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Confucius and Aristotle on Virtue

Confuciusand Aristotle on Virtue

Confuciusand Aristotle on Virtue

Theconcept of virtue accentuates the character of an individual and theethics embodied in the character, which forms the basis for assessingor determining one’s behavior. The idea of ethics is a tactic thatdevelops the degree of suitability or wrongness from the outcome ofan individual’s act. In that regard, most ancient philosophersagreed that virtue is a form of knowledge. Confucius and Aristotlewere two such philosophers. They displayed a remarkable degree ofdistinctiveness in their ideas and background. Confucius’ notionswere founded on his absorption in the ancient Chinese Culture, whileAristotle’s ideas were founded on his absorption in the ancientGreek culture. This paper examines the concept of virtue as expressedby these two philosophers. It further explores what the differencesbetween the teachings of these philosophers suggest about thedissimilarities between the ancient Greek and Chinese culture, andhow these findings can be applied in the modern workplace setting.

BothConfucius and Aristotle lived in the same era and had a considerableeffect on philosophy. Their ideologies, however, varied on theconcept of humanity and virtue. A major similarity between these twophilosophers is the fact that they both established morality theoriesthat guided ethical behavior in individuals. Confucius practicedwidely in the ancient China and the translation of his works fromChinese to English, demonstrated the real picture regarding his moraland ethical predisposition. Confucius held the belief that he was ahumanity teacher. He also believed in comforting the aged, trustingfriends, and cherishing the young people (Confucius, 500 B.C.). Thisformed the basis of his moral orientation. He assumed that it wasgood for people to extend their kindness beyond the simple idea ofhelping. He advocated for the creation of junzis, intellectualcommunities of individuals through which rules governing thecommunity could be formulated and executed.

Accordingto Confucius, junzis were broad-minded and determined individualsbecause they had to bear heavy loads in trying to harmonize thesociety into a single functional body. Junzis took humanity as aburden until death took them (Confucius, 500 B.C.). In that regard,the individuals should embrace family and accomplish their familialresponsibilities before other social concerns.

Onthe other hand, through his Nichomachean Ethics, Aristotleessentially described the ideals he feels constitute a virtuouscharacter. He stated, &quotThe good is rightly observed to be thatat which all things aim” (Aristotle, 350 B.C.). Aristotle heldthat nothing should be taken as a means to an end. Instead, the endis what is good, and that must culminate in the highest good.According to him, the benefit of the state should be directed towardsthe individuals. He also indicated that arrogance non-virtuous and itis the opposite of what the society should work to accomplish.

BothAristotle and Confucius valued education. However, Aristotle believedthat general education was as good as specific education in somefields and that man should have a considerable degree of training andeducation before he can listen and act intelligently (Aristotle, 350B.C.). Moreover, he noted that individuals should not be focused onthemselves, but act towards the greater good.

Fromthe examination of the two philosophers’ ideologies, it is outrightthat both ancient Chinese and Greek cultures laid emphasis on livinga virtuous life. Nevertheless, the two cultures seem to have differedgreatly. For instance, they differed on the aspect of economiccontrol given that their trade and political systems contrastedfundamentally (Sayre, 2015). China engaged in trading activitiesprimarily through the land, while Greece largely traded via thewaterways. Both civilizations placed emphasis on individual knowledgeand exhibited a remarkable level of concern for the society. TheChinese civilization stressed family duties more than other socialobligations, while the Greek culture stressed the importance of thesociety more than that of individuals (Sayre, 2015). In both cases,the divergent teachings demonstrated that education was a vitalcomponent for people to be able to live virtuous and ethical lives.

Withoutethics, the word would be a different place. The concepts of virtue,ethics, and morality are used alternatively. While the teachings ofAristotle and Confucius cannot be applied entirely in the modern era,some of their ideologies are relevant today. As both perspectives ofwhat constitutes good or ethical character were concerned with thegood of the community, such notions are still relevant in the moderncivilization, especially in a diverse workplace. Such a teachingwould enable workers to work together in collaboration andconcentrate on the courses that are best for the company, rather thanestablishing distinctions based on individual diversities. This wouldshift the focus of employees from the self to the team and the entireorganization. By understanding and appreciating the diverse ethicalmodels regardless of age, cultural or racial orientation can helppeople work better as a society, which is the inherent reason behindthe creation and establishment of ethical principles.

Moreover,embracing integrity is a concept that can be applied in the modernworkplace. Many philosophers have noted the fact that it takesaudacity for numerous civilizations to take the right course. Forexample, the ancient Chinese and Greek cultures weakened the role ofa woman and made their input insignificant in the organization.Managing and living in a society where people value integrity can begood because everyone would aim to do the right thing and for theright reasons.

Inthe same way, the modern society is characterized by numerous ills,which can be faced out by embracing integrity. The same case appliesto the workplace, where people should value integrity in theirundertakings and shun engaging in deceitful and unethical activities.This should be complimented by transparency at the workplace. Allemployees, whether senior, junior, or subordinate should practicetransparency in all their actions to create a working environmentthat makes every individual safe and appreciated.

Inaddition, fairness comes up as a key element from the teachings ofAristotle and Confucius. Although there are laws that can be used toenforce equity at the workplace, it is the duty of the management totreat every employee fairly without discrimination whatsoever.Employees should not be accorded preference based on theirpersonalities, religion, and ethnic background. Instead, they shouldbe treated the same, and any priority should be based on merit. Theemployees should also display essential qualities such as honesty,self-esteem, responsibility and sociability among others. Besides,people at the workplace should be well trained and educated to beable to accomplish their duties effectively. They should also possessthe basic skills that are deemed essential in every workplace such aslistening, speaking and writing among others.


Thereis sufficient evidence to suggest that the concept of virtue stressesthe role of individuals’ character and the ethics embodied in thatcharacter. This forms the foundation for evaluating the individuals’behavior. Aristotle and Confucius share their opinions regardingcharacter but differ on other notions on the same. Through theircontrasting ideas, there is evidence of divergent practices in theancient Greek and Chinese cultures. From their teachings, variouselements are significantly relevant in the modern society,particularly in the modern, diverse workplace. These values must berevered and embraced to bring success.


Aristotle.(350 B.C.). Nicomachean Ethics. The Internet ClassicsArchive. Retrieved 25 November 2016, fromhttp://classics.mit.edu/Aristotle/nicomachaen.html

Confucius.(500 B.C.). The Analects. The Internet Classics Archive.Retrieved 25 November 2016, fromhttp://classics.mit.edu/Confucius/analects.html

Sayre, H.M. (2015). The Humanities Culture, Continuity &amp Change, Volume 1 (3rded). Upper Saddle River: Pearson.