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Comparing and Contrasting the Confucius Ideas with Ancient Greek thinkers Term Paper

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Updated: Aug 5th, 2021

Buddha’s or Confucius ideas are the religious teachings according to the Siddhartha Gautama that occurred starting from 566 and 486 before Christ. People during that period called Gautama Buddha to define his ideas of awakening people from the traditional beliefs (Simon 98).

The ideas of Buddha consisted of much knowledge on the happenings and the wisdom to shape peoples ways of life. According to the Buddha, the middle way was an important aspect if people practiced and emphasized on it. This essay people will be focusing on the ideas that were common between the Buddha and the ancient Greek thinkers, and also their differences. His awakening call had some similarities with the traditional Greeks, and in some cases they differed.

One major issue was the life after death, and the two philosophers Plato and Aristotle had some similarities and differences concerning that issue. Plato was known as one of the most honoured philosophers and he was a student of Socrates. During his time, Aristotle was his student in philosophy.

Plato used theories that existed before his time and brought them together to develop some ideas concerning his main concern that was the human soul (Sahni 102). Plato wanted to advance the peoples ways of thinking especially the culture of reducing human soul into fire or atoms.

Plato was a serious spiritualist who emphasized much on the human soul. As far as the soul and the body were concerned Plato believed that these two were distinct parts that only worked together during the life time of an individual. Plato emphasized on the fact that the soul was the most important part of a human being, and that is why he used to define the soul as “self initiating motion”.

The soul being the source of motion, Plato insisted that the body is supposed to rely on the soul for directions and ideas. In other words, Plato said that the soul is what any human being is, and it stays inside a person just waiting for it time of release. Plato said a person is what he or she is just because of the soul inside him or her.

As far as the body and the soul interacted, Plato also commented on the things that the soul could be influenced by the work or the actions of the body. In his famous work referred to as republic, Plato talks about the body physical exercises, and created some types of opposition on some music due to their negative impacts on the soul (Nakamurai 432).

To some extent, although Plato regarded body and the soul as separate, he also knew that there was an interaction that existed between the soul and the body before death of a person but in a shallow manner.

In his famous work of republic, Plato tried to compare the work of a human body with that of a city-state. He explained that people involve themselves with the same functions, and show some features, and contain the same features just like a big city. Plato used this example to demonstrate how complex the body of a human being is. The body of a human being is made up of various parts with each part playing a different role.

He gave an explanation of how someone gets contrary ideas from when deciding to make a certain decision. In his teachings, Plato gave a wide explanation of the three types of souls that he believed existed in a human being. First he taught about the rational soul, which he believed its location was in the head, he then talked of spirited soul that is found in the breast, and finally the appetitive soul found in the abdomen (Sriwarakuel 211).

Aristotle had also his views concerning the soul of a human being. According to the Aristotle, the soul was also very crucial to all living things not necessarily the human beings. In his expressions of ideas, Aristotle emphasized much on the psychological effects and metaphysics. Aristotle was not only concerned about the soul of a human being but the souls of all the living things like he plants, and the animals.

He explained that both the plants and the animals exist because they have souls. In his studies and application of philosophies, three types of substances such as the matter that was well expressed as the potentiality of the living things, form that meant the actual status of something, and finally the combination of both the form and the matter mainly concerned Aristotle.

Relating this theory to the human beings, Aristotle said that the body is not life “it’s the soul that has life”, and hence the body just acts as a matter to he soul. This qualifies the soul to be the major act of the body (Cooper 58).

The major factors in Aristotle’s view of the soul were four and started with the formal cause of something, the efficient cause, the material and the final cause. Aristotle compares the body and the soul with the maters that are separable. Although the body exist because of the potentiality of the soul both of them are separable according to the Aristotle.

The Buddhists and the ancient Greeks have a common idea of believing that there was a presence of a soul in a human being and it was the most important part of a human being. For the human beings to exist, the power and the motion was the soul. Another major idea that they all shared in common was the fact that the soul had different noticeable levels, in which level was a different faculties (Joseph 102).

The soul according to them had some parts with a higher capacity of reasoning than the rest and that is why any human being was encountering some doubts when in the process of making a certain decision.

As for matters concerning the soul and the life after death, Buddhist had some differences in ideas with those of the ancient Greeks. Although both believed on the existence of souls, Buddhists believed that the soul pre-existed while on the other hand, Aristotle did not believe on the pre-existence of the soul. Another major difference in ideas of Buddha and that of ancient Greeks was about the after life of the soul.

