HUM 2633: Confucianism Notes (McMahon)
Confucianism originated in China in the course of the Qin Interval (2300-200 B.C.). It stays most
influential there, however can be influential amongst communities of Chinese language in different nations.
Although it attracts closely from pre-existing Chinese language religions
prevalent in the course of the Qin interval, it's named for (and is most
carefully related to) its founder, Confucius, or Kongzi (551-
479 B.C.). Whereas Confucianism isn't as extensively practiced as
sure different religions, it's traditionally important and stays a
extremely influential religion system, together with it being a major
catalyst to the event of Taoism in China.
As is the case with Buddhism and Taoism, it's troublesome to get
actual numbers on the variety of people who adhere to
Confucian ideas. It's troublesome as a result of Confucianism does
not demand exclusivity from its practitioners. Subsequently, a excessive
variety of people who observe it additionally determine as Taoist or
Buddhist. There are at the least 6 million practitioners of
Confucianism, however hundreds of thousands, certainly billions, are influenced by
Confucian ideology and cling to Confucian ideas.
Although some argue that Confucianism is healthier understood as a political philosophy as opposed
to a faith, these aware of the custom acknowledge its ongoing and broader perform as a
religion system. Whereas its political ideology was a dominant pressure in China for hundreds of years, and it
stays an influential pressure there regardless of governmental restrictions on spiritual exercise,
Confucian social and political philosophy (e.g., the understanding of the correct relations
between people and corresponding requirements for presidency) is based on Confucian
metaphysics, specifically, its understanding of the cosmos and people place in it. Furthermore, on the
foundation of its cosmology (which extends past Earth) and its conception of human nature,
Confucianism prescribes requirements for good conduct (ethics), and does so on the idea that
adherence to mentioned requirements won't solely produce the ends of happiness for the person and
peace for society (eschatology), however different potential rewards (soteriology).
Confucianism was some of the influential ideologies
that formed Chinese language tradition, and it stays some of the
influential spiritual ideologies in China. It's revered as
one of many Three Teachings (sanjiao), specifically,
Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism. Curiously, even
although Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism are actually seen
as suitable teachings (combination), simply as Buddhism was
an ideological response to Hinduism, Taoism is in lots of
respects an ideological response to Confucian philosophy. It
emerged out of the will for “reform” to the ritualism and
strict enforcement of authoritarian norms that
Confucianism inspired. See (left) illustration of
LaoTzu, The Buddha, and Confucius. Picture Credit score: ©
Freer Gallery of Artwork, Smithsonian Institute.
The first textual content of Confucianism is the Analects, by Confucius. This textual content and different vital
works within the Confucian canon, articulate central tenets of Confucian thought. For our functions,
they are going to be outlined underneath the sub-domains in philosophy that we're finding out.
METAPHYSICS: Confucianism is anchored
in a holistic understanding of the cosmos,
one which assumes large-scale connections
between completely different components within the system and
usually a bent for components at completely different
ranges within the system to reflect each other.
Essentially the most distinguished idea in Confucian
thought is the idea of Heaven. Whereas
practitioners of western religions reminiscent of
Christianity are inclined to determine heaven as sacred
as a result of it's the precinct the place God resides
(and to which they hope to realize entry), within the
Confucian custom the idea of Heaven stands within the place of the deity. Heaven represents
the primary trigger, or originating pressure, throughout the cosmos in addition to its sustaining and guiding
precept. This explains the metaphysical foundation for the declare made by Chinese language emperors to rule
by the Mandate of Heaven (much like the notion of Divine Proper claimed by European rulers).
In Confucian metaphysics, which is was inherited to an ideal extent from antecedent traditions,
Earth not solely resides under Heaven in a literal sense, Earth can be subordinate to Heaven.
Confucian metaphysics endorses a hierarchical understanding of the cosmos with sure
planes being greater (superior) to others. As entities who reside on the Earth, people exist in a
form of interface between Heaven and Earth. Now we have the capability to know the rule of Heaven
and enact it on the Earth. This capability is central to different Confucian beliefs, notably:
• the idea of ren, or goodness,
• the idea of li, or rites (codified guidelines and social norms) and ritual practices designed to
• the best of the jungzi, or noble one who enacts li and embodies ren
Confucian metaphysics assumes that simply as Heaven and Earth exist in hierarchical relation,
relations on Earth additionally ought to be hierarchical, such because the relation between a pacesetter and their
topics, mother and father and their kids, and lecturers and their college students. Importantly, these relations
usually are not presumed to be equal. As a substitute, there's a clear superior and subordinate in every case.
