Mencius vs. Hsun Tzu
For the past decades, the concept of human nature has become an increasingly contentious topic and the growing concern of why human beings behave the way they do has focused more attention. A growing number of respected sociologists, psychologists, and scientists have adequately researched on the topic. In this era, Mencius and Hsun Tzu theories about human nature have gained recognition. The two theories have opposing views about human nature. In his theory, Mencius stated that human nature is good. According to him, all people are born with virtues that should be nurtured appropriately to develop fully. These virtues include righteousness, wisdom, and benevolence. However, Xunzi emphasized that human nature is evil and nobody is born with good principles. According to Xunzi, people must be trained or educated to become good since, they are born with a sinful nature that gratify worldly pressures. The purpose of this essay is to highlight the differences and similarities between Mencius and Hsun Tzu on theory about human nature.
Mencius is considered as a great figure in the growth of Confucian thought. In his research about human nature, he concluded that all people are born with a good nature. All people are with good habits, but the environment corrupts their habits and character. With this, Mencius affirmed that human beings must strive to preserve and nurture their innate of goodness. It is undeniable fact that, Mencius argument is both philosophical and religious since it fulfils the distinctive quality of nurturing habits and character. It establishes the need to find moral commitment. Additionally, Mencius based his argument on the political and social effect on morality. He advocated that, a good society should only be sustained and created through political and social leadership of superior men. To Mencius, moral guidance by the government would produce desirable political and social effects (Tonn 90).
In great thoughts, Mencius asserted that human beings are born with good intentions. Every individual has a strong desire to be the best in the nature. Typically, Mencius’s theory rests on the idea that human beings have the ability to develop their character. Despite of growing up and living in a corrupt environment, human beings have the ability to be good. According to Mencius, human beings have inner feelings that dictate how they feel and react to different situations. All human beings have strong convictions within them that distinguish what is evil and good. When human beings nurture their mind, heart, and soul they maintain their nature of being good. However, those who fail to nurture their being become corrupted and engage into harmful habits. Mencius argued that, when morality comes into conflict with self-interest, then the former should give away.
Hsun Tzu is another notable philosopher figure who criticised Mencius argument that human nature is good. Hsun believed that human beings are born wicked or evil. This philosopher is described as a tough-minded figure since he believed that human beings are born with a lustful nature that desires to sin. With this, human beings must refine and curb it by education to become good. Unlike Mencius theory that was a philosophy of religion, Tzu’s argument was a philosophy of culture. Tzu affirmed that the norms and rules of social conducts and political governance govern human beings actions and emotions. In his work, Tzu affirmed that if man nature was good then there would be no need for the government’s leadership and ritual principles. Human beings are selfish to fulfil their sinful and lustful desires (Hamblet 190).
From the above analysis, it is clear that both Tzu and Mencius provided reasonable arguments on human nature. Both philosophers believed that education is paramount in improving human behaviours. Human beings must be educated to cultivate ethics of being good.
The two arguments based their arguments on the ideal that, human beings have instincts or feelings that drive one to behave in a certain way. The two philosophers believed that leadership is paramount in promoting the nature of good. Despite the mentioned similarities, Mencius believed that human beings are by nature good while Tzu believed that human beings are by nature evil. Often, Tzu is often viewed as a traitor of Confucianism since he believed in Authoritarian government.
Conclusively, Mencius is viewed as permissive since he advocated for liberal leadership. Mencius argument is both philosophical and religious, but Tzu’s argument is only philosophical and culture. The two theories have had difference on their belief about feelings. Although Mencius believes that human beings have feelings and instincts that offer a clear guidance on what is evil and good, Tzu rejects this notion and believe that human beings have evil instincts that push them to sin and commit evil deeds. Tzu believed that human beings nature is full of lustful and animal nature. This contradicts Mencius’s thought that human beings are born good, but the environment defiles their character.
Hamblet, Wendy C. Daemon in the Sanctuary: The Enigma of Homespace Violence. New York: Algora Publishing, 2013.Print.
Tonn, Victor L. Systematics and the Economics of Culture. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 2009. Print.