The Differences in Views About Human Nature - Mencius and Xunzi

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The two Confucians Mencius and Xunzi held opposing views about human nature. Mencius believed that human nature is good. Every person is born instilled with four main virtues; Righteousness, Ritual property, Wisdom and Benevolence. These virtues will only develop fully if it is nurtured and put to effect appropriately. He also claimed that those who are not virtuous have been “corrupted by the environment” . He believes that “Individual effort was needed to cultivate oneself, but one’s natural tendencies were good to begin with.” In this way, Mencius has integrated elements of Taoism into his theory. Basically, people are born well with good intentions, but they must work to maintain their good nature. Mencius says, “Every person has a heart-mind which feels for others” . He applies this to a famous example – if one witnessed a child falling into a well, it is not possible to not feel anything. Every person has the heart-mind that would be shocked and sympathetic, which may become the motivation to act and save the child. It would not be for the sake on being on good terms with the child’s parents, or be praised by the neighbors . However, if one listens to their senses of desire, “I don’t want to be involved” or “If I try to save the child, I might injure myself in the process”, then they would stop themselves from helping. It is important to point out that Mencius did not mention anything about how ones responding “act”, and that it is having the “feeling” that counts. On the other hand, Xunzi believed that human nature is bad. Nobody is born with principles accustomed in their nature. For that reason, people must be educated and cultivated in ethics to become good.

"Human nature is evil, and goodness is caused by intentional activity."

“A person is born with feelings of envy and hate. If he gives way to them, they will lead him to violence and crime, and any sense of loyalty and good faith will be abandoned.” However, he also believed that,...
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