Comparing and Contrasting Confucianism and Legalism

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Robert Lin 11/19/12 Goldsmith Rm 311 Comparing and Contrasting Confucianism and Legalism

During the late Zhou Dynasty in China, war and social changes were disrupting the old ways

of life. In order to restore social order, philosophers like Confucius developed Confucianism and

Hanfeizi created Legalism. These philosophies have benefited China’s society and many beliefs

were used in future generations. Both Confucianism and Legalism influenced the lives of its

followers and the society in which it was practiced by developing contrasting and similar

beliefs, laws for a government, and educational knowledge. As a result, these two

philosophies brought a stable and organized society.

Both Confucianism and Legalism influenced the lives of its followers and the society in

which it was practiced by developing contrasting and similar beliefs. For example, Confucius

stressed the five key relationships to bring harmony and peace. These relationships include:

father to son, elder brother to younger brother, husband to wife, ruler to subject, and friend to

friend. According to this belief, people were to fulfill their duties. An example would be an elder

brother setting an example for a younger brother and in return, the younger brother owed loyalty

and obedience. Confucius also stated to respect your parents and everyone else, including

yourself. Hanfeizi insisted that strict laws and harsh punishments would bring order in society.

Both belief systems wanted to restore peace and order. As a result, both of these beliefs united

the people of China. Wars broke out less and gave people moral duties to accomplish. These

beliefs taught people how to live their lives as fair and just citizens, which contributed to its

influence of their people.

Confucianism and Legalism also influenced the society by developing laws for a

government. Confucianism insisted on respecting others, taking advice on well educated men,

and having a good and virtuous leader. In addition, the leader should also be educated because a

leader with no kind of knowledge is incapable of governing their civilization. Legalism passed

strict and cruel punishments on those against the law. To Legalists, strength, not goodness, was a

ruler’s greatest virtue. The leader alone bears great power. As a result, it brought an organized

system of government. Confucianism was more lenient on punishment and less cruel in laws

than Legalism, which led to more respect for Confucianism than Legalism. These laws brought

order and guided citizens on what was good or bad, which also influenced China’s society.
Both Confucianism and Legalism influenced the lives of its followers and the society in

which it was practiced in by developing educational knowledge. Confucius believed that

education was crucial in becoming wise role models for younger people to learn from.

Government leaders and officials should be well educated, and leaders should be wise

themselves with help from their advisors. In Legalism, scholars and books that contradicted with

Legalist beliefs were destroyed. Works of literature and philosophy were burned except for

books on medicine and agriculture. Legalists wanted people to have an equivalent of knowledge

and think the same way. Therefore, both beliefs brought knowledge to...
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