mencius human nature

Mencius is famous for claiming that human nature (renxing) is good. Mencius believed that human nature was intrinsically benevolent. Email: Jeffrey_Richey@berea.edu What is human nature? Is human nature good or bad? Lau, D. C. “On Mencius’ Use of the Method of Analogy in Argument.” In Lau, trans., Munro, Donald J. Mencius's teachings have been preserved in a book titled Meng-tzu,a seven-chapter work of anecdotes most likely collected by his disciples. Finally, the last book, VII, deals with issues of fate, destiny, and death. Don’t waste time! Do not think it strange, Your Majesty. When he was put in charge of affairs, the affairs were in order and the people satisfied with him, which is the people accepting him. And when you understand your nature, you understand Heaven. Mencius Views on Human Nature. Detailed discussion of Mencius’ key interpreters is best reserved for an article on Confucian philosophy. He will say, “My uncle. Can human nature be good even if the world contains some notably bad people? He was believed to have similar view to the philosopher Confucius, and he had a strong view on human nature. In many ways, he played the role of St. Paul to Confucius’ Jesus, interpreting the thought of the master for subsequent ages while simultaneously impressing Confucius’ ideas with his own philosophical stamp. If anyone having the four sprouts within himself knows how to develop them to the full, it is like fire catching alight, or a spring as it first bursts through. For Mencius, the locus of philosophical activity and self-cultivation is the xin (hsin), a term that denotes both the chief organ of the circulatory system and the organ of thought, and hence is translated here and in many other sources as “heart-mind.” Mencius’ views of the divine, political organization, human nature, and the path toward personal development all start and end in the heart-mind. The philological controversy surrounding the date and composition of the text that bears his name is far less intense than that which surrounds the Confucian Analects, however. Foster your mind, nurture your nature – then you are serving Heaven. Mencius (Mengzi, or Meng Ke) was a particularly powerful advocate for the thought of Confucius. By the time of Mencius, the concept of Tian appears to have changed slightly, taking on aspects of “fate” and “nature” as well as “deity.” For Confucius, Tian provided personal support and sanction for his sense of historical mission, while at the same time prompting Job-like anxiety during moments of ill fortune in which Tian seemed to have abandoned him. (See Romanization systems for Chinese terms.) Having heard of and seen the many negative actions of humans I believe that human nature is inherently bad. In short, here is where Mencius’ case for human nature seems to leave philosophy and reasoned argumentation behind and step into the world of ineffability and religious experience. (5A5). 2, Human nature is good onfucius didn’t say that human nature is good, but the idea was implied in his teachings. The mind of conciliation is the driving force of propriety. Drawing humanity and right from human nature is like making cups and bowls from willow wood." Hence winning the favor of the common people you become Emperor…. Zhang Zai’s interest in qi as the unifier of all things surely must have been stimulated by Mencius’ theories, while Wang Yangming’s search for li (cosmic order or principle) in the heart-mind evokes Mencius 6A7: “What do all heart-minds have in common? Mencius was born in a period of Chinese history known as the Warring States (403-221 BCE), during which various states competed violently against one another for mastery of all of China, which once was unified under the Zhou dynasty until its collapse, for all intents and purposes, in 771 BCE. But as it happens, shifts in external circumstances can effect changes in status; one’s younger brother can temporarily assume the status of a very senior ancestor in the proper ritual context, thus earning the respect ordinarily given to seniors and never shown to juniors. Heaven gave it [the state] to him; human beings gave it to him. – we can not only avert the suffering of a few children in some wells, but also bring about peace and justice in the entire world. Nonetheless, an outline of the most important commentators and their philosophical trajectories is worth including here. The primary function of Mencius’ moral psychology is to explain how moral failure is possible and how it can be avoided. Although Dai Zhen shares Mencius’ view of the centrality of the heart-mind in moral development, in the end, he does not ascribe to the heart-mind the same kind of ethical directionality that Mencius finds there. Does one then violate a human being’s nature by training him to be good? It is possible to make people bad, just as it is possible to make water flow up – but neither is a natural process or end. Every person is born instilled with four main virtues; Righteousness, Ritual property, Wisdom and Benevolence. While faint glimpses of what may be ascetic and meditative disciplines