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Pre-Chin Confucianism III. 29.06.2006. Outline. I. Mencius II. Xunzi. I. Mencius (371-289? B.C.). Believed to be the disciple of Confucius ’ grandson. Born in Warring Period, also lived in a period of political struggle, moral chaos, and intellectual conflicts.

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  • I. Mencius
  • II. Xunzi
i mencius 371 289 b c
I. Mencius (371-289? B.C.)
  • Believed to be the disciple of Confucius’ grandson.
  • Born in Warring Period, also lived in a period of political struggle, moral chaos, and intellectual conflicts.
  • Like Confucius, he traveled around various states to offer advice for rulers for reform. He once served as an official for a few years.
  • He was disappointed and eventually became a professional teacher.
  • Had debates with his contemporaries like Mozi, Yangzhu, Kaozi.
a comparison of the teachings of confucius and mencius
A Comparison of the Teachings of Confucius and Mencius
  • Mencius’ teachings were derived from Confuius.
  • In the central doctrine of the Confucian school, that of human nature, Mencius took a big step forward, and his new theory colored his other doctrines.
  • When Confucius no more than implied that human nature is good, Mencius declared definitely that it is originally good.
the teachings of mencius
The Teachings of Mencius
  • Since man is originally good, it follows:
  • 1. that he possesses the innate knowledge of the good and “innate ability” to do good.
  • 2. that if one “develops his mind to the utmost,” he can “serve Tian” and “fulfill his destiny.”
  • 3. that evil is not inborn but due to man’s own failures and his inability to avoid evil external influences.
  • 4. that serious efforts must be made to recovered our original nature/ original heart-and-mind.
  • 5. that the end of learning is none other than to “seek for the lost mind.”
the teachings of mencius1
The Teachings of Mencius
  • Since human nature is good, love/ren is therefore an inborn moral quality.
  • Mencius insisted that the practice of ren must start with the family, and he bitterly opposed the Mohist doctrine of universal love without discrimination.
  • He advocated ren and yi (“righteous”) together, for him ren was necessary to bind people together and yi was necessary to make distinctions.
  • Confucius was the first one to raise yi to the highest level in moral values.
the teachings of mencius2
The Teachings of Mencius
  • In government, Mencius believed ren and yi were the guiding principles.
  • He strongly advocated “governing with ren”/仁政 (Mencius 1A.1, 5; 2A.5; 3A. 3-4) and he was the first one to use this term.
  • He vigorously opposed yi to utility, advantages and profit.
  • He wanted to overcome the “way of force” by the “kingly way,”/ the way of ren.
the teachings of mencius3
The Teachings of Mencius
  • As ren and yi are inherent in every human’s nature, every individual is “complete in himself.
  • Everyone can become a sage and everyone is equal to everyone else.
the teachings of mencius4
The Teachings of Mencius
  • People are the most important factor in government, and they have the right to revolt.
  • The idea of revolution was not only novel in Mencius, but it also made him the greatest advocate of political democracy in Chinese history.
  • ‘The Shujing [Book of Documents]says, “Tian (“Heaven”) sees as my people see; Tian hears as my people hear”’(M 12.15).
the teachings of mencius5
The Teachings of Mencius
  • Mencius did not deviate from the general direction determined by Confucius.
  • What we have in Mencius is therefore orthodox Confucianism.
the book of mencius
The Book of Mencius
  • alogical and unsystematic.
  • Passages are not long but much longer than that in the Analects.
  • Mainly consists of dialogues between Mencius and various people.
mencius s debate with kaozi
Mencius’s Debate with Kaozi
  • Kaozi, a contemporary philosopher of Mencius, believed that human nature is neither good or evil.
