Mencius and Xunzi

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For centuries, mankind has struggled with the question, "Are we good by nature?" Do we do good deeds only out of selfish desires, or is there a real shred of decency somewhere in our being? Even today, lawyers argue whether a killer's motives for committing atrocious crimes stem from the fact that he has a naturally incompetent tendency, or if outside influences, such as a difficult childhood, turned a naturally innocent person into a murderer. The Chinese philosophers, Mencius and Xunzi, explored this difficulty in their philosophies. While both considered themselves disciples of the philosopher, Confucius, their perspective on humans were different. Mencius had an optimistic view of humans, while Xunzi saw humans as creatures in need of reform. Although today's society will agree with much of Mencius' philosophy, Xunzi has a more accurate view of the modern societal thought.

It is important to note that Mencius and Xunzi acknowledge that humans have both bad or selfish emotions and good emotions. This internal struggle to retain the good emotions and purge the selfish emotions is influenced by the world, which also has good and bad emotions, and by rituals, which must be performed in order to achieve goodness. With the exception of the rituals, which is somewhat archaic in today's society, I agree with this philosophy. Most people believe there is a kind of cosmic balance for our lives, in which all our good emotions are weighed against our selfish emotions, and by accepting good influences and by doing good deeds for society, a modern "ritual", we can tip the balance of our life in a way that the good outweighs the bad. In the Christian belief, which I follow and adhere to, the selfish emotions that can plague our lives are called sin. Sin is dangerous in that if we do not live up to God's standards, we spend our afterlife in the eternal judgment of hell. Nevertheless, society is, and has been, concerned with being good, rather than bad people.

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