All humans are subjected to political life and no one courageous to live without political behaviour. Because as rational actors of the society people involved with political activities in everyday life with or without their comprehension. As a result of the reciprocal connection of humans and politics, many scholars, philosophers did their research on politics and provided many theories on the political behaviour of the human beings as well as many research areas of politics.

A western world dominated the field of political philosophy at any time of the evaluation of academia. The fascinating factor is the ideological differences and the competition which took place between the western world and the non-western world were able to lift academia to another dimension. With the lights of the marriage between western and non-western philosophy the paper focuses on the early period of political philosophy and how western and non-western political philosophers contributed to the enlightenment of academia. Mainly, the article attempts to identify similarities and contradictions of western and non-western ideologies based on the specific subject matter. To address this research puzzle the paper chose two greater philosophers which represented western and non-western political philosophic world; namely Socrates and Confucius. Both had been discussed about the virtue, morality and the creation of a good ruler and citizens in terms of virtue and moralities. Thus the research focuses on this particular subject matter to draw a comparison between these two greater political philosophers.

The selection of these two philosophers: Socrates and Confucius based on few rational factors. Mainly, these philosophers can be identified as an isochronous. Socrates (470-399 BCE) and Confucius (551-479 BCE) lived under similar socio-political atmosphere. Another reason was both of these political philosophers discussed similar topics, like civil virtues, morality, self-cultivation, self-control and creation of a good ruler.

Socrates born in the late golden era of Athens. Mainly, slave- owing democratic system in Athens subjected to several changes as a result of defeat Peloponnesian war. Tyrannies, frequent wars, political disturbances, political, ideological disputes and anti-democratic activities created the social crisis in Athens society. Thus Socrates mainly focused on these issues and how to fabric society again with good humour of citizens and good ruler. Wise must control the political power collaboration with virtue, knowledge and morality concluded by Socrates.

Virtues, Morality and Political Philosophy

According to Socrates human prosperity and well-being depending on the civil virtues, thus ruler necessities to govern the society wisely and based on public morality. To cultivate morality and virtue education must be obligatory to perform a vital role in society. Based on the morality, virtue and the concept of governance the researcher conduct the comparison with ideas of Confucius.

Chinese political, socio and civil society depicted a similar situation like Athens due to collapsed of the ancient slave system. Sundry political parties and power groups struggled to power and it was twisted a protracted war within the Chinese society. All the civil virtues neglected by society and power placed the major role among the social contacts. Clan struggles and the power struggles within the families destroyed the entire social system. These social factors enlightened the Confucius ideology. He researched the firms of social harmony and social welfare based on a traditional moral standard. The paper identifies three major concepts of Confucius called “Ren, Li and Yue” (Angel, 2012, 58-64) Confucius placed “Ren” kind-heartedness at the core of his theory and based on that he tried to harmonize the society and the social relationships of the people. According to Confucian philosophy, a good ruler must be desired to cultivate goodness or benevolence to restore the social peace, the democracy within the society. All these ethical concepts subjected to self-cultivation. Since self-cultivation was the way to democratize society and bring happiness to the whole population.

When it comes to the Socrates, the researcher looked at his arguments through the lenses of Plato, Xenophon and Aristophanes. Most of the Socrates ideas and teachings can be identified through Plato’s lens. On the other hand, Confucian ideology also started to mobilize the society after his death. We can refer his idea through Mou’s writings.

“Either the most virtuous should rule or, in a concession to hereditary, rulers should strive to be as virtuous as possible and be guided by their still-more-virtuous ministers.” (Angel, 2012, 24)

Confucius has identified the virtues as a pivotal point on his doctrine to the harmonization of the social relations among people, clans, social classes and mainly among the ruler and the citizens. According to Confucius, all the rulers must be needed to accept the Ren-goodness to restore the social peace and right and need to cultivated Li- rituals in the moralized world. These concepts subjected to self-cultivations of the humans and as well as rulers. The top-level ministers and the rulers needed to open up virtues into ministers, bureaucrats systems and the system of examinations that produced them.

“By nature, near together, by practice far apart” (Comparison between the Ethics of Socrates and Confucius, web)

Confucius highlighted that people had nearly the same virtues with them, but the great difference in morality created by the practice. He held the account that people follow the materialistic life and if they have reach life in terms of materialistic values they feel happy. But real happiness (Ren) based on their virtues and society needs good practice and transformation to pursue goodness and rich virtues. To do that philosophers can teach, practice those good virtues.

