Comparing and Contrasting Confucianism and Legalism

Confucius as soon as said, “The more male practices meditation upon excellent ideas, the much better will be his world and the world at large.” In the middle of the chaos of political instability and consistent warring of the Zhou era, numerous philosophers emerged that impacted China in the fields of politics, religion, and viewpoint. Two of these theorists were Confucius, who lived from 551 to 479 B. C. E., and Han Feizi, who lived around 233 B. C. E. These two developed the Confucianism and Legalism that considerably altered the society is still in use in modern China.

Confucianism became the dominant mindset and the later philosophy of Legalism gained enormous recognition as well. Each party had their own proposals for creating a much better, harmonious society through the leaders, government, and specific lives of the individuals. Both methods were very distinct however at the same time, they consisted of similarities also. Confucianism arised from a Chinese philosopher named Kongfuzi (551-479 B. C. E), likewise known as Confucius, becoming discouraged with the method the federal government overlooked his ideas of how to develop a just, harmonious society.

His teachings, which he had passed on to his followers/students, include the Analects. It is within this document that he tried to teach guys how to be gentlemen. If a male had the ability to follow the steps to ending up being a gentleman and finish the responsibilities of his status, that gentleman might affect others in society to be honorable, tough working, sincere, and just.

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Nevertheless, within Confucianism, class and gender was a substantial element. Females were frequently considered less essential as were lower class individuals. Just the well off male members of society could receive the needed education needed to be a gentleman.

An example of this is: “The Master said, A gentleman who is widely versed in letters and at the same time knows how to submit his learning the restraints of ritual is not likely, I think, to go far wrong. ” The Legalism school emphasizes the usage of incentives and formal institutions. Under the Legalism, the ruler provides strong incentives to local officials which may lead to side effects because some activities are noncontractible. The cold-blood image of the Legalism may alien citizens. As for the precondition of the Legalists’ thoughts, there are a few fundamental premises or judgments that we can find from the texts.

As an independent school of thoughts in order to distinguish itself among all Hundreds of Schools and set aside all past ideals and standards, the Legalists, first of all, believed in the inevitability of a constant change in society. As noted by Han Fei (d. 233 B. C. E. ), “past and present have different customs”(101); at a “critical age” of the chaotic Warring States, “to try to use the ways of a generous and lenient government to rule the people,” is like trying to “drive a runaway horse without using reins or whip” (101).

As a public defiance of the past, this fundamental believe in a changing world clearly draw the boarder between the Legalists and other schools headed by Confucianism, which was confirmed by Han Fei: “it is obvious that humaneness cannot be used to achieve order in the state” (102). It is not clear at this point whether it is rational for the Legalists to conclude that Confucianism is of no use to be applied in the current society. However, we should be able to say, as has been proven throughout the history, that Legalists were correct on their firm believe in change-to-fit.

More importantly, those ideas had opened up the space for the Legalists to apply further reforms. A third underlying premise, which is probably the most essential in setting the flash-and-burn nature of the Legalists, is an all-too-confident trust in the ruler’s ability and virtue as well as an almost cultic, absolute believe his monarchal power, or in a term that might win favor in front of the emperor, deity – “The sage ruler, by his governing of men is certain to win their hearts; consequently he is able to exert strength.

Strength produces force; force produces prestige; prestige produces virtue. Virtue has its origin in strength. The sage ruler alone possesses it, and therefore he is able to transmit humaneness and rightness to all-under-heaven…” (Shang 259). However, I believe this is not quite concisely what the Legalists hold a firm believe in; such rhetoric might only represent the idea from an angle that the ruler could accept at ease.

Being a political institution and a critical part of the regime, the Legalists have concerns for themselves and may therefore seek personal and power advancement as well in their assisting the state. With such a thought, the third premise can be better stated as: all individuals, authorities and government apparatus will never run into interest conflicts with, and will always reside under, the centralized administration headed by a tiny minority of people who have the ultimate supremacy and power.

Noteworthily, such a precondition has an immediate accord with the social need at that time as mentioned earlier, in which a rational government can afford greater centralized power so as to strengthen a state against its rival states. It also represents a significant role in making possible Qin’s later command and conquests as well as a self-destructive effect over the internal government structure.

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Comparing and Contrasting Confucianism and Legalism. (2016, Nov 01). Retrieved from

Comparing and Contrasting Confucianism and Legalism

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