Proceedings of the XXIII World Congress of Philosophy

Volume 8, 2018

Comparative and Intercultural Philosophy

Elena Avramidou
Pages 7-14

Sage-king and Philosopher-king
Parallels and Divergences in Confucius and Plato

Confucius (551-479 B.C) and Plato (427-347 B.C) live in the so called Axial age (Jaspers) and in a social and political situation that presents similarities (strong social conflicts, civil wars, crisis of traditional institutions, moral decay). Thus, both thinkers, inspired by their passion for virtue and justice and the desire for a better political organization, introduce ways to restore peace, order and harmony (he 和). They develop, accordingly, a political and moral theory that aims at combining knowledge and power through ethics. The sage-king (sheng ren 聖人) and the philosopher-king are, respectively, the capstone of the political system that they introduce. Therefore, both of them propose a pattern of political management, which, as it differs from the old political example, introduces new aspects on governance by placing knowledge, ethics and education as the foundation of governance. However, we observe some fundamental differences between the two thoughts, related to a different perception of the world that is philosophically presented in terms of being/becoming. The main points, in which the Confucian sage-king (sheng ren聖人) and the Platonic philosopher-king differ, therefore emerge; in these points we generally distinguish the basic differences between the Greek and the Chinese thought.

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