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Mengzi (Meng Tzu; Latinized as Mencius) is one of the world’s great philosophers. He systematically developed and deepened Confucius’ philosophy—especially its ethics and politics in relation to an account of human nature.
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Mengzi (Meng Tzu;Latinized as Mencius)is one of the world’s great philosophers. He systematically developed and deepened Confucius’ philosophy—especially its ethics and politics in relation to an account of human nature.
Rujia 儒家 is the Chinese term referring to the tradition of the erudites or scholars (sometimes called literati) and is called “Confucianism” in the West.
Rujia, Daojia, Mojia and Fajia (legalism) are the four most influential schools of ancient Chinese thought. Fojia (Buddhism) was introduced beginning around 100 CE.
grounded ethics on moral feeling as
cultivated into virtues. Xin心(translated as heart and/or mind) indicates the basic
capacity of our intellectual and affective
being to morally respond and achieve the
fundamental Confucian goal of
humaneness (ren 仁) in accordance with
the way of heaven (tian 天).
(Mencius, Book 2A4).
benevolence of the human heart with a thought-experiment:
if a child fell into a well, then prior to all reflection and calculation of the possible advantage and risk of saving the child, the human heart/mind (xin) is moved to save him
(Mencius, Book 2.1.6).
heart/mind (xin) nexus
(in ancient Chinese thought, the mind is more connected with the heart than the brain) into four innate or intrinsic natural feelings which can be (potentially) cultivated into corresponding moral virtues. Unethical behavior is produced by the lack of proper cultivation, education, and environment.
the feeling of right and wrong and wisdom. Benevolence / compassion (ren 仁),
dutifulness / righteousness (yi 義),
observance of rites / propriety (li 禮),
and wisdom (zhi 智)
are not welded onto me from the outside;
they are in me originally”
In ancient Chinese thought, xing 性(“nature”) is related to notions such as long life, harmony and balance. It does not indicate what must occur but what may or may not depending on circumstances. Xing is understood morally in the ru and cosmologically in other traditions.For Mencius, xing is the possibility of there being ethics at all, since it asserts that humans have the intrinsic capacity to act ethically. They do because they are morally responsive beings. But ethics is not exhausted in xing, it is its cultivation and education into definite directions allowing the individual to be in harmony and balance with his/her world. This establishes a basic Confucian goal—self-cultivation as a socially responsible individual.
The trees of the Niu Mountain were once beautiful. But can the mountain be still regarded as beautiful since, being in the borders of a big state, the trees have been hewed down with axes and hatches? Still with the rest given them by the days and nights and the nourishment provided them by the rains and the dew, they were not without buds and sprouts springing forth. But then the cattle and the sheep pastured upon them once and again. That is why the mountain looks so bald. When people see that it is bald, they think that there was never any timber on this ugly mountain.
How does this example apply to human beings and their goodness / badness?
What other examples does Mengzi provide for the goodness of human nature? Are they convincing?What are the arguments between Mengzi and Gaozi about?
Mengzi is also influential in Chinese political thought because of his emphasize on benevolent and righteous rule as well as his development of the theory of the “mandate of heaven.”
Mengzi insisted that the prince has to act out of the highest benevolence and righteousness in order to secure the happiness and welfare of the people and thus be worthy of ruling in heaven’s name.
The workings of Heaven (tian) are constant. They do not exist on account of a [virtuous] ruler like Yao, nor do they perish on account of an [evil] ruler like Jie. Respond to Heaven with proper government and good fortune will result; respond with disorder and misfortune will result. If [the ruler] diligently applies himself to fundamentals [i.e., agriculture] and is frugal, Heaven cannot make him poor. If [the ruler] provides [his people] with the means to thrive and acts at the proper times, Heaven cannot inflict illness on them. . . .
… But if [the ruler] neglects the fundamentals [i.e., agriculture] and spends lavishly, Heaven cannot make him rich. If he does not provide [his people] with the means to thrive and is slow to act, Heaven cannot make them complete. . . . Do not get angry with Heaven for it is the inevitable, natural result of your own actions. Therefore, he who can distinguish between the activities of Heaven and those of humans is worthy of being called the most advanced sort of person.
The ru or Confucian tradition is noted for its conservativism and yet it justifies overthrowing immoral leaders.How can a tradition be both conservative and revolutionary?Can it be if there is a difference between morality and politics?If yes, what is this difference?
Draft of Commentary on the Analects of Confucius
by Zhu Xi (Kyoto National Museum)
ESSAY THREE Due Next Tuesday! (1) Using at least three examples from our readings, explain why and how Mengzi attempts to ground ru (Confucian) ethics more deeply in an account of human nature and how Xunzi responds to Mengzi’s project.(2) Discuss whether Mengzi or Xunzi’s position better represents a continuation of Kongzi’s ethics and which position appears to be the more convincing one.