Comparing Confucianism and Daoism

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 22 December 2016

Comparing Confucianism and Daoism

Philosophical Daoism and early Confucianism have very different views on the way we should live life. If I was to choose a path in life to follow it would be the Confucianist path. Confucianism is a lot more controlled then Daoism. Daoism focuses on wu-wei, which translated is non-action. Non-action means that the Daoists believe the best way to live life is to just go with the flow, and not interrupt the natural course of life. Looking at such perspectives on life only brings chaos to my mind, as a society with a “go with the flow” attitude could cause a lot of problems.

Without rules, regulations, or rituals to follow I feel that people would take advantage of this and simply do whatever it is they wish to do. The Daoist text, Tao Te Ching, does not have specific rules to abide by. It preaches messages via stories on how to live, which are then interpreted into guidelines that the Daoists follow. On the contrary, in Confucianism we are exposed to a way to live in order to achieve the good that is within all of us. Confucius believed that society was naturally good, but he felt that the society was getting corrupted with bad morals that focused on money, profit, and power (Lecture notes November 1,2011).

In order to achieve the human goodness that we all have within us, and that we had in the past, he offered his followers two different choices to follow. The first choice involved education, which was accomplished through the five classics; the second method was through simple observation, letting life educate you (Lecture notes, November 3,2011) . These strategies represent moral force rather than physical force, and they cultivate human goodness. Along with these two ideas on how to cultivate human goodness, Confucius strictly believed that ritual, Li, would be the key to achieving good manners.

The Master said, So long as the ruler loves ritual, the people will be easy to handle. (14. 44)” (Course Reader 3, p. 335) Confucius regulated his people through the religious rituals, rules, and by enforcing education with the intention that it would help cure his people of the corruption they have endured. Unlike the Daoist path, Confucius clearly had a smart approach on how to handle the current political situation in his country, by assuming ritual would put an end to current conflicts.

If people were to follow the Daoist perspective on life it would lead to many conflicts due to the lack of control on people’s actions. These conflicts could grow into a more serious war between people, simply causing more suffering, which is why I would choose the Confucianist path over the path of Daoism. Even though Daoism would seem to cause more problems in society, some aspects of the religion are advantageous. Most people in life do not like to be dictated, and told what to do. Unlike Confucius the Daoists believe that forcing an act, such as educating yourself, is unnatural.

Confucius dictated his followers to persevere in education, and this is a possible demand that some may not have followed as it was an act they were told and forced to follow in order to cultivate human goodness. The Daoists believe that going against this natural flow in life takes more vital energy, making the Daoist religion somewhat more plausible then Confucianism(Lecture notes, November 17,2011). But, the freedom in the Daoist religion may also be displeasing when it is looked at as a disadvantage. In Daoism, there is no harsh judgement on morality, meaning there is no good or bad, or right and wrong.

The impact of this belief is evident when observing drastic situations such as wars, murders, and robberies. If there is no good or bad, society would have no morals when making decisions. This has a detrimental effect on the Daoist religion because the decisions people make in life could lead to large conflicts and suffering among people when they are made lacking morality.

Confucianism on the other hand, lacks answers when the topic of the after-life comes up. Confucius never seemed to talk about the after-life, nor would he have an answer for someone if they were to have asked him about it. Till you know about the living, how are you to know about the dead? (11. 11)” (Course Reader 3, p. 342). Confucius avoided this topic and focused on current life issues, as he wanted to fix the current problems in his country. He looked up to the Duke of Chou, who was a politician, rather than a higher spiritual figure. This shows Confucius’ political rather than religious strategy to fix current problems around him (Lecture notes, Novemeber 8 2011). Confucianism demonstrates a weakness to it’s beliefs because as human beings we want to feel secure, and are curious about the afterlife.

By not having an answer to what happens when we die, and by not having any views on the after-life, Confucianism neglects certain questions we want answered. From another point of view, Confucianism gives us exactly what we need to do in order to achieve human goodness. Confucius proposed two methods to cultivate goodness, education and simple observation. Confucianism is regulated, and unlike Daoism which can lead to chaos and disorder among people, the Confucianist path if followed correctly can lead to human goodness. Mencius also believed in goodness, because he taught his followers that all human beings are born good.

Mencius believed in good and bad, and he described good as sympathetic compassion. Sympathetic compassion is the inability of humans to bare the suffering of others. Mencius also taught his followers that through education they can develop sympathetic compassion (Lecture notes, November 3,2011). The idea of human goodness, and the stability of a regulated religion based on ritual is what makes Confucianism more favourable. Despite the pros and cons mentioned for each religion, Confucianism is the better alternative due to its safe qualities.

By following Confucianism there would be less worries about war and conflicts occurring due to choices made with the lack of morality. Confucianism would direct people towards the right direction in life, by teaching the followers how to cultivate human goodness. By cultivating human goodness, the Confucianist society would only ameliorate themselves as people. The path of Confucianism would be a strong and supportive religion to follow that would contribute to contentment for it’s followers along with those around them.


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  • University/College: University of Chicago

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Date: 22 December 2016

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