POL 200 Lecture 10
Exam Format: answer 1 question, out of 3 (comparing PlatoAristotle and Confucius) general
theory of each, human and human nature, social organization (family friends, networks), a
perception of state (state institutions etc..) conceptions of virtue, what it is to be a good human
being. Nature of humanity, what makes a better vs worse political organization.
Confucianism in a global context: two competing perspectives
I. Confucianism and democracy: perspectives on the ‘Asian values’debate
• Confucian ethos (benevolence, family, community), the extension of benevolence aren’t
limited by the state (as they would be in anAristotelian situation, with man as an animal,
therefore there is an underlying meaning of commitment for the common good) In
Confucian, there is no sense of the state being responsible for our own moral lives or own
moral well being, that is placed on the individual and family. It is an ethos that is
independent of political society.
• What are the implications for Chinas relationship with other nations (china being a
Confucian state)? Two different forms of ethos, two different moral frameworks that East
and West are connected too.
• In Confucianism, the force of moral example, rather than force of moral argument (do as i
do not as i say), plays much more of an important role in the ethos. Scepticism can be
seen on the part of Chinese in regards to US (from a Confucian vs Aristotelian
• Economic organization is said to go along with political organization, where in China, the
question is, what is the potential future of democracy in china? Does it mean democracy
has no future in China? What is the impact of Confucianism/ the logic of Confucianism in
China becoming a more open society?
• Six ways Confucian ideas pose a challenge to western liberal ideas:
1) We find within Confucianism a breaking down between the public and the private.
• In western context this can be seen in general policies, historical context: the state has no
place in the bedrooms of the nation, idea that people make their own personal choices
about what they want to pursue. Politics is about issues that are general to everyone, but
personal matters are left out. Relationships in the family is qualitatively different the
• In Confucianism, both public and private are the same
2) In general, in a Confucian sense, we must acknowledge our role within the family, we
believe that we come with identities we have not chosen.
• Roles are inherited
• In west: we choose our identities, we be who we want to be. It is seen as a condition of
our freedom to choose who we are, who we associate with etc...
3) AConfucian vision begins in the starting point of political inequality.
• In a Confucian perspective, those with better perspective should have more influence
(somewhat plutonic) Political power should be distributed to those with better judgement
(aristocratic). • Focus of Confucian ethos is less on language of rights, duty, law, and more of a moral/
4) Rituals and rites There are individuals who classify Confucianism as religion.
• This gives Confucianism a religious aspect.
• In the west there is a separation between
5) Confucian emphasis on Harmony, an overriding goal on political and social life
• West: conflict is a good thing (conflict of ideas, of opinions). Western fear on
overemphasis on harmony, fearing how it leads to conformity.
• Do these principles suggest Western Liberalism is fully inadequate?
• Certain aspects of the Confucianism evident in the west.