“…perusing morality is more important than that of the physical necessities of life.” (Comparison between the Ethics of Socrates and Confucius, web)

The development of moral life is necessary to continue ironic social life and mobilize the social harmony, justice and happiness of the society. Confucius identity this connection under the concept of “Social Way.” Unit of family fabric the pivotal role in virtue education. As a primary entity of the social chain family can cultivate the virtues among their family members and this chain end of with the states. If society contains families which practice higher virtues it can create virtuous societies. Virtues can be absorbed through knowledge. According to this logic, virtuous societies fertilize from knowledge. Confucius identifies knowledge as goodness. Thus the end of this chain is the creation of the state which practice the good virtues.

Thus the researcher analyzes this chain as a dual track. The teachings of Confucian philosophy identify virtues as a practice which starting from the ruler and as well as family. It flows from ruler to civil entities and as well as from civil entities to ruler as well. According to Confucius merge this virtue with the democratic political structure. Confucius highlighted democracy as the conscious decisions which people make in their political lives. The realization of the political process or the objective framework of politics is also one of the virtue that humans can gain.

Confucius emphasizes the use of virtues in the governance process as well. This teachings and identifications are a bit similar to teachings of load Buddha as well. According to Lord Buddha, the good ruler should need to practice good verbal communications and he must need to enough flexible to the citizens. The punishment was not the ultimate way of governing the city or any particular territory. The same ideology highlighted by the Confucius as well. The retributive justice neglected by the Confucius and he emphasizes the usage of the moral face of the ruler with kindness. The moral face is more important to bind the citizens with the state and the citizens will follow the ruler voluntary.

“…govern the people with severity, keep order among them by chastisements, and they will free from you and lose the sense of shame. Govern them by the moral face (De), keep order among them by rituals (Li) and they will keep their sense of shame and come to you with their accords.” (Comparison between the Ethics of Socrates and Confucius, web)

The internal factors and external factors merged by Confucius by using the concept of virtues. He mentioned that internal temperaments and external norms of the speech and behaviour are more important to develop good virtues in society.

“… the realization of this political structure is also the realization of the highest ethical value.” (Angel, 2012, 26)

The same argument accounted by Socrates as well. But when it comes to Socrates he used different terminologies to describe his theory of virtue and morality. Both Confucius and Socrates maintained the separate but parallel ideology and both of them analyze their final counts based on human nature in morality.

“…what was the most important in choosing where to live was not the size of the house, the beauty of the place or the wealth of the neighbours, but whether they are Ren” (Littlejohn, 2011, 29)

The main idea of the Socrates dialogues are “know thyself” (Peterson, 2011) according to Socrates philosophy the humans need to acquire the wisdom through which they can discern the good they desire. Intend, many people failed to achieve wisdom. According to Socrates people used to measure good and bad based on the materialistic and external possessions such as money, houses and social positions. Socrates also followed the same account like Confucius and describe that people should need to measure good and bad based on their internal possessions. Based on this ideology he identified ultimate goodness as the virtue. Courage, wisdom and justice are necessary to govern the society and those are necessary elements to cultivate happiness one’s life. Those possessions are basic requirements of the society especially during the periods of social upheavals.

Socrates argued that philosophers should need to become rulers in society. Because when come to philosophers that Socrates believed they are maintaining good knowledge and virtue.

“Xenophon’s Memorabilia are the main testimony fir a non – refutative dialectic in Socrates, a dialectic which has the aim of arriving at positive determinations and definitions of moral good and human virtue.” (Judson & Karasmanis, 2008, 5-6)

The major difference between Confucius and Socrates is the methodology they used to present their theory of ethics. Most of the time Socrates used a critical and empirical mechanism to present and construct his dialogues. Socrates’s ideology of “Doxa- common opinion” (Mahood, 1971) was a contradiction situation of the knowledge of reasoning. This situation slightly alienates from the eastern values and western values and the Socrates ideology subjected to some empirical value or empirical inquiry.

However, according to Xenophon’s Confucius ethics are not subjected to any kind of rational account. Because of the time he used the knowledge which depends on the common knowledge. The line between Socrates and Confucius, the ideology of Confucius is parallel to “Common opinion.” This argument did not depict that Confucius ideology was completely irrational. Nevertheless, the eastern ideology doesn’t equate moral integrity with a rational foundation in that western philosophy contained.

Both Socrates and Confucius believed that moral qualities, virtues can be cultivated through teachings. Mainly when it comes to Socrates he used different teaching mechanism to cultivate virtues within the society. Ultimately he believes that if rulers cultivate the virtues inside their souls they exposed to knowledge and happiness. If rulers are subjected to these possessions ultimately they were able to exercise good virtues and positive moralities under their power.

“He did not use the same method with everybody… some people did not think they needed education, either because of their natural gifts or their wealth. With them, Socrates used a protreptic attitude pointing out (epideiknuon) and admonishing them (ephrenou legon) that some sort of paideia was necessary even for people gifted like them.” (Judson & Karasmanis, 2008, 6)

What Socrates believed was no matter that you is going to teach the citizens though they had to receive the best education and do need to enlighten them with wisdom. Socrates highlighted wisdom as a key to the democratic world. The linkage between wisdom and the democracy highlighted by both philosophers: Socrates and Confucius.

