wisdom to win

 Wisdom to Win
search bar left
search bar right

Confucius - Philosophy and EthicsConfucius - Philosophy and Ethics


Confucius (551-479 BC)


China’s most influential person (pictured right in a statue in Hunan, China) and founder of its major religion, Confucianism.

He worked as a politician, but this went against his principles.

So he became a teacher and philosopher until he died.


His most famous book is...

The Analects, a collection of his thoughts and ideas


What did he teach?

 Confucius - Philosophy and Ethics

1. Human-heartedness (jen)

This means loving with kindness and sincerity without losing your self-respect.

To do this you must constantly:

  • work hard to become a better person.
  • learn what is right and wrong.
  • develop and use your moral power to reform what is unworthy.


 Confucius - Philosophy and Ethics

2. Social correctness (li)

To behave well (li), you must:

  • adapt to each new situation
  • find the “middle way” between extremes (also called the “Doctrine of the Mean” and similar to Aristotle’s , pictured right below, Golden Mean).


Confucius - Philosophy and Ethics 

3. Love learning

Learning from:

  • your strengths and weaknesses
  • what is right.
  • doing and applying knowledge .

“I hear and I forget; I see and I remember; I do and I understand”, he said.



4. Integrity

 Confucius - Philosophy and Ethics

a) practise your principles (in your life and work)

Principles make you

  • good and happy.
  • better able to cope with problems.


b) don’t pick on other people’s faults

(but examine your own and do something about them).


c) be self-disciplined

Self-discipline is vital to being good and should be learned at home.


Confucius - Philosophy and Ethics 

5. Change slowly

He believed in an ordered society governed by:

  • strict moral principles
  • gradual improvements

Confucius didn't like violent and revolutionary change.

Important are:

  • tradition and history.
  • valuing the good of the past

But slow change is inevitable and necessary.

Successful change takes a long time, so don’t expect quick results.


 Confucius - Philosophy and Ethics

6. People make communities and countries

Good people make good families, communities and countries, ensuring peace in the world.

People must actively help each other in their community.

Respect the old, because they are wise.


Confucius - Philosophy and Ethics 

7. Leadership and government

The best leaders:

  • lead by good moral example
  • ensure that people are morally educated in families and schools, so that they have the self-discipline to govern themselves.

The three essentials of good government are

  • good economy.
  • military strength.
  • the people’s confidence (by far the most important).

Confucius - Philosophy and Ethics

8. Use your knowledge wisely

If you have knowledge, apply it.

If you don't:

  • accept your ignorance
  • strive to fill the gap in your knowledge.



Key quotes on learning and education

I hear and I forget; I see and I remember; I do and I understand.


Key quote on ethics

To see the right and not do it is cowardice.

Never do to others what you would not like them to do to you

Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.


Key quotes on society

When the heart is right, the personal life is cultivated. When personal lives are cultivated, families become harmonious. When families are harmonious, government becomes orderly. And when government is orderly, there will be peace in the world.

The strength of a nation derives from the integrity of the home.


Key quote on business ethics

 The superior man understands righteousness; the inferior man understands profit


Key quote on influencing people

Respect yourself and others will respect you.


Key quote on management

Be sincere and men will trust you.


Key quotes on communication

The superior man acts before he speaks and afterwards speaks according to his action.

The superior man is modest in his speech but exceeds in his actions.


Key quotes on leadership

The true leader takes humanity as his burden

The character of the leader is like the wind, and that of the people grass. The grass bends when the wind blows upon it.


Key quote on leadership and empowerment

If you lead them with morality and guide them with li [social correctness], they will develop a sense of honour and shame and will do good of their own accord.


Key quote on careers

Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.


Key quote on learning

Learning without thought is labour lost; thought without learning is perilous.


Key quote on knowledge management

The essence of knowledge is, having it, to apply it; not having it, confess your ignorance.


Key quote on emotional intelligence

Grieve not that men do not know you, grieve that you do not know men.


Key quote on the past, present and future

Study the past, if you would divine the future.

Free Newsletter
Enter your name and e-mail address to receive our free newsletter with analysis of business issues and new business books