Is Confucianism Good Or Bad

Confucianism and Free Will

Table of Contents

1. Correcting the 'names'

2. Four virtues: humanity (仁), justice (義), morality (禮), prudence (智)

3. What is the significance of Confucianism for the subject of free will?

4. Bibliography

1. Correcting the 'names'

The life of Confucius falls into the Chunqin period (722-481 BC), an epoch named after the annals》 (Chunqin, literally 《spring and autumn》 of the state of Lu) between the western Zuou period (11th century AD). - 771 BC) and the Warring States Period (Zhanguo period, 481-221 BC). It is a troubled period of transition. The feudal state of the Zhou, who ruled China since the 11th century, is in the process of decay and the former feudal takers are becoming increasingly politically independent. Competing for power, they decimate each other in a long chain of battles, until finally a single state remains and a new central rule is established: the State of Qui, which laid the foundations for the later Empire and which incidentally the western name 《China ist owes.[1] This politically and socially chaotic background is the starting point for Confucius' thoughts. All his intellectual endeavors are directed towards the renewal of the Zhou principles of order and the restoration of the ancient system. In this sense one can say that Confucius is a philosopher who cares little about the question of to be or not to be.[2]

The characteristic of the Confucian problem-solving is: Confucius sees the crisis of the society at that time as a crisis of ´names´. Confucius believed that the confusion and misunderstanding of the word and its meaning reflect the gap between the past and the present. In the word collection Lunyu (chin. 論語) stands:

“Prince Ging of Tsi asked Master Kung about the government. Master Kung said:》 Let the prince be prince, the servant be servant; the father be father, the son be son. 《"[3]

That is the doctrine of Correcting the names (正名), which states that correcting the names serves to clarify what specifically expressing ruler, citizen, father, son or other terms.[4]

For this reason, Confucius warns his students against the deceptive words.

"The master said:》 Smooth words and flattering expressions are seldom united with morality. 《"[5]

I believe that Confucianism assumes the following in this context: Man is essentially a social being that is in a network of names. Man enters the stage named world by taking on one or more roles such as father, son, teacher, etc. In Confucianism, humans are not viewed as an isolated object of study as in Descartes, Hobbes, or contemporary brain scientists. Basically, a person can be a person because he is embedded in a certain social network.

In the last chapter I'll try to make it clear what this is for the subject Free will means.

2. Four virtues: humanity (仁), justice (義), morality (禮), prudence (智)

Confucius dreamed of that Jun-Zi state. Jun-Zi is the epitome of the ideal person that Confucius himself wanted to achieve in the course of his entire life. As mentioned above, the question, 'How can society achieve order and harmony?' Is a major issue for Confucius.

The Master's answer is: One cannot realize order and harmony in society by creating a strong state law, but only by everyone trying to become moral. Only through the inner strength of the person can one become a Jun-Zi and accordingly one healthy Create a society in which the individual citizens can live in harmony with one another.

It is about four virtues, humanity (仁), justice (義), morality (禮) and prudence (智), which have strongly influenced the East Asian countries such as China, Korea and Japan. In my remarks I only deal with humanity, morality and prudence.

- Humanity

The term humanity is so important that it is mentioned 109 times in Lunyu. The character 仁 consists of the two characters for 人 (human) and 二 (two).[6] Confucius never clearly defined this term. This does not mean, however, that this term remained unclear with Confucius. In the Lunyu one cannot find a scene in which the master gives a lesson in front of all his students. This collection of words consists of the dialogues between the master and one or two of his students.

When a student asks the master what humanity is, the master takes into account the character and level of his student before giving him an answer. It is precisely this pedagogical strategy that generates that great power of persuasion through which the student is spiritually motivated.

This pedagogical tendency is further developed by the Zen Buddhists independently of Confucianism.

The disciple, Ya Yuan, asked Master about being human.

“The master said: To overcome one's own desire and to practice the rites, that is humanity. When one day you have achieved this, to subdue yourself and to act according to the rites, all people under heaven will call you a man of ren. "[7]

From the quote one can deduce that the term Humanity (ren) first Self-control and Respect for the rites means.

But ren is also still with the Philanthropy connected. For Confucius, philanthropy presupposes the ability to empathize with other people. What did Master mean by human love?

“Dsi Gung asked and said: Is there a word that can be used throughout life? 《The master said:》 Charity. What you do not wish for yourself, do not do to others. 《"[8]

Summary: Humanity is love for people, which is based on the ability through which one can empathize with other people. This virtue can be achieved through self-control and respect for the rites.

- morality

Confucius trusts in the disciplining effect of morality on the behavior of people and their harmonizing power. Confucius believes that those who are morally conscious can also act morally. He can control and discipline himself. Confucius is convinced that a morally conscious person does not need external coercion and pressure to behave properly. His inner strength is enough to create a harmonious relationship with other people.[9]

As mentioned above, humans are essentially a social being because they cannot become human until they are embedded in a particular society. There is no doubt that morals are an important part of society. The concept of good and bad depends on the mores that rule a society. There can therefore be no generally binding determination of good and bad. But customs change due to changes in factors, such as changes in the economic system, religion or the environment, etc. Confucius was of the opinion that humans should learn the customs and that they should be disciplined in order to know them in this way to let go of what is good and what is bad behavior. Because of this, the Master warned against the collapse of the moral order.


[1]. Heiner Roetz, Konfuzius, Munich (1995), p. 9.

[2]. See Xuewu Gu, Konfuzius, p. 37.

[3]. Confucius, conversations, ⅩⅡ. 11.

[4]. Volker Zotz, Confucius, p. 45.

[5]. Confucius, I. 3.

[6]. See Xuewu Gu, p. 61.

[7]. Confucius, ⅩⅡ.1.

[8]. Ibid., ⅩⅤ. 23

[9]. Xuewu Gu, p. 85.

End of the reading sample from 10 pages