  • (M 11.2) Kaozi said, “Human nature is like whirling water. Give it an outlet in the east and it will flow east; give it an outlet in the west and it will flow west. Human nature does not show any preference for either good or bad just as water does not show any preference for either for east or west…
  • “It certainly is the case,” said Mencius, “that water does not show any preference for either east or west, but does it show the same indifference to high and low?
mencius s debate with kaozi1
Mencius’s Debate with Kaozi
  • (M 11.2)…Human nature is good just as water seeks low ground. There is no man who is not good; there is no water that does not flow downwards…
  • …“Now in the case of water, by splashing it one can make it shoot up higher than one’s forehead, and by forcing it one can make it stay on a hill. How can that be the nature of water? It is the circumstances being what they are. That man can be made bad shows that his nature is no different from that of water in this respect.”
passages from mencius
Passages from Mencius
  • (M 3.6) Mencius said, “No man is devoid of a heart sensitive to the suffering of others. Such a sensitive heart was possessed by the Former Kings and this manifest itself in compassionate government. With such a sensitive heart behind compassionate government, it was as easy to rule the Empire as rolling it on your palm…
passages from mencius1
Passages from Mencius
  • (M 3.6)…”My reason for saying that no man is devoid of a heart sensitive to the suffering of others is this. Suppose a man were, all of a sudden, to see a young child on the verge of falling into a well. He would certainly be moved to compassion, not because he wanted to get in the good graces of the parents, nor because he wished to win the praise of his fellow villagers or friends, nor yet because he disliked the cry of the child…
passages from mencius2
Passages from Mencius
  • (M3.6) …The heart of compassion is the germ of ren; the heart of shame, of yi; the heart of courtesy and modesty, of observance of li; the heart of right and wrong, of wisdom/zhi.
passages from mencius3
Passages from Mencius
  • (M 3.6) …Man has these four germs as he has four limbs. For a man possessing these four germs to deny his potentialities is for him to cripple himself… If a man is able to develop all these four germs that he possesses, it will be like a fire starting up or a spring coming through. When these are fully developed, he can tend the whole realm within the Four Seas, but if he failed to develop them, he will not be able even to serve his parents.”

---Almost all later Confucianists have accepted the Four Germs

passages from mencius4
Passages from Mencius
  • Efforts would be needed to recover our original heart-and mind (good nature).
  • (M 11.8) Mencius said, “There was a time when the trees were luxuriant on the Ox Mountain, but as it is on the outskirts of a great metropolis, the threes are constantly lopped by axes… People, seeing only its baldness, tend to think that it never had any trees. But can this possibly be the nature of a mountain?
passages from mencius5
Passages from Mencius
  • (M 11.8)… Can what is in man be completely lack in moral inclinations? A man’s letting go his heart is like the case of the trees and the axes… Hence, given the right nourishment there is nothing that will not grow, while deprived of it there is nothing that will not wither away…
passages from mencius6
Passages from Mencius
  • (M 11.10) Mencius said, “Fish is what I want; bear’s palm is also what I want. If I cannot have both, I would rather take bear’s palm than fish. Life is what I want; yi is also what I want. If I cannot have both, I would choose yi rather than life…On the one hand, though life is what I want, there is something I want more than life. That is why I do not cling to life at all costs. On the other hand, though death is what I loathe, there is something I loathe more than death. That is why there are troubles I do not avoid…
passages from mencius7
Passages from Mencius
  • (M 11.10)… If there is nothing a man wants more than life, then why should he have scruples about any means, so long as it will serve to keep him alive? If there is nothing a man loathes more than death, then why should he have scruples about any means, so long as it shows him the way to avoid trouble?
  • Yet there are ways of remaining alive and ways of avoiding death to which a man will not resort. In other words, there are things a man wants more than life and there are also things he loathes more than death. This is no attitude not confined to the moral man but common to all men. The moral man simply never loses it…
passages from mencius8
Passages from Mencius
  • (M 11.10)… Here is a basketful of rice and a bowlful of soup. Getting them will mean life; not getting them will mean death. When these are given with abuse, even a wayfarer will not accept them; when these are given after being trampled upon, even a beggar would not accept them.
passages from mencius9
Passages from Mencius
  • Yet when it comes to ten thousand bushels of grain one is supposed to accept without asking if it is in accordance with li or if it is yi to do so. What benefit are ten thousand bushels of grain to me? Do I accept them for the sake of beautiful houses, the enjoyment of wives and concubines, or for the sake of the gratitude my needy acquaintances will show me?...
passages from mencius10
Passages from Mencius
  • (M 11.10)… What I would not accept in the first instance when it was a matter of life and death I now accept for the sake of beautiful houses; what I would not accept when it was a matter of life and death I now accept for the enjoyment of wives and concubines; what I would not accept when it was a matter of life and death I now accept for the sake of gratitude my needy acquaintances will show me. Is there no way of putting a stop to this? This way of thinking is known as losing one’s original heart-and mind.”
passages from mencius11
Passages from Mencius
  • (M 8.19) Mencius said, “Slight is the difference between man and the brutes. The common man loses this distinguishing feature, while junzi retains it. King Shun understood the way of things and had a keen insight into human relationships. He followed the path of ren and yi.”
passages from mencius12
Passages from Mencius
  • (M 11.15) Gongduzi said, “We are all human beings. Why is that some men become great and others become small?”
