The Philosophical Explanation of Confucianism

Confucianism is defined as a set of philosophical and ethical teachings. It started with Confucius who lived in the Warring States Period (551-479 BCE) and worked on ethics and political philosophy. Due to him, the Confucianism system developed the beliefs about what is the ideal manner of existence and of politics. However, it not only stated, the “what,” but also how to accomplish these goals.

Confucianism revolves around the community. Therefore, the ideal individualistic person has characteristics that possess the best social conduct within said community. This individual, according to Confucianism, has been termed Junzi. Junzi is signified as a superior individual. They respect the hierarchy and have wisdom and virtue. Additionally, they are supposed to have attributes such as ren and li. Ren is a fundamental characteristic that is defined by compassion, humaneness, and goodness. Li is defined as rituals and proper external behavior. This meaning that they follow defined conduct or norms set in their community. Furthermore, it’s stated that being junzi can be achieved by studying. One must study history, art, music, poetry, etc.

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Moreover, there are many that haven’t been and aren’t Junzi. However, one can still live well and according to Confucianism, that is done by being a virtuous person. Confucius, himself, believed that there is a strong connection being one’s well-being and virtue. He states that “a man without virtue cannot long abide in adversity, nor can he long abide in happiness.” In this case, virtue means a “good trait.” Additionally, being virtuous doesn’t mean one doesn’t live without suffering because virtues come with their opposite, vices or weaknesses. However, it does mean that one can live better when suffering does occur. In order to become virtuous, there are two stages that revolve around moral development. One relates to childhood, where the person must have relationships with parents, siblings, friends, etc. The next stage is adulthood, which involves rituals, art, music, etc. One must partake in these as well as understand that each type will have a different effect on their mind.

Along with individualistic life, there is also, political life that plays a significant role in Confucianism. Political life is determined by what the citizens do and what the government does. Citizens should understand the power differentials and respect the hierarchy that it creates. A good example in regard to government is, respecting the dynamic between ruler and subject. Additionally, there should be a supreme leader or emperor. They are supposed be a father figure to everyone else as well as a junzi. Furthermore, there are laws that contain some punishment. However, there’s not much else in regard to laws because Confucius promoted a manner of self- governing, where people would conform to proper behavior through moral standards. Overall, in the system of Confucianism, virtue plays an all-important role. It doesn’t matter who you are, whether you are a citizen, emperor, or laws, virtue is vital. Virtue grants a life well lived.


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The Philosophical Explanation of Confucianism. (2023, May 02). Retrieved from