Xunzi Human Nature

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Primary Source Document with Questions (DBQs) SELECTION FROM THE XUNZI: “HUMAN NATURE IS EVIL”

Introduction Xunzi (Xun Qing, or Xun Kuang: c. 310-c. 219 BCE) lived at the very end of the Zhou dynasty. Like Mencius, he was an advocate and interpreter of the teachings of Confucius. Living a generation after Mencius, Xunzi lived through the final, brutal wars which ended with the state of Qin absorbing and unifying all the Chinese feudal states. Xunzi was a widely traveled scholar, teacher, and official.

Document Excerpts with Questions (Longer selection follows this section) From Sources of Chinese Tradition, compiled by Wm. Theodore de Bary and Irene Bloom, 2nd ed., vol. 1 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1999), 179-183. © 1999 Columbia University Press. Reproduced with the permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

Selection
from
the
Xunzi:
 “Human
Nature
Is
Evil”
 
 Human
nature
is
evil:
its
goodness
derives
from
conscious
activity.
Now
it
is
human
nature
to
 be
born
with
a
fondness
for
profit.
Indulging
this
leads
to
contention
and
strife,
and
the
sense
of
 modesty
and
yielding
with
which
one
was
born
disappears.
One
is
born
with
feelings
of
envy
 and
hate,
and,
by
indulging
these,
one
is
led
into
banditry
and
theft,
so
that
the
sense
of
loyalty
 and
good
faith
with
which
he
was
born
disappears.
One
is
born
with
the
desires
of
the
ears
and
 eyes
 and
 with
 a
 fondness
 for
 beautiful
 sights
 and
 sounds,
 and,
 by
 indulging
 these,
 one
 is
 led
 into
 licentiousness
 and
 chaos,
 so
 that
 the
 sense
 of
 ritual,
 rightness,
 refinement,
 and
 principle
 with
 which
 one
 was
 born
 is
 lost.
 Hence,
 following
 human
 nature
 and
 indulging
 human
 emotions
will
inevitably
lead
to
contention
and
strife,
causing
one
to
rebel
against
one’s
proper
 duty,
reduce
principle
to
chaos,
and
revert
to
violence.
Therefore
one
must
be
transformed
by
 the
example
of
a
teacher
and
guided
by
the
way
of
ritual
and
rightness
before
one
will
attain
...
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