Philosophy of Confucius
For my essay I have decided to analyze the philosophy of Confucius as seen in The Analects or Lunyu (论语). I will be focusing primarily on what I have found to be the key components underlying Confucian ethics; Filial Piety (Xiao) (孝), Ritual Propriety (Li) (禮) and Authoritative Conduct (Ren) (仁). These three moral concepts are integral aspects of Confucian role ethics; they develop as a counterpart to western philosophy such as Immanuel Kant’s ethics of duty and have remained to this day sound and honourable ideologies that people should live their lives in accordance with. Confucianism has had the most the most prevalent influence on Chinese society for nearly two thousand years (c100BC-1900AD), it affected all aspects of Chinese life; education, politics and personal conduct in both one’s private and public affairs. It became the paramount school of thought and later significant philosophies such as Daoism and Legalism would take their lead from Confucianism. The Chinese government made Confucianism the official state philosophy but that is not to say didn’t fall out of favour over the last two thousand years; from c.200-600AD there was a severe decline in followers as a result of the emergence of Buddhism and Daoism but Confucianism was fully revived by 700AD. In 1100s came Neo-Confucianism, innovated by Zhu-Xi, focussing more on Li and aspects of human nature and in the 1900s Confucianism fell out of favour with western beliefs such as communism. However all government opposition to communism ended by 1977 and Confucianism is now being embraced again in both eastern and western cultures. Confucius is known to the Chinese as ‘Kung Fu-tzu’ (孔夫子) which has been Latinized by Europeans to Confucius. He was born in 551BC amidst the chaos of political instability and constant warring of the Zhou era into a poor family of the lower nobility. Throughout his life he made numerous attempts to gain an office with a prominent ruler willing to implement his concepts, after failing to do so he dedicated his life to teaching and accumulated an impressive amount of disciples, including Mencius and Xunzi. Confucius’ followers took it upon themselves to document and formulate their own interpretations of his interactions and teachings as Confucius never wrote anything down himself. These records of Confucius’ philosophy can now be found in The Analects which has been translated into many languages and sold millions of copies around the world. Xiao or the notion of Filial Piety is probably the most definitive sentiment associated with Confucianism. Xiao is usually highlighted by western interpreters as it does not comply with western values and for this reason was not used as a starting point for promoting Confucianism in the western world. Confucius discusses Xiao in the context of identifying states of order and disorder in society. In a time of constant warfare Confucius conceded that this a social behaviour was due to a lack of Xiao, in The Analects Confucius tells us that a man with filial piety is unlikely to revolt in society or defy the authority of his superiors; “A man filial to his parents, a good brother, yet apt to go against his superiors – few are like that!”. Confucius gives numerous definitions of Xiao to different students he explains that Xiao is the root of moral excellence. Like a plant, Xiao has to take place at the beginning of one’s life in order for it to flourish; “The gentleman operates at the root. When the root is firm, then the Way may proceed”. Confucius emphasized that it was imperative for people to develop this notion of Xiao in which younger generations were obliged develop emotional immediacy to their next of kin, an element of devotion was expected. Confucius put great importance in conducting numerous rituals for varying occasions; he found it essential to the well-being of society. Religious activity was geared toward the worshipping of ancestors. When an elder died the...
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