Confucius’ Social and Political Philosophy

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 7 June 2016

Confucius’ Social and Political Philosophy

These days we are focusing on the topics of Confucius’ social and political philosophy. After finishing readings of this section, I would like to give reflections that mainly about Confucius’ view on governing and analyze the traditional culture and administration of our country. This essay will present my opinions about the merits and demerits of nowadays Chinese society’s government. First, let us deal with something that Confucius would say that Chinese society is currently doing well. According to Confucius, when the population is already numerous, make them wealthy will further improve them, and once they are wealthy, to instruct them will improve them further more.[1] I think this passage is suitable for making appraisals to nowadays Chinese society, because China has a large population and Chinese government is taking the road of common prosperity, these are very similar to passage’s description. The road of common prosperity means, for the purpose of enabling more and more people to become prosperous, some people are encouraged to become prosperous first, and at last all people will become prosperous.

In my own understanding, I think this passage did not show that Confucius think wealth is more important than education. I think what Confucius want to said is, to make people wealth does not means just make people hold a lot of money, actually it means to let people live a peaceful and wealthy life, which is important to build a harmonious society. In addition, Chinese government also focuses on education, like the government increases the input of fund for rural compulsory education. In another passage, Confucius said “If common people’s need are satisfied, how could their lord be lacking? If the common people ‘s needs are not satisfied, how can their lord be content?” [2] These above passages show Confucius think it is important to satisfy common people’s needs, to let them live a wealthy life is necessary for reaching this goal, so he would be pleased to see Chinese government is paying efforts to improve people’s life and education. However, it is obvious that there is also something Chinese government is currently not doing well. In recent years, human flesh search engine became very popular.

According to Wikipedia, human flesh search is a primarily Chinese internet phenomenon of massive researching using Internet media such as blogs and forums. What made human flesh search became famous is misconduct in public office were exposed frequently through this way, this means the government is not honest enough. When this kind of things happened, it usually begin with some public servants wearing or using luxuries in public activities, then people think it is suspicious that public servants can afford those kind of luxuries, so they begin human flesh search to find out what happened. Confucius would be displeased, because the dishonest behaviors of some public servants are damaging government’s reputation. According to Confucius, he said he would sacrifice armament and food, but he though a state cannot stand once it has lost the confidence of the people.[3] That means Confucius regard the confidence of the people as the most important thing for a government.

There is also an old saying that the lord is a boat and common people is water, means when a lord gain the supports from his people, it is like the water make the boat float over water-surface. And it works both ways. The correct attitude towards common people will gain people’s support, the bad reputation cause by dishonest governing will lose people’s support, it is no doubt that Chinese society is not doing well at this point. Confucius also said “Raise up the straight and apply them to the crooked, and the people will submit you. If you raise up the crooked and apply them to the straight, the people will never submit.” [4] When we understanding this passage and relating it to nowadays society, I think the “straight” can be understand as the public servant who work honesty and really care of common people’s interests.

Likewise, “crooked” can be understand as the public servant who abuse power and damage common people’s interest. Chinese government did not build up a complete supervise system to punish the corrupt officials and it is what government should do in the future. The key to adopting Confucius’ philosophy centers on discarding the dross and selecting the essence. Chinese society is doing a good job in striking a balance between social improvement and inheritance on traditional culture, like the idea about building up a harmonious society. I think Chinese society should be as Confucian as it is today, because although we can carry forward things from tradition, we cannot carry forward everything from tradition, we need to keep pace with the times. Some of Confucius’ view on governing cannot accommodate itself to the Chinese society’s development. For example, Confucius said, let the lord be a true lord, the ministers true ministers, the fathers true fathers, and the sons true sons.[5]

In this passage, Confucius was only requiring the lord to fulfill his obligation, but he did not require any democratic rights which are extremely important to nowadays society. In ancient China, People did not have their right to choose a lord they want, but nowadays people are supposed to have their democratic rights and choose the government they want. The Chinese society must comply with the world development trend. We should accept the good things showed in the passage, like the idea “to do what you are deemed to do”, but for governing, we are not supposed to take its idea like “people serve their lord and cannot against the lord” Chinese society does not take the wrong way and its governing is becoming more and more democratic, so it is Confucian enough and it just need to keep this style. In conclusion, there is still lot of things that we can use the experience of Confucius for reference, the view on governing is just a part of it, and Confucius’ philosophy is always the important asset for us.


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  • University/College: University of Chicago

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Date: 7 June 2016

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