4th May 2014
A Critique of Confucian Morality
For many centuries, Confucianism has been widely revered by the Chinese for its emphasis on morality. Confucius, who lived from 551 to 479 BCE, is different to most philosophers in that he showed no interest questioning his existence, the possibility of a God, or the reality that he seemed to live in; instead he focused on the human relations side of philosophy as it was his belief that people should “give (themselves) earnestly to the duties due to men … (and) keep aloof from (spiritual beings)” (Confucius 195). By negating the metaphysical side of philosophy, he was able to devote himself to mold his disciples into ideal gentleman who were morally righteous, and were able to benefit society. He believed in the importance of individuals who knew their roles in an well-structured society, that was a feudal system. In his opinion, the ideal gentleman should be obedient to his elders, have humanness and be morally righteous. Through his teachings, he was able to reform an entire country; the Chinese found Confucianism to embody practices of humaneness that they could apply in their daily lives through his religion.
His profound wisdom of morality and human relationships that he imparted on his disciples has been passed down and this displays how he came to be the most significant Chinese philosopher that there has been.
However from a modern and Western point of view, there are some faults to be found with his teachings. Confucius thought that tradition and ritual were necessary practices that had to be passed down. His conservative views do not resonate as well in the West as it does in China because of the importance that is placed on the liberal individual as opposed to someone who is seemingly a subordinate to his society. From this point of view, the sage’s teachings on filial piety, gender, and society’s hierarchal nature can be critiqued as they show to be traditional and stint progress.
Firstly, the Confucian concept of filial piety can suppress individual thought, which is relevant in many Western philosophies. Confucius upheld that the youth should respect and honour their elders, especially their parents. He believed that if an individual was able to have a supportive relationship with his parents, and was both respectful and obedient towards them, this could be applied to the relationship between a ruler and his subject. Thus, filial piety inadvertently leads to good government because of the role that one plays in the family, which can be applied in society. A person that has filial piety would be able to cultivate himself to become an ideal gentleman; he would improve morally, socially, and in the wider scheme of things, politically.
However, because the youth must remain obedient towards their parents and uphold their honour, this can cloud their judgment of what is right and wrong. If an individual possesses filial piety,...