One of the biggest debate in Chinese philosophy world is: Han Fei Tzu or Confucius or, Legalism or Confucianism. There is a challenge for the people on which philosophy to pursue between the philosophies Han Fei Tzu and Confucius and who were two great Chinese thinkers. Confucianism was a philosophy that was brought about as a respond to and was influenced by several factors while Han Fei Tzuism was also brought about by a set of factors that were very different from Confucianism.
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Confucius had tried hard to ensure that he finds a solution for the problems and also chaos that China had been experiencing for over 200 years. Confucius in his life had undergone extreme levels of poverty and therefore the philosophies that he would later develop would be from an angle of an individual who is a common man or a from a peasant way of living. So as to return order and peace to a nation that had been torn and scarred by chaos. There was need to educate the people on the correct way of life. Confucius respected the family as the basic unit of a nation; he therefore put his effort in the development of contented and happy families. In his mind he figured that there was joy and happiness in the family, then the whole society will be happy and therefore the king will find it in his wisdom to rule the people with a hand that is gentle. Therefore the point that Confucius wanted to develop was humanity and the goodness of human beings.
On the other hand, Han Fei Tzu made a focus on the basic grounds of reality and rules. Han Fei Tzu unlike Confucius who was from a poor background, he was from a noble family, in fact he was a prince. He did not believe in Confucius philosophy and he rejected the philosophy by arguing that though the philosophy was high-minded and peaceful it did not bring peace in china since many centuries after the death of Confucius China had still not found peace. Therefore the Confucius philosophy had not worked; therefore Han Fei Tzu made a development of his Machiavellian philosophy which meant that a ruler should rule with an iron fist.
For one to have a better understanding of their philosophies it is important to understand their background and who they really were. Using the Analects, Confucius was am ordinary citizen who worked in training the local people on the correct virtues on the ruling class. It Cleary shows that Confucius was not contented with the position that he had in the society wanted to get a public position, the position could be in Lu which was his own state or in any other capacity, which that would give him the chance to practice the correct Ways that he thought as those of the good former rulers, these were the by ensuring that there is Goodness in the society (Pound, 96). This was something that had been long discarded by the rulers in China who preferred the use of aggression and violence. Therefore Confucius had to two goals, to join government service and to increase his knowledge through studying and learning.
But the information about him does not show that he ever achieved the position that he had yearned for. Since he was not satisfied because of progress of his doctrines which was slow in his home state of Lu, he decided to travel to different states in China looking for a leader in the states who would allow to pursue his doctrines. He had three close disciples who accompanied him and they were Jan Chiu, Tzu-Lu and Yen Hui who also happened to be his favorite disciple. A number of his disciples worked for Chi Kang-tzu, who was the dictator who ruled Lu; and it was because of the disciples who worked for the ruler that Confucius was finally able after travelling to make a return to his native state of Lu. His role then, was that of a trainer of sun-tzu that is gentlemen sons. He was also to ensure that he developed good moral principles, and helped in the character formation, and work towards the spread of the great tradition that the people held in the past dearly.
Confucius in his training emphasized on li which stands for decorum and ritual and also ren which means humanity. Li and ren to Confucius were the basic and the greatest ideals and qualities which a functioning and orderly society should pursue and maintain (Freedman and Clement, 24). He put a lot of emphasis on on teaching the society that everybody in the society had specific and ordered role to play and therefore one should never abandon his role. A King should behave and act the way it is expected for a king to be. He argued that if this is not followed, the society falls apart as people lack guidance on what to do. Therefore the monarch should rule then by due consideration of the peoples ren.
Han Fei Tzu, developed Legalism. Legalism is considered to be one of the last Chinese classical school of thought, but this school of thought has one of had a huge of influence on the political life during its time. The exponents of the philosophy were majority of them politicians; Han Fei Tzu was a prince (Dehsen, 81). They were most of them concerned with the huge problems that were facing their nation and the specific mechanisms that they will employ so as to control the problems. They decided to employ a more Machiavellian which followed on the footsteps Chanakya who was a legend in their nation, than the Confucian, peaceful principles of governance.
The main reason that Legalism was developed was to the need for the formation of a more rational organization in the society which had the necessary resources in ensuring that it gave strength to the state against its enemies and rivals. This would be achieved through the institutions of politics being centrally controlled and the power in the nation being vested in the hands of a only one ruler, this were what Legalism stood for. Han Fei Tzu philosophy ensured that those who did good deeds were rewarded and those who committed crimes or other bad deeds were condemned with very extreme harsh punishment. This would make the people to fear committing crimes and they would work toward good acts for they will be rewarded. This worked in making the ruler to be very powerful for it was only him who would determine what is right or wrong from what his subjects had committed. Han Fei Tzu as a leader applied his doctrine to the letter and it worked in bringing the nation together
Legalism was what the chaotic society of China then needed so as to unifying the nation. The Chin dynasty was soon succeeded by the Han dynasty as it did not stay for long. Those who ruled in the Han dynasty had experience firsthand on the horrors that the Legalist doctrine can cause to the people. Therefore banned especially the draconian laws but the political machinery in was still intact, they maintained it for their leadership in the new regime.
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