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Role Confucius in China’s Ideology

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    China’s ideology is greatly due to Confucius. His views and teachings started the Chinese ideology in China and he is the first self-conscious philosopher in the Chinese tradition (Mote, 1989, p31).

    Confucius lived from 552 B. C. To 479 B. C.; his teachings greatly influenced Chinese life. Living a moral life was the predominant belief and goal of the philosopher and teacher, K`ung Ch`iu, the founder of Ju school (Liu, 1995, p10).

    Confucius was born into minor aristocracy and was of noble status. Upon the death of his mother, Confucius followed the prevailing custom of going into seclusion for three years; it was in this time he began examining ways of improving himself. He was a self-made scholar and an expert in the code of li, the code of etiquette. Confucius set up a school whereby no intelligent young man would be refused; he believed there was no social class in education (Liu, 1995,p 19). It is possible that his own background played a part in his belief system. His desire to educate led him to become a schoolmaster and ultimately, a learned scholar.

    What brought about the desire in Confucius to have such strong beliefs in morality? Why did he feel the virtue of the gentleman needed to be taught? The need for

    Analects could have been due to the moral decay and the political disorder present; there was a great division among the political disorder present; there was a great division among the aristocracy and the commonalty during the time Confucius began teaching. There was political change occurring, and Confucius believed his teachings were needed to keep the ancient virtues of integrity and social justice alive (‘Confucius”, 1984, p.39). Confucius’s teaching were more directed at the aristocracy than the commonalty; the leaders of government had far greater opportunity to destroy the system justice then the lower classes. Arthur Waley’s (1964), The Analects of Confucius, states that the government should not govern the people by regulation, but keep order with the use of moral force and then people will keep self respect (p.85). Confucius said that the ruler cannot stray from business, he must keep his promises, be economical in expenditure, and show warmth and sentiment to his subjects, treating them like a father would treat his son (Bulliet, 1997, p181).

    Politically, Confucius’s own ambitions were unrealized. Although he viewed civil service as a proper goal of a gentleman, he only held minor offices and is primarily remembered as the greatest moral teacher of East Asia (‘Confucius’, 1984, p.40). Confucius’s goals of morality were focused on an individual level of self-control. There are teachings in the Analects that emphasized the rewards of government achieving the goal of morality (Bulliet, 1997, p181).

    Confucius, the teacher, had humanistic goals. He sought to help others live and improve the quality of society by bringing about social change and resolving problems. The word gentleman became a reference to moral character; this brought about a new

    class, one of educated gentry. Although Confucius’s philosophy was grounded in religion of pure and simple nature, his mission to resolve problems was not. He emphasized human relationships and active human involvement in solving problems. The moral character of Confucius is evident in his central teachings on the virtue of jen, meaning goodness, benevolence, humanity and human-heartedness (‘Confucius’, 1984, p. 41).

    Confucius denotes proper behavior as education; this teaches that a gentleman does not grieve if others do not recognize his merits, but to be wary if he fails to recognize other’s merits (Waley, 1964, p. 87). The Analects state that economic wealth and rank are desires of every man, but if retaining wealth and rank brings harm to him, he must relinquish them, and although poverty and obscurity are detested by man, he must accept it if required (Waley, 1996, p. 100). Confucius was a man of integrity; he lived the life of his own teachings.

    Plato was also from the classical time period; born in 428 B. C., he belonged to a dignified, aristocratic Athenian family (Barker, 1960, p. 126). A Greek philosopher, he founded the Athenian Academy, a philosophical school where he sought to pass on knowledge that would issue action and teach philosophy that would be an inspiration in ones life. His philosophy was primarily and entirely ethical; Plato ideology was conversion through steady training in science. This training became a introduction to the service of man in the world of politics (Baker, 1960, p. 128).

    The Republic, also known as “the state” and “or concerning justice,” is a dialogue by Plato that embarks on the philosophy of man in thought (Baker, 1960, p. 80). Plato’s

    works do not present a doctrine, instead they prepare a way to philosophize with a goal of achieving enlightenment (Bloom, 1968,p. 392). Plato viewed Athens’ government as lacking justice; he believed justice could reached through the ruling of philosophers. Plato indicated that philosophers are those who have obtained enlightenment through deep understanding of self and profound wisdom (Reilly, 1992, p. 65-6).

    Ernest Barker (1960) states in Political Thought of Plato and Aristotle that the Democracy of Athens appeared to be the “right divine of the ignorant to govern wrong”. Plato indicated that ignorance was a curse of Democracy. The states of Greece lost their true character; their political laws were selfishness and ignorance, masquerading as knowledge. Plato saw the city as divided into two classes: the amateurs, who dabbled in politics and were as inefficient in this as any other aspect they persuade; and the self-seekers, who ultimately brought about a state of civil war. This class division and ignorance lead Plato to two primary aims in his Republic, specialization and unification.

