Mencius
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371-289 BCE “second sage” of Confucianism contemporary of Zhuangzi. Mencius. 孟子. The Internal Confucian Debate on Human Nature. Mengzi / Meng-tzu : humans as moral agents Xunxi / Hsün-tzu : human nature equated with self-interest. Early Chinese Views of Human Nature.

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Mencius

371-289 BCE

“second sage” of Confucianism

contemporary of Zhuangzi

Mencius

孟子


The internal confucian debate on human nature

The Internal Confucian Debate on Human Nature

  • Mengzi / Meng-tzu: humans as moral agents

  • Xunxi / Hsün-tzu: human nature equated with self-interest


Early chinese views of human nature

Early Chinese Views of Human Nature

  • neither good nor evil (Gaozi)

  • equal parts of good and evil (a Han theory)

  • some persons good, some persons evil (Wang Chong)

  • evil (Xunzi)

  • good (Mencius)


Early chinese views of human nature1

Early Chinese Views of Human Nature

  • neither good nor evil (Gaozi)

  • equal parts of good and evil (a Han theory)

  • some persons good, some persons evil (Wang Chong)

  • evil (Xunzi)

  • good (Mencius)


Mencian metaphors find

Mencian Metaphors (find)

  • 6A1

  • 6A2

  • 6A3

  • 6A4

  • 6A7 a

  • 6A7 b

  • 6A8

  • 6A10 a

  • 6A10 b

  • 6A12

  • 6A1 – willow, cups & bowls

  • 6A2 – water

  • 6A3 – white things, dog/ox

  • 6A4 – white things, elders, roasted meat

  • 6A7 a – barley, shoes and baskets

  • 6A7 b – mouths/flavors, ears/sounds

  • 6A8 – trees of Ox Mountain

  • 6A10 a – fish and bear’s paw

  • 6A10 b – food & soup, possessions

  • 6A12 – a finger


The mencian view of human nature

The Mencian View of Human Nature


Mencius

  • Gaozi said, “Human nature is like swirling water. Open a passage to the east, and it flows east. Open a passage to the west, and it flows west. The basic indeterminacy of good and evil in human nature is just like the basic indeterminacy of east and west in the flow of water.” (6.A.2)

    Water flowing west Water flowing east

    Does water flow east “naturally”? What is the analogy to human nature?


Mencius

  • Mencius said, “Water certainly has no particular tendency to flow east or west, but can the same be said of flowing up or down? The basic goodness of human nature is just like the downward flow of water. There is no more a human being utterly lacking in goodness than there is such a thing as water that does not flow downward.

    VI.A.2

Does water flow down “naturally”? What is the analogy to human nature?

Water flowing down Water flowing down


Mencius

Can water flow up? What is the analogy to human nature?

  • “Now, with my hands or my feet I can splash water over my head; by channeling it, I can direct it all the way to the top of a hill. But is this the basic nature of water? No. These results are due to external force. The fact that people can be made to do evil reflects the same violation of their basic nature.” (6.A.2)


Mencius

  • Gaozi said: “Human nature is like a willow tree; righteousness is like cups and bowls. To make human naturebenevolent and righteous is like making a willow tree into cups and bowls.” (6.A.1)

    Human nature Willow tree

    BenevolentCups

    RighteousBowls


Mencius

Human nature Willow tree

BenevolentCups

RighteousBowls

  • Mengzi said: “Can you make cups and bowls from willow wood by following its natural grain or is it only after you have hacked the willow wood that you can make a cup or bowl?”

  • “If you must hack the willow to make cups and bowls from it, must you hack people in order to make them humane and righteous? ”

  • Answer to the question: For Gaozi …. For Mengzi….

  • 6.A.1


Natural goodness

Natural Goodness

  • Humans all have the heart of compassion 惻隱之心.

  • Humans all have the heart of disdain for evil 羞惡之心.

  • Humans all have the heart of respect 恭敬之心.

