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Confucius (551-479 BC)

confucius philosophyConfucius, also known as Kong Qui, was a thinker, politician and philosopher born into a royal family of the Chou Dynasty (some accounts dispute his royal birth) circa 551 BC in Qufu, Shandong Province, China.

During his era, Confucius was a contemporary of the famous Greeks including the poet Pindar, the tragedian Aeschylus, and the philosopher Heraclitus. As a scholar, minister of state and philosopher, his accomplishments and contributions were no less impressive. 

As it happens, Confucius lived during turbulent ideological crises in China during which traditional Chinese principles were deteriorating and moral decline was transpiring. It was this state of affairs that most likely propelled Confucius' humanistic sensibilities and advanced his social conscience. As a consequence, he felt a moral and ethical obligation to reawaken the values of compassion and tradition in his fellow citizens.

Confucius philosophy was constructed on the principle of "ren", or "loving others," combined with the Golden, or Silver Rule; "What you do not wish for yourself, do not do to others." He also advocated the concepts of self-discipline, humility, compassion and positive example.

His moral teachings emphasized the attainment of self-development, principled character and skilled judgment. Regarding self-development, Confucius advocated sincerity, the cultivation of knowledge, and virtuous action towards others.

For Confucius, virtuous action begins with sincere thought, which begins with knowledge, for virtuous temperament without knowledge is subject to corruption and virtuous action without sincerity is not true righteousness. Cultivating knowledge and sincerity is also important in and of itself. The superior person loves learning for the sake of learning, and likewise, loves righteousness for the sake of righteousness.

Confucius’ philosophy of education comprised of the "Six Arts," including: archery, calligraphy, computation, music, chariot-driving and ritual. To Confucius, the purpose of being an educator was to teach people to live with integrity and through his teachings he endeavored to restore the Chinese traditional values of benevolence, modesty and societal ritual.

In these ancient times when only the aristocratic were entitled to education, Confucius believed that everyone deserved to be educated regardless of social status. All that was necessary included an eagerness to learn, cultivating good values, and finding a good teacher whose actions and words one could emulate.

By extending his lessons to all levels of society, high or low, Confucius broadened access to education and thereby accelerated the development of general education which, in turn, contributed to political reform and the dissemination of culture.

Also, through his philosophy on education, Confucius aimed to bring about social reform, whereby society could live in a state of harmony through moral values.

On his death, Confucius believed that his teachings had not significantly impacted Chinese culture, however, his philosophy is still prevalent in modern Chinese society and his wise words continue to be quoted to this day.

His teachings were later compiled into elaborate practices and sets of rules by his disciples and followers, who consequently organized them into the Analects (his collection of literary/philosophical works) .

Confucius philosophy emphasized the importance of strong family values, loyalty and respecting elders as tenets for a stable society. Moreover, it was Confucius who introduced the concepts of benevolence (jen), ritual (li) and proprietary (yi), as well as the Golden Rule. 

Undoubtedly, Confucius philosophy is still important and prevalent in modern Chinese society.

Related:
Confucius Quotes
Philosopher Archives

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