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Han Fei and Aristotle: Interpret of the Passage by Confucius


The concept of harmony has always taken one of the central positions in both Western and Eastern traditions of philosophy. Prominent thinkers have utilized this notion to describe social aspects, such as cultural norms and sovereign regulations, and individualistic nature. Furthermore, the concept of harmony is frequently used to demonstrate how an individual should live since moderation is one of the most meaningful virtues in most philosophical treatises. The presented passage regards the connection between harmony as a virtue and the rites as a necessary method to achieve it. Therefore, the primary aim of the current work is to interpret the passage by Confucius and analyze it from the philosophical perspectives of Han Fei and Aristotle.

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Analysis of the Passage

In the perspective of the original author, the passage represents his beliefs concerning the natural interrelationship between harmony and the rites. Confucius glorifies the concept of moderation; nevertheless, he also acknowledges that a mere desire is not enough to comprehend it, and one has to follow the regulations provided by the rites to achieve harmony. It is also vital to note that the term ‘ritesdoes not refer to only spiritual rituals but might also indicate customs, cultural norms, order, and social interaction. From these considerations, Confucius understands the rites as a method to guide human behavior and harmony as an ultimate goal of these regulations. Therefore, these two concepts are closely interrelated and cannot be fully comprehended in isolation. Ultimately, in the perspective of Confucius, an individual must follow the regulations provided by the rites, behave according to certain social norms, and cultivate internal virtues to achieve harmony.

Analysis of the Passage from Han Fei’s Perspective


Both Confucius and Han Fei agree on the contribution of harmony to the development of an individual and the stability of the society as a whole. The authors believe that moderation is an essential characteristic that supports a person and assists him or her in making well-informed decisions. Confucius and Han Fei also agree that harmony is not effortless to achieve, and one has to continually cultivate excellent virtues and be aware of potential downfalls. It is one of the reasons why both authors have devoted their time to not only explaining the philosophical concepts but also demonstrating how to properly utilize them in life. For instance, a significant part of Han Feizi is dedicated to how rulers should implement the notion of moderation in their communication with ministers and citizens. While the primary focus of Han Fei is indeed the legislative power, it does not change his perspective concerning the nature of harmony as a concept. Ultimately, in this regard, Confucius and Han Fei agree on the significance of moderation and its impact on the lives of the people.


Although both authors find consensus on the essence of harmony, Han Fei utilizes the concept of moderation in a different way and primarily applies it to legislation and how rulers should behave. For instance, in Han Feizi, the author continually brings forward the concept of balance to provide guidelines on how a leader of the country should command his ministers and citizens to achieve social stability. According to the treatise, a successful ruler should interchangeably use the methods of punishment and favor, be determined but conscious of his desires, listen to his ministers but critically analyze what they say. Furthermore, Han Fei proposes the eight villainies of how ministers attempt to obstruct the reign, and the response to each of them lies in the proper utilization of moderation. Therefore, it is evident that Han Fei highly values the concept of harmony and considers it to be one of the most significant characteristics that a ruler should have.

Nevertheless, such focus on legislation is what differs this perspective from the position of Confucius. The followers of Confucianism put higher value in the implementation of the rites, while the juridical manipulations are not as significant. Therefore, if citizens and ministers follow the regulations provided by the rites, there would be less need for penal punishment or other types of legislative measures. It implies that while Confucius and Han Fei both understand the contribution of harmony to the lives of individuals and cultural norms, they attempt to achieve social stability utilizing the notion of moderation differently. Ultimately, concerning Han Fei’s perspective on the passage, the philosopher acknowledges the significance of harmony but puts less value on the implementation of the rites.

Analysis of the Passage from Aristotle’s Perspective


The primary similarity between the two perspectives is that harmony is an essential part of every individual’s well-being and is one of the means to achieve happiness in life. Similar to Confucius and Han Fei, Aristotle believes in the impact of balance and its influence on decision-making. It is also vital to note that the ancient Greek philosopher understood harmony under a different term – the golden mean. Nevertheless, the implications of the concept do not differ much from the perspective of Confucius and Han Fei and indicate moderation or the desirable middle. Alongside the two mentioned philosophers, Aristotle sees the golden mean as an excellent virtue and believes that one cannot achieve happiness in life without controlling his or her wishes. Therefore, similar to the passage by Confucius, Aristotle perceives harmony as the most valuable quality for without it an individual is doomed to fall into the extremes of his or her desires.


Nevertheless, in the philosophical positions of Confucius and Aristotle, there are few key differences concerning both the concept of harmony and the implementation of rites or social norms. The first contrast concerns whom the golden mean applies to. According to Aristotle, every individual is affected by the concept of moderation but to a different degree depending on personal traits and characteristics. Furthermore, the purpose of the golden mean is to lead an individual to a happy life and mainly concerns internal virtues with no regard to society. Contrary to that, in the perspective of Confucius, harmony is primarily applied to the superior class, and the common people merely imitate the behavior of the rulers. This position puts a greater emphasis on the social aspect of the golden mean and vastly differs from Aristotle’s perspective that acknowledges only the individualistic nature of harmony. Ultimately, the ancient Greek philosopher perceives the concept of moderation only as an internal value, and its impact on the community is secondary.

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The second contrast concerns how the golden mean or harmony is cultivated in an individual. As mentioned before, Confucius perceives moderation and the rites or social norms in an inter-related manner and believes that these notions cannot be comprehended in isolation. Furthermore, Eastern philosophy also utilizes the implementation of moral principles and wisdom as necessary components to achieve harmony. Contrary to this notion, Aristotle’s perception of the golden mean is not based on any specific guidelines or theories and merely follows the personality of an individual. According to the ancient Greek philosopher, harmony is the middle point of moral virtue; therefore, it should be possible to achieve it by exercising the given characteristic. For instance, if an individual wants to be courageous, which is a trait between recklessness and cowardice, he or she should behave accordingly and act bravely but deliberately. Ultimately, it would allow this person to achieve the desired virtue and, therefore, the golden mean. This perspective vastly differs from the position of Confucius due to the focus on the individualistic nature.


Summing up, the current paper interprets the presented passage by Confucius and analyzes it from the perspectives of Han Fei and Aristotle. The three philosophers generally unite in their comprehension of harmony as a concept; nevertheless, their aims and methods differ. Confucius acknowledges the significance of moderation but relies on the principles of the rites to support the notion. The perspective of Han Fei is similar; however, he mainly utilizes the concept of balance to provide recommendations on how to rule and administrate. On the other hand, Aristotle opposes the social aspect and applies the notion of the golden mean to describe individualistic nature, and also proposes that moderation is necessary to achieve happiness in life. Ultimately, Confucius, Han Fei, and Aristotle agree that harmony is essential to the lives of individuals; however, they utilize the concept in different ways and for distinct objectives.

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