Confucianism is seen or viewed as a way of achieving the full potential in persons thus attaining harmony in society and the world through moral cultivation. All Confucians share the conviction that it is possible to transform oneself and all of society through the cultivation of virtue. This paper therefore discusses various concept and assumptions of Confucianism mainly ren, xiao, li and yi and it also touches on Daoism.
Concepts of Confucianism and Daoism
Confucianism can be defined as a way of achieving the full potential of human life and attaining harmony in society and the world through moral self-cultivation. It is agreed among Confucian thinkers that the cultivation of moral virtues through which a person learns to be fully human is fundamental to human and social well-being. Confucius or Kong Zhongni was born in China where he was well known as Kong Fuzi and by the time he was growing up he personally experienced the poverty, political abuse and hardship that affected the lives of ordinary people. Confucius shared a belief that although the way of humans is established in the way of heaven and operates in harmony with the way of nature it is to the ideals and exemplars of the human way that we must turn to for guidance for the purpose of reforming and renewing the society. Naturalism agrees that it is nature that is taken as the ultimate source of values whereby the human principles for human action and life are taken from nature. On the other hand supernaturalism argues that a being or power other than human beings or nature is taken to be the ultimate source of value. The supernatural being regulates both nature and humans making them subordinates. Humanism is a concept whereby humanity, rather than the nature or God is taken as the ultimate source of values. In humanism people look to the best of their human practices to find the principles that provide for goodness and happiness. The main concepts of Confucianism are those of human goodness (ren), propriety (li), filiality (xiao), and rightness (yi). The word ren has been translated in many different ways to mean “virtue,” “humanity,” “benevolence,” “true manhood,” “moral character,” “love,” “human-goodness,” and “human-heartedness” among other meanings. Human-heartedness suggests that ren makes us human because it is a matter of feeling as well as thinking therefore becoming the foundation for all human relationships. This reveals the Chinese emphasis on the heart, rather than the head, as the central feature of the human nature. Confucius understood that the way of humanity is highly personal, lies within each human being, and must be realized in one’s personal life and one’s personal relationships. Confucius once answered his student who asked the definition of ren that it meant the action of loving men. Ren’s ultimate principle of action reveals that a superior man never abandons humanity (ren) even for the lapse of a single meal and in moments of haste he acts according to it and in times of difficulty or confusion he acts according to it. One who departs away from ren is not expressing the fullness of humanity. A resolute scholar and a man of humanity will never seek to live at the expense of injuring humanity and he would rather sacrifice his life at the expense of realizing humanity. It is ren, ultimately that makes life worth living. Conscientiousness or zhong agrees that one has to strive to be the best he or she can be and to do the best one can do while Altruism (shu) consists in putting oneself in place of others, extending ren to all relationships. The way of zhong and shu incorporates the golden rule of Confucius namely treat others as you wish to be treated. It is only through enriching and optimizing human relationships that self and society can...