  • Humans all have the heart of approval and disapproval 是非之心. (6.A.6)

惻隱 cè yǐn Compassion – Concern (Commiseration)

羞惡 xiū è Disdain for evil -- Shame

恭敬 gōng jìng Respect – Yielding (Deference)

是非 shì fēi Approval and disapproval -- Judgment

This is from ch. 6


This heart defines human nature

This “Heart” defines “human nature”

  • “Clearly, one who did not have the heart of concern would be inhuman. One who did not have the heart of shame for wrong-doing would be inhuman. One who did not have the heart which places others before oneself would be inhuman. And one who did not have the heart which distinguishes between right and wrong would be inhuman." (Nadeau translation)

  • “One who lacked a sense of dismay in such a case could simply not be a person. And I could further show that anyone who lacked the moral sense of shame could not be a person; anyone who lacked a moral sense of deference could not be a person; anyone who lacked a moral sense of right and wrong could not be a person.” (Eno translation)

  • (2.A.6)

This is from ch. 2


What do people have in common

What do people have in common?

  • 心之所同然者何也?

  • 謂理也,義也。

  • 聖人先得我心之所同然耳。

  • 故理義之悅我心,猶芻豢之悅我口

  • Mencius (6.A.7 – last paragraph)


Mencius

  • 心之所同然者何也?What is it that hearts prefer in common?

  • 謂理也,義也。

  • 聖人先得我心之所同然耳。

  • 故理義之悅我心,猶芻豢之悅我口


Mencius

  • 心之所同然者何也?

  • 謂理也,義也。 fine patterns … righteousness…

  • 聖人先得我心之所同然耳。

  • 故理義之悅我心,猶芻豢之悅我口


Mencius

  • 心之所同然者何也?

  • 謂理也,義也。 The sages (simply) first discovered

  • 聖人先得我心之所同然耳。 what our hearts have in common

  • 故理義之悅我心,猶芻豢之悅我口


Mencius

  • 心之所同然者何也?

  • 謂理也,義也。

  • 聖人先得我心之所同然耳。

  • 故理義之悅我心,猶芻豢之悅我口 delighting my heart .. my mouth


Mencius

故理義之悅我心,猶芻豢之悅我口

理義之悅我心,猶芻豢之悅我口

“Righteousness and virtue delight my heart just like meat delights my mouth!”

悅 yuè to please(like food, or music, or beauty)

chúhuàn 指牛羊猪狗等


The heart of goodness

The “heart” of goodness

  • Mencius said: “All persons have a heart which cannot bear to see the suffering of others人皆有不忍人之心. The Sage Kings had such a heart, and their governments did not permit the suffering of the people. In ruling the kingdom, if you manifest this heart to implement such a government, you can hold the world in the palm of your hand.

  • “What I mean by saying that ‘all persons have a heart which cannot bear to see the suffering of others’is this:

  • Anyone who suddenly came upon a toddler about to fall into a well would have a heart of alarm and concern今人乍見孺子將入於井,皆有怵惕惻隱之心。And we cannot say that this heart arises from wanting to be favored by the parents 非所以內交於孺子之父母也, or from seeking the praise of one's friends and community非所以要譽於鄉黨朋友也, or from hoping to avoid a reputation for callousness 非惡其聲而然也.

Van Norden: “and not because one would dislike the sound of the child’s cries”


Mencius

  • “Clearly, one who did not have the heart of concern would be inhuman. One who did not have the heart of shame for wrong-doing would be inhuman. One who did not have the heart which places others before oneself would be inhuman. And one who did not have the heart which distinguishes between right and wrong would be inhuman.”

    由是觀之,

    無惻隱之心,非人也;

    無羞惡之心,非人也;

    無辭讓之心,非人也;

    無是非之心,非人也。

    II.A.6 The Sprouts of Virtue

Van Norden:

The heart of compassion

The heart of disdain

The heart of deference

The heart of approval and disapproval


Things people including sages have in common

Things people (including “sages”) have in common

  • Mouths & preference for tasty foods

  • Ears & pleasure in listening

  • Eyes & standards of beauty

  • Concern

  • Shame

  • Yielding

  • Judgment

  • Desiring some things more than life

  • Hating some things more than death

…an “unperturbed mind” (不動心) (2A2)

…and “floodlike qi” (浩然之氣) – which Mengzi is especially good at “cultivating” (2A2) with “righteousness”; without righteousness, it “starves” – yet, in cultivating it, one cannot “force” it (the foolish farmer of Song)


Mencius

性 “生之謂性。”

  • Gaozi said, “Life is what is meant by ‘nature’.”

