Han Fei Tzu Legalism Analysis

1340 Words 6 Pages
Han Fei Tzu:
Legalism, is an ancient Chinese philosophy concerned with the art of rulership and the stability of the state. Along with hundreds of other philosophical schools, legalism emerged during the Warring States Period (453-422 BC), a time of intense political and intellectual turmoil. Unlike other schools of thought, legalism defined the strength of the state, through a system of punishments and rewards, propagated by common laws. Neither concerning itself with Confucian idealization of the past, or the morality of man, legalisms pragmatic system of governance, as best defined by Han Fei Zi, ended the hundreds of years of warfare and unified China. As aforementioned, Legalism was at the forefront of philosophical discourse during
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Strictly concerning itself with the power and the strength of the state, legalism enabled the Qin to gain the necessary stability and military power needed to conquer the remaining feudalistic states. Combining earlier legalist theory, most notably the Book of Lord Shang, Han Fei Tzu, perfected the theories of legalism in his collection of works known as Han FeiZi. In Han Feizi, Han Fei, outlines the ideal form of political administration, through a discourse on the roles of rulership and ministership, as well as the purpose of laws.
In his fifth essay, “The Way of the Ruler”, Han Fei discusses the role of the ruler. According to Han Fei, the enlightened ruler (who is the highest authority in the government) must maintain a shroud of mystery around his decisions and commands. By not overtly revealing his desires, ministers will refrain from pleasing him, thereby ensuring his subjects will heed all commands. Through hiding his own talents (i.e. bravery, wisdom, etc.), the ruler’s subjects are forced to present their own talents to the ruler. When the ruler is satisfied with the result, he will take credit, and when disatisfied he will punish accordingly, therefore ensuring the rulers reputation never suffers, and moreover maintaining his level of supremacy. To Han Fei, the ruler is supreme, however this supremacy is under constant threat by the
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Individuals, Han Fei argues, should be given government positions only on their merits. By electing only deserving officials, the ruler ensures his power is properly preserved, as they will only act in the interest of the state. “When a man of true worth becomes a minister, he faces north before the sovereign, presents tokens of his allegiance, and banished from his mind the thought of all other loyalties.” (Han Feizi, 24) The deserving official understands his position in society and obeys all. Furthermore, Han Fei argues that rulers must use laws to uphold his ministers. Laws are the means of prohibiting error and ruling out selfish motives. Rulers must impose these laws, so that individuals understand the penalties that will incur when disobeying the ruler’s commands. By clearly defining laws, individuals will accept their position in society, thereby maintaining the social hierarchy and propagating the power of the

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