Socrates also talked about justice like Confucius. But according to Socrates justice is another type of wisdom people can gain. Mainly when it comes to the concept of self-control the ruler essentials to acquire the wisdom of justice among himself as well as his administration body.

“…training and moderation were necessary to defeat bodily pleasures and to act virtuously and the idea that justice was every other form of virtue is wisdom.” (Judson & Karasmanis, 2008, 7)

Socrates used a similar form to the concept of self-cultivation which formulated by Confucius called self- control. Socrates used day to day conversations cultivate the virtues within the society and according to his dialogues self- control is necessary to formulate good ruler. Mainly he argued that a person who has a less wise reading of life have less ability to control himself. Thus most important factor provides knowledge about virtues, since if humans acquire the statues of wise they were able to control themselves.

Accusation and the practice of the self-control were enabled people to become better, happier more rational on their actions and provided the ability to make good choices. Those good choices turned them into more happy and excellent individuals.

But if referred Confucius philosophy his major objective is harmoniousness the society and that philosophy not deeply focused on political or objective correctness. But, Socrates philosophy emphasized on dialectical reasoning and the traditions of the social order.

Confucius and Socrates both of these philosophers talked about the concepts of “ratifications of names” and the “clarity of terms.” (Mahood, 1971) According to these concepts they attempted to portrait social order and the rational behaviour of the individuals within the social order based on their characteristics.

For instance, if talking about the father or mother the person should need to perform the role of father or mother according to social norms and under the general acceptance of the social opinion. And the concept of ratification of names and clarity of terms are describing the behaviour of particular social behaviours according to a general acceptance of that role. Because if society talks about father, social acceptance and social order is looking for a good father or good mother.

The research depicted the ultimate utility of these concepts in terms of state governance. Under the democratic system, the citizens transfer their sovereignty power to a ruler. Thus filter the essence of the above-mentioned concepts the citizens are expecting to have a ruler with the positive qualities which accepted by society in general. It means a good ruler. To formulate this good ruler, the ruler must be needed to cultivate moral qualities and as well as they should need to grow good virtues within themselves. Self- control and self-cultivation are fundamental and necessary factors to create a good ruler and as well as good citizens.

Moa highlighted the ideas of Confucius in terms of clarity of terms. To build up the perfect role of the character is necessary to follow the lights of self-cultivation.

“Self-cultivation is not simply learning from books; it includes character development, enhancement of talents.”(Littlejohn, 2011, 31)

This account of Confucius is similar to the idea of Socrates as well. The practice makes a perfect individual with the virtues and moralities.

Another similarity between these two scholarly groups was the neglecting of their religious backgrounds based on the creation of the dialogue of ethics and morality. Both of them had a colossal religious background.

“…the world has long been without the way (Dao) hence is about to use your master as the wooden tongue for a bell…” (Mahoon, 1971)

The concept of Dao as that referring to the characteristics of the mood of the existence or actors. The religious background of Confucius did not constrain him from the creation of the new knowledge and he wakes up people and restore the Dao.

“Confucius recognized that the way (Dao) or path to Ren requires strength and effort” (Littlejohn, 2011, 31)

Socrates also cleaned to have a divinely ordered mission to explore the ethical issues. According to Socrates accounts, he got the direct orders from the god to cultivate the moralities and virtues within the society and the governing bodies.

“I was attached to this city by God, though it seems a ridiculous thing to say as upon a great and a noble horse which was somewhat sluggish because of its size and needed to be stirred up by a kind of gadfly”

Divine Missions

The research identifies Socrates and Confucius as rational philosophers in terms of the mechanism they used to present their political ideologies. Socrates used logical and empirical methods to develop his moral and political philosophy and he cultivated his ideology within the political system as well as within the social order. Eastern social context was slightly different from the contemporary west. Because of that circumstance, Confucius used different methods to develop and spread his ideology with the eastern world. It is not completely irrational.

These ideologies represented similar accounts of human nature and behaviour while maintaining their regional geopolitical realities and ethnographic identities. In this paper researcher identified most highlighted to similarities of their political philosophy and the teaching mechanisms which they used to mobilize the social order. And they had different conceptions about virtue. Socrates followed virtue as an intellectual process and identified virtues as the best state of the human soul. In contrast, Confucius did not regard virtue as a complete matter of intellectual dialogue. The pursuit of Ren involves the ultimate development of moral character and Confucius highlighted the importance of cultivating traditional ritual practices. But if considered the history of political philosophy both Socrates and Confucius contributed their best to development of political philosophy.

Harsha Senanayake is a Researcher/ Project Coordinator – Social Scientists’ Association, University of Colombo, Sri Lanka


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