- Describe the life of Confucius, the First Teacher: When and where was he born? Describe his career and what he may have been like as a person.
Although the exact date and year of Confucius’s birth is not clear from primary or secondary sources, it is agreed that he was born around 551 B.C. in the principality of Lu in. His father died in his early childhood, leaving behind his family in poor circumstances. The economic instability and surroundings made a deep impact over Confucius as he made it easier for him to communicate and reside with common people of the society. This lately helped him a lot in the process of his teachings and divine mission. He started learning at the age of 15 and became a tutor in his early twenties.
He wanted to educate the society about morals and ethics of living. He was humble and generous and therefore was mostly attracted by people from the lower class. He turned into an educator at the state level at the age of fifty, left his home town and went from place to place in order to educate the political authorities and public offices so that they can improve their policies and bring reforms in the state. However, he could not achieve what he wanted and died at the age of seventy two in 479 B.C.
- Describe the central problem that Confucius faced. What were the rival Realist and Mohist answers to the problem? What was Confucius’s alternative answer?
Rival’s Answer to the Problem:
Rival Realists wanted a system of "penalties and rewards" in the society. According to them, those who do not prove to be obedient and do not behave must be punished on a governmental level. This would be helpful as people would try to restrain from bad doings as they see the punishments given to others. In this way a social cohesion can be obtained.
Mohit’s Answer to the Problem:
Mohism was a social philosophy at that period of time, which says that a social cohesion can be obtained through love and regard. One must feel towards the other as he feels for himself and therefore, the states must regard each other as they take care of themselves. In this way, the entire Chinese society would be bounded together in terms of love and faith over each other.
Confucius’s Answer to the Problem:
Confucius’s dropped both of these approaches, suggesting that the two as extremes, none of which would be helpful because of its extremism. He wanted to establish the traditional system in which every good or bad was obvious to all. He believed that traditions shape a society and the public’s attitudes. Therefore, he disregarded both of the approaches, realists approach was far too good for him and he regarded it clumsy and external. Mohism was not accepted by him as he considered it a simply utopian approach with no significance. He suggested that by taking help from the past traditions, the new developments can be answered and deliberate suggestions can be used even when there are no proper rules. Therefore, a constant evaluation of attitudes is necessary to serve the purpose. In this way, the social binding can be met and a certain level of social cohesion can be achieved.
Since Confucius found the solution to all social problems in traditions, he developed his own philosophical approach to solve the problem of social inconsistency, which he termed as ‘The Content of Deliberate Tradition’. He introduced five key terms over which a society must base itself in order to become peaceful, educated and successful. These are as under:
- Jen - Human Heartedness: Confucius believed that if two people mutually regard each other and feelings of unselfishness and humanity towards each other, than social bonding will become stronger. He spreads the philosophy that you should not do that to others which you do not want to occur with yourself. In this way, if people become courteous and empathize towards each other and treat each other as brothers and sisters, the world would become a heaven.
- Chun tzu - The mature person: A person who has mastered in Jen and has got rid of all mean attributes. He is the person who gains self respect by giving respect to others and always tries to help and serve his community. He is away from bad talk and proves his affirmation through his actions and speeches. On the whole, he is the real and mature person.
- Li - Propriety and Ritual: Propriety contains two things within it which explain how things must be done in a good way. These are the Rectification of Names and the Doctrine of the Mean. Rectification of Names identifies a new language in which nouns are defined in such a way which explicitly show their meaning if the life is orderly and smooth.
Doctrine of the Mean suggests a middle way between any such extremes that are not at all compatible with each other. Also, those five constant relationships must be in order which usually exist in the society and are important for its health and success. These relations are parent-child, husband-wife, elder-junior sibling, elder-junior friend and ruler-subject. Also within a family, children are obliged to give away respect and obedience to their parents. By doing so, virtues will spread amongst the society. Elderly citizens also deserve respect from the younger ones. If all of the above mentioned virtues are kept in mind, the entire society will be bound together and there will be an air of love and peace all over.
Ritual means if all the above mentioned relations behave each other according to the way Confucius has suggested, there will be minimal need for betterment in the society since every individual knows about his moral duties and rights.
- Te - The Ruling Power: Only that leadership can stand for long which is accepted by the people of state and which is awarded with their confidence. Leaders who are devoted and sincere with their people and have no personal goals can sustain for longer. Also, enough military power and economic stability guaranty a successful ruling power.
- Wen - The Arts of Peace: Confucius was of the view that other than having strong military and economy, a state must have cultural aspects too which relates with arts. For example, poetry, literature, aesthetics, music, philosophy etc. All these things combined can develop a successful and peaceful state and only such a state can win over others.
- Is Confucianism an Ethics or Religion? Explain.
Every religion of the world teaches about morality and basic ethics. If we take a look upon Hinduism and Buddhism too, we can see evident similarities between Confucianism and these religions. Both of these religions account for basic issues of morality by which an individual and a society can succeed. Confucianism also concerns with general people, their issues and the solution to their problems in the form of maturity and sincerity. Confucius wanted his society to excel, not by the power of sword, but with the power of character and humanity. Almost all religions of the world preach these basic ethics, such as respect of elders, avoiding lies, taking care of young ones, obedience to parents and upon all being a good and justified ruler. Hence it can be said that Confucianism is not just limited to set of basic ethics, rather it’s a religion, both in narrow and wide meanings.
Confucius told his people about the reason for their existence and preached for care and respect of humanity. The only thing missing is the concept of God, which is not present in Buddhism too. However, he believed upon the concept of life after death in Heaven but wanted his people to focus more over worldly issues, so that if they behave in a good way in this world they will certainly be granted with heaven. According to him, heaven is a continuity of world, and only those people will be allowed to enter in it who take care of others in this real world. Therefore, it can be concluded that Confucianism is a religion in itself.
Smith, H. (2009). The World's Religions. New York: HarperOne.