Lead the people by laws and regulate them by punishments, and the people will simply try to keep out of jail, but will have no sense of shame. Lead the people by virtueand they will have a sense of shame and moreover will become good. This was the teaching of Confucius. Confucius was the main influence of a way of life called Confucianism. Around this same time two other schools of though emerged. They were called Legalism and Daoism. All three were Chinese philosophies that were thought to be the best way to rule and achieve order in their society.
Confucianism believed that a rulers job was to set a good example, and not order. Since people were thought of as naturally good, they would follow in the right path based on their own conscience. Legalism was a more harsh way of ruling, led by Hanfeizi. They thought people were evil, and needed strict laws and punishment to keep them in line. Daoism was very different from either of the other two. It was led by Laozi, who taught that the best kind of government was one who governed the least. They allowed things to simply take their natural course and work themselves out.
Which of the three schools of thought is indeed the most effective way to obtain order with their community Legalism is thought by many people to be the only way to achieve order. However, all that their harsh laws and punishments do is make the government more feared. It is impossible for a society to be a success when the entire community despises the government it lives under. This in turn would only make the people rebel against it even more, instead of its original intention of scaring them into behaving.
People are more likely to follow something they elieve in, than something they are forced to believe in. Governing people by fear may work for awhile, but people would eventually begin to question its strength and go against it. Not only would Legalism not be the most effective way to rule, but it is also simply unjust. To live in a place where torture was common seems cruel. There is also such a thing as being too lenient when it comes to ruling. Daoism takes the other extreme as opposed to Legalism. Daoists believe that things need to take their natural course, and be unified with nature.
Unlike Confucianism, Daoism does not even take the time to show concern followers. They would rather let them deal with their own problems. Although it is good to let people make their own decisions in their life, they also need some direction to follow. Everyone has reached a state of confusion at some point in their life. Making decisions is often a very difficult task, and simply letting your life be one with nature will not always produce the best outcome. Confucianism combines the good characteristics from both Daoism and Legalism.
Instead of living their lives through extremities, they take a much milder pproach. They live down the middle way, as Buddha once discovered was the key to life. Confucianism also allows people to make their own decisions, but still has a form of ruling to guide people and influence their decisions to be wise and thought out. Since the Confucius believed that goodness lies at the base of everyone, they trusted the people to use their own conscience to keep them out of trouble and following the laws. They did not need to rely on harsh punishment and torture as the Legalists did.
Instead, they led by example. A model ruler ould be assured of a model populace. Confucianism would work, because it not only provides guidance, but it provides the education to teach people the right way to do things. This enables them not only to be forced to act in the right way, but also to think in this way. Confucius says that, By nature, men are pretty much alike. It is learning and practice that set them apart. This is just what they helped do. Confucius promoted education heavily, believing that it made good people.
Since Confucius did believe that people were overall good, they trusted people to use heir own conscience to keep them out of trouble and following the laws. They did not need to rely on harsh punishment as the Legalists did. Some would argue that not everyone has a good conscience, and this practice would not work. However, education and proper teaching could get anyone to see the right side of things. It is also made obvious that Confucianism leaders were led to have sympathy and feeling for their followers. He shows this when he states the golden rule and says, Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Confucius was oncerned with mans actions on earth, not with what would happen to a man after death, or with the metaphysical question of whether he would be punished or rewarded for his actions on earth. His teachings do not deal with the concept of after life, only with how one should live. It was by following his golden rule that Confucius believed one could live a good life. Confucius also outlined five primary virtues: love, justice, reverence, wisdom, and sincerity. These virtues are the guideposts for ones actions. Confucianism is more effective than Daoism and Legalism, when trying to btain order in a community.
When deciding which school of though would achieve the most harmony, it is important to think of all the things that Confucianism brings to their society. Not only do the leaders provide a good direction for their followers with education, but they also care for the people in their community. You would not be able to find any of these things in either Daoism or Legalism. Confucianism would succeed on a higher level, because it takes the middle path. It is said To go too far, is about the same as to fall too short. (Wilson, 58).