Traditional Values of Confucius Theory

Essay One

February 3, 2004

In the Analects, Confucius gives readers certain guidelines regarding how government and kingship should conduct itself. Through his descriptive text Confucius breaks down many aspects of the expectations of ruling forces. Confucius embodies a sense of traditional and moral values that shine through in his writings. His conservative view appears throughout the Analects as Confucius outlines his guidelines regarding a legitimate, successful government, and the qualities of a good king.

Confucius outlines the government as consisting of three major practices: filiality, humaneness, and ritual decorum. These practices which Confucius describes traditionally contain very conservative and moral ideologies. All three practices stress the importance of moral values such as peaceful, egalitarian interactions, respect and concern for others, and dignity. Confucius stems out to expand his definitions of the three practices, but the main traditional concepts remain the same.

Filiality involves placing great importance on the care one has of their family members, and treating non-family members as if they were part of their family. Confucius found this practice extremely important in society, and believed that if everyone was “filial and friendly toward one’s brother”, it would have its effect on the government and influence it in a positive way ( 47). Filiality, according to Confucius was a very important key to a harmonious government. As Confucius wrote “A young man is to be filial within his family and respectful outside it. He is to be earnest and faithful, overflowing in his love for living beings and intimate with those who are humane” (45). This idealistic view embraces the moral ideologies that Confucius sought after. While some governments rely on enforcing strict, unfair rules to achieve a successful government, they often result in unrest and violence. Confucius promotes ethical goodness for a perfect government, reiterating his beliefs of traditional values.

Confucius reinforces the importance of moral values when he states “Lead them through moral force and keep order among them through rites, and they will have a sense of shame and will also correct themselves” ( 46). Confucius’s conservative standpoint strikes reader’s attention so that they can not help but wonder if such an ideal government could possibly exist. By teaching society moral values, Confucius also believes it will teach the society honesty, therefore resulting in shame if they do anything dishonest. Confucius also stresses care for one another in a society, and explains the importance of humaneness along with other moral values.

To properly achieve a harmonious government, the society also requires humaneness. According to Confucius, humaneness involves the concern for others in the society in order to benefit the society as a whole. Confucius explains “one who is not humane is able neither to abide for long in hardship nor to abide for long in joy. The humane find peace in humaneness; the knowing derive profit from humaneness” ( 48). Confucius believed that living in a happy, successful government system required the effort of all members in being compassionate towards each other. To achieve humaneness one must “want to establish yourself; then help others to establish themselves. You want to develop yourself; then help others to develop themselves. Being able to recognize oneself in others, one is on the way to become humane” ( 50).

With such guidelines, Confucius expresses his moral intentions to making society a place that would benefit all that lived in it. Confucius described the five characteristics to becoming humane as respect, liberality, trustworthiness, earnestness and kindness. The listed qualities are in themselves very pure and honest. When Confucius names those traits as essential to obtain humaneness, he lets his true feelings shine through, and his pure, moral nature again reveals itself. Although humaneness deserves great attention in making society better, Confucius still viewed society as a corrupt place, with the only way to fix everything through ritual.

Confucius emphasizes the moral significance of filiality and humaneness, but the most important aspect of a society he regards as ritual. Through mastering ritual, one masters themselves, therefore returning to ritual and becoming humane. Although Confucius views this aspect of governing a society the most important, he also leaves the subject of ritual the vaguest. One could possible assume that Confucius feels that repetitive ways will instill upon people a sense