Differentiate Mencius and Confucius Class in Human Nature

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THE THEORY OF CONFUCIUS ON HUMAN NATURE
Confucius' view on human nature was not clearly and distinctly supplied in the Analects. It is no surprise that one of his disciples complained that "one cannot get to hear his view on human nature" (A, 5:13).1 In two passages of the Analects, Confucius classified men as belonging to three groups: "upper, middle and lower," but as this classification was made according to man's "learning ability" it had nothing to do with the common nature of man.2 Another two passages expressed more directly Confucius' opinion in this respect. THE THEORY OF CONFUCIUS ON HUMAN NATURE

Confucius' view on human nature was not clearly and distinctly supplied in the Analects. It is no surprise that one of his disciples complained that "one cannot get to hear his view on human nature" (A, 5:13).1 In two passages of the Analects, Confucius classified men as belonging to three groups: "upper, middle and lower," but as this classification was made according to man's "learning ability" it had nothing to do with the common nature of man.2 Another two passages expressed more directly Confucius' opinion in this respect. On the basis of Confucius' teachings, Mencius and Hsün-tzu developed philosophies which sometimes were considered mutually complementary. As regards the theory of human nature, however, Mencius and Hsün-tzu obviously held incompatible views. The following discussion will try to show that Mencius' theory of "human nature as good" is in fact a theory of "human heart as good," and Hsün-tzu's theory of "human nature as evil" is actually a theory of "human desire as evil." These two theories are not necessarily contradictory, since they share the same underlying idea that human nature tends toward goodness. To clarify this point, we will lay more stress on the works of Mencius and the Chung-yung which directly elaborated on this idea than on those of Hsün-tzu and the I-chuan which accepted this idea in an implicit way. Mencius

Etymologically, human "nature" (hsing) comes from "birth" or "to be born with" (sheng). The common understanding of this word in ancient China can be formulated as follows: "The inborn is what is meant by nature" (M, VI, A, 3).5 However, this consideration of the origin of nature exhibits only what a thing has rather than what a thing is: it expresses at most the sameness rather than the difference of all things. In order to determine what a thing is, it is necessary to know its essence: the genus plus the difference of species. This rule, made familiar by Aristotle, was true also for Mencius. First, Mencius was quite aware that in dealing with anything of the same kind, we must determine what this "same kind" means, and this is even more true when applied to man. Mencius said, "Now, things of the same kind are all alike. Why should we have doubts when it comes to man? The sage and I are of the same kind" (M, VI, A, 7). The wicked, however, also belong to the same kind. Thus, in determining the essence of human beings, we should find the difference of species. Mencius said, Slight is the difference between man and the brutes. The common man loses this distinguishing feature, while the gentleman retains it. Shun understood the way of things and had a keen insight into human relations. He followed the path of benevolence and righteousness. He did not need to pursue benevolence and righteousness (M, IV, B,19). Clearly, the essence or the distinguishing feature of man must be understood through the "slight difference" between man and the brutes. The statement about Shun is an example that benevolence and righteousness are the interior path of man, following which will have a great effect. The implication of this whole sentence is probably that benevolence and righteousness belong to the "slight difference."6 Another paragraph will also help clarify the distinguishing feature of man. "A gentleman differs from other men in what he retains in his heart--namely, benevolence...
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