The proper order is a concept established by the East Asian philosopher Confucius many centuries ago. Confucius believed that all the people should live in harmony with one another and the environment. Thus, the philosopher created some rules and recommendations for every social class of people in order to achieve this harmony. The main aim of the proper order was to attain peaceful existence in the state and flourishing of the whole society. Moreover, the proper order should be achieved in every hierarchy, beginning with a single human being and ending with the state. For most of the constituents, the rules were similar. However, the regulations for the government were more severe. Thus, Confucius segregated people into classes, and only men of the highest classes could govern the state. Therefore, Confucian proper order was aimed at reaching moral and material flourishing of human beings and society, peace in the state, and positive relationships between the neighboring countries.
Why Proper Order Is Important
The first and the main reason why the proper order is important is the fact that it leads to human flourishing. If the state is peaceful, there is no violence; every citizen is at his/her proper place that brings prosperity to all the people. Thus, the proper order creates the preconditions to prosperity, not the outcomes (Magagna 5). The harmonious order cannot appear without human help; therefore, it is people’s achievement. In fact, they need to achieve it for the same reason – to flourish and prosper. The prosperity can come in both material and moral.
Actually, moral flourishing is associated with the elite opportunities. Thus, every person strives to hold the highest position in society. In order to achieve such a position and to become suitable for the elite, a person should cultivate himself/ herself. Since the elites are necessary for the human prosperity, such a motivation will be strong enough to attain the proper order of a self (Magagna (b) 3). Thus, the first level of the proper order is the level of self that can be reached through education and self-development. If a person strives to cultivate his/her virtues, such a person will become a “superior man,” who is higher than “a small man” (Yao 214-215). In fact, Confucius promoted the “style and manners of the noble person (yunzi) and the efficacy of moral force or virtue (de), rather than violence and coercion, as a strategy for rulers” (de Bary and Bloom 42). Thus, a self-cultivated individual with well-developed virtues could gain the elite opportunities, become a ruler or other respectful person, and attain the proper order and concord.
At the same time, self-cultivation was useless, if a person had the problems within a family. Therefore, the next level of the proper order was order in a family. However, two levels are interrelated because “unless one’s person be cultivated, one cannot regulate the family” (de Bary and Bloom 332). Hence, Confucius believed that harmony in the family could be achieved through following the traditions. According to the traditions, “a young man is to be filial within his family and respectful outside it,” otherwise, disorder will occur (de Bary and Bloom 45). When a son respects his father, he will respect his ruler. Moreover, when a ruler can handle his son, he will be able to handle the whole state, i.e., to achieve proper order in society. In addition, Mencius believed that the state had “its basis in the family” (qtd. in de Bary and Bloom 138). Thus, the proper order in a family was the second step to achieve flourishing and peace in the whole state.
Finally, the previous steps would lead to the proper order in the government. The rulers were subdivided into bad rulers and good rulers (Magagna (b) 3). If the ruler achieved harmony on the previous level, i.e., he cultivated his self, developed the main virtues, and attained the order in his family, he would become a good ruler. Consequently, the ruler would lead the state to flourishing. On the contrary, if the governor missed some steps or made a mistake either in the self-development or in his family, he would be considered a bad ruler. Therefore, his governance might lead to the disorder. That is why, Confucius claimed that all the levels of the proper order should be fulfilled in order to achieve harmony in the whole state.
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Why Proper Order Is Fragile
Although the proper order was important and necessary for moral and material flourishing, it was fragile. First, the conflicts between good and bad had always existed, and it was impossible to imagine the conflicts would disappear. Moreover, such human features as anger, envy, and a sense of competition would always appear in any perfect state. Thus, the proper order might be violated because of the human imperfections. However, there existed other reasons for its violation.
The second reason, why proper order is fragile, is corruption. As a matter of fact, this phenomenon appears because of human nature. Thus, the politicians may encourage bribery (Magagna 6). In the economy, the monopoly powered extortion might occur within the state. Moreover, cultural changes may also lead to disorder. For example, someone may betray his/her culture or display hypocrisy. All the types of corruption will certainly lead to chaos, even if the corruption is temporary.
