Category: Education

The Confucian Account on Human Transformation

In the pursuit of social justice, the Confucian account on human transformation is most logically plausible because of the most crucial elements it points out toward effective transformation of humans. These logically plausible opinions can be found in the views raised by Confucius, Mencius, and Xunzi. The Confucian account on human transformation can also be understood from the five themes of Confucianism and the four main sprouts of cardinal values developed by Mengzi.

In this paper, I will argue in support of the Confucian account on human transformation as logically plausible.

This paper is divided into three parts. In the first part, I will argue for the position that the Confucian account on human transformation is logically plausible. In the second part, I will explicate the contributions of the five themes of Confucianism to human transformation. In the last part, I will discuss the growth of the four main sprouts of cardinal values and their contribution to a person’s transformation.

One of the key reasons that makes Confucian account logically plausible is that it appreciates the need for a teacher in the transformation of human beings. Xunzi emphasized that human beings are not always perfect at their birth and will always need the guidance of a teacher to transform into more responsible individuals within the society. The Confucian account on human transformation is credible in the sense that it appreciates the role of a teacher in setting the best example for his/her students in leading to their best mode of transformation. According to Berthrong (2008), the transformation of human beings starts early during childhood, and there are always individuals in the form of a teacher who are supposed to offer the required level of guidance toward achieving the required sense of morality and behavior. Therefore, the appreciation of the role of a teacher in facilitating human transformation emphasizes the credibility of the Confucian account on human transformation.

More so, the Confucian account on human transformation is logically plausible because it appreciates the view that human nature is good but needs cultivation through ritual (li). It is worth understanding that religion plays a vital role in the life of human beings by imparting on them the required values according to their sacred beings. The assertion that human transformation can occur with the support of rituals is logically plausible because it cultivates a sense of responsibility and respect among human beings hence promoting their effective transformation within their societies. The sense of transformation emanating from religious beliefs tends to lead to morally upright individuals who are able to feel for each other.  Huang and Huang (2010) justify this assertion in the words of Mencius, “supposing people see a child fall into a well… they will all have a heart and a mind that is shocked and sympathetic.” The Confucian account by Mencius points out the view that rituals help build such sympathy hence ensuring that humans live in a better manner within their societies. It is credible to affirm that rituals can transform human beings and enable them coexist better with each other in the society.

The Confucian account on human transformation is also logically plausible because of its emphasis on respect in the course of human transformation. Confucius believed that the respect for elders among children would facilitate the development of ethical values hence ensuring the most significant forms of transformation. It is crucial for human beings to stick to the traditional virtues in the transition process to ensure that they achieve they live in the most ethical and acceptable manner within their societies. Bary and Bloom (1999) agreed that the emphasis on respect for elders and tradition within the society and its relationship to human transformation highlights the credibility of the Confucian account on human transformation. This will lead to better existence and the transfer of ethical values from one generation to the next. Additionally, the reiteration on the need of wives to respect their views highlights the crucial elements of transformation that highlight a sense of credibility in on the part of the Confucian account. In the view to emphasize the need for respect, Confucius posed the question, “without feelings of respect, what is there to distinguish men from beasts?” This reiterates the significance of the Confucian account in the acceptance of respect as part of human transformation in the society. It upholds respect that is a crucial element of the entire aspect of ethics as required in any strong and well-behaved society. Therefore, this form of respect helps stop any form of conflicts in the society hence leading to the attainment of the required level of ethical behavior and human transformation.

The Five Themes of Confucian

Another crucial aspect to note is that the five Confucian themes play a vital role in contributing to the transformation of human beings. These themes include happiness in the everyday world, revivalistic traditionalism, the centrality of the family, ritual propriety, and ethical cultivation. All these have been instrumental in contributing to the transformation of human beings in the society.

Happiness in the world everyday is a crucial theme of Confucianism that has enormously contributed to human transformation through the creation of a loving society where people are able to appreciate each other. Happiness has been at the center-stage of leading to the transformation of human beings by ensuring that they love each other and appreciate each other in the required manner. Ivanhoe (2002) opined that everyday happiness has made it easier for human beings to transform from individuals who hold negative feelings against each other to a society that has individuals who are happy for each other and focused on ensuring that they support everyone. Everyday happiness has contributed to transformation by creating a free society where everyone is loved in and treated equally at all times.

