Sunday, March 23, 2014
343. John Adams and Confucian Moral Philosophy
John Adams (1735-1826)realized that virtue ennobled individual character and lifted the entire society. Virtue encompasses a variety of characteristics, such as humility, industry and goodwill. These precepts serve as the cornerstones for both individual and societal governance. Adams came to the conclusion, "All sober inquirers after truth, ancient and modern, pagan and Christian, have declared that the happiness of man, as well as his dignity, consists in virtue. Confucius … agreed in this".
Adams’ statement conveys the significance of virtue for a good government and the significance of Confucius's moral philosophy in Adams’ own efforts to bring up “the minds of the people”. John Adam showed his high regard for Confucius virtues and believed that any good Americans should possess these traits. In a letter to Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), Adams criticized the English theologian and natural philosopher Joseph Priestley (1733-1804) for ignoring Confucius in his writing: Priestley ought to have given us a sketch of the religion and morals ...of Confucius, and all the founders of religions before Christ, whose superiority would, from such a comparison, have appeared the more transcendent.