After reading Mencius essay “Mans Nature is Good” and Hsun Tzu’s essay “Mans Nature is Evil” It made me realize that men are shaped by experience. People are born with a blank mind with a desire of some knowledge. Much of what we learn affects our behavior. Throughout our life, experiences have been shaping what we are. Both Mencius and Tzu believe the complete opposite, arguing that men are born with a nature of being good or evil. By reading these articles I’ve come to assume that people are born neither good nor evil; instead both of these are obtained through the filling of our mind with experiences and all this together has influenced what we become.
Hsun Tzu’s theory about how human nature is inherently evil and Mencius about how we are good caught my attention, because it made me realize that man can go either way. Even though I don’t agree with either of them entirely, they opened my mind about how nature can turn one way or another. People are not born inherently good because if that’s the case then every society would have to be good and would not bother with problems like violence and other chaotic scenarios. To go into a good pathway, people must be straightened by mentors. Like Tzu uses on his essay “A warp piece of wood must wait until it has been laid against the straightening board, steamed, and forced into shape before it can become straight; a piece of blunt metal must wait until it has been whetted on a grindstone before it can become sharp” (101). Family, schools, and religion are a fair way to obtain this goodness. For example these three sources have taught us since childhood to be respectful. This is the kind of experiences one has to follow in order to be good. Family has taught us to have good manners; therefore they work as our mentors. It is just your choice whether to implement these experiences of being good into your life or to go by the experience you been having with the wrong people.
People aren’t born evil either. Instead people learn this through experience as well. For example traumatic experience and experiencing poor family conditions can make a child into a delinquent. Mencius said that “If you plant the seeds carefully at the same time and in the same place, they’ll all sprout and grow ripe by summer solstice. If they don’t grow the same- it’s because of the inequities in richness of soil, amounts of rainfall, or the care given to them by farmers. And so, all members belonging to a given species of thing are the same” (97). In this metaphor Mencius is trying to say that if you are placed in a different habitat where you learn from the outsiders, you are grown by the influence of them, which in his opinion is evil. I found this to be true but also I want to add that it is not always evil, it can be for the good of somebodies development. Being with the family can be good however sometimes we experience inconsistent parenting or poor parenting where it affects our development. Sometimes people can’t avoid these kinds of experiences but others like being with friends and acting up to their level of immaturity can be avoided. It is up to the experiences you’ve had that will form into what you become. After going through both essays my mind is set into these ideas. People are born with a blank mind but also we can change after what become of us, either it is for the good or for the evil. Peers have much to do with a person’s behavior. As friends you might have the feeling of just fitting in, having to change your manners to feel part of the group. It depends much on our surroundings; this is what triggers our brain to learn from others and development starts operating. Society is an important factor to our development because it is that, what forms our way of living and thinking. People might not like society because they don’t agree with something cultural or religious but whatever the circumstances are they still are triggered by it. At last, my beliefs are now more explained and understood after going through the readings. These articles influenced me to the point that I now believe human nature starts as a blank mind which means we are born without any knowledge and habits. This is when experience comes in. Through our experience with everything around us we become what we are. Our experience since childhood has a great impact in what we are; in other words most of our nature comes from family. Nevertheless, I don’t mean that everyone is shaped from their parents, what I mean is that there are other sources from experience out there that shapes our development (nature). It is your choice to either keep following those experiences, whether the good or the evil, but any how nurture is what will define what you become.
Austin, Michael, ed. Reading the World: Ideas that Matter. New York: Norton. 2010. Print. Mencius “Man’s Nature is Good”. Austin 94-98
Tzu, Hsun “Man’s Nature is Evil”. Austin 100-108