  • Mengzi said, “Is life what is meant by ‘nature’ the same as white is what is meant by ‘white’?

  • Gaozi said, “It is.”

  • Mengzi said, “Then is the nature of a dog the same as the nature of an ox the same as the nature of a human?

“然則犬之性,猶牛之性;牛之性,猶人之性與?”(6A3)

So for Mengzi, does “life” = “nature”?


The meaning of xing

The meaning of xing (性)

  • 吾生於陵而安於陵,故也;

  • 長於水而安於水,性也

    (Zhuangzi’s swimmer 《達生》)

  • Having been born on land I am at ease on land; that was originally in me.

  • Having grown up in water, I am at ease in water; that is my nature.


Mencius

“Xing is not a superordinate and univocal principle that inheres in all human beings at brith. While there is a givenness to xing as an inherent organizing structure that persons in general develop after conception, it also suggests the dynamic process of becoming human” (p. 189)


Feelings as moral inclinations the four sprouts

feelings as moral inclinations (the “four sprouts”)

  • “The heart of concern is the sprout of ren (benevolence). The heart of shame is the sprout of yi (righteousness). The heart of yielding is the sprout of li (propriety). The heart of judgmentis the sprout of zhi (wisdom).”

  • “Having these four ‘sprouts’ is like having arms and legs. If you say that you cannot act upon them, you are discrediting yourself, just as if you say that a ruler cannot act upon them, you are discrediting his rule. Anyone who has these four sprouts within themselves knows how to develop them and perfect them: they are like the initial spark of a fire, or the first waters of an open spring. If you can perfect them, you will be able to embrace the whole world with your virtue; if you do not perfect them, you will not even be able to serve your own parents.” (2.A.6)

  • the force of these senses will burst through us like a wildfire first catching or a spring first bubbling forth through the ground (Eno translation)

若火之始然,泉之始達


The developmental aspect

The Developmental Aspect

1.concern gives rise to ren (co-humanity)

2. shame gives rise to yi (righteousness)

3. yielding gives rise to li (propriety)

4. judgment gives rise to zhi (wisdom)

惻隱之心 , 仁

羞惡之心 , 義

辭讓之心 , 禮

是非之心 , 智

(Discussing evil kings with Gaozi): “As for their essence, they can become good. This is what I mean by calling their natures good. As for their not becoming good, this is not the fault of their potential.” (6.A.6)

Like planting barley (6A7) – but not pulling it up (2A2)

If it gets nourishment, there is nothing that will not grow 苟得其養,無物不長 (6A8)


Metaphors for in mencius

Metaphors for 性 in Mencius

  • Growing trees and animals

  • Ripening grain

  • Cultivating crops

  • Flowing water

“Strictly speaking, a person is not a sort of being, but first and foremost a doing or making, and only derivatively and retrospectively, something done” (ibid., p. 190)


Human nature is good evil is unnatural

Human nature is good – evil is “unnatural”

Every person has the natural inclination to do good, and this natural inclination is ren (perfect co-humanity)

“What I mean by saying it is good is that there is that in our nature which is spontaneously part of us and can become good. The fact that we can become bad is not a defect in our natural endowment.” (6.A.6. Eno translation)

“As for their essence, they can become good. This is what I mean by calling their natures good. As for their becoming not good, this is not the fault of their potential.” (Van Norden translation)

“To be human (人) is to be co-human (仁)”

乃若其情,則可以為善矣,乃所謂善也。若夫為不善,非才之罪也


So why are some people evil

So, why are some people evil?

  • “In years of plenty, most young men are lazy; in years of poverty, most young men are cruel” (6.A.7)

  • “The trees of Ox Mountain were once beautiful. But because it bordered on a large state, hatchets and axes besieged it. Could it remain verdant?...” (6.A.8)

  • “Those who follow their greater part [the heart] become great humans. Those who follow their petty part [the ears and eyes] become petty humans” (6.A.15)

從其大體[心之官] 為大人,從其小體[耳目之官]為小人


Review

Review

  • What do people have in common? Goodness?

  • If so, then why are some people evil?

  • Following Zhuangzi’s definition of xing (性) (human nature), what does Mengzi mean when he says that “human nature is good”?

  • What was Gaozi’s view, and how does Mengzi’s differ?

end


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