Chinese Mencius And Xunzi On Human Nature Essay Essay

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Mencius and Xunzi both follow Confucian doctrine yet have a dramatically different apprehension of human nature. Additionally. the two philosophers make their statements in strikingly different literary methods. Mencius believes that the “goodness of human nature is like the downward class of water” ( 147 ) in that people are of course inclined to be good. and he makes this statement through conversations among friends and public figures. In contrast. Xunzi stanchly argues that “Human nature is evil” ( 179 ) and through essays claims that human nature’s merely “goodness derives from the witting activity” ( 179 ) .

The two philosophers both use many metaphors to explicate their ain reading of human nature in different ways. By researching the doctrines of these two great Confucian minds. one better understands the battalion of ways human nature can be explained in Confucianism throughout Chinese history. As the “single most influential subscriber to a position of human nature in Confucianized East Asia” ( 116 ) . Mencius’ doctrine is cardinal. Mencius argues that human nature is good. and “ru” instructions furthered natural inclinations. To explicate the natural goodness of human nature Mencius shows that “the goodness of human nature is like the downward class of H2O. ”

By this he claims. “there is no human being missing in the inclination to make good. merely as there is no H2O missing in the inclination to flux downward” ( 147 ) . Furthermore he counters the claim that H2O can be manipulated to travel many waies by apologizing that. “while people can be made to make what is non good. what happens to their nature is like this” ( 147 ) . Overall. this metaphor is used to demo that without use or outside forces. people of course want to make good things. 1 Additionally. Mencius asserts that the innate cognition and ability. that of the kid. is original and good due to the natural human inclination toward goodness.

He explains that. “what people are able to make without holding learned it is original. good ability. What they know without holding to believe about it is original. good knowledge” ( 156 ) . Furthermore he gives the practical illustration that. “there are no immature kids who do non cognize to love their parents” ( 156 ) . Another metaphor. that of the kid falling into the well. advances the thought that this innate cognition can be found in all people.

Mencius explains that a adult male upon seeing a. “child falling in to a well. his head would ever be filled with alarm”therefore. “all human existences have a head that can non bear to see the agonies of others ( 129 ) . By claiming that a adult male can non assist but experience this dismay of course supports Mencius’ thought that by nature worlds can non bear to see the agony of other. Finally. Mencius uses the illustration of Ox Mountain. which was one time attractively covered in trees but is now au naturel to demo the transmutation of the outward visual aspect of human nature. Upon seeing. “this barrenness. people suppose that the mountain was ne’er wooded. But how could this be the nature of the mountain? ” ( 151 ) .

He asks. By this Mencius illustrates that one might say that a adult male ne’er had the capacity for goodness merely because he does non now follow the Way. nevertheless merely as is the mountains nature to be wooded. it is man’s nature to be good. In contrast to Mencius optimistic ideas on human nature. Xunzi argues that. “human nature is evil ; its goodness derives from the witting activity” ( 179 ) . By this Xunzi means that human nature tends towards a “fondness for profit…envy and hate… beautiful sights and sounds…” and “following human nature and indulging human emotions will necessarily take to contention and strife” ( 180 ) . Such a inexorable mentality on 2

human nature likely derives from the quavering and violent clip period in which he developed these doctrines. Xunzi’s journeys during the Warring States Period probably had an impact on his pessimistic stance on human nature. However. Xunzi explains that these low homo desires can be and should be controlled and directed by agencies of ritual and instructions. He praises the value of instructors as a manner of practising virtuousness and claims. “one must be transformed by the illustration of a instructor and guided by the manner of ritual and rightness before one will achieve modestly and giving. agreement with polish and ritual. and return to order” ( 180 ) .

Xunzi refutes the thought that ritual and rightness are portion of human nature and alternatively are the consequence of activity through the metaphor of a thrower and carpenter. Xunzi rationalizes. “a thrower may model clay and bring forth an earthen pot. but how could modeling pots of clay be the potter’s nature? A carpenter may carve wood and bring forth utensils but how could carving utensils out of wood be the carpenter’s nature? ” ( 182 ) . In this metaphor Xunzi illustrates how rites are the consequence of witting activity. and these rites “established theoretical accounts and bounds in order to reform and better the human emotional nature” ( 180 ) .

Without such bounds to evil human nature. society would fall into pandemonium. Mencius. in each of his metaphors illustrates how human nature has a inclination to be good. In contrast Xunzi’s metaphors and accounts illustrate his claim that human nature is bad. Although these two minds differ greatly in doctrine. they portion the thought that administration and personal cultivation have a close relationship. Mencius’ belief that human nature is good is related to his thought of proper administration.

Leading by illustration allows people to follow the Way and to be in touch with their true human nature. and hence Heaven. In contrast. Xunzi believes that evil human nature can be curbed and 3 directed through witting activity and ritual so as to let for order in authorities. Finally. the two. as “ru” minds. besides believe in the ability of worlds in general to draw a bead on to higher personal cultivation. Mencius provinces. “if one does what is non good. that is non the mistake of 1s capacities” ( 149 ) and likewise Xunzi besides claims. “The adult male on the street can go a Yu” ( 183 ) significance any adult male on the street has the natural gift needed to understand virtuousness.

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