The Five Constant Relationships In The Confucian Approach

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The Five Constant Relationships In The Confucian Approach

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Confucian Ethics: five relationships

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A father is loving to his son, and the son demonstrates reverence to his father. A husband should be good to his wife, and his wife should, in turn, be obedient. An older sibling should be gentle to younger siblings, and younger siblings should be respectful of their older siblings. Finally two friends should be considerate and respectful of each other. Based on these principles, Confucius believed it was possible to form an ideal relationship with everyone people encountered throughout their lives.

The fact that three of the five relationships are familial reiterates the key role that family plays in Confucianism. World View. Confucius a political philosopher who lived c. Mencius and Hsun Tzu, two of his prominent successors, held different views on human nature, Mencius arguing that it contained the seeds of goodness, and Hsun Tzu that, in its uncultivated state, human nature tended to evil. Both, however, believed that human beings were perfectible through self-cultivation and the practice of ritual. From the 11th century onward, Neo-Confucian philosophers, engaged in the renewal and elaboration of Confucian thought, subscribed to the Mencian line, stressing the potential goodness of human nature and the importance of developing that goodness through education.

Belief in the innate goodness and perfectibility of man has had strong implications for the development of the Chinese political system. The ruler's main function in the Confucian state was to educate and transform the people. This was ideally accomplished not by legal regulation and coercion, but by personal rule, moral example, and mediation in disputes by the emperor and his officials. Confucian political theory emphasized conflict resolution through mediation, rather than through the application of abstract rules to establish right and wrong in order to achieve social harmony.

The belief that the state was the moral guardian of the people was reflected in a number of institutions. Most important among these was the merit bureaucracy , or civil service , in which all officials were to be selected for their moral qualities, qualities that would enable them not only to govern, but to set a moral example that would transform the people. Because Confucianism was a moral system, the Confucian classics had to be mastered by prospective officials. Official position and examination degree, not wealth or business acumen, were universally recognized marks of status.

A complementary philosophical strain in Chinese thought was Legalism, first applied in the short-lived dynasty of the first emperor, Qin Shi Huangdi Ch'in Shih Huang-ti, B. Proponents of Legalism stressed an administrative approach to efficient and pragmatic government; universal and codified law rather than morality in contrast to the Confucian emphasis ; and state power as an end in itself. As first applied, Legalism proved too harsh and disruptive, but for two millennia thereafter the Chinese state combined aspects of the Legalist structure with the Confucian spirit, recognizing the effectiveness of a centralized, bureaucratic rule which could oversee massive public works, state monopolies, standardized weights, measures, and even script, attempt intellectual control, and enforce social order by suppressing revolt.

Acknowledgment: The consultant for this unit was Dr. Irene Bloom, a specialist in Chinese intellectual history. The Perfectibility of Man and the Moral Role of Government The dominant strain of Confucian thought stressed the perfectibility of man.

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