Confucian Legalism, Part 2

Here’s a fun site where you can take a small quiz and it tells you which “Chinese philosophy” you are most in agreement with. It’s kind of silly, as the questions it asks are fairly cariacturish, but it’s neat to predict what your results will show. The reason I bring this up is because my results showed that I am most sympathetic with Confucianism, second most with legalism, and least with daoism (there are only three systems represented). Of course, I already knew that I favor Confucianism and Legalism, and I am continuing to search texts and interpreters to see to what extent these overlap. What interested me, and continues to interest me, is the moral side-effects of legalist thinking. Adam Smith argued that the profit motive in capitalism indirectly benefits all the members of society. Likewise, I think something similar may be said for legalist methods of running the state. A tempered legalism, one in which the main goal of the ruler is wealth and power, may defy some of the lack of concern Han Feizi seemed to have with morality. Confucius seemed to hold that the most powerful state was the most moral state–the ruler who ruled benevolently, through dao (“right action”), which must be involved with ren (“humanity”, for lack of a better term), would thereby become the ruler with the most powerful state. At least in terms of motivation, there seems to clearly be some overlap between thinkers like Confucius and Han Feizi.

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