Tuesday, October 6, 2015

412. Why Confucius, not Socrates in American Moral Revolution

Dr. Dave Wang's article, Confucius in American Founding, examines the efforts of the founders who used Confucian moral philosophy to help created a new virtue for the fledgling new nation. One question is that why Socrates virtue was not adopted by the founding fathers. In the following readers will find why Confucius moral principles, not Socrates were chosen in the moral reconstruction during the founding era. For the founders, Socrates's real moral principles were corrupted by Plato, Thomas Jefferson pointed out that "So again, the superlative wisdom of Socrates is testified by all antiquity, and placed on ground not to be questioned. When, therefore, Plato puts into his mouth such paralogisms, such quibbles on words, and sophisms, as a school boy would be ashamed of, we conclude they were the whimsies of Plato's own foggy brain, and acquit Socrates of puerilities so unlike his character." ( Thomas Jefferson’s Letter to William Short from Monticello August 4,1820.)

In one of his federal papers, James Madison, told his fellow Americans, "Had every Athenian citizen been a Socrates, every Athenian assembly would still have been a mob." (The Total Number of the House of Representatives, Independent Journal, Wednesday, February 13, 1788)

Finally, in the eyes of  John Adams, Confucius comes in the first place in terms of virtue. Adams declares, “Confucius, Zoroaster, Socrates, Mahomet, not to mention authorities really sacred, have agreed in this” goal of happiness through virtue. ( John Adams - “Thoughts on Government”April 1776) 

Confucian moral philosophy made available in the eighteenth century to wider and deeper strata of the colonists. For example, Benjamin Franklin worked hard to spread Confucius moral teachings in North America as early as 1737. Confucius moral teachings had been studied and discussed in the colonies about half century before the founding of the United States.

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