Finally, the proper order is fragile because of fate and paradoxes of rationality. In fact, the nature is changeable, and any natural disaster can appear any time. An earthquake, flood, drought, and other fatalities can cause disorder and can lead to losses that contradict prosperity and harmony. Besides, a conflict between self-interest and social interest may also destroy the proper order. Therefore, Confucian proper order is useful and important; however, the order is easy to break and difficult to recover.
How to Achieve Proper Order
As it was already mentioned, the proper order should be achieved on every stage of development. First, the human beings should aim at developing their virtues and increasing their knowledge. In addition, a person should try to achieve clarity of mind and soul, and make sure that evil thoughts do not appear in his/her consciousness. In order to achieve such a goal, people should try to connect to Earth and Heaven. Mencius claimed, “physical form and expressions belong to the nature endowed by Heaven. Only the sage is able to follow his physical form” (qtd. in de Bary and Bloom 156). According to Confucius, “everyone is capable of becoming a sage” (Yao 216). Therefore, every person can investigate the nature of the universe and one’s own nature, and try to achieve harmony between the physical form of inner voice and Heaven. Through constant self-cultivation and education, the proper order within a self can be reached.
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Furthermore, the citizens of the state should create and promote a harmonious family model. Thus, beneficent hierarchy should involve conducting moral education and showing that all family members should respect each other. Actually, each group of family relationships should have personal rules of behavior. Thus, the relations between a husband and a wife should be based on mutual respect. However, a wife should assist her husband and always obey him. At the same time, children should always respect their parents, grandparents, and elder siblings. In a family, the role of a mother involved teaching her children to maintain traditions and not to forget their roots. If all the family members respected customs and rites, they would have lived in harmony. In turn, the order in family would lead to harmony in the whole society, since a family was an integral constituent of every society.
On the governmental level, the proper order can be achieved by implementing some rules of management. For example, the central government should create the pre-conditions for a flourishing society by co-participation and illustration (Magagna (a) 1). Moreover, the central government should become a positive example for local authorities by taking part in various activities and helping them with useful deeds and advices. For example, the central government may supply food to the areas in need, control flood, assist in policy regulation, etc. In addition, the aim of every government should be to achieve virtuous leadership, minimize coercive actions, and maximize merits (Magagna 9). In fact, a good and noble ruler is able to achieve these goals. Such a ruler should understand that people observe his actions; thus, they will only respect him and assist him in everything, if his actions are positive and useful. However, if some signs of corruption and dishonesty were noticed, the citizens would behave accordingly, and disorder would occur. Therefore, a virtuous ruler should make his subordinates believe that he would lead them to prosperity, but he also needs their help.
In addition, the government should attain fiscal and bureaucratic minimalism. Thus, the taxes should be adjusted in accordance with economic statuses of individuals. If a person is not able to pay taxes, the proper order will be violated. On the contrary, if every person pays taxes according to their incomes, it will be beneficial for the whole state. In addition, the civil service examinations should be conducted (Magagna 9). In such a way, the government will control all the services and ensure that they are based on merits. Moreover, the relations among the neighboring countries should be positive and beneficial. When the countries have some conflicts, the disorder will occur in all the countries. Thus, all the actions will help to achieve the proper order in the society and guarantee human moral and material flourishing and happiness.
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In fact, Confucius was a wise philosopher, who tried to teach his followers that the proper order was of high importance for every human being. If a person achieved harmony within one’s self, he/she would achieve harmony in the family. The harmonious order in the family would lead to proper order in the state. Moreover, the government should try to maintain order in the state by implementing some rules and co-participating in various inner-state activities. If all the actions of the citizens and their rulers are directed towards harmony and peace, the proper order will be achieved. However, it is important to remember that the order is fragile due to many factors, which means that it is difficult to attain. In conclusion, the proper order may lead any society to prosperity, but it is impossible to achieve it in the modern world, where violence and corruption are inevitable.