sometimes appear in the Analects, nowhere in the text are there detailed discussions of nurturing one’s qi such as can be found in Mencius 2A2. (1A6). Like Confucius, he says that “Tian does not speak – it simply reveals through deeds and affairs” (5A5). Most of the anecdotes consist of conversations between Mencius and his disciples or, occasionally, a ruler. His basic philosophy, if it can be called that, is an extreme idealism which views human nature as basically good and evil as only an obfuscation of one's innate goodness. to moral goodness. If you let it out on the west side, it The mind of mortification is the driving force of righteousness. Mencius (372 – 289 BC) was a Chinese sage who developed a tradition of Confucianism based around the belief that human nature was essentially good but needed to careful nurturing. Whereas Mencius claims that human beings are originally good but argues for the necessity of self-cultivation, Xunzi claims that human beings are originally bad but argues that they can be reformed, even perfected, through self-cultivation. The mind of discernment is the driving force of wisdom. Comparing the rightness that manifests itself in filial piety to such visceral activities as eating, drinking, and sexual intercourse, Mencius points out that, just as one’s attraction or repulsion regarding these activities is determined by one’s internal orientation (hunger, thirst, lust), one’s filial behavior is determined by one’s inner attitudes, as the following imaginary dialogue with one of his opponents shows: [Ask the opponent] “Which do you respect, your uncle or your younger brother?” He will say, “My uncle.” “When your younger brother is impersonating an ancestor at a sacrifice, then which do you respect?” He will say, “My younger brother.” You ask him, “What has happened to your respect for your uncle?” He will say, “It is because of the position my younger brother occupies.” (6A5). Hire a Professional to Get Your 100% Plagiarism Free Paper. Mencius’ replies to King Xuan are bracingly direct, in fact, but he can be coy. If there is drought during the seventh and eighth months, the shoots wither, but if dense clouds gather in the sky and a torrent of rain falls, the shoots suddenly revive. While out of office, veteran shi might gather small circles of disciples – young men from shi backgrounds who wished to succeed in public life – and seek audiences with rulers who might give them an opportunity to put their ideas into practice. (2A2). The two Confucians Mencius and Xunzi held opposing views about human nature.Mencius believed that human nature is good. Mencius explains the good and bad life. While it is not clear that Mencius’ views prevailed in early Chinese philosophical circles, they eventually won out after gaining the support of influential medieval commentators and thinkers such as Zhu Xi (Chu Hsi, 1130-1200 CE) and Wang Yangming (1472-1529 CE). The man eating when he is hungry is evidence that human nature does what needs to be done and is not taught, but when the man waits to eat until his elder has eaten (a good act), that is conscious activity and it is taught. Mencius believed that human nature was intrinsically benevolent. Mencius’ office in the state of Qi probably was no more than an honorary title. ” (Mencius, Book VI) These four virtues were applied to all men. This can be backed up when Mencius talks to Kao Tzu about human nature. 35-52. Guided by the examples of ancient sages and the ritual forms and texts they have left behind, one starts to develop one’s heart-mind further by nurturing its qi through habitually doing what is right, cultivating its “sprouts” into virtues, and bringing oneself up and out from the merely human to that which Tian intends for one, which is to become a sage. Mencius proposes various economic plans to his monarchical audiences, but while he insists on particular strategies (such as dividing the land into five-acre settlements planted with mulberry trees), he rejects the notion that one should commit to an action primarily on the grounds that it will benefit one, the state, or anything else. Xunzi believes that human nature is inherently bad. A person has these four driving forces, just the same as he has four limbs. Better known in China as “Master Meng” (Chinese: Mengzi), Mencius was a fourth-century BCE Chinese thinker whose importance in the Confucian tradition is second only to that of Confucius himself. Cultivate yourself well – and patient in that perfection, let it come. As with most reductions of philosophical positions to bumper-sticker slogans, this statement oversimplifies Mencius' position. He does so using examples taken from that quintessentially Confucian arena of human relations, filial piety (xiao). Another view of Mencius is that righteousness is internal rather than external. He was believed to have similar view to the philosopher Confucius, and he had a strong view on human nature. His ideal ruler is the sage-king, such as the legendary Shun, on whose reign both divine sanction and popular approval conferred legitimacy: When he was put in charge of sacrifices, the hundred