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...
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.