Philosophy is the science that was created by human beings in an attempt to describe and explain the objective reality, the processes that take place in it and their causes. Needless to say, philosophy developed together with the mankind and the ideas expressed by philosophers differed in various epochs. But what impacted the development of philosophy most of all was its division into Eastern and Western schools, even Eastern and Western civilizations. The differences and similarities can be observed between the two, but there are certain integral points that distinguish Eastern and Western philosophies and make people believing in the inner strength of a human being support Eastern philosophy, while those believing in the social character of all processes are Westerners in their philosophical views (McLaurin, 2003, p. 12). Confucius and Arthur Schopenhauer are the brightest examples of Eastern and Western philosophical thought, and consideration of their ideas will allow understanding the essence of both philosophies compared.
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Thus, Confucius (551 – 479 B. C.) is the most famous Chinese philosopher whose views serves as the basis for the philosophical movement of Confucianism (Confucianism, 2009). The main areas of study for Confucius were human being and its proper existence in this world. Thus, Confucius formulated the measure of human virtue and stressed the importance of learning and love in the human life: “The nature and duties of the human being must be studied diligently and cultivated, he insisted, and humanity is to be loved” (Moore & Bruder, 2008, p. 545). Further on, Confucius considered family to be the most important social institution important for the personal development of an individual and for the whole world:” In fact, for Confucius, the well-ordered family is a model for the well-ordered state and ultimately the world as a whole” (Moore & Bruder, 2008, p. 549). Thus, Confucius’ ideas are human-oriented and humanist in their nature.
The ideas expressed by Arthur Schopenhauer (1788 – 1860), the famous German philosopher, can hardy be called humanist at all (Friesian, 2009). The main idea expressed by Arthur Schopenhauer is the rejection of any kind of rational thinking and motivation in the activities of human beings: “Schopenhauer’s world is peopled with vicious little men who commit atrocities in pursuit of trifling objects. It is a world in which no one can be trusted and security requires sleeping with a loaded pistol under the pillow” (Moore & Bruder, 2008, p. 153). Moreover, Schopenhauer was the supporter of the idea that will, in all its forms including “cosmic, impersonal, will-in-itself and its manifestation in the phenomenal world” (Moore & Bruder, 2008, p. 154), controls the human life, actions and thoughts of people, and that “One can achieve a measure of peace and happiness, according to Schopenhauer, only to the degree one escapes the tyranny of will” (Moore & Bruder, 2008, p. 154). Thus, Schopenhauer’s philosophy can be called human-oriented only as it considers human being as its main topic, but not in the way it characterizes the latter.
After the consideration of the main ideas by the Eastern and Western philosophers, the comparative analysis of the views by Confucius and Schopenhauer can be carried out. Beginning with the similarities observed, it is necessary to state at once that they are not numerous. The main point according to which Confucius’ and Schopenhauer’s philosophies can be compared concerns the human-oriented character of their ideas. In other words, both Confucius and Schopenhauer focused on human beings as the main and only objects of their consideration (Moore & Bruder, 2008, p. 545). However, the ways in which human beings were approached by both philosophers were completely different and illustrated, to the great extent, the general differentiating point between the Eastern and Western philosophies (Space and Motion, 2009).
The first, and foremost, different point about the views by Confucius and the whole Eastern philosophy from the views and ideas supported by Schopenhauer is the freedom of human being and its value in the world. If Confucius promoted learning and mutual respect as the basic qualities of human life in which it the person who can change his/her life (Moore & Bruder, 2008, p. 545), Schopenhauer kept to the point of view that it is will and certain supreme power, but not human rationale, that drives human actions and conditions their success or failure (Moore & Bruder, 2008, p. 153). Respectively, Confucius promoted respect and love of human beings towards each other (Moore & Bruder, 2008, p. 549), while Schopenhauer saw human beings as little meaningless figures that do not decide anything in their lives and do not deserve respect (Moore & Bruder, 2008, p. 154).
To conclude, the ideas by Confucius and Schopenhauer reflect the integral differences that Eastern and Western philosophies hold about humanity and humanism. Confucius sees the human being as a free individual whose main goals are learning, love, and respect. Schopenhauer views people as weak and little figures in the world beyond their control. Thus, Eastern philosophy puts trust in the human being, while the Western philosophy diminishes its role as confronted by the world and its laws.
Confucianism. (2009). Confucius. Web.
Friesian. (2009). Arthur Schopenhauer, from The Proceedings of the Friesian School. Web.
McLaurin, H. (2003). Eastern Philosophy for Western Minds. Kessinger Publishing.
Moore, B. N. & Bruder, K. (2008). Philosophy: The Power of Ideas. McGraw-Hill Humanities/Social Sciences/Languages; 7 edition.
Space and Motion. (2009). Ancient Eastern Philosophy. , from On Truth and Reality.