Wednesday, April 29, 2015
Jeffrey LaPorte- H01- Final Blog Post #2
Unlike the other philosophies of the time legalism has no one founder nor was there ever even a formal school of legalist teaching. Instead legalism is a name used by later scholars to apply to the teachings of several warring states philosophers that were eventually adopted by the Qin dynasty.
While other schools said that the fractured conditions of the warring states came about because former rulers disregarded the gods, the poor, or tradition legalists saw the chaos as merely a result of the weakness of those in power. Just as the English civil war inspired Hobbes idea of the ‘leviathan’ state the legalists supported the idea of a centralized code of law and a powerful autocrat. Shang Yang, an advisor to the kings of Qin, quite literally wrote the book on legalism when he codified it for use by the Qin kings. He said if the laws were clear and strong then even a weaker ruler could be affective. He also had little use for morality or mercy seeing them as impediments to the rule of law. Legalism did have its merits however. Under Qin legalism anyone could rise to a high position through merit as exemplified by Lu Buwei a merchant who rose to become the chancellor Qin. Also legalisms emphasis on standardization and simplification led to the creation of a system of measurements still used today and a large efficient bureaucracy, which would influence all later Chinese governments. However the benefits of legalistic government could not out way the growing tyranny and madness of the Qin emperor and shortly after his death the dynasty was overthrown.
Emperor Qin Shi Huang, 1st (and last) emperor of the Qin dynasty who instituted legalism throughout his united China.
Legalism was shunned by later dynasties for it association with the rule of Qin and it was vilified by Confucian scholars who had face severe persecution under that dynasty.