Theorists and Philosophers for Law Enforcement Ethics Training: Confucius

    To see what is right, and not to do it, is want of courage or of principle.


    From humble beginnings, Confucius became a teacher, philosopher, and political theorist. He believed
    education was a process of constant self-improvement and held that its primary function was the training
    of noblemen. He said that public service was the natural consequence of education and sought to
    improve Chinese social institutions. Confucius served in various government posts, including minister of
    justice. (1) His beliefs are recorded in the Lunyu (Analects).

    The analects of Confucius provide important insight into Chinese philosophy of the era. Contemporary
    law enforcement ethics instructors sometimes use the works of Confucius in their teachings. The
    analects are replete with commentary on justice and ethics. Selected excerpts are provided below.

    - Gentlemen cherish worth; the vulgar cherish dirt. Gentlemen trust in justice; the vulgar trust in
    favor. (2)

    - Meet evil with justice: meet good with good. (ibid.)

    - Do not do unto others what thou wouldst not they should do unto thee. (ibid.)

    - When anger rises, think of the consequences. (3)

    - He who exercises government by means of his virtue may be compared to the north polar star,
    which keeps its place and all the stars turn towards it. (ibid.)

    - Hold faithfulness and sincerity as first principles. (ibid.)

    - The firm, the enduring, the simple, and the modest are near to virtue. (ibid.)

    - The man of virtue makes the difficulty to be overcome his first business, and success only a
    subsequent consideration. (ibid.)

    - The superior man...does not set his mind either for anything, or against anything; what is right
    he will follow. (ibid.)

    - There are three things which the superior man guards against. In youth...lust. When he is
    strong...quarrelsomeness. When he is old...covetousness. (ibid.)

    - To be able to practice five things everywhere under heaven constitutes perfect virtue...
    [They are] gravity, generosity of soul, sincerity, earnestness, and kindness. (ibid.)

    - Virtue is more to man than either water or fire. I have seen men die from treading on water and
    fire, but I have never seen a man die from treading the course of virtue. (ibid.)

    - With coarse rice to eat, with water to drink, and my bended arm for a pillow - I have still joy in
    the midst of these things. Riches and honors acquired by unrighteousness are to me as a floating
    cloud. (ibid.)

    - Without an acquaintance with the rules of propriety, it is impossible for the character to be
    established. (ibid.)


    (1) Confucius, Yahoo! Reference: The Britannica Concise, Merriam-Webster, Inc. and Encyclopaedia
    Britannica,Inc. (2000), Retrieved May 12, 2003 from

    (2) The Sayings of Confucius. Vol. XLIV, Part 1. The Harvard Classics. New York: P.F. Collier & Son, 1909?
    14;, 2001. Retrieved May 12, 2003 from

    (3) Confucius, The Quotations Page,, Retrieved May 12, 2002 from

    Purchase the book:
    Kardasz, F. (2008). Ethics training for law enforcement: Practices and trends.
    Saarbrücken, Germany: VDM Verlag.
    ISBN: 3639001567. ISBN-13: 9783639001563.
    Available from

Ethics Training for Law Enforcement