Comparison between the Views of Confucius and Aristotle Essay

Comparison between the Views of Confucius and Aristotle Essay.

Both Confucius and Aristotle have had a great impact in philosophy even though their views on humanity varied. Aristotle was a Greek philosopher whose ideologies on science, logic and virtue greatly influenced philosophy. Aristotle greatly influenced Islamic and Jewish theological and traditional thinking in the Middle Ages and his study of logic was incorporated to the modern formal logic in the late nineteenth century. Confucian was a Chinese philosopher whose teachings mainly consisted of morality.

His teachings commanded many disciples and had a great influence during the Han Dynasty (Annping, 2007).

His philosophy is commonly known as Confucianism. There are similarities between the two in that they came up with philosophies on morality to guide individual behavior and lived in the same era. They are known to come up with philosophies on virtue. Jiyuan (2007) explains that “jen” which is used by Confucius is a Greek translation which means virtue and similarly, Aristotle’s “arete” is also translated to mean virtue.

However, they have differences in ideologies and the works written.

For example, Aristotle’s works were broader than Confucius’ and they included ethics, poetry, physics, logic, government, music and poetry among others (Kenny, 1992). Confucius concentrated more on teachings of morality (both individual and government morality), justice and sincerity. Just like other philosophers, Aristotle and Confucius have in the past and in the present greatly influenced human behavior in one way or another.

The objective of this paper is to compare and establish the differences in ideologies between Confucius and Aristotle. Discussion Confucius was of the view the human behavior is more guided by morality and skilled judgment and not by the person’s knowledge of the rules (Annping, 2007). According to him, the former is more superior to the latter. Self examination and knowledge according to him was the best way to achieving discipline and moral maturity. He further argues that the government instead of using coercion and bribery it should rule using virtue and morality.

The essence of this according to Confucius is that ruling through punishments only goes into making people avoid the punishment but it does not mean they will be good. In Aristotle’s view however, ethics is more of a practical science and it is not an art mastered by the mere reasoning but mastered by doing and redoing or what is known as repetitive action. Ethics therefore becomes something you learn with time (Kenny, 1992). His belief was that anything that man aimed at achieving was good and that the goods had an order.

For example, if one searches for money so as to be comfortable it means that comfort is a much higher good that he seeks than the money itself. Confucius believes that attainment of moral perfection is possible through training and proper focus. To explain this, he uses zhunzi, a kind of superior man who develops good behavior and values through reading and strictly following the rules of propriety. Rules of propriety in this case refer to those rules that guide attitudes of the society (Annping, 2007).

A zhunzi was to show respect to the elders and show concern for others and was not to abandon these practices if he was going to be a good citizen. He was to dedicate his time and energy in finding virtue which finally ended in moral perfection. Aristotle on the other hand stresses human development through self improvement to finally get happiness through the use of virtues (Mealing, 2008). Unlike Confucius, Aristotle does not believe that a person can gain full attainment of morality especially where he or she is undergoing hardships.

Instead, human beings should strive to become the best that they can in order to gain happiness which is sometimes referred to as eudomonia but they do not have to reach perfection. The two philosophers differ on their views of the purpose of virtue. According to Jiyuan (2007) Confucius thinking is that virtue should be practiced so as to maintain morality and order. Unlike Confucius whose ideology is to practice virtue for virtue only, Aristotle believes that it is virtue that guides people to eudomonia. Aristotle highly values happiness and sees the practice of virtue as the only way to achieve it (Kenny, 1992).

As a matter of fact, Aristotle in his ethics views will tend to think of every action’s end result as happiness. He believes that happiness should be the sole goal that every human being aims at achieving. Both Confucian and Aristotle however believe that virtue is the only and most important way of guiding humanity. Both Confucius and Aristotle find the importance of relationship with others. According to Aristotle, it is hard to find a good friend if you are not a good person yourself. This is because true friendship is dependent on individual morality (Jiyuan, 2007).

