Importance Being


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importance being Confucianism, Daoism, and Legalism

Amidst the chaos of political instability and constant warring of the Zhou era, arose many intellectual thinkers that brought such a profound impact in the fields of politics, religion, and philosophy.  Even to this day, their influence can be seen on the many matters of China.  Confucianism became the paramount school of thinking and later significant philosophies such as Daoism and Legalism gained immense recognition as well.  Each party had their own proposals for creating an idealistic political society where the many problems they faced in their everyday lives could be eliminated.  All three approaches were very distinct but at the same time, they contained similarities as well.  In my reasoning, I find that Confucianism and Daoism could be paralled in many ways to find several common grounds.  On the other hand, Legalism goes on to take a more unique approach which was much different from the previous two.  
Confucius was born in 551 B.C.E, to a poor family of the lower nobility.  Throughout his life, he relentlessly tried to gain an office with a prominent ruler of the time who was willing to adopt his various concepts.  Unfortunately, Confucius died in 479B.C.E., before such a change ever took place.  However, he succeeded in winning over a handful of devote followers who continued his legacy and Confucianism later went on to become one of the most influential thought systems of Chinese history.  Of his followers, Mencius and Xunzi became one of the most renown.  Since Confucius did not succeed in completing a manual of his views, these followers had to derive their own interpretations of the system, which now formulate, the Analects.  The Analects portray an idealized gentleman, and his various duties in terms of the society, family and rituals.  Confucius explains about the way (Dao) which he believed, that if the people accepted its terms and were willing to abide, they would succeed in creating a utopian society.
By the beginning of the Common Era, another philosophy emerges and gains wide acceptance among the commoners.  Daoism, just like the predecessor and also as the name implies, puts emphasis on the way that a certain individual is to abide to.  Even though the two systems had different concepts about the way, the common denominator of both schools was to achieve total harmony in society.  Confucianism focuses mainly on social order while Daoism puts its central; focus on being one with the nature.
If an individual can practice five things anywhere in the world, he is a man of humanity...reverence, generosity, truthfulness, diligence and kindness (Ebrey 19).  Confucius gentleman has to possess these fine qualities to achieve success.  On the other side of the token, Daoism emphasized the need for similar entities.  Laozi explains: For minds, the depth is good.  In social relations, human-heartedness is good.  In speaking, the trustworthiness is good.  In government order is good (Ebrey 28).  Both systems, through through different approaches, promote peace and goodwill among the family, society and with neighboring states.
Both Confucianism and Daoism accept the presence of a supernatural entity but do not provide a clear explanation on it.  Both thought systems consider it mostly as a mystery that the human mind cannot fully comprehend or alter.  Confucius put great importance in conducting numerous rituals for various occasions.  He found it to be an essential part for the well being of society.  He said, when superiors love ritual, the people are easy to direct (Ebrey 22).  Xunzi provides a more elaborate explanation.  He said Ritual conduct is the perfection of decorum...Sages comprehend it, gentleman comfortably carries them out, officials preserves them and the common people consider them custom (Ebrey 25).  The same sense of mystery or vagueness can be sensed in Daoism.  Laozi said, The way that can be discussed is not the constant way...nameless is the source of Heaven and earth...Their identity can be called a mystery (Ebrey 27).
Both Confucianism and Daoism disfavored a harsh government.  Confucius urged to lead the people with virtue and rituals as opposed to government policies and punishment.  He believed that the ruler should gain respect through his deeds rather that achieving it through his status and authority.  Likewise, Daoism disliked the emphasis of status being displayed in ... more

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Enlightenment Ideas And Politcal Figuers Of The Era

Intro to European History
3-3-99
Enlightenment Ideas and
Political Figures of
The  Enlightenment Era


The Enlightenment of the 18th century was an exciting period of history.  For the first time since ancient Grecian times, reason and logic became center in the thoughts of most of elite society.  The urge to discover and to understand replaced religion as the major motivational ideal of the age, and the upper class social scene all over Europe was alive with livid debate on these new ideas.
A French playwright who went by the pseudonym Voltaire is the most recognized and controversial Enlightenment author.  Because of his trademark acidic wit, he was forced to flee the country after giving offence to a powerful nobleman.  He spent the next two years in England where he came in contact with the pivotal Enlightenment idea of religious freedom and the freedom of the press.  When he returned to France, he had some scathing things to say about the less than enlightened policies followed by the French monarchs, especially concerning religious intolerance.  Because his ideas were generally offensive to the ruler of his country, the need to be able to leave France quickly to avoid prosecution was a consideration when deciding where he should live, which eventually was on the Swiss boarder.  There he continued to treat on society and anything else that caught his imagination.
Along with Voltaire were many other Enlightened thinkers, or philosophes, as they came to be known.  A man by the name of Rousseau was also a very influential personality.  His essays mainly treated on social inequality and education.
An Italian by the name of Cesare Beccaria also discussed society, but more in terms of social control and matters of crime and punishment.  He was an opponent of torture, capital punishment, and of any punishment that was done to excess or didnt fit the crime that warranted it.  He arrived at his conclusions through the logic that was so popular of the day.  An excellent example of this logic is in this phrase concerning capitol punishment:  Is it not absurd, that the laws, which detest and punish homicide, should, in order to prevent murder, publicly commit murder themselves?  Rational arguments such as these permeated Enlightened conversations and didnt fail to be noticed by many of the great national rulers of the day.
One monarch who seemed to be particularly inclined to the Enlightenment philosophies was Emperor Joseph II of Austria.  After the less enlightened reign of his mother, Empress Maria Theresa, he was able to finally institutionalize many of the ideas he had been mulling over and thinking about for years.  His mother, being a staunch Catholic, saw little use for such trivial issues, but once Joseph finally attainted complete control over the empire, his reforms were widespread.  Possibly to spite his mother, one of the first thing he did as emperor was seize much of the land occupied by various monastic sects, which he accomplished through his Edict of Idle Institutions.  True to his Enlightened nature, he promptly turned the seized lands into schools and other institutions of learning.  He abolished the death penalty, made everybody equal in the eyes of the law, and ratified legislation that called for complete religious toleration.  He even attempted to make the Jews living in Austria more acceptable to society as a whole.  He had only limited success on this front, but the attempt itself was a drastic step for a monarch of any country to date.  He made great progress economically as well.   Joseph II ended the monopolies that had unnaturally influenced his economy for decades and eliminated stifling internal trade barriers.  After all was said and done, he had created around 11,000 laws in an attempt to transform his country into an embodiment of Enlightened ideals.  Has he himself put it once, I have made Philosophy the lawmaker of my empire, her logical applications are going to transform Austria.
Despite his hopes, the reforms set forth by Joseph II were not as successful as he had hoped.  He angered the nobles by releasing the peasants from serfdom, and the peasants were similarly distressed over the newfound freedoms which they had no experience dealing with.  His reforms were simply ... more

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