Confucius vs Taoism

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 3 November 2016

Confucius vs Taoism

Good governance and political system has always been a cry for many nations especially developing countries Zambia inclusive. It is believed that good governance yield more economic and social development. Numerous scholars have written a number of books concerning good governance. Confucius believed to have been born in 551 BCE in Zou, Shandong Province and Lao Tzu said to have lived in the sixth century BCE are such examples of people who attempted to contribute to how people should be governed. Thus, this essay analyses the kinds of governments proposed by Confucius and Leo Tzu.

Thereafter, it shall select one which is appropriate for the Zambian government and explains why it is ideal for the Zambian government. Although Confucius had a great education and became a teacher, teaching earned him little money and he was forced to take on other jobs. Before he died, there is evidence that he had many students who traveled around with him. However, Matt Rank (2007) argues that Confucius himself never achieved a very high office in government. He spent many years of his life trying to achieve a change in society through the right leadership, but he was never able to find a leader who would listen to him.

Dubs H.Homer (1946; 275), on the other hand asserts that Confucius came to be appointed to the minor position of governor of a town. Eventually, he rose to the position of Minister of Crime in 501 BC. However, Confucius proposed through what might be called the bible of Confucianism the Analects, how the government and people generally should live in society. The Analects contains the wisdom of Confucius as written down by his students while he was alive and after he was alive. It’s clear that Confucius prioritized certain principles over others. He was not concerned with the ingenuity of humanity, with what’s been invented or thought up.

He was not concerned with who is more intelligent than whom. He would have been unimpressed by Einstein. For Confucius, human society begins with (and is sustained by) society, government, custom, and personal virtue. Confucius was probably the most obvious humanistic philosopher. He emphasized the idea that humans could change and better their present circumstances through their own intelligence and effort. Confucius was, in modern terminology, a down-to-earth philosopher. He reasoned that we should not think about things outside of the realm of immediate human existence. Confucius stressed the social over the individual.

Confucius’ political thought is based upon his ethical thought. He argues that the best government is one that rules through “rites” and people’s natural morality, rather than by using bribery and coercion. He explained that this is one of the most important analects: “If the people be led by laws, and uniformity sought to be given them by punishments, they will try to avoid the punishment, but have no sense of shame. If they be led by virtue, and uniformity sought to be given them by the rules of propriety, they will have the sense of the shame, and moreover will become good.

” (James Legge 1880; 345). This “sense of shame” is an internalisation of duty, where the punishment precedes the evil action, instead of following it in the form of laws as in Legalism. “Lead the people with administrative injunctions and put them in their place with penal law, and they will avoid punishments but will be without a sense of shame. Lead them with excellence and put them in their place through roles and ritual practices, and in addition to developing a sense of shame, they will order themselves harmoniously.

” (Analects II, 3) Confucius asserts that an emperor would rule, and his rule would be established through benevolence and virtue. Even though laws could be instituted and punishments for breaking each said law would be enforced, the only true way for people to follow what was good was to see that their leader was good. In other words, Confucius taught that rulers should lead by example, and this was the only way a truly great empire could be created at last. Confucius taught his students about the old ways. He thought that the social hierarchies of the ancients were what kept society intact.

To us, this might seem a conservative position–keep the old, reject the new–but during his time it was a more radical position. This is partly because Confucius advocated moving away from worshipping spirits and ghosts, and embracing that part of Chinese wisdom that focused on ceremony and personal virtue. While he supported the idea of government by an all-powerful sage, ruling as an Emperor, his ideas contained a number of elements to limit the power of rulers. He argued for according language with truth, and honesty was of paramount importance. Even in facial expression, truth must always be represented.

Confucius believed that if a ruler were to lead correctly, by action, that orders would be deemed unnecessary in that others will follow the proper actions of their ruler. In discussing the relationship between a king and his subject (or a father and his son), he underlined the need to give due respect to superiors. This demanded that the inferior must give advice to his superior if the superior was considered to be taking the course of action that was wrong. Confucius believed in ruling by example, if you lead correctly, orders are unnecessary and useless.

