Oct. 20, 2013 A Look at Human Nature
Confucianism vs. Legalism All of the Chinese philosophies and religions have had core assumptions about the human nature that helped shape their policies and way of influence. The ancient
Chinese were deep philosophical thinkers that would debate ideas to further their understanding of themselves and the world around them. This invited a culture of learning and education. Therefore many Chinese philosophies and religions emphasized education as an intrical and important part of society. My goal is to give a comparison of Confucianism and Legalism and how their view on nature of man influenced their policies.
Confucianism is more of a philosophical system than an actual religion, and is based on the ethical philosophies of Confucius that started during the Spring and
Autumn Period of Chinese history before the emergence of the Han dynasty. At the center of confucianism is a collection of ethical perspectives that stress the value and agency of man kind. They deal with both the individual and the collective society as a whole, and magnify the importance of certain key relationships as being integral in the revolving society. Family is important in confucianism and the relationships within the family help set a basis for how society works. As for the Nature of man I would conclude that confucianism favors in the good of man and thinks man is inherently
good, but doesn’t have any specific teaching on the subject. That being said, Many scholars following Confucius's teachings would debate this themselves as they thought and studied man.
Xunzi, a Confucian scholar, believed that man’s inborn tendencies were evil and carnal. He taught that all men are born with an innate selfdesire to enrich themselves that compels them throughout life, whether it be a desire for profit, a desire for love, a desire to do what he or she wanted without regarding its consequences to society, and it is only through education and a teacher that this selfdesire can be tamed into a selfless one. He believed a teacher corrected bad behavior. Mencius, another
Confucian scholar, believed on the contrary. He believed in the goodness of the individual. From birth man have an innate goodness about them, and it was society’s influence that caused bad behavior. The role of the teacher was important in tapping into that potential. He stressed that true improvement results from educational cultivation in favorable environments.
Even though both of them disagreed on the nature of man, they both believed that teachers and education was important. They believed they were important for different reasons which stem back to their differing beliefs on the nature of man, but none the less this importance on education helped formulate the relationships and policies that were central to Confucianism.
The five virtues of Confucianism that were taught to help guide the individual were Integrity (信), Righteousness (義), Knowledge (智), Humaneness (仁), and Etiquette (禮). These ethical virtues are what guided the individual to improve their
lives and live in good moral standing. These virtues extended over the five main relationships that were taught: Ruler to Subject, Father to Son, Husband to Wife, Elder
Brother to Younger Brother, Friend to Friend. These were the basic relationships taught in confucianism that were regulated by the order of filia piety. These relationships if kept reverent, along with the individual following the teachings of good teachers are what lead the way of life during Confucianism's height.
Legalism was a philosophy that like its name suggests emphasised the importance of strict obedience to a legal system. The rule of law was believed to be necessary for moral life to exist. Within legalism all people were equal under the law and the laws were to be clear and made public. Even though people are