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of thought seek ultimately to cure practical, this-worldly maladies.
Both want to remedy the problems of the Eastern Zhou. Neither seeks
to speculate on the origins of the world or humankind or to discuss at
length humankind's relations with the divine. Taoism, more mystical in
its appreciation of the universe, dwells on the benefits for the here-and-
now that this appreciation would bring. Second, both Confucianism
and Taoism share the common conviction that humankind once lived
as it should, with good governments and orderly societies. For
Confucians, this lost golden age was during the early years of the Zhou;
for Taoists, it occurred when humankind first began living agricultur-
ally. Third, both Confucians and Taoists regard nature as having some-
thing important to teach humankind. Confucians, who label nature
“Heaven,” are in awe of the orderliness and cyclical, predictable
rhythms they observe in it. In nature, or Heaven, everything has its
place and functions and behaves accordingly. Confucians strive to
apply their intellects in analyzing and understanding this order with
their minds, with the ultimate objective of replicating the order of
Heaven in the social and political order. Taoists also revere nature and
see much instructional value in it, but for them the tao of nature and
the universe are much more accessible through humankind's intuitive
capacities than through their intellects. Finally, both Confucianism
and Taoismmake the individual the key focal point for beginning the re-
form of society and government. For Confucius, a society of individuals
who possessed the quality of ren and knew the importance of li in its
broader social applications would be an orderly and livable society.
For Taoists, grasping the tao was an intensely individual process, and
a society full of people who understood the tao would spontaneously
right itself.
Legalism (sometimes also called Realism) was another school of
thought in Eastern Zhou times, and in some important ways it was
quite unique. In fact, it would probably be wrong to call Legalism a
philosophy; it was more of a statecraft or realpolitik, a technique for
keeping a ruler in power, his nation strong, and his population obedi-
ent and submissive. Legalism sought to accomplish these objectives
through a simple recipe of rewards and punishments specified by
laws. There was no abstract consideration of right and wrong; right
was simply what the ruler wanted, and wrong was what he did not
want. Legalism was a straightforward, anti-intellectual approach to
governance. Legalists had very little patience for Confucian or Taoist
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