• Alyssa Proctor

Philosophers: Confucius and Socrates

Philosophers such as Confucius and Socrates, sought to influence the people which they were surrounded by. In order to ensure making a difference in their societies, they both lectured and instructed masses of students. They taught their students how to, in their philosophical opinion, lead a righteous and ethical life. They shared and depicted their own ethical beliefs constantly throughout their lifetimes. It is to these humble men, Confucius and Socrates, which we can credit highly influencing today’s philosophical studies.

Confucius was an intelligent Chinese man whom lived from about 551-479 B.C.E. There are multiple descriptions of his personality which are documented by various sources. Although most descriptions are sometimes found to be quite conflicting to one another. Some people say that Confucius was the Socrates of the Chinese culture. Humble and conservative, Confucius often underrated his intelligence and didn’t know what a major impact he would have on the future generations of the Chinese people.

Socrates, the Greek philosopher, lived from 469-399 B.C.E. He resided in the city of Athens, Greece for nearly his entire life. “All our information about him is second-hand and most of it vigorously disputed, but his trial and death at the hands of the Athenian democracy is nevertheless the founding myth of the academic discipline of philosophy, and his influence has been felt far beyond philosophy itself, and in every age” (Nails). His students, Xenophon and Plato, are credited for helping to document most of Socrates’ life. Similar to Confucius, there are contradicting sources of what Socrates was actually like in person, so much that there is a debate is titled the Socratic problem. “The Socratic problem is a rat’s nest of complexities arising from the fact that various people wrote about Socrates whose accounts differ in crucial respects, leaving us to wonder which, if any, are accurate representations of the historical Socrates” (Nails). Socrates was indeed an iconic figure of the Greek culture and philosophy, whom is still depicted and thought of frequently today.

Confucius was a great thinker and had a passion for influencing how we treat one another kindly in life. “While Confucius believes that people live their lives within parameters firmly established by Heaven—which, often, for him means both a purposeful Supreme Being as well as ‘nature’ and its fixed cycles and patterns—he argues that men are responsible for their actions and especially for their treatment of others” (Riegel). He had a strong belief that everyone should have an equal chance at becoming educated. In order to provide this equal opportunity of education to several people, he started the Ru School. “He taught his students morality, proper speech, government, and the refined arts” (Riegel). The overall goal of opening the school was to instruct young men how to have self-control and live righteous lives as educated gentlemen. “Confucius taught that the practice of altruism he thought necessary for social cohesion could be mastered only by those who have learned self-discipline” (Riegel).

Socrates taught many important lessons to his eager to learn students, such as Xenophon and Plato. “One of the greatest paradoxes that Socrates helped his students explore was whether weakness of will—doing wrong when you genuinely knew what was right—ever truly existed” (“Socrates”). Socrates greatly influenced the upbringing of his student Plato, the philosopher, whom later opened up the very first academy in 387 B.C.E. Plato called it the Platonic Academy, located in Athens, Greece and prominent students of Plato include Aristotle and Alexander the Great.

Despite these two philosophers’ vast differences in locations, Confucius and Socrates had several things in common. The documentation of their personalities and lives are described by an array of sources, and often debated about. They each are considered fathers of their niche, Confucius the father of Chinese Ethics and Socrates the father of Moral Philosophy. Their personalities and perspective of life was each differently enticing. They were highly influential individuals. Both of them emphasized on passing down important lessons to young men by teaching and tutoring prominent students. The impact these men had upon the practice of philosophy remains effectively influential through multiple generations. Considering the positive effects, they have upon several individuals, we can thank their input of advice and knowledge. The ethical and moral figures who they were, will always be remembered.

Works Cited

“Socrates.” HISTORY, A&E Television Networks, 9 Nov. 2009, www.history.com/topics/ancient-history/socrates. Accessed 24 June 2019.

Nails, Debra. “Socrates.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Stanford University, 6 Feb. 2018, plato.stanford.edu/entries/socrates/. Accessed 24 June 2019.

Riegel, Jeffrey. “Confucius.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Stanford University, 23 Mar. 2013, plato.stanford.edu/entries/confucius/. Accessed 24 June 2019.


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