Legalism Vs Confucianism Analysis

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In Ancient China, during the tumultuous Warring States period, government leaders surrounded themselves with advisors, similar to medieval courts and modern cabinets. These advisors espoused their beliefs on how governments should operate, but more importantly, how leaders should act. Two seemingly diametrically opposed schools of thought rose to prominence: Confucianism popularized by Kongzi and Mengzi, and Legalism promoted by Han Feizi and Li Si. Although each camp acknowledged a hierarchical order of society, they disagreed the overarching goals and the methods of proper government. Thus, the Confucian school promoted a system of government and individual behavior based on internal ethical cultivation of the innate benevolent human nature …show more content…
Han Feizi, a prominent Legalist philosopher argues that as social, political, military, and economic climates change, so must the system of government. Additionally, he asserts that people may be innately benevolent, but will also remain selfish and greedy despite ethical education and cultivation. Moreover, by strictly adhering to tradition and repeating successful methods that may have worked in the past, like the Confucians, then people will not be innovative or successful as they “watch a stump awaiting a rabbit.” Therefore, Han Feizi devised five techniques for rulers to act and to structure their government: the power of position, administrative methods, law, the “two handles” of government, and “the Way of the ruler.” Through the aforementioned techniques, people will be permitted to pursue their selfish interests as outlined by the government, but doing so will ultimately benefit the central state and the ruler. Thus, in order for the ruler and the government to properly harness the vast human and natural resources under their domain, administrative methods and the “two handles” were …show more content…
Confucians took an internal approach at the individual, family, and community level arguing that if everyone from the ruler down acted out of benevolence and respect for one another following ethical cultivation, then society would become naturally ordered, prosperous, and harmonious over time; eventually returning to the glory days of the early Zhou. Subjects were expected to cultivate their innate benevolence and respect their ancestors through ritual and tradition while the ruler provided for them like a caring parent. However, time was the major concern for the realist Legalists. They could not wait for generations to pass while people quietly cultivated their virtue. Facing persistent warfare during the Warring States period and barbarian incursions after unification, the Qin and Han government did not have the luxury of time because their survival was at stake. Therefore, through an authoritative central state and a system of external rewards and punishments, the government demanded obedience from their people and harnessed their labor through coercion. Nonetheless, each version of Chinese government proselytized by the ancient philosophers was based on a societal hierarchy with one ruler in command while the subjects dutifully

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