The ancient Greeks believed there was no more than the burning of the soul after death and breaking it to the fire, as it does not have much value. The Buddhist idea about the soul after death was quite different as his religious teachings insisted about the life after death, and the soul had to undergo some processes of judgement for the both things that were done by it and the body.

Another major idea of both the Buddhists and the ancient Greeks is their ethics. In the Aristotle book of metaphysics, he expressed many theories of ethics and politics (Gier 97). According to him, he expresses that there is need for justice, friendly relationships, and communal gatherings the same way as for the goodness of knowledge. Much of the Aristotle’s theory of ethics described men as social animals, who requires to interact and share with others to make his life complete.

Human beings as social animals also need to enjoy their lives and the benefits of living together according to the Aristotle. The human kind is explained as a race that requires training on the behavioural factors by Aristotle to shape their lives. When human beings are trained to adapt to certain behaviour when they are still young, they have a big impact in their future lives than when they learn when they are still old (Yuanghei 107). Behaviours learnt at an early age are better and more encouraging according to philosopher Aristotle.

Moreover, the Buddhists ideas concerning the ethics in human nature had some similarities and differences with that of Aristotle. They both believed that the content of our humanity has the capability of producing both the virtues and the vices.

Both the Buddha and the Aristotle explains the importance of the human beings undergoing some form of training and education to shape their ethical values at their late ages (Bartley 290). The major difference of the Buddha ethics and that of Aristotle is that the Buddha links moral values interdependently.

Aristotle tries to link the moral values, meditation, and the insight as one aspect to be involved in human race to create a path for spiritual movements. Buddha has a special moral ethics of compassion and a culture of meditation if any human being is in need of leading a good life full of awakening factors. The ethics of Buddha are full of moral values to waken humankind from their past believe that they had inherited from the ancient Greeks.

The major differences that existed between the Buddha and the ancient Greeks concerning the moral ethics were that the Buddha had a metaphysics, which was more complicated than that of Aristotle and tried to give people a more developed basis of practicing ethics.

The Buddha ideas were morals of one living several lives in one model, but on the other hand, Aristotle insisted on developing an individual capability throughout his or her one life (Nakamurai 345). Any person practicing virtues in his or her life would practice the wisdom required for responsible enough and adhere to the morals of the society.

Buddha appealed most of his ethics on the daily loving and kindness that every individual is supposed to express to his fellow human beings. According to Buddha, the word virtue was explained as an individual letting go of all his or her self-esteem through the efforts of trying to exercise the mediation, moral values, and the best use of ones brains.

This is a clear explanation of someone in a metaphysical world, which advises the readers to disintegrate the subject, object, and be the only determinant of how one is thinking and experiencing (Sahni 86).

Buddha needed the human beings to shape their world by each individual taking into consideration that he or she is part of the world in his or her actions and body functions like breathing. Aristotle’s ethical views were very different as he took a societal dimension in a manner that one cannot determine or plan for his or her excellence, as there are no limits to measure the level of excellence.

Excellence according to Aristotle is not something that can be thought and be dealt with all the time, because it depends more with the society and not the individuals (Pioneai 113). Having the major factors as the society to determine the overall excellence of an individual, it becomes hard for any individual to come up with their own factors of goodness and welfare.

Aristotle mainly considered the whole society to be the major determinant of individual’s welfare, and the Buddha knew that every person had an obligation of making his or her world to be full of happiness and excellence.

There are major similarities that were seen to exist between the Buddha ides of ethics and that of the ancient Greeks. To some extent, the moral ethics of the two were almost alike as they were based on the same ground.

The ethics of Buddha and for the ancient Greeks were base3d on moderation, whereby Aristotle through his mean doctrine, and Buddha through the doctrine of middle way come together and form teleological moral values (Simon 58). According to these ancient Greeks ideas of ethics, they believed that for anyone to enjoy a good life, he or she must practice the ways of virtue and no any other way.

For people to understand the ways of virtue, they have to rely on the teleological background for both cases. The human beings in both cases have to believe in their conception of a certain nature that would help them to determine their intended goals and perspectives that marks their end (Gier 114).

