Confucianism V. Democracy Essay

1064 words - 4 pages

Although originally a scholarly practice and moral philosophy, Confucianism has been applied to many aspects of Chinese society. Its principles have infiltrated familial relations, social structures, religious institutions, and political systems. The application of Confucianism in politics has, in particular, undergone the most flux throughout the ages. Confucianism was never adopted during the life of Confucius and was forbidden during the Qin dynasty. However, Emperor Wu of the Han dynasty chose it as the political system to govern China. Its political standing has wavered as different forms of government have taken hold in China. Most recently, Confucianism and democracy have been closely examined in relation to each other. It is commonly believed that the two political ideologies are complete antitheses; however, this is not entirely true. Although there are many areas where the two doctrines diverge, there are also areas that they coincide. In this paper, I will elucidate the similarities and differences between the philosophies that surround democracy and Confucianism.An obvious problem in comparing democracy and Confucianism is that neither is clearly defined. Throughout their long histories, both doctrines have facilitated the construction of varying conceptions, ideologies, and institutions. I will first give a general definition of the two in order to assist in comparing and contrasting them. A democracy is a form of government in which all citizens have an equal voice in shaping policy. Its goal is to preserve the principles of individual rights and competitive political institutions ("Democracy, n.d.). Confucianism is a Chinese ethical and philosophical system comprised of moral, social, political, and religious values. It stresses humaneness, the true gentleman, filial piety, and the rectification of names ("Confucianism, n.d.). Using these definitions as a foundation, l will discuss the similarities and differences between the two.Confucianism and democracy conflict in many areas. First, they differ in their views of human nature. In general, democracy is established on the pessimistic assumption that human beings are not perfect or altruistic, and that their selfishness makes conflicts unavoidable. In contrast, Confucianism plays down the negative side of human nature and claims that human beings were born upright (Confucius 6.17).Another difference is that unlike democracy, which is associated with individualism, Confucianism places a premium on families. To clarify, family values do not necessarily conflict with democracy seeing as the family has always been the basic social unit in society. However, what makes Confucianism distinct is that it regards filial piety as the utmost virtue in society, putting individualism and patriotism behind family. In one case that illustrates the emphasis on family value, Confucius thought that if a father had stolen a sheep, his child should conceal the misconduct instead of bearing witness...

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