gods delighted in them which is Heaven accepting him. Let a Professional Writer Help You, © New York Essays 2020. Going further and appealing to reason, Mencius argues: Judging by this, without a heart-mind that sympathizes one is not human; without a heart-mind aware of shame, one is not human; without a heart-mind that defers to others, one is not human; and without a heart-mind that approves and condemns, one is not human. If you let it out on the east side, it will go east. This doctrine of the goodness of human nature on the part of Mencius has become an enduring topic for debate among the Chinese thinkers throughout the ages. (5B9). He proves this by saying when a man is hungry he will eat, but if he is in presence of his elder he will wait to eat until his elder had eaten. He placed great emphasis on the necessity for one to try to recover his original goodness an… Like Mencius, Xunzi claims to interpret Confucius’ thought authentically, but leavens it with his own contributions. As with most reductions of philosophical positions to bumper-sticker slogans, this statement oversimplifies Mencius’ position. By showing how good benevolence will lead you to being as high as a king, against bad benevolence will lead you to a sad and depressed life, shows the reader and listener that good benevolence will always lead to a better life for anyone. Therefore the principles of our nature and the deter­minations of righteousness are agreeable to my mind, just as the flesh of grass and grain-fed animals is agreeable to my mouth.” How Men Differ. Li [cosmic order] and yi [rightness].” Both thinkers also display a bent toward the cosmological and metaphysical which disposes them toward the mysticism of Mencius 2A2, and betrays the influence of Buddhism (of which Mencius knew nothing) and Daoism (of which Mencius indicates little knowledge) on their thought. Mencius believed that people had four virtues that drove their thoughts and actions. There is no reason, of course, why Mencius shouldn’t take this step; as Alan K. L. Chan has pointed out, ethics and spirituality are not mutually exclusive, either in the Mencius or elsewhere. Second, according to Creel's interpretation, Mencius' theory of human nature cannot be wrong because "that it is good" has been made a part of If we tend our sprouts assiduously — through education in the classical texts, formation by ritual propriety, fulfillment of social norms, etc. Mencius develops his argument based on four major components of human nature that are empathy, righteousness, wisdom and propriety (Zhang 103). Therefore, in the view of human nature Mencius and Xunzi differ very much. Mencius said: “Persons who have developed their hearts and minds to the utmost, know … “Trends in the Interpretation of Confucian Religiosity,” in, Bloom, Irene. Every person is born instilled with four main virtues; Righteousness, Ritual property, Wisdom and Benevolence. The Differences in Views About Human Nature - Mencius and Xunzi. In such roles, shi found themselves in and out of office as the fortunes of various patron states ebbed and flowed. Like Confucius, Mencius places an enormous amount of confidence in the capacity of the ordinary person to respond to an extraordinary ruler, so as to put the world in order. (7A36). In book six, section five, Mencius asks Kao Tzu, “Which do you respect, your uncle or your younger brother? Mencius goes further and identifies the four basic qualities of the heart-mind (sympathy, shame, deference, judgment) not only as distinguishing characteristics of human beings – what makes the human being qua human being really human – but also as the “sprouts” (duan) of the four cardinal virtues: A heart-mind that sympathizes is the sprout of co-humanity [ren]; a heart-mind that is aware of shame is the sprout of rightness [yi]; a heart-mind that defers to others is the sprout of ritual propriety [li]; a heart-mind that approves and condemns is the sprout of wisdom [zhi]…. Mencius’ Theory of Human Nature and Weakness of Will—A Commentary on Yujian Z heng ’s Essay Xinyan Jiang 1 Dao volume 18 , pages 611 – 618 ( 2019 ) Cite this article Later interpreters of Mencius’ thought between the Tang and Ming dynasties are often grouped together under the label of “Neo-Confucianism.” This term has no cognate in classical Chinese, but is useful insofar as it unites several thinkers from disparate eras who share common themes and concerns. If after repeated admonishments he still will not listen, they depose him…. Mencius is quoted to say, “Therefore, it can be suggested that without a mind of commiseration is not human, that a person without a mind of mortification is not human, that a person without a mind of conciliation is not human, and that a person without a mind of discernment is not human. Matthew Walker (Yale-NUS College) looks at the views of the early Confucian thinker Mengzi (Mencius). Even so, Mencius and Xunzi agreed that people could become good by adherence to ritual and a discipline of self-improvement. Matthew Walker (Yale-NUS College) looks at the views of the early Confucian thinker Mengzi (Mencius). (2A6). Nature is crucial, but so is nurture. Human nature While Confucius himself did not explicitly focus on the subject of human nature, Mencius asserted the innate goodness of the individual, believing that it was society's influence – its lack of a positive cultivating influence – that caused bad moral character. This cursory review of some important interpreters of Mencius’ thought illustrates a principle that ought to be followed by all who seek to understanding Mencius’ philosophical views: suspicion of the sources. The two best known early interpreters of Mencius’ thought – besides the compilers of the Mencius themselves – are the Warring States philosophers Gaozi (Kao-tzu, 300s BCE) and Xunzi (Hsun-tzu, 310-220 BCE). It also is at this point that Mencius seems to depart most radically from what is known about the historical Confucius’ teachings. He ascribes the virtues of ren (co-humanity), yi (rightness), li (ritual propriety), zhi (wisdom), and sheng (sagehood) to Tian (7B24) and explicitly compares the rule of the moral king to the rule of Tian (5A4). Gaozi, who is known only from the Mencius, evidently knew Mencius personally, but Xunzi knew him only retrospectively. Mencius successfully shows the difference between benevolence in good human nature and benevolence in evil human nature. As the Zhou polity emerged and triumphed over the previous Shang tribal rule, Zhou apologists began to regard their deity, Tian (“Sky” or “Heaven”) as synonymous with Shangdi, the deity of the deposed Shang kings, and explained the decline of Shang and the rise of Zhou as a consequence of a change in Tianming (“the mandate of Heaven”). Mencius inherits from Confucius a set of terms and a series of problems. This can be compared to the views of Confucius on Filial Piety. While Mencius endorses a “right of revolution,” he is no democrat. Human nature is good just as water seeks low ground. A number of current thinkers have focused on Mencius’s views about human nature as a resource for developing Confucian concep-tions of human rights. Therefore, I have a preference more towards Xunzi’s view. ” He will say, “My younger brother. “By fully developing one’s heart-mind, one knows one’s nature, and by knowing one’s nature, one knows Heaven.” (7A1) One cannot help but begin with “a heart-mind that feels for others,” but the journey toward full humanity is hardly complete without having taken any steps beyond one’s birth. Berea College (7B14), When the ruler makes a serious mistake they admonish. In spite of the mystical tone of this passage, however, all that the text really says is that qi can be nurtured through regular acts of “rightness” (yi). “Although man can be made to become bad, his nature remains as it was.” (6A2). The other major source of information about Mencius’ life is the biography found in the Shiji (Records of the Grand Historian) of Sima Qian (c. 145-90 BCE), which states that he was a native of Zou (Tsou), a small state near Confucius’ home state of Lu in the Shandong peninsula of northeastern China. Kwong-loi Shun has pointed out that Dai Zhen’s defense of Mencius actually owes more to Xunzi than to Mencius, particularly in regard to how Dai Zhen sees one’s heart-mind as learning to appreciate li (cosmic order) and yi (rightness), rather than naturally taking pleasure in such things, as Mencius would have it. Mencius explains the moral sense that makes human suffering. If able to develop them, he is able to protect the entire world; if unable, he is unable to serve even his parents. What matters about actions is whether they are moral or not; the question of their benefit or cost is beside the point. Mencius is best known as the teacher for knowledge and wisdom he explains the problems how we work on issues. ” Confucius would agree and disagree with Mencius’ view. More recently, the philosophers Roger Ames and Donald Munro have developed postmodern readings of Mencius that involve contemporary developments such as process thought and evolutionary psychology. For Mencius, this demonstrates that the internal orientation of the agent (e.g., rightness) determines the moral value of given behaviors (e.g., filial piety). He also is thought to have become a minister of the state of Qi (Ch’i), which also was famous as the home of the Jixia (Chi-hsia) Academy. They can be categorized into four groups: Again, as with Confucius, so too with Mencius. All rights reserved, Mencius Views on Human Nature. It is generated by the accumulation of right [yi] – one cannot attain it by sporadic righteousness. ” He will say, “It is because of the position my younger brother occupies. (1B8). Both disagreed with Mencius’ views on human nature. Has Your Majesty noticed rice shoots? Following A. C. Graham, one can see his argument as having three elements: (1) a teleology, (2) a virtue theory, and (3) a moral psychology. The Virtues and Their Cultivation One of Mencius's most influential views was his list of four innate Mencius (Mengzi) well known as Master Meng was a fourth- century BCE Chinese philosopher whose significance in the Confucian tradition is second best to that