Ethical Principles of Confucius

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Reflection on the Ethical Teachings Found in Confucianism

Confucianism, a religion of optimistic humanism, has had a monumental impact upon the life, social structure and political philosophy of China. The founding of the religion goes back to one man, known as Confucius, born a half-millennium before Christ (McDowell, 1983). And even though many people refer to Confucianism as a religion, many others say it really is a philosophy of life, not a religion. Confucius believes in harmony between the cosmic order and the social order, so that justice and happiness would prevail among all people in their larger groupings (Noss, 2008: 290). Confucius had many disciples and wrote many books, therefore his teachings of ethical principles are available for us to know and learn about today. Confucius emphasized the magnitude of moral quality in determining the goodness of people’s actions. The chief ethical principle of Confucianism is “li”. Confucius asserted that by living according to this principle, one lives in the way of an ultimate man, or a true gentleman (McDowell, 1983). The philosophy surrounding this principle emphasizes personal and governmental morality, correctness of social relationships, justice, and sincerity (Mc Dowell, 1983).

Li is what Confucius thought to be the ultimate standard of religious, moral, and social conduct. Li represents the rituals and a rule of respectability through which an individual displays respect for superiors and fulfills their function in society in a way that is laudable of respect and adoration. Everything that someone says or does should be based on a true consideration for propriety. Li is valued as the highest priority in practicing Confucian philosophy. It is essential to the ordering and regulating of the fundamental relationships found in society, which are as follows: (1) ruler and subject (2) father and son (3) husband and wife (4) eldest son and younger brothers (5) elders and juniors (Noss, 1969). The goal...
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