The Thinkers' Ideal states -- A Contrast of Confucius & Plato
Written by Hong Xiaoming
Confucius and Plato were two cultural giants standing on the top of ancient eastern civilization and the ancient western civilization. Although Plato was living one century later than Confucius, they both were living in the “Axial Age” of human being’s spiritual awakening.
We know Confucius and Plato shared a desire to end the intellectual and political chaos surrounding them, and to bring order. Each one wanted to find a new morality which required no gods, an idealism that would change the way men thought.
Confucius’ thought of ideal state is fully described in the Lun Yu (The Analects), a collection of Confucius’ sayings and dialogues compiled by his disciples after his death in 479 BC. Among his sayings and dialogues, Confucius put forward the benevolence as a rule of the country government, and his political thought is based upon this ethical thought. He argues that the best government is one that rules through “rites” and people’s natural morality, rather than using bribery and force. While he supported the idea of the all-powerful Emperor, his philosophies also contained a number of elements to limit the power of the rulers. He advocated governors’ benevolence to its people, and asked the emperors to benefit its people and nourish its people, so that all the people in the country will thank for the emperor and all the people out of the country will leave their country and come to the emperor. As to rule through people’s natural morality, he explained this in one of the most important analects: “If the people be led by laws, and uniformity sought to be given them by punishments, they will try to avoid the punishment, but have no sense of shame. If they be led by virtue, and uniformity sought to be given them by the rules of propriety, they...