Stephens

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Dale J. Stephens Professor Harris Journeys 20 September 2010 Paper 1

Confucius and Socrates engage in similar teaching methods but do not agree on what defines a student. Both Confucius and Socrates encourage self-cultivation among students, leading them along a path towards knowledge. Confucius encourages this introspection through example whilst Socrates rouses students with the Socratic method of questioning. Despite these similarities, the two teachers deviate over how each defines his relationship with students: Confucius acknowledges being a teacher and having disciples while Socrates explicitly denies both being a teacher and having pupils. This difference is likely due to the fact that Socrates sees potential for education in the common man where as Confucius believes that only those with requisite knowledge are worthy and capable of learning. The teaching methods of both Confucius and Socrates focus on encouraging introspection among students to guide them on a journey towards wisdom. In Analects 14.24, Confucius says, In the ancient times scholars learned for their own sake; these days they learn for the sake of others (Confucius 42). He specifies that he must transmit rather than innovate, so one can assume that Confucius values the ancient tradition of selfcultivation over the modern tradition of external knowledge (Confucius 19). In defining his skills, Socrates states, I can make other people s [thoughts] move as well as my own (Plato Euthyphro 14). Combined with Socrates statement in Apology that he was placed in

Confucius supports self-cultivation through demonstration and indirect response. it is clear that Socrates sees himself on a holy mission to provoke the residents of Athens to think and begin a journey of learning (33). By engaging students in introspection. . Rather than question his students. . Confucius promotes self-cultivation. By providing an example for introspection and instructing the students on what to ask of themselves. Socrates proclaims: I was attached to this city by the god though it seems a ridiculous thing to say as upon a great and noble horse which was somewhat sluggish because of its size and function and needed to be stirred up by a kind of gadfly (Plato Apology 33). Confucius pushes his students (as human beings) to broaden the Way (Confucius 45) and Socrates encourages the pursuit of human wisdom (Plato Euthyphro 24). By comparing himself to a gadfly. in my interactions with friends and associates . Based on the example in Euthyphro. However. Confucius quotes Master Zeng: Every day I examine myself on three counts: in my dealings with others .4. Confucius engages in direct dialogue with students. one can infer that it is this method of questioning that Socrates traditionally uses to persuade and reproach [the citizens of Athens] all day long (Plato Apology 33). which consists entirely of a dialogue between Socrates and Euthyphro wherein Socrates poses questions and Euthyphro responds. .Stephens 2 Athens to rouse each and every one of you [citizens]. one can infer that Socrates also uses self-cultivation as his primary means of teaching (Plato Apology 33). A direct example of Socrates use of the Method of Elenchus is found in the text of Euthyphro. In Analects 1. [in] putting into practice what I teach (1). the dialogue does not consist of Confucius posing .8. . In Analects 5. Socrates promotes the self-cultivation of his students through the Method of Elenchus.

he prefers to be regarded as a provocateur rather than a teacher because he values self-cultivation and wants his pupils to think for themselves. By not directly answering students questions and forcing students to think for themselves to find the answers. Confucius refers to his students as disciples. In 11. In Apology. which Confucius answers only indirectly (13).Stephens 3 questions to his students. Confucius also encourages self-cultivation and hopes his students will broaden the Way (Confucius 45). Socrates does not see himself as a teacher whilst Confucius embraces the traditional student-teacher relationship. However.26. Despite actively rousing the citizens of Athens. . confirming the depth of the relationship beyond student to teacher. This attitude is in stark contrast to Confucius who uses the student-teacher relationship to his advantage. (Confucius 33). Confucius use of these terms suggests that he wants credit for teaching his disciples while Socrates does not want be associated with those who learned from him because he doesn t want to be held responsible for the good or bad conduct of [the] people [who claim to be my students] (Plato Apology 35). This is hypocritical because Socrates is engaging in a form of teaching: he himself speaks of what I teach to others (Plato Apology 29). Rather Analects 5. I have never been anyone s teacher and berates those who . This distance from his students may be partly due to the fact that Socrates sees education potential in anyone and considers them students whilst Confucius . as one would expect of Socrates. . One manifestation of this is the use of the term Master to refer to Confucius throughout the Analects rather than the term teacher. Socrates explicitly states. signifying a respect and relationship that has extended beyond the scholarly and into the personal realm. slanderously say they are my pupils (Plato 55).8 consists of Meng Wubo posing questions to Confucius.

nor will I provide words to tongue that is not already struggling to speak (Confucius 20). Can one justly conclude that Socrates was more effective than Confucius or vice-versa? I submit that it would be impossible to make that judgment based on the limited textual evidence that exists. By way of explaining his mission in life. I will not open the door for a mind that is not already striving to understand. each takes a different approach to encouraging that end: Socrates through the Method of Elenchus and Confucius through indirect response. . Confucius says. those who had the highest reputation were clearly the most deficient. whom I think is wise (Plato Apology 26). while those who were thought to be inferior were more knowledgeable (Plato Apology 26). . However. Self-cultivation of the student along the journey of enlightenment is the goal for both Confucius and Socrates. Socrates is unafraid to engage those without elevated social standing in conversation and even notes that in [his] investigation . only Socrates assumes there is wisdom in the common man. While both Confucius and Socrates have high standards for their pupils. a privilege that was rare in agrarian society. How each teacher defines his relationship to a student reveals differences in society and cultural assumptions. I go around seeking out anyone. but that each effectively instilled their values in their pupils: it was their pupils who wrote down the words of their teachers and created the works that we read today and attribute to Confucius and Socrates. This attitude assumes that a potential student is already at a high enough socio-economic level to have the time to think and articulate their thoughts. Conversely. citizen or stranger. Socrates says.Stephens 4 believes anyone wishing to learn must already seek knowledge to be worthy of his teaching. .

The Essential Analects: Selected Passages with Traditional Commentary. Cooper. Slingerland. A. Indianapolis: Hackett. Trans. Trans. Trans. 2000. Indianapolis: Hackett. 20-43. Apology. G.Stephens 5 Works Cited Plato. Trans. Print. Indianapolis: Hackett. The Trial and Death of Socrates. M. A. 3rd Ed. . 2000. Cooper. Grube. M. Grube. Confucius. Edward G. G. 1-20. 2006. Trans. The Trial and Death of Socrates. Revised John M. 3rd Ed. Euthyphro. Plato. Revised John M.

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