Confucius and Confucianism

David Hall and Roger Ames [tooltip content= “Chinese philosophy. In E. Craig (Ed.), Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. (Routledge, 1998) Source: http://www.rep.routledge.com/article/G001”] [source][/tooltip] [green_message] While there may be some truth to the claim that in the West, every person is born either a Platonist or an Aristotelian, it is A.N. Whitehead’s apothegm, ‘All of Western philosophy is a series of footnotes to Plato’, that, mutatis mutandis, resonates best with the Chinese context. For indeed, all of Chinese thinking is a series of commentaries on Confucius. In fact, the importance of Confucius in China may be said to outshine that of Plato in the Western tradition on at least two grounds. First, there is effectively no sort of pre-Confucian philosophic tradition to match that of the Presocratics. Confucius is not a synthesizer of past thinkers, but an interpreter and transmitter of past institutions, namely, the idealized Zhou rituals and customs which Confucius thought to be the key to social stability. Second, Confucius’ thinking came to ground the tradition of Chinese culture for practically its entire intellectual tradition, from the early phases of the Han dynasty in the second century bc to at least the beginnings of the Republican period in the early twentieth century, and arguably down to the present day in a decidedly Chinese form of Marxism.

The philosophy of Confucius begins from some basic assumptions, several of which can be derived from the following passage from the Analects:
The Master said:

‘Lead the people with administrative injunctions and put them in their place with penal law, and they will avoid punishments but will be without a sense of shame. Lead them with excellence and put them in their place through roles and ritual practices, and in addition to developing a sense of shame, will order themselves harmoniously.’ (Analects 2/3)

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