  • Mencius said, “Those who follow the greatest qualities in their nature become great men and those who follow the smaller qualities in their nature become small men.”
  • “But we are all human beings. Why is it that some follow their greater qualities and others follow their smaller qualities?”
passages from mencius13
Passages from Mencius
  • (M 11.15)… Mencius replied, “When our senses of sight and hearing are used without thought and are thereby obscured by material things, the material things act on the material senses and lead them astray. That is all. The function of the mind is think. If we think, we will not get them. If we do not think, we will not get them. This is Tian has given to us. If we first build up the nobler part of our nature, the inferior part cannot overcome it. It is simply this that makes a man great.”
ii xunzi hsun tuz 298 238 b c
II. Xunzi/ Hsun Tuz (298-238 B.C.)
  • He was a native of Chao (modern Shanzi in North China).
  • When he was fifty he traveled to Chi (Shantung), where scholars congregated at the time. He was the most eminent of them.
  • Eventually some people slandered him, and he went to Chu, where he became a magistrate.
  • He later lost his position but stayed there and taught till he died.
ii xunzi hsun tuz 298 238 b c1
II. Xunzi/ Hsun Tuz (298-238 B.C.)
  • He was contemporaneous with Mencius but there is no evidence that the two ever met.
  • Unlike the Book of Mencius, which consists of dialogues, his works are made up of self-contained essays on various subjects.
ii xunzi hsun tuz
II. Xunzi/ Hsun Tuz
  • Mencius: “idealistic Confucianism”
  • Xunzi: “naturalistic Confucianism”
  • Mencius and Xunzi represent the 2 divergent tendencies in Confucianism.
  • Confucius: “Men are close to one another by nature. They drift apart through behavior that is constantly repeated” (A 17.2)

- that is, all men were alike in nature but become difference concerning practice. Confucius does not deliberately discuss whether human nature is good or evil.

ii xunzi
II. Xunzi
  • Mencius: the original good nature of man
  • Xunzi: the original evil nature of man
  • Xunzi: Thus, it is necessary to control the original evil nature through external law and rules of ritual propriety (li).
  • Similarity between Mencius and Xunzi: the capacity for an individual to become a junzi, the idea of ren and yi, in kindly government, and in education.
ii xunzi1
II. Xunzi
  • Xunzi exerted far greater influence up through the Han Dynasty (206B.C.-220A.D.) than did Mencius.
  • In his naturalistic interpretation of Tian, he came close to Daoism.
  • In his advocation of control, he contributed to the authoritarianism that resulted in the dictatorship of the Chin (221-206B.C.)—as the two most important ministers of Chin/ Legalists, Han Feizi and Li Su, were his pupils.
ii xunzi2
II. Xunzi
  • After Han Dynasty, he was largely neglected until the 19th century.
  • Mencius rather that he was regarded as in the direct line of transmission from Confucius.
  • No commentaries were written on Xunzi’s work until the 9th century and very few since then.
  • Xunzi’s work was not elevated to the position of a Confucian Classic.
ii 1 xunzi s teachings
II.1 Xunzi’s Teachings
  • 1. Xunzi’s tian
  • “Tian operates with constant regularity. It does not exist for the sake of Sage Yao nor does it cease to exist because of (wicked king) Chieh…If dao is cultivated with deviation, then Tian cannot cause misfortune. Therefore flood and drought cannot cause a famine… But if the foundations of living are neglected and used extravagantly, then Tian cannot make the country rich… (Xunzi ch.17)
  • Comment: Xunzi’s tian is purely Nature so that the word can be understood as nature, rather than purposive. Though Xunzi accepted the daoistic naturalistic view, he is not influenced by their intuitionism and mysticism. In Xunzi, we have rationalism and empiricism.
