Mencius' Views on Human Nature

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Caitlin Arnold
Human Nature

Mencius is an ancient philosopher of China around the fourth century B.C. He was believed to have similar view to the philosopher Confucius, and he had a strong view on human nature. Mencius believed that human nature was intrinsically benevolent.

Mencius believed that people had four virtues that drove their thoughts and actions. 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. The mind of commiseration is the driving force of benevolence. The mind of mortification is the driving force of righteousness. The mind of conciliation is the driving force of propriety. The mind of discernment is the driving force of wisdom. A person has these four driving forces, just the same as he has four limbs.” (Mencius, Book VI) These four virtues were applied to all men. Which indicated that Mencius thought no man was born having an inherently bad human nature. This can be backed up when Mencius talks to Kao Tzu about human nature. Kao Tzu thought that humans were like “whirling water,” that they do not show any preference for good nor for bad, just as whirling water does not. Mencius states that, “water does not show any preference for either east or west, but does it show the same indifference to high and low? Human nature is good just as water seeks low ground. There is no man who is not good; there is no water that does not flow downward.” (Mencius, Book IV) From these two examples we can see that Mencius could easily be called an extremist on his view of inherently good human nature.

Another view of Mencius is that righteousness is internal rather than external. This can be compared to the views of Confucius on Filial Piety. In book six, section five, Mencius asks Kao Tzu, “Which do you...
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