Confucius proposed another new idea that of meritocracy, led to the introduction of the Imperial examination system in China. This system allowed anyone who passed an examination to become a government officer, a position which would bring wealth and honor to the whole family. Having looked at Confucius’ way of governance on the other hand, Lao – Tzu’s philosophical teachings were more religious than political. However, potential officials throughout Chinese history drew on the authority of non-Confucian sages, especially Lao Tzu to deny serving any ruler at any time.

Lao Tzu’s most famous follower in traditional accounts had a great deal of influence on Chinese literati and culture. Politically Lao Tzu advocated humility in leadership and a restrained approach to statecraft, either for ethical and pacifist reasons, or for tactical ends. In a different context, various anti-authoritarian movements have embraced the Lao Tzu teachings on the power of the weak. James A. Dorn(2008;45) states that Lao Tzu proposed that minimizing the role of government and letting individuals develop spontaneously would best achieve social and economic harmony.

He also asserts that wisdom and understanding of the opposition between political power and the cultural activities of the people and community. In his 1910 article for the Encyclopedia Britannica, Peter Kropotkin also noted that Lao Tzu was among the earliest exponents of essentially anarchist concepts. More recently, anarchists such as John P. Clark and Ursula K. Le Guin have written about the conjunction between anarchism and Taoism in various ways, highlighting the teachings of Lao Tzu in particular.

In her translation of the Tao Te Ching, Le Guin writes that Lao Tzu “does not see political power as magic. He sees rightful power as earned and wrongful power as usurped… He sees sacrifice of self or others as a corruption of power, and power as available to anyone who follows the Way. No wonder anarchists and Taoists make good friends. ” Le Guin, Ursula K. (2009; 20) Having looked at both Confucius and Lao Tzu’s kinds of government proposals, it is clear that the government proposed by Confucius is ideal for the Zambian government.

Confucius sought to become an advisor to a ruler and directly to change society for the better, using heroes of the past as models (Moore & Bruder, 2005; 503). According to the text; Tzu’s vision to change society was very different than Confucius. Moore & Bruder (2005) state that, Tzu’s ideas are used to gain power and stay in power. This kind of government will not promote democracy as preached by Zambia to the rest of the world through its democratic free and fair election. Confucius embraced education and according to the text, was committed to the study of wise men at a young age.

This is very ideal for Zambia because leadership skills will be learnt at a tender age and people will know what is required of them when they ascend to government offices. Moore & Bruder (2005) state that, Confucius supposed that a person can always improve themselves through education and study. According to the text, he believed that once a person had knowledge of the Tao they had a purpose and would not leave this world in vain. Confucius believed also in a philosophy of helping others and treating others in the way that one would want to be treated themselves (Moore & Bruder, 2005).

For example, if a person wants kindness shown to them they should show kindness to other people. “Likewise, according to Confucius, ‘A virtuous man wishing to establish himself seeks also to establish others, and wishing to enlighten himself, seeks also to enlighten others'” (Moore & Bruder, 2005; 512 ). In conclusion, it is clear that Confucianism is more persuasive because he believed in education and that everyone can better themselves. The philosophy of Taoism concluded that not everyone can attain wisdom and Tzu did not feel that his philosophy needed to be improved upon.

I was also more persuaded by Confucius because he believed in the kindness of others; treat others as you would like to be treated. Lao Tzu (Taoism) these were ways to change the world; he instead believed you must obtain power. A good philosopher has respect for another’s views and Confucius showed appreciation for Lao Tzu’s philosophies while it seemed Tzu was more bent on convincing Confucius he was wrong in his beliefs. For these reasons I was more persuaded by Confucianism than Taoism. Reference Dubs Homer (1946). ” The political career of Confucius”.

Journal of the American Oriental Society 66 (4). James Legge (1880). The religions of China: Confucianism and Taoism described and compared with Christianity. London: Hodder and Stoughton. Le Guin, Ursula K. (2009), Lao Tzu: Tao Te Ching: A Book about the Way and the Power of the Way, Washington, D. C: Shambhala Publications Inc. Moore, B. N. & Bruder, K. (2005). Philosophy: The power of ideas (6th ed. ). Boston: McGraw-Hill Higher Education. Roberts, Moss (2004), Dao De Jing: The Book of the Way, Berkeley: University of California Press.


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  • University/College: University of Arkansas System

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Date: 3 November 2016

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