    Plato’s principal of the ideal states was that the government needed to be run by the working class who were trained. Plato believed the value of the philosopher king would enhance the government because he preferred philosophy to governing; those who enjoy the power of government, for the sake of power, are the wrong people to rule (Reilly, 1992, p. 66) The struggle and attempt to reform the evils of the Greek politics led Plato to economic questions (Barker, 1960, p. 169). The evils of the division of classes were based on money. Anyone whose property fell below the common share was not allowed to part of the state. Rulers were elected on wealth (Jowett, 1992, p. 302).

    Plato believed justice shows the way to truth about politics and allows for development of truth in an evil society (Bloom, 1968, p. 392). The political selfishness of the Democracy brought Plato to question the moral aspects of man in society; he believed there needed to unselfish government and civil harmony (Barker, 1960, p. 17)

    Plato began philosophizing these moral aspects with a series of questions. What is a good man and how is he maid? If a good man is a member of the state, then what is a good state? The third question was based on a good man possessing knowledge; what is the knowledge a good man must possess? Finally, this led to the question of by what methods will the good State lead its people to the ultimate knowledge that will produce virtue and morality (Barker, 1960, p. 169)?

    Plato’s Republic attempts to show “the truth.” If man were to gain enlightenment through education, he would see that the conversion of the soul is comparable to turning from darkness to light (Jowett, 1992, p.258). Enlightenment can be painful and requires adjustment; this notion was not accepted by the Athenian government. The philosophers were required to defend themselves were they accused of leading young men to despise Athens and of knowingly undermining the laws of the city (bloom, 1968, p. 201).

    When collectively looking at Confucius and Plato, it is obvious that they were both influential to the classical period. The instruction of Confucius was more readily acceptable than Plato’s dialogues, possibly because Confucius’s teachings were not to attempt to change the manner of political ruling as Plato’s Republic was. They both believed strongly in preserving truth and justice through moral thought and actions. Although Confucius approach through the Analects was focused on self-fulfillment at an

    individual level, and Plato focused at a class level, both Confucius and Plato sought to help bring about social change.

    Politically, Confucius’s teaching were directed at the upper class, the aristocracy, in an attempt to maintain or revive ancient virtues. Whereas, Plato’s dialogues were for the lower class; his goals were justice for all, to teach the young men of Athens the way of enlightenment, to bring about change in the political laws and offer truth to the people of Greece, through the people of Greece.

    Materialism, a priority in Greece, was not a priority in the Chinese civilization. Plato’s efforts were focused on introducing his philosophical concepts of enlightenment; he struggled with the greed and self-centered Democracy. Confucius concentrated on teaching the internal changes that could produce contentment of the soul and harmony of the peoples. Neither Plato nor Confucius allowed himself to be stigmatized by the social class status they were born into; they were both able to liberate themselves in order to serve the people as a whole.

    Barker, E (1960). The Greek Political Theory; Plato and His Predicessors.

    London: Methuen & Co. Ltd.

    Barker, E. (1960). The Political Thought of Plato and Aristotle. New York:

    Russell, Inc.

    Bloom, A. (1968). The Republic of Plato. New York: Basic Book, Inc

    Bulliet, R. (1997). The Earth and its People. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co.

    “Confucius” (1984). The Encyclopedia of Religion (Vol.4). New York:

    Jowwett, B. (1992). The Republic Plato. New York: Quality Paperback

    Liu, Wu-Chi. (1995). A Short Story of Confucius Philosiphy. New York: Dell

    Mote, F. (1989). Intellectual Foundations of China. New York: McGraw-Hill

    Reilly, K. (1992). World Civilizations (Vol.1). New York: St. Martin’s Press.

    Waley, A. (1964). The Analects of Confucius. Northhampton, Great Britian:

    John Dickens & Co. Ltd.

    Works Cited

    Barker, E (1960). The Greek Political Theory; Plato and His Predicessors.
    London: Methuen & Co. Ltd.

    Barker, E. (1960). The Political Thought of Plato and Aristotle. New York:
    Russell, Inc.

    Bloom, A. (1968). The Republic of Plato. New York: Basic Book, Inc
    Bulliet, R. (1997). The Earth and its People. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co.

    “Confucius” (1984). The Encyclopedia of Religion (Vol.4). New York:
    Macmillian Publishing Co.

    Jowwett, B. (1992). The Republic Plato. New York: Quality Paperback
    Book Club.

    Liu, Wu-Chi. (1995). A Short Story of Confucius Philosiphy. New York: Dell
    Publishing Co.

    Mote, F. (1989). Intellectual Foundations of China. New York: McGraw-Hill
    Inc.

    Reilly, K. (1992). World Civilizations (Vol.1). New York: St. Martin’s Press.

    Waley, A. (1964). The Analects of Confucius. Northhampton, Great Britian:
    John Dickens & Co. Ltd.

     

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