Compare Confucianism, Daoism, and Legalism in a short summary.

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Confucianism, Daoism, and Legalism all emerged in China during the Warring States Period (475-221 B.C.), a time of feudalism when today's China existed as seven different states that were often in conflict with each other. Of the three philosophies, Confucianism and Legalism were both heavily tied into leadership and government...

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Confucianism, Daoism, and Legalism all emerged in China during the Warring States Period (475-221 B.C.), a time of feudalism when today's China existed as seven different states that were often in conflict with each other. Of the three philosophies, Confucianism and Legalism were both heavily tied into leadership and government and differed vastly in what they considered effective leadership.

Confucianism was based on a moral responsibility to filial piety and a respect for one's elders, rules, and traditions. It upheld the belief that to rule well, one had to set a positive examples for one's subjects or inferiors. This meant being kind, fair, and merciful. According to Confucianism, people are generally good, and being good and wise will beget goodness and wisdom. This philosophy was also very much concerned with education and learning, believing that in order to be a good leader, one had to be a well-rounded thinker.

Legalism, on the other hand, was a harsh philosophy, believing that people were generally base and greedy, and the best way to keep people in order and deter crime was to inflict heavy punishment on those who stepped out of line. Legalism promoted and facilitated authoritative forms of government, wherein a single family or ruler had absolute power over a community and could dictate punishments, rewards, and social responsibilities as they wished, thereby keeping peasants busy, in line, and in fear.

Daoism, on the other hand, was much less concerned with forms of leadership, and more concerned with lack of leadership. The often-quoted "be like water," and the idea of the path of least resistance, come from Daoist thought and practices. Daoists believed that to achieve order in society, people must avoid conflict, avoid gaining knowledge, avoid disagreement, and avoid acting in any way that defies nature. Instead, they must strive to achieve harmony with the dao, or "the way," which is the natural order of the natural world. It is a passive philosophy that advocates finding harmony with the universe through inaction.

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Legalism, Confucianism, and Taoism were important philosophies in ancient China. The latter two, in particular, continue to influence Chinese thought today.

Legalism arose during a turbulent period of incessant warfare. Because of constant strife, many believed that strict laws were needed to keep selfish people under control. It was the official philosophy of the Qin Dynasty (221–206 BC).

Confucius (c.551–479? BC) had a much more positive view of human nature. However, he thought that human virtue had to be cultivated like plants in a garden. His sayings are collected in the Analects. Confucius believed that ceremony and filial piety were crucial to societal harmony.

Lao Tzu may have been a contemporary of Confucius. Lao Tzu would reject the multitasking that so many people engage in today. He thought stillness or wu wei was more important. Above all, he thought that people should live in harmony with nature.

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Confucianism was based on the need for order, and argued such order could be achieved by shame rather than coercion. A person being taught virtue would do right rather than need to be punished using formal rules or laws. It was also hierarchical with a series of right relationships, father to son, older brother to younger brother, husband to wife, and ruler to ruled. The first in each was expected to protect and guide the second. The second in each was expected to give loyalty and reverence to the first.

Daoism argued for going with the flow, that everything will happen when it is supposed to happen. The best form of action is often said to be inaction. Acting against the flow is believed to produce chaos or hardship.

Legalism argued people are inherently evil and can only be kept from committing evil by harsh laws and penalties, even for minor infractions. For example, the Qin Dynasty had a quota system for peasants. Each peasant had to grow a set quota of crops. Failure to meet the quota was punished by enslavement. You were made a slave and given to a peasant who had met the quota.

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Political unrest, confusion, and conflicts among the people led to the development of the three philosophies that sought to guide the people’s way of life amidst all the chaos. The three philosophies supported the need for respect. This was a step towards limiting the issue of conflict among the people. Confucianism, Daoism, and Legalism supported the need to achieve individual goodness for the well-being of the society. The three philosophies emphasized that individuals were subject to particular elements in their environment. Confucianism required one to be respectful of others. Legalism required that individuals be loyal subjects to their government. Daoism emphasized the need for the individual to follow the path of nature.

Legalism was based on the idea that people were inherently bad, and harsh punishment was necessary to suppress such inclinations. Confucianism and Daoism were based on the idea that people were naturally good, but they required guidance to ensure they remained on the right path. Daoism was different from the other two philosophies because it allowed some level of individualism and free thought as allowed by nature. Confucianism was different from Daoism and Legalism because its main focus was on respect for elders.

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