Hsun Tzu

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Wendy Swartz
The Nature of Evil

Hsun Tzu's philosophy is built from the idea that human beings are by nature inherently evil, and the good they produce will only come through their conscious activity. Hsun Tzu believes that if man follows his nature and indulges in his natural desires, without transforming himself by conscious activity he is doomed to fall victim to his evil nature. "Any man who follows his nature will inevitably become involved in wrangling and strife, will violate the forms and rules of society, and will end as a criminal." Despite the pessimistic tone of Hsun Tzu's message he does propose conscious activity as a solution to man's evil. This paper will examine Hsun Tzu's perspective in light of both Mencius and Lao Tzu, and the path it proposes for man to raise from his evil nature and become good.

Starting at the foundation of Hsun Tzu's message we accept that humans are inherently bad, incomplete, and weak. After accepting the imperfect nature of man, we see why man must become a student before he will rise from his evil nature. Learning is defined as the unconditional good for man, because with every lesson learned man is controlled less by his passions. Hsun Tzu warns that to forsake learning "is to become a beast" (18). The extensive self-improvement effort, which Hsun Tzu refers to as "conscious activity" is the pathway for man to overcome his evil nature and embrace his good (158). This self-improvement (which includes learning) is defined as the ideal action, because as Hsun Tzu teaches "There is no greater godliness than to transform yourself" (16). In his view, such a transformation requires an aspiration to perfection and completeness. He held absolute esteem for "completeness and purity"(22) and held such a strict definition of completeness that he believed "he who misses one shot in a hundred cannot be called a really good archer" (22). Hsun Tzu makes an important distinction as to why "conscious activity"...
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