Understanding the Differences between Confucius and Machiavelli

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Literature has played an important role in our attempt to understand reality, and it does this through portraying thinking patterns and social norms that are existent and important within a society. In this sense, literature is important because it portrays different stages that man encounters in life; some of the great literary work provides society with a certain level of guidance through life. Reading literature entails more than just acquiring knowledge which too is important but it goes further into giving us different contexts that help us in understanding life. There is a great variety of literary work that one can read in order to acquire a certain level of understanding life as we have mentioned before; in this essay though we have decided to focus on two very influential readings in the prism of literature. The first one being that by Confucius entitled Analects and the second reading by Machiavelli entitled The Prince. We will be trying to compare the two authors based on different themes and concepts; but before doing that we must acquire a certain level of background about both the two authors and the two readings. The Analects of Confucius are relevant because they represent the memory of Confucius’s teachings which are represented in a series of twenty books. The meaning of Confucianism differs among scholars; some see it as the study of ancient texts that embodied rituals and norms of behavior, while for others it was a political philosophy, a social philosophy of the family, or the moral order of nature. Centuries after the death of Confucius is when a shift took place in which the ideology was related to that of the imperial state, in the sense that Confucian learning was used to understand the role that the emperor played within the state. This point is the most relevant in our discussion because in analyzing both Confucius and Machiavelli we are going to focus on analyzing the differences that exist between the two authors position in the way they see the role of the “emperor” and the “prince” within the state. On the other hand Machiavelli is a political writer, who is well known for being very controversial. In fact his world reputation is based on this so called “handbook” on how to obtain and keep power which is entitled The Prince. This book is composed of mainly twenty six chapters; however the books fame is based on the final part of the book mainly from chapter fifteen to the end. This final part of the book focuses primarily with the attributes and virtues of the prince himself. Machiavelli in a sense sees humanity in a negative way, and he shows this through his claims that portray human beings as being evil and only driven by self interest. This point here is the most interesting about the two authors because both Confucius and Machiavelli see humanity in a different way; so in order to make this distinction we will be focusing on three main themes which are that of love, trust and morality. Notion of Love in both Confucius & Machiavelli

Starting out with the notion of love we can see that Machiavelli holds somewhat a pessimistic view about humanity in general by claiming that men are “ungrateful, fickle, liars and deceivers, fearful of danger and greedy for gain” (1612). Following this statement let us relate this to the role that love versus fear plays through the eye of a prince and of an emperor according to both Machiavelli and Confucius. In this context we are referring to how a leader should deal with his people; on the one hand we have Confucius who basically says that the leader should not use fear but instead use love and virtue, in the sense that he should be loved by his people. Confucius in this sense does not stand on the hypothesis that human beings are by nature evil or driven by their own interest, but instead believes that if the leader guides his people by love and virtue instead of fear and punishment, the society will follow the right path. Confucius...
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