The Inherent Nature of Man

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Kerri Devine
Essay on Human Nature
There are two conflicting views on human nature. Chinese scholar Hsun Tzu believed that man’s nature is evil and when man acts “good” it is only the result of what he called “conscious activity.” In the text, he describes conscious activity as “the part [of man] that can be acquired by learning and brought to completion by effort.” In other words, Hsun Tzu believed that man is naturally selfish, and that unless there are rules and principles put in place to guide men away from his natural inclinations, society would disintegrate into chaos and violence. Mencius, another Chinese scholar and fellow student of Confucius, believed the opposite. He thought that human nature is ultimately good and that people learn to be evil from various influences and experiences in their life. After reading both essays, it was extremely difficult for me to decide which author I agreed with. Hsun Tzu’s essay was a direct criticism of the essay written by Mencius and there were some very good examples of why he believed man is evil. However, in the end, my choice was to go with my instinctual belief that human nature is inherently good. If man’s nature were evil, no man would be able to come up with the concepts of rituals and principles. Hsun Tzu tries to refute this is his essay, but I did not think his explanation made sense at all. Based on the two essays I read and my experiences in life in general, it is my opinion that human nature is ultimately good. Wikipedia defines human nature as “the distinguishing characteristics… that humans tend to have naturally, i.e., independently of the influence of culture.” Mencius likened human nature to the nature of water. Human nature is inherently good like water naturally flows downhill. However, human nature can be distorted just like water can be manipulated to behave in a way that is neither normal to it nor expected of it. When Mencius asserts that human nature is good, by “good” he means not that...
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