ii 1 xunzi s teachings1
II.1 Xunzi’s Teachings
  • 2. Emphasis Wisdom (zhi)
  • “The sage does not seek to know tian…The sage purifies his natural ruler (heart-and-mind control the five organs), sufficiently provides for his natural nourishment, follows the natural government, and nourishes his natural feelings so as to bring to completion the work of Tian. In this way he knows what to do and what not to do…”(Xunzi ch.17)
ii 1 2 emphasis wisdom zhi
II.1.2. Emphasis Wisdom (zhi)
  • Comment: Most Confucianists either emphasizes ren and wisdom equally or stressed ren. Xunzi, yet emphasizes wisdom. Obviously, inborn ren has no room in his theory of the innate evil nature of man. As an acquired virtue (de), ren is valued. But being a tough-mined realist, he relies on wisdom (zhi) rather than such as idealistic quality as ren.
ii 1 3 exclusion of supernatural power
II.1.3. Exclusion of Supernatural Power
  • The influence of supernatural forces over man is completely ruled out by Xunzi. What he called spirit is but conscious change and evolution. To him, in religious sacrifice, whether there are really spiritual beings to receive them does not matter.
  • The important thing is one’s attitude, especially sincerity, in the performance.Thus sacrifices are “ornaments,” or refined manifestation of an inner attitude.
  • His attitude is close to Confucius’.
ii 1 4 control of nature
II.1.4 Control of Nature
  • “Instead of regarding Tian as great and admiring it, why not foster it as a thing and regulate it?...Instead of looking on the seasons and waiting for them, why not respond to them and make use of them? Instead of letting things multiply by themselves, why not exercise your ability to transform them? Instead of thinking about things as things, why not attend to them so you won’t lose them? Instead of admiring how things come into being, why not do something to bring them to full development?” (Xunzi ch.17)
ii 1 4 control of nature1
II.1.4 Control of Nature
  • “Therefore to neglect human effort and admire tian is to miss the nature of things.”
  • Comment: Nowhere else in the history of Chinese thought is the idea of controlling nature so definite and strong. It is a pity that this did not lead to a development of natural science. Though Xunzi enjoyed great prestige in Han Dynasty, his theory of overcoming nature was not strong enough to compete with the doctrine of harmony of man and nature, which both Confucianism and Daoism promoted.
ii 1 5 rectification of names zhengming
II.1.5 Rectification of Names (zhengming)
  • “Names have no correctness of their own. The correctness is given by convention. When the convention is established and the custom is formed, they are called correct names” (X ch.22)
  • E.g. when someone becomes a King and he is widely accepted as a king, then his name of being a King becomes correct.
ii 1 5 rectification of names zhengming1
II.1.5 Rectification of Names (zhengming)
  • Comment: The rectification of names was a common topic among ancient Chinese thoughts. Yet only in Xunzi, did it develop into some sort o systematic logical theory. Whereas in other schools the interest is chiefly social or moral, in Xunzi it is predominantly logical. This is the nearest approach to logic in ancient Chinese philosophy.
ii 1 6 the nature of man is evil
II.1.6 The Nature of Man is Evil
  • “The nature of man is evil; his goodness is the result of his (artificial) activity. Now, man’s inborn nature is seek for gain. If this tendency is followed, strife and rapacity result and deference and compliance disappear. By inborn nature one is envious and hates others. If these tendencies are followed, injury and destruction result and loyalty and faithfulness disappear. By inborn nature one possesses the desires of eye and ear and likes sound and beauty. If these tendencies are followed, lewdness and licentiousness result, and the pattern and order of propriety and…
ii 1 6 the nature of man is evil1
II.1.6 The Nature of Man is Evil
  • “righteousness disappear. Therefore to follow man’s nature and feelings will inevitably result in strife and rapacity, combine with rebellion and disorder, and end in violence. Therefore there must be the civilizing influence of teachers and laws and the guidance of propriety and righteousness, and then it will result in deference and compliance, combine with pattern and order, and end in discipline. It is clear that the nature of man is evil and that his goodness is the result of activity.” (Xunzi ch.23)
ii 1 6 the nature of man is evil2
II.1.6 The Nature of Man is Evil
  • Comment: In the Xunzi, rules of propriety and law are often spoken of together, giving the impression that, unlike Confucius and Mencius who advocated propriety (li) and ren as control, Xunzi advocated li for external control. Thus rules of li shifted from being a means of personal moral cultivation to one of social control.