Friendship according to him can therefore measure somebody’s moral character and goodness. Confucius on the other hand believed in relationship with others as a means of achieving enlightenment of one’s self. He believes that if someone has to develop himself he has to develop others as well. According to Annping (2007) this has to do with the golden rule advocates that one should do to others what he would like others to do to them. Aristotle in his political works recognizes the sovereignty of the government in what he refers as city-states.

Citizens of the state have a constitution that they follow in order to guide human behavior. He however notes that morality is important even in political arrangements (Mealing, 2008). This is almost similar to Confucius’ view on politics. He supported the all powerful rule of the emperor but his ideas suggested limit in the powers exercised by the rulers. At the same time, he emphasized the need to give respect to one’s superiors who included political leaders. Jiyuang (2007) notes that both advocated for justice and a fair form of government.

Confucius’ and Aristotle’s views on religion differ although they do not have much to show about religion in their philosophies. It is however notable that both recognize the presence of a supreme power (Mealing, 2008). Aristotle in his works, he recognizes religion to be one of the most superior and divine knowledge. Aristotle talks of the ‘Unmoved Mover’ which is the cause of all motions and happenings in the world. This mover is thought to be God who enjoys a very good life in the external space and does not think of anything else and hence there was no need to worship the Mover.

Kenny (1992) notes that this received a lot of opposition from Muslims, Christians and Jews. Confucian believed in the worship of ancestors and in his teachings he emphasized the need for the living to care for and to honor the dead. He mentions the mandate of heaven and that men must live within the order of this supreme power to avoid punishment from the heavens. His teachings however focused more on humanity and how people influence themselves rather than how the are influenced by religion (Mealing, 2008).

Aristotle and Confucian differ in their views on how to cultivate or to develop virtues and moral perfection. Aristotle is of the view that character is as a result of mastery through experience of doing something or from the repetition of similar activities. For example, if a person is confronted and reacts by getting into a fight with the opponent, the person is more likely to behave in the same way the next time such a situation. According to Kenny (1992), behavior therefore becomes a question of habituation meaning that virtue is achieved by repeated actions until it is internalized.

Confucius taught that the best way to acquire complete morality is by extensive studying and then comparing the teachings learned with the current or known behavior. From these, one develops virtues that are perfect. Aristotle divides human psychology into three souls which include the vegetative soul, animal and rational soul (Mealing, 2008). Vegetative has to do with biological component or that part that deals with essential functions such as circulation, excretion, digestion among others. This part is usually unconscious.

The animal soul is conscious and feels desires, appetite and emotions. The one that thinks, forms opinions, evaluates and judges is known as the rational soul. Confucian unlike Aristotle does not include the vegetative and the animal souls. His philosophy mainly concerns the rational soul capitalizing on studying and mastering virtues as explained by Annping (2007). Conclusion The greatest philosophers of all times, Confucian and Aristotle have in history influenced the lives of many cultures especially in shaping morality.

Even though the two have their differences in views about virtues and humanity, both their philosophies emphasize on the importance of doing good and on acquiring good morals and virtues. Confucian and Aristotle display a great deal of thinking in order to come up with these philosophies. Jiyuang (2007) notes that the differences in region could have influenced the differences in Confucius’ and Aristotle’s thinking. The good thing is that they both emphasized the need for a just and moral society if the world was to be a better place to live in (mealing, 2008).Both Confucius and Aristotle have had a great impact in philosophy even though their views on humanity vary.


Annping, C. (2007). The Authentic Confucius: A Life of Thought and Politics. New York: Scribner. Jiyuan. Y. (2007). The Ethics of Confucius and Aristotle: Mirrors of Virtue. London: Routledge. Kenny, A. (1992). Aristotle on the Perfect Life. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Mealing, P. P. (2008). Aristotle, Confucius, Ethics and happiness. Indianapolis: Hackett publishing.

Comparison between the Views of Confucius and Aristotle Essay