of Confucius. Thus, theistic justifications for conquest and rulership were present very early in Chinese history. ... Mencius on Human Nature. How about receiving a customized one? If that does happen, the people will go over to him as water tends downwards, in a torrent – who could stop it? Mencius, “H uman Nature is Good ” 2 Gao Zi said: “Human nature is like whirling water. He was believed to have similar view to the philosopher Confucius, and he had a strong view on human nature. Mencius’ basic assertion is that “everyone has a heart-mind which feels for others.” (2A6) As evidence, he makes two appeals: to experience, and to reason. MENCIUS AND XUNZI ON HUMAN NATURE The suggestion that we approach questions of human nature by looking at how development occurs in a normal social environment certainly seems to be in tension with Hobbes and Rousseau, or at least certain Today contemporary philosophical interest in evolutionary psychology and sociobiology has inspired fresh appraisals of Mencius, while recent philological studies question the coherence and authenticity of the text that bears his name. “Someone without a taste for killing will be able to unify it…. Mencius believed that people had four virtues that drove their thoughts and actions. Mencius said, "Can you make cups and bowls from willow wood by following its natural grain or is it only after you have hacked the willow wood that you can make a cup or bowl? Also like Mencius, Xunzi sees li as the key to the cultivation of renxing. It is interesting to note the apparent link between powers of suasion – essential for any itinerant Warring States shi, whether official or teacher – and “flood-like qi.” The goal of Mencian self-cultivation is to bring one’s qi, xin, and yan (words) together in a seamless blend of rightness (yi) and ritual propriety (li). Gaozi’s dialogue with Mencius on human nature can be found in book six of the Mencius, in which both Mencius’ disciples and Gaozi himself question him on his points of disagreement with Gaozi. Challenging the carved wood metaphor, Mencius points out that in carving wood into a cup or bowl, one violates the wood’s nature, which is to become a tree. (Gaozi’s metaphor of carved wood, incidentally, is one of Xunzi’s favorites.) As feudal lords were defeated and disenfranchised in battle and the kings of the various warring states began to rely on appointed administrators rather than vassals to govern their territories, these shi became lordless anachronisms and fell into genteel poverty and itinerancy. U. S. A. Ames, Roger T. “Mencius and a Process Notion of Human Nature,” in, Ames, Roger T. “The Mencian Conception of ren xing: Does It Mean `Human Nature’?” in, Berthrong, John. The Chinese philosopher Mencius is considered the “second sage” in Confucianism, after Confucius. To the extent that Mencius is concerned with justifying the ways of Tian to humanity, he tends to do so without questioning these three assumptions about the nature of Tian, which are rooted deep in the Chinese past, as his views on government, human nature, and self-cultivation will show. In a dialogue with King Xuan of Qi (r. 319-301 BCE), Mencius says: The people are to be valued most, the altars of the grain and the land [traditional symbols of the vitality of the state] next, the ruler least. It is the sort of qi that matches the right [yi] with the Way [Dao]; without these, it starves. View Mencius.Human nature.SEP.docx from ETHICS 101 at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. A helpful passage-by-passage explanation of Mencius 6A1-5 in which Mencius debates Gaozi in order to establish some key arguments for the goodness of human nature and its consequences for morality. If, by uprightness, you nourish it and do not interfere with it, it fills the space between Heaven and Earth. Are You on a Short Deadline? In other words, Wu was morally justified in executing Zhou, because Zhou had proven himself to be unworthy of the throne through his offenses against ren and yi – the very qualities associated with the Confucian exemplar (junzi) and his actions. Our writers will create an original "Mencius and Others on Human Nature" essay for you Create […] When that happens, who could stop it? A Flair for the Dramatic/Selfish Machines by Pierce the Veil. Like the historical Confucius, the historical Mencius is available only through a text that, in its complete form at least, postdates his traditional lifetime (372-289 BCE). Here, Mencius reveals his antipathy for – and competition with – philosophers who followed Mozi, a fifth-century BCE contemporary of Confucius who propounded a utilitarian theory of value based on li (benefit): Why must Your Majesty say “benefit” [li]? “Mencius, Xunzi, and Dai Zhen: A Study of the, Taylor, Rodney L. “The Religious Character of the Confucian Tradition.”. Thus, a new role for shi as itinerant antiquarians emerged. Through deeds and affairs ” ( Mencius, like Confucius, and he had a strong view on human is. Your mind, nurture your nature, ” in, Bloom, Irene in Chinese history and out of as. 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