The centrality of the family is also a crucial theme of Confucianism and it has contributed to human transformation through the enhancement of unity in the society. People living as a central family are able to respect each other and unite into a unit with mutual respect. It has contributed to human transition through the establishment of a strong sense of unity that enables human beings to work toward particular goals in line with the need to achieve their targets in the society. This theme has remained central in transforming humans in terms of creating respect for elders and enhancing the wife’s respect for the husband.

These themes have contributed to the transformation of human beings through the guidance derived from ritual propriety. Ritual propriety was mainly promoted by Mengzi who believed that human transformation could be boosted by the adoption of rituals that would guide their development and the realization of the required level of ethical behavior. Ritual propriety helps individuals understand the wrong and right in the society hence ensuring that they stick to the right mode of operation as they work toward the realization of a better society. Therefore, it can be noted that ritual propriety contributes to human transformation by bestowing some form of religious values on them hence ensuring they only operate in the most desirable manner.

Additionally, the theme on ethical cultivation plays a vital role in contributing to ethical transformation through appreciating the need of an instructor in bringing the development of ethical standards among the young ones especially. Kline and Ivanhoe (2000) agree that Xunzi held that human nature was evil and humans are always born with the fondness for profits. However, a teacher can help in ethical cultivation hence leading to the transformation of human beings into better individuals that are able to live appropriately in line with the society’s standards on effective conduct. Ethical cultivation helps humans return to order hence leading to their effective transformation within the society. This is because they are able to operate in a manner that is widely appreciated in the society has having operated in accordance with the set virtues.

Important also, the Confucian theme of revivalistic tradition contributes to human transformation by ensuring that humans observe the required modes of ethics at all times in their lives.  Confucius based his views on a strong sense of traditionalism that contributed to the transformation of humans through a clear system of understanding what is required of them at all times. For instance, revivalistic tradition is always at the center-stage of ensuring that human beings embrace the required level of family values, respect, and the overall mode of operation in the society. This promotes their transition by ensuring that they are not easily enslaved in values and virtues that may not be required for the effective operation of the society. Revivalistic tradition brings about a  sense of responsibility on humans enabling them identify the best practices of societal operation through social systems hence leading to the best mode of operation among humans in the society.

Mengzi’s Four Main Sprouts of Cardinal Virtues

Mengzi went ahead and identified the four basic qualities of the heart-mind (sympathy, shame, judgment, and deference) not only as the distinguishing characteristics of human beings. Mengzi also identified the four sprouts of cardinal virtues that the human being qua being really human. These virtues include compassion into benevolence (ren), sense of approval or disapproval into wisdom (zhi), respect into ritual propriety (li), and sense of disdain/shame into righteousness (yi). These cardinal virtues grow and contribute to the transformation of persons in the most effective manner possible.

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Richey (2008) is of the view that one of the key ways in which these sprouts can grow and contribute to the transformation of a person is through nature. This mainly relates to the sprout of compassion and benevolence. Mengzi opined that it is natural for humans to feel for each other even in circumstances where they do not like something about them. This highlights the view that compassion into benevolence grows naturally among human beings and contributes to the transformation of persons through the feelings they feel toward others who may be in pain or some sense of grief. This implies that nature takes precedence over nurture in terms of leading to the growth of feelings for others.

These sprouts also grow through education through classical texts hence contributing to the transformation of persons. According to Stalnaker (2006), these sprouts grow through the guidance of an individual by a teacher through the educational system hence helping transform individuals by imparting new values on them. For instance, the sense of approval or disapproval into wisdom and the sense of disdain into righteousness can be effectively taught in schools hence giving individuals the opportunity to transform through the acquisition of some of the new values that are learned in the course of their education. In line with such growth, they contribute to the transformation of persons through the adoption of the required mode of operation different from their initial mode.

Additionally, these sprouts grow through the fulfillment of social norms and the creation of ritual propriety. This growth is especially related to the growth of respect into ritual propriety and a sense of approval or disapproval into righteousness. This form of growth is always vital as it contributes to the transformation of persons through effective means emanating from upholding the required level of respect for other in accordance with the stated rituals. One upholds this sense of respect that is ultimately transformed into ritual propriety that is in fact, a crucial element in the promotion of social justice and growth within the society. Human beings become the central figures in ensuring that their society is moving in the most appropriate manner that upholds respect for everyone hence social justice.

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