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Confucianism Vs Legalism Essay

2469 words - 10 pages

Chen Hanyu A0110820B Tutorial D5
Question 1: Introduction
For this paper, I will be discussing two opposing ideologies, Confucianism and Legalism. Towards the later part of ancient China (e.g Han dynasty), states started to adopt a mixture of Confucianism and Legalistic ideology. Why did Legalism and Confucianism fall off?
In this paper I will explore and provide my own insights on the shortcomings of both ideologies; how Legalism was more persuasive in getting people to accept their ideas and more effective as an ideology and how Confucianism lost out in both aspects.
Persuasiveness of Legalism
The central idea of legalism was to provide absolute power to the person in charge and the ...view middle of the document...

Persuasiveness of Confucianism
Confucius viewed the period of the Duke of Zhou as the golden time and wanted to go back to the political system in the early period of the Zhou Dynasty. Although it was well known that Confucius was elevated to high status after his death, his political career was not as successful. Confucius spent many years trying to promoting his ideas to rulers in different states but was not able to get through4. To understand why such a visionary philosopher could not get others to agree with him, we will have to look at the nature of the Confucian theory and why was it incapable of persuading the lords of countries.
Firstly, Confucianism prized the rule of men over the rule of law; that is to promote harmony in the people over the interest of a ruler. If a ruler has appropriate personal conduct the government will be effective without needing to issue order. However, the ruler do not have the correct conducts, his orders will not be obeyed.

Secondly, Confucius viewed rules and laws as harmful. He argued that people led by laws and punishments will try to avoid punishment but lose the sense of shame. If they are led by virtue and guided by propriety, they will preserve their sense of shame and become good citizens5. He saw a country as an extended family and a ruler should take care of his citizens like a father would take care of his children. The ruler as the “father” would need to set a proper example for the right ethics to flow down5.

Thirdly, the Confucianism school did not value institutions in inducing desirable behavior. This school thought that human nature was good while it should be noted that Han Fei Zi viewed human nature as evil.

Fourthly, when it comes to foreign relations, Confucianism discouraged one state’s invasion of other state. Confucianism argued that rulers following the guidance of “li” would induce residents in other states to accept the rule of the “li” ruler voluntarily. Relying on military force as a defense is an inferior act and would be unnecessary for a state.

In my opinion, there is nothing wrong to promote ethics in citizens but the idea of removing laws and punishment in a society is unlikely to work. While no civilization can progress without the proper moral values, law and order is very much essential to the proper workings of a society. While I myself do not agree with human nature being good, I do not see human nature as how Han Fei Zi perceived. My opinion is that human nature starts out “ignorant”, based on our needs for survival, somewhat like an animal. An animal hunting for food is not evil; a human is just an animal who needs a poke in the right direction to achieve the right values. This is where laws come in to provide this “poke”.

Furthermore, much of Confucianism seems too idealistic in trying to create a seemingly morally perfect society. When we consider the practicality of Confucianism during periods like the Spring Autumn and Warring States period,...

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