The Doctrine of the Mean by Confucius
Philosopher Confucius was a teacher, a scholar and a great thinker. He studied and addressed the most serious matter that touched in human life. He established Confucianism as a major system of thought that is considered a religion in China. One of the most important works by Confucius that addresses the way of life of human beings is The Doctrine of the Mean (Confucius 1).
The way of life advocated by the text of The Doctrine of the Mean by Confucius is more of philosophy than religion. This is clearly seen in the philosophical utterances that are arranged in a systematic order. Philosophy calls for the use of reason in every activity that man engages in. one must use knowledge, reason and evidence as the basis of the actions that he or she engages in. in addition, philosophy entails the use of systematic thinking where one level of thinking leads to the other. This is clearly exemplified in The Doctrine of the Mean. For instance, Confucius states, “What Heaven has conferred is called The Nature; an accordance with this nature is called The Path of duty; the regulation of this path is called Instruction” (Confucius 1). From this statement, it can be clearly noted that there is a systematic arrangement of thinking that starts from a more abstract point to a clear and concise point of thinking. This reflects the manner in which Confucius sought to handle or describe the most confusing issues touching on human life.
Despite the fact that The Doctrine of the Mean mentions heaven, it does not follow the belief systems that religions are known for. Religions, such as Islam and Christianity use belief systems where their followers believe in the existence of God. On the other hand, The Doctrine of the Mean does not advocate for a belief system, but for human beings to use reason. Confucius states, “The Superior Man actualizes the mean; the inferior man goes against it. The Superior Man actualizes the mean because he is always with it; the inferior man’s non-actualization is due to his heedlessness” (Confucius 1). This statement shows that The Doctrine of the Mean advocates for a way of life that encourages people to use their intelligence to reason as opposed to believing in things. Therefore, the success or the failure to live by the way of life advocated by The Doctrine of the Mean entirely rests on the intelligent versus the dull and the good versus the unworthy (Confucius 1).
There are certain differences between religion and philosophy and these are exemplified in The Doctrine of the Mean. First, religion is all about customs and practices whereas philosophy is about metaphysics. As a belief, religion has sets of codes of conduct, ethics, principles and morals that believers must follow. Despite the fact that religion can use reason, it does not advocate for one to use reason to deviate from its belief systems, practices and customs. On the other hand, philosophy advocates that individuals must use reason and critical thinking to make rational decisions. The decisions made can differ with the existing knowledge or states of affairs. The way of life advocated for by The Doctrine of the Mean is a philosophy because it does not outline a set of code of conduct that all people should observe; rather, it calls for the use of reason in actions of individuals.
Different forms of religions exist in the world and each religion has its different belief systems and codes of conduct. On the other hand, despite the fact that there are different philosophies in the world, all philosophers advocate for the same avenue of looking at issues. They all advocate for the use of reason and critical thinking. The way of life advocated by The Doctrine of the Mean is a philosophy because it makes use of critical thinking and reason (Confucius 1).
Religion bases their grounds on faith and in certain cases revelations from whatever God or gods that these religions identify with. On the other hand, philosophy, in whatever form it could be, makes use of rational arguments irrespective of whether the arguments are valid or not. The way of life advocated for by The Doctrine of the Mean utilizes the rational argument method that makes it a philosophy rather than a religion. It does not utilize faith or a sort of revelation from a god. For instance, the Doctrine of the Mean has rich and multifaceted meanings in terms of decision-making (Confucius 45). It calls for people to make choices between two opposite positions through the use of reason, critical thinking and rational analysis of the situation. The Doctrine of the Mean calls for harmony as opposed to monotony that is found in religions. The doctrine, thus, calls for individuals to make decisions based on rational foundations. However, the decisions made must be in harmony with existent forms of knowledge.
In conclusion, the way of life advocated by The Doctrine of the Mean is more of a philosophy than a religion because it calls for the use of reason, critical thinking and rational foundations as opposed to faith, belief, or revelations.
Confucius. The Doctrine Of The Mean. New York: Kessinger Publishing, 2004. Print.