people as well as the common good of the government. Although he never stated which of the two ideologies he preferred, after reading and analyzing his two essays, it can be quite clearly seen that his ideologies and beliefs fit much better with that of Confucianism.

Freelance Writer

I’m a freelance writer with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Boston University. My work has been featured in publications like the L.A. Times, U.S. News and World Report, Farther Finance, Teen Vogue, Grammarly, The Startup, Mashable, Insider, Forbes, Writer (formerly Qordoba), MarketWatch, CNBC, and USA Today, among others.