For both Buddha and the ancient Greeks, it was clear that the application of virtues in human beings lives is a mark for the right path to be followed in achieving the life objectives. Through ignoring, the use of virtues may result in many barriers on the way of attaining the objectives and one may finally not reach the intended destination. The life of virtues has a lot to offer in terms of happiness and fulfilment; it affords better things that an ordinary person who is practicing vices cannot afford.

The terminal of the Buddha invites people to come for drastic change of human nature through serious mental and physical training full of morals as well as exercising the compassionate love (Bartley 102). This would be possible if one will escape from the hardships brought about by karmic regeneration in the process of existence.

The final and most successful release will result from people letting go of all their self-esteem to practice the moral values. For the human beings to perfect their lives there should be application of successful meditation and practice of moral values in continuous manner toward the end of attaining the goals and marking the end of a human being.

For both the Buddha and the ancient Greeks, there were derived some common ethical lessons through the explanations of their ideas. Through their ideas there was a lesson to the parents, as they are the primary source of the moral education to their children (Yuanghei 112). The parents’ were left with an obligation of passing the message to their children of being good by knowing what is good to be practiced, and at the same time doing good for the sake of their future lives.

Another moral lesson from both the Buddha ideas and those of old ancients was directed to the formal education facilitators for instance teachers. It is also an obligation of the teachers in schools and other social gatherings to pass the message to the children about ethical values. The moral development in children is a continuous path, starting from home to the schools and other places where they meet with their peers. Teachers have a professional obligation of teaching the children, but they still need to take care of their moral values.

Although both the Buddha and the ancient Greeks used different ways of explaining that moral ethics would not be considered as the specific science that people look for, they made efforts of giving the guidelines of how people can apply the morals in their lives, especially the young generation in schools. Human beings now have clear guidelines on hoe to apply the ethics in their normal lives especially when about to make a serious decision.

Unlike the Buddha’s ideas, most of the ancient Greeks believed in pluralism, whereby the things that are found in the world are made up of different atoms. They claimed those tiny things known as atoms (Gier 96) make up all the living and the non-living things in the world.

Another thing that they believed and differed a lot with the ideas of Buddha is about the animism, this is whereby they claimed that both living and non-living things have a soul inside. The ancient philosophers had another idea about the reality of the world that was completely different from that of Buddha.

According to them, the reality is aspects that that should live forever and should never change (Sahni 84). To their arguments they added that our experiences that we get in our world are never real as they keep on changing, this was completely different from the ideas of Buddha who knew that our worldly experiences were very real and they were bound to changes as the world also changes. The dynamic changes of the world according to Buddha were as real and acceptable like the reality of the existing human beings.

The views of the Buddha and that of the two great Greek philosophers had some similarities and differences. Buddhists ethics were known to be full of humanity and on personal grounds just like the ideas of the ancient Greeks. Most of the ethical lessons learnt from Buddha were very similar to the ones by Aristotle. The major difference between the Confucius idea with that of the ancient Greeks was that the ancient Greeks concentrated more on the inside part of the soul and the Confucius ideas of virtue concentrated on interpersonal relations ( Simon 107).

The morals that were found in the Buddha’s moral lessons were mainly on the virtues, characteristics of human beings, and the moral values meant to guide people in the society. According to Buddha’s ideas, the interpersonal; relationship that existed among the individuals had a great impact to the peoples lives. As far as one was advised to practice moral virtues in his or her deeds, it was also important to relate with one another well.

Works Cited

Bartley, James. The ancient Greeks Philosophies. Michigan: Routledge, 2007.

Cooper, David. Buddhism, Virtue and Environment. Michigan: Ashgate Publishing Ltd, 2005.

Gier, Nicholas. The Virtue of nonviolence: from Gautama to Gandhi. Michigan: Suny Press, 2009.

Joseph, Needham. Ancient Philosophers. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

Nakamurai, Hajime. A comparative history of ideas. Michigan: Cengage Learning, 2003.

Pioneai, Jacky. Philosophical Ideologies. New York: Cengage Learning, 2004.

Sahni, Pragati. Environmental ethics in Buddhism: a Virtues approach. New York: Routledge, 2008.

Simon, James. Zen Buddhism and environmental ethics. New York: Ashgate Publishing Ltd, 2004.

Sriwarakuel, Warayuth. Cultural traditions and Contemporary challenges in Southeast Asia. Beijing: CRVP, 2005.

Yuanghei, Margret. Virtues of Confucius ideas. Beijing: Yuan, 2003.

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