Confucian philosophy has been at the centre of the development of the oriental culture. It has been a hugely humanistic philosophy although it has always acknowledged the divine. This philosophy that is so central to the eastern civilization was founded by Confucius who was born in 550B.C in the remote northern province of China.Conficious occupies a place of great prominence in the orient as a founding philosopher. His work and life have been celebrated by his disciples then, and now. His teachings have greatly shaped the Buddhist way of life from time immemorial (Cleary, 1992).
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Confucius was one among the many intellectuals who lived during the Chou Dynasty (1100 B.C. to 256 B.C.). During this time, the society was falling apart with the moral fabric of the society at large being overly disintegrated. Governance was in the hands of materialistic feudal bosses who were law unto themselves. The poverty of the masses was monumental, and the intellectuals had to have at least a sponsoring lord or live in abject want and poverty.
Historians have asserted that Confucius was himself appointed to a cabinet post in middle age most probably at 50 years of age (Chung, 1996). Because of his philosophical and political convictions, he left the cabinet post of the Duke of Lu at the age of 58 to purse teaching instead. For the purposes of this essay it also important to note that he divorced his wife in his early twenties; and that he did not have a cordial relationship with is son. After leaving the cabinet, Confucius, traveled across 13 Chinese states teaching and getting disciples. He died in 497B.C, a greatly discouraged but influential man. His disciple’s popularised his teachings and are responsible for preserving the great teachings of this man many years after he died .They carried or kept alive his legacy (Cleary, 1992).
In the strict sense of the true understanding of the teachings of Conficius, his doctrine was as earlier stated, humanistic. His eachings were not religious although most modern religions including Christianity borrow heavily from him. The cultural arena he grew up in was deeply entrenched in necromancy, spiritism and polytheism. Conficius was totally rationalistic and humanistic in his philosophy and teaching (Chung, 1996).
He taught that the depravity in the society could be rectified by the dedicated efforts of civilization, and not by some divine being. He was a firm believer in man employing common sense and goodwill to sole societal issues and problems.
Confucius believed and taught that man could find infinite good in himself. According to him, morality was not an externally imposed virtue, but one that any man could find in himself. He believed that the pursuit of this good within man was the key to sustaining any culture and not the external imposition of some deity (Anderson, 1975). In Confucian philosophy, man is self endowed to pursue and attain virtuous character and discard vice. Deities achieve no significant purpose in the affairs of managing humanity. Conficius philosophy teaches that, the right and appropriate knowledge plus a conscious effort exertion are all what is required to achieve the ultimate good in man and society in general.
The triune principles of LI, Chun-Tzu and Jen, make up the ethical code in the teachings of Confucius. Each is a distinct principle and for utmost understanding of this essay, all warrant some attention. LI is the first principle and encompasses the virtues of veneration, modesty and civility. It’s the cornerstone of religion. Chun-Tzu is the pursuit of the attainment of highest degree of human gentility (Chung, 1996).
Jen is the foundational virtue of the philosophy and teaching of Conficius. It recognises the good in man despite his social class, background, education, ideological and religious persuasion among other human differences. To pit it categorically, it’s thee ultimate virtue of human munifence, goodness and compassion. It’s the sole virtue that makes man first, a human being then something else. It is the virtue that gives morality to man (Anderson, 1975).
Jen is an espousal of the human will to empathy and the fair treatment of others. It’s the resilient determination of humans to achieve the divine in the course of living. It’s a call to arise from the comfort zone of self centeredness to selflessness. It’s the virtue that calls deep within a man to find pity for the suffering; the oppressed, the sick, the hungry and the molested. Jen in Confucian philosophy and ethics is the virtue that calls for the risking of one’s life for the good of the others. It calls for sacrificial living without the religious tinge of punishment and reward (Anderson, 1975).
Jen is the deliberate effort to live one’s life guided by strict rational rules that defy emotional disruptions to serve humanity and to love mankind despite the many failings of man. It encompasses among other virtues the virtue of forgiveness. It espouses that man can forgive fellow man and not seek retribution. Jen, then is doing to others as one would like others do to him or her (Chung, 1996).
This short essay began by tracing the life of Confucius who is credited with founding the philosophy discussed therein the essay, also described the cultural state of the Chinese civilization during the Chou Dynasty, the time when Confucius lived. His personal life was also briefly mentioned as it might be a contributing factor in his philosophical leaning.
The other two principles Li and Chun Tzu were also visited in order to put Jen in its true philosophical perspective. Jen; the essay has shown to be a humanistic virtue that seeks the ultimate good in man without appealing to the divine. It could be just what we need to restore hope and morality to our present civilization (Cleary, 1992).
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