Confucius and Aristotle on Virtue
Philosophers Aristotle and Confucius are both famous persons in the world’s history. Aristotle was a great Greek philosopher and scientist while Confucius was a Chinese politician, a philosopher and a teacher. They both made significant contributions in the world’s virtues and ethics. Their philosophic works were similar in nature, but with some different aspects, ideas and outlooks on virtue. Their philosophies are still alive and in use today, and taught in institutions. They were great thinkers with great influence in the ancient society. ‘The word “virtue’’ is a transliteration of the Latin virtus (from vir, literally “manhood”), which was in turn employed by Latin authors to translate the Greek arête, originally referring to excellence on manly qualities’ (Yu, 2013). This paper will focus on the comparison between these two philosophers, highlighting the similarities and differences of their teachings on virtues.
Both Aristotle and Confucius pointed out about morality and good conduct in their countries. Aristotle widely links the concept of virtue with happiness. “He who is happy lives in accordance with complete virtue and is sufficiently equipped with external goods, not for some chance period but throughout a complete life’’(Aristotle, 2007). Confucius and his teachings also argue that for someone to be happy, it takes more than virtues. This is one similarity that shows how both link happiness and virtue.
Both Aristotle and Confucius touch on the Doctrine of mean which compares deficiency and excess with the aim of perfecting oneself. Both philosophers identified the doctrine with what was right in terms of the person, the extent, time and reason for a certain action. Aristotle explained that there is a mean for each polarity and leads to an average life when utilized. For example, in love, there is obsession and there is complete lack of affectionate for something of someone. Its mean is average affection; neither much nor little, and is perfect when utilized.
In the matter of habituation, Aristotle and Confucius used the same line of argument that virtues cannot exist without habits. Both argue that habits are inculcated when a person is young and applied to coexist with other people when grown up. This, when applied, helps someone have good morals and virtues, since ‘moral virtue comes about as a result of habit, whence also its name (ethike) is one that is formed by a slight variation from the word ethos (Aristotle, 350 B.C.E).
Both Aristotle and Confucius had similarities, but what made them differ are their ideologies on culture, given the two different cultures that they had existed in. From the three aspects that the two philosophers had commonalities in, their arguments did not totally agree with each other. They had differences in their facts. For example, on habit, they both agree that it is through training and learning from others about the good habits that people acquire their personal habits. However, Aristotle view was always from an individual’s point of view as compared to Confucius who had his arguments based on collective identities. By this, it is evident that Aristotle did not fully agree on the fact that habits were acquired from the surrounding rather from a personal point of view.
A man’s outlook towards life and its components are shaped according to the culture that exists in the environment that he grows up in, and this is evident in the works of Aristotle and Confucius. The differences are observed among the Ancient Greek and Ancient Chinese cultures. Their differences existed in the nature of the approach to various aspects such as mean, habits and virtues, and the methods that they used to approach them.
In the political view, Ancient Greek had its emphasis based on individual persons where Aristotle’s view of a good citizen did not rely on the structure of the political system. A good citizen can be good and do what is right even without the existence of the structure and the society. Aristotle was against division of labor, arguing that every citizen had a right to hold on to his or her own property privately. However, in Ancient Chinese, their political structure was based on collective identity whereby their government was centralized and everyone was loyal and obedient to the centralized government. Citizens in both nations had virtues, but the virtues were stimulated by different aspects. In Ancient Greek, an individual’s decision to have good moral virtues drove his or her morality while in Ancient Chinese, the government’s rules and regulations dictated how citizens could act in a way that they portrayed good virtues.
As mentioned in the first paragraph that the great works of these two philosophers still exists in the recent world, their theories are still applied. An example is a workplace whereby there is a wide diversity in ethnicity, which also comes along with cultural diversities. As the two philosophers: Aristotle and Confucius explain, virtues bring happiness. When there is happiness, there is a high chance of business success. When there is happiness, there is better coexistence, teamwork and division of labor. Furthermore, there is more concentration in performance of tasks, which ultimately leads to business success. The arguments of the philosophers evidently go hand in hand with real life experiences, centuries after their existence on earth.
In conclusion, virtues are inevitable in the society for individuals must depict good virtues in order to be accepted by the society at whole. This has been explained by Aristotle and Confucius. However, the world transitions, and people change. Cultures may also change and some ideals of Ancient philosophers may not hold, but it does not mean that they cannot be used. Instead, the ideals can be used to learn lessons in the present, and also ensure that negative virtues are ruled out, we can always find some value in the ideologies.