Just like the universe extra broadly, society is known to have ranges, and never be egalitarian.
Confucian metaphysics assumes that order in any respect ranges within the system is maintained by
preserving hierarchies. It assumes that interrupting or difficult them tends to undermine the
chance of concord and correct perform (in any respect earthly ranges – particular person, familial, social).
Flowing immediately from its hierarchical metaphysics, Confucian ethics prescribe conduct that
reinforces order by reinforcing what are understood to be pure hierarchies. People are to
perceive and willingly reproduce the order that Heaven imbues on the Earth. Those that might
be too younger to grasp the rule of Heaven, or incapable of it, are anticipated observe the
command of those that do. People have completely different duties to 1 one other depending on
their function as superior or subordinate. Superiors have an obligation to information and supply.
Subordinates are obliged to obedience and loyalty. It's understood that widespread adherence
to Confucian ideas will preserve the social order and can create not solely content material
people, but additionally peaceable and well-functioning societies.
Evidently, central to Confucian ethics are the beforehand cited ideas of ren and li. Ren,
or goodness, is the aim sought, and li is known to be the means via which ren is
Central to Chinese language tradition in the course of the
interval wherein Confucian philosophy
predominated, and even to at the present time, is the
observe of ancestor worship and the
related observe of filial piety.
Honoring one’s ancestors each in and
via particular ritual practices, but additionally
in a single’s conduct and occupation, is
often called filial piety, and filial piety is
seen as a main responsibility, or ethical
obligation. A person’s character is
assessed on the idea of their efficiency
of this responsibility, and it's assumed that
people who're incapable of honoring
their household are unlikely to have the ability to
different extra summary ethical obligations (e.g., to group, to nation). Disgrace is a consequence of
failure to meet one’s responsibility. In Chinese language and different Asian societies the place the household is the first
unit of society, and fewer of an emphasis is positioned on the person, the stress to meet social
expectation could be very robust (e.g., honor tradition) and the failure to take action is critical.
SOTERIOLOGY: Like most sects of Buddhism, Confucianism doesn't perceive salvation
principally as an otherworldly state attainable solely via the transcendence of the fabric
realm (Earth) and the related transport of the person soul to a different realm of existence.
Although the Confucian concept of Heaven may name that understanding of salvation to thoughts for
people who already maintain that type of view,
Confucianism as an alternative understands salvation primarily as
the state of peacefulness or contentedness (equanimity)
that the person, household, and group can obtain
by following the codified guidelines and ideas that
protect pure order. Nevertheless, the animistic beliefs
that pervade Chinese language society and the longstanding
observe of ancestor worship do help common perception in
spirits and ghosts, and associated acceptance of the concept of
an afterlife in some contexts.
ESCHATOLOGY: With Heaven understood as a circle, Confucianism bears similarity to different
traditions that don't endorse perception in a cosmic finish time or finish of days. As a substitute, it appears to
exhibit religion within the eternality of bigger metaphysical constructions (e.g., Heaven, Earth) even
whereas admitting that completely different phases of existence might wax and wane. Nevertheless, the custom
does endorse extra localized “ends” to be sought by people and communities, ends achieved
via alignment with the pure order of issues, which in flip produces peace and
Right here one can see the alignment between central tenets of the Three Teachings. As we are going to see as
we enter the following module, Taoism emerged not primarily as a problem to the metaphysical
assumptions of Confucianism, however as an alternative as a critique of the entrenchment and corruption of the
ideology because it was more and more used to allow the achievement of political ends. Much like the
manner wherein proponents of the Reformation argued that the Catholic Church had overlooked
the unique teachings and changed a concentrate on them with a concentrate on merely the efficiency of
rites and rituals (usually with political implications), Taoists argued that Confucianism had
devolved right into a strict however in the end superficial preoccupation with adherence to social norms
that now not fostered ren, or goodness, however as an alternative was merely a instrument for sure people to
maintain and preserve energy.
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