Mencius vs Hsun TzuIs man naturally good or is he evil? This question has not only been pondered by countless philosophers, but also by religious leaders around the world.
Most often a single religious faith believes in either one or the other, and often these beliefs tend to create a certain world-view which dictates much of the faith. However, in some cases such as the one I will be discussing, two religious dignitaries do not agree and the repercussions of this can be found throughout the religion. The two men are Mencius, an early pupil of Confucius and Hsun Tzu, a later follower of the same faith. Mencius believed that each man, born of woman, would be naturally good and Hsun Tzu believed almost the complete opposite.
Through Mencius and Hsun Tzu’s differing beliefs on human nature a completely different world view was formed for each and it’s effect on their ideas and more importantly a young religion were apparent. Before venturing into the essay, however, I would like to consider where this religion originated, and the meanings for it’s existence as to better equip us to understand it’s views. Confucianism as a religion was founded by Confucius, a man. It involves no superior beings other than man himself, and deals specifically with the interactions between fellow men. It also specializes on the actions a government (King) should take for it’s people. The religion was founded by Confucian himself, he lived from 551 B.
C. E. to approximately 479 B. C. E.
. He was just a man with an opinion. His opinion sprung from his unhappiness with society and the fall it had taken from what it had been. It had changed to an empire where values were ignored, and the past was just that, the past. He foresaw a proud China with values restored, and humility made once again important.
Confucian’s main ideas were to adapt the good things from the past to the technology of today. The ‘good things’; he speaks of are a government where the King is like a loving father to the people, where the King would protect his people and the people in turn would follow the King. Mencius and Hsun Tzu (Xunzi) were two later teachers of the Confucius ideas, but each had their own twist to what Confucius had started. Not much is known about Mencius or Hsun Tzu, but some basic information stirs around various interpretations of their works.
Mencius was found to be one of the most important pupils of Confucius, he continued his work and added many new outlooks and clarity to some of Confucius’ teachings. Hsun Tzu, on the other hand, was a very well journeyed man. He had been surrounded by war, involved in politics and had a much greater variety of experience than that of Mencius or Confucius. Hsun Tzu came be a few years after Mencius’ death and put a spin on Confucian beliefs and ideas. The difference in their beliefs is where the faith is defined, through the teachings of Mencius and Hsun Tzu a large problem arose. This problem was their views on human nature.
Their differing ideas came to shape Confucianism into what it is today, and their differing world-views can explain a lot about their teachings. When dealing with these two ideas, we must first decipher what is meant by ‘nature’; in the sense that Mencius and Hsun Tzu discuss. They are calling nature all the abilities that man is born with, the instincts which make a man human. Gut feelings, emotions and passions that are instilled in every human being from the moment of their conception. And finally a world-view is, as philosophers would call it, an idea with which other ideas are based.
An idea which influences basic decision making and general way of life of any individual. As Mencius and Hsun Tzu begin their respective teachings, the difference is immediate. It is painfully obvious when reading the two that each has their own view on things, and this world-view, shapes how they approach Confucian ideas. Mencius states ‘No man is devoid of a heart sensitive to the suffering of others. ‘; while Hsun Tzu states just as easily ‘Man’s nature is evil .
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