Confucianism and Daoism are two influential schools of thoughts that have existed in ancient China around the 6th century BCE. The former, led by the politician and philosopher Confucius, proposed that humans live in society according to a set of predefined rules and that they transform society through political action. Whereas the latter, led by the philosopher Lao-Tzu, promoted the idea of inaction; people should go with the flow instead of taking action to control their lives and dominate their surroundings. Although, at first glance Daoism and Confucianism seem to be two opposing philosophies, a more in depth analysis of two of their key ideas –filial piety and education—reveals that they do share some similarities.
Both Confucianism and Taoism seem to have opposing views on the subject of filial piety. In The Analects, Confucius urges us not only to serve our parents, but also to obey and respect them under all circumstances. However, in the Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu wrote: “When there is no peace in the family, filial piety begins” (no. 18). What does he mean by that? One possible, or probably the most obvious, interpretation of this statement is that filial piety cannot exist without conflicts in the family. Such interpretation would indeed be in complete opposition to Confucius’ view on the matter. However, since conflict implies action, that interpretation would also contradict the inaction principle of Taoism. Lao is definitely not encouraging conflicts in the family.
The right explanation of Lao Tzu’s view on filial piety takes into account the concept of nature which is one of the core principles of Taoism. What Lao is really saying in the statement is that any form of filial piety that begins only after a conflict has occurred in a family is essentially going against the true nature of what it means to be filial. It is rather considered as an action to correct a situation: action that is not coming naturally from the heart. If natural filial piety were expressed in the family from the very beginning, conflict would have no means to arise. Thus, filial piety exists naturally and so should it be expressed.
Confucius also recognizes that filial piety should be expressed naturally. According to Confucius, being filial to our parents is the utmost expression of respect. This is an essential element in obtaining the title of Chun-Tzu, or noble person. However, filial piety is not a one-way street. Parents are also filial to their children and to their parents. Both parent and child have a natural position and responsibility within the family; therefore natural filial piety is reciprocal. It is through recognizing and practicing filial piety in the family that a person will know how to act outside of the family. For in the Confucian tradition, it is realized that filial piety also exists between all beings. This is evident in the Confucian Golden Rule: "Never do to others what you would not like them to do to you” (Book XV). As in Taoist...