Compare and contrast Daoism (Taoism), Legalism, and Confucianism. What did each system stress as most important? In what ways did they speak to the people? Which had the most impact on the development of society? Why


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Deb Taylor Profile
Deb Taylor answered
Chinese Social and Political Order System
Daoism or Taoism has been around since the Han dynasty and perhaps even longer.  Daoism seems to come in two parts and appears to be the generic term for many of the popular Chinese religions and it is also a Chinese social philosophy and world view that came about during the Zhou dynasty.  One is called religious Daoism or sometimes philosophical Daoism.  The difference in the two is not very great.   In a lot of ways philosophical Daoism is almost opposite of Confucianism.  Dao means “the way” which should be understood that that this term was important to Confucius.  Between the two Daoism and Confucianism “the way” is radically different from the other.  In Daoism “the way can be spoken of, is not constant, the name that can be named is not the constant name.  I do not believe that they knew what “the way” truly was.   The Daoism way was not human centered like the Confucian way.   Humans are just a part of everything else and not entities in and of themselves.  In Confucianism “the way” is the creator of everything, but is not a deity or entity with a will.  In Confucianism ‘the myriad creatures rise from it yet it claims no authority; it gives them life yet claims no possession; it benefits them yet exacts no gratitude; it accomplishes this task yet lays claim to no merit.”  There is quite a large difference between the two and yet there are things they would have agreed on.  For instance they would have agreed on the premise that “human beings once lived in a primitive state of nature like other animals.”  They would also have agreed that human culture, institutions and other aspects of civilization developed through the efforts of some ancient figures, namely Fuxi, Shenog, Yao and others.  They would have disagreed in they evaluation of the direction of human development.  With Confucius the primitive state of nature was the low point and it has been an up-hill climb since then.  With the Daoism this state was the high point and humans were living in accordance with “the way” and with their own natures.  Since this time they consider that humans have steadily gone downhill.  (Livia Kohn, 1991)  Legalism on the other hand is totally different from the other two, or at least in theory because legalists believe that order and unity was restored to China only through the exercise of Legalism.  Legalism is a philosophy founded by Han Feizi.  With this philosophy the written law and the ruler who administers the law are all important.  It might be added that mostly because of these tenets these laws were applied ruthlessly.  Legalism left no room for any kind of mitigating circumstances and punishment for crimes were equally severe no matter the crime.  This philosophy spawned a rebellion after Feizi’s death making way for the less harsh but still authoritarian Confucianism.  (Timothy Sexton, 2006)
Kohn, Livia, 1991; Taoist Mystical Philosophy: The Scripture of Western Ascension, State University of New York Press, at Albany, p.7; retrieved from Sexton, Timothy, 2006; Three Chinese Philosophies: Confucianism, Daoism and Legalism; retrieved from
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Compare And Contrast Taoism, Legalism, And Confucianism. What Did Each System Stress As Most Important? In What Ways Did They Speak To The People? Which Had The Most Impact On The Development Of Society? Why?

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