In the Information Era, every society, though, is changing rapidly in every perspective, even for its norms, some of the intellectual works of the greatest thinkers still more or less affect us. It is absolutely wrong for the people at this time to totally ignore what the greatest thinkers established. Without their effort, how can we live in a way that we do? To do this, we must first learn to admire what the greatest thinkers said.
Greatest thinkers usually left us with theories with profound effect. Theories were always laid out in a general picture, which shaped our civilization. At some point in time, their ideas have deeply rooted in our mind and change the world and the lives of everyone living in the world. Everyone admires them, their works and their achievements because a simple idea can be disseminated across time without generation gap.
In China, which has over one-fifth of the total population of the earth, has been affected by the Confucian for more than 10 centuries. Even now, his thinking and words can still be found in our examination syllabus and are widely researched by different professors. He set out our moral standards, taught us how to treat or respect others. Without his norms, the past dynasties, which were lack of communication channel, must be in turmoil.
Sun Tzu, a famous military leader, was the author of the book called ?§The Art of War?¨, which was widely analyzed by the top universities, like Harvard. A lot of people, including military force, businessmen and professors attitudes towards this book is highly positive since it can be effectively applied to different areas. For instance, some professors have already re-written it as a new management tactics.
It all indicates that the importance of greatest thinkers should not be ignored. Some of their ideas or thinking may be of relevance to our daily life, which shape the existing line of thought.
On the other hand, if their ideas do not suit our current situation, we should not take it serious. Otherwise, we would fall into a gap which impede our advancement. Karl Marx, another notable philosopher, gave us a key to the understanding of the process of the historical development of mankind and political economy. However, time has changed. Can his theories still be applied to nowadays situation? Probably not. Lots of researchers may have already accumulated enough knowledge to change the whole picture. As a whole, Karl Marx??s theory may take only a small part of the new set of ideas. If we insist to follow his theory seriously without advancement, can the world be like the one we are living in?
Keynes, who established a breakthrough economics theory in the mid-20th-century, dominated the economics field at his time. However, after the introduction of the new classical economic theory, the influence slowly fades out. If the economists still adopt his framework, the output of this field will certainly not be the same. Although it may be the case, one should be reminded that it is of critical importance to know their achievements.
In sum, the societies should take the thoughts of the greatest thinkers seriously if they are of high value. At the same time, we should also pay attention to those ideas which have already been weakened across time, since their efforts have shaped our society.
The Battles of the Bold
Confucius and Socrates both have a very definite perspective of an exemplary person and how he/she should live their life. However these perspectives do differ in specific areas and that is what brings me to compare and contrast on both philosophers.
"He acts before he speaks, and afterwards speaks according to his actions" (Confucius 2-13). Confucius says that we shouldn't speak about what we don't know, just as Socrates is known for saying "I am wise because I know nothing." Both of them seem to imply that a virtuous man knows nothing, and yet that is the key to knowledge itself.
Socrates believes a just man is a man who knows the difference between what is right and wrong and will act upon it, but also believes that a just man is not skilled or educated in any of the other right areas. "Socrates: 'But is the just man or the skillful player a more useful and better partner at a game of draughts?' Polemarchus: 'The skillful player.' Socrates: 'And in the laying of bricks and stones is the just man a more useful or better partner than the builder?' Polemarchus: 'Quite the reverse'" (Republic Part III). Socrates also goes on to say, "And so of all the other things; -justice is useful when they are useless, and useless when they are useful?" (Republic Part III) Socrates believes here that a just man is nearly useless due to the overbearing skills others possess that he doesn't. "Then justice is not good for much." (Republic Part III) Socrates distinctly doesn't believe that being just is the way to go. He sees justice as a very good quality to have, but points out that it is pushed aside and passed up by those with skills in every other area.
Both philosophers tend to sway their own way when it comes to practices. Confucius tends to focus on internal reflection and the role of the student, such as how situations make you feel and how you feel you should act. Confucius also seems to believe that the role of the student is to apply their knowledge and figure things out and explore for themselves instead of just learning everything from one person. Socrates generally focuses on guidelines for actions that a 'good' person would choose to make.
Confucius and Socrates also differ in the area of proper action. For Socrates is going for a point when he says, "It is just to do good to our friends when they are good and harm to our enemies when they are evil"(Republic Part III). He truly believes the contrary though. For Socrates claims that it is truly unjust to injure anyone, even if they are your enemy. Confucius is rather quoted saying; "It is only the truly virtuous man who can love or who can hate others" (Confucius 4-3). Confucius feels that the just man, in acting just, would love a good man and hate a bad man. He implies that a just man would know when a man is good and a man is bad, and thenceforth could make their decision accordingly. Socrates claims that justice brings all traits of peace together, and thence the just are wiser, better and more capable of action.
When the claim of being wiser, better and more capable of action is brought into play, it's important to examine both philosopher's take on 'wisdom' in being just. Confucius shares the belief that "The accomplished scholar is not a utensil" (Confucius 2-13). He also says that a scholar who is ashamed of bad clothes and bad food, is not fit to be conversed with. We see here that Confucius doesn't add an emphasis on needing wisdom through education, instead he believes in wisdom through learning and observing. Socrates emphasizes that in learning, having one knowledgeable person maybe be of more value than the opinions of all the rest. He also is known for saying, "Learning occurs through education, and truth is found by reasoning, not by mere sense" (Republic Part III). Socrates implies that wisdom is more than just knowledge of something, it is obtained not only through education and reasoning, but also sensing. However he advises us that we can't always trust our senses, therefore wisdom is gained through a process of many different things and can't simply be acquired by any one specific action.
Going along with the defining of wisdom, Confucius adds that consequences are not the proper consideration for making a choice. He believes that moral action should depend on your morals and virtues, not whether or not you will be punished or rewarded. I think this is a great insight on Confucius' part, we shouldn't choose our actions off of what's going to happen to us, but instead whether or not it is the right thing to do.
However, when reading the different texts, you see that Socrates declares that "What is lawful is just" though Confucius advises, "The superior man does not set his mind either for...or against anything; what is right he will follow" (Confucius 4-10). They differ here as well, for Socrates is claiming a just man will ultimately follow laws and Confucius claims the just man follows his heart or mind.
I would likely agree with Confucius in the sense that I strongly believe virtues to be the most important thing to withhold. Socrates asserts that being just, will not always win. Though Confucius acknowledges that the aim is not to win, but to know that you are doing what you know to be right. "The superior man does not, even for the space of a single meal, act contrary to virtue. In moments of haste, he cleaves to it. In seasons of danger, he cleaves to it" (Confucius 4-5). This is why it is more reasonable to side with Confucius' ways, because his arguments are strictly about being true to yourself and sticking to your ground.
The world cannot base it's justice off of winning a competition with others as Socrates might imply, but instead being true to your virtues in doing what is right and then also avoiding what is wrong. Confucius appeals to me more with his arguments because it is easier to see where he is coming from. It is easier to agree with a statement that is well thought through and thoroughly explained.
Socrates believes that virtues are good, and that being just isgood, but both of these are basically not good enough. Confucius believes that virtue is the greatest of all things. Both great philosophers do agree that being just is a very important trait and that acting according to your
virtues is an absolute necessity. However, it is the importance and priority of justice and virtue that set these two accounts apart in the long run.