Two Confucian Thinkers: Mencius And Xunzi

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In this paper I will be discussing two Confucius thinkers, Mencius and Xunzi. These ancient Chinese writers have several similarities and differences. This discussion will touch on their different takes on human nature and ritual, and the similarities in their beliefs about seeking profit. Mencius and Xunzi have opposing views on human nature. Both believe that nurture will make people better, but Mencius believes that humans are innately good, and Xunzi believes that human nature is bad. According to Mencius, every human being is born with four sprouts, which are innate virtue. In order to become more virtuous everyone must nurture their sprouts in order to “fill them out,” which gives one man the ability to care for everyone; however, if these sprouts are not filled out, one cannot even serve his parents (p. 130). These four sprouts are compassion, which leads to benevolence; disdain, which leads to righteousness; deference, which leads to propriety; approval and disapproval, which lead to wisdom (p. 130). Xunzi, on the other hand, says that humans are naturally bad and “lack any inborn guide to right conduct” (p. 256). A heavy emphasis is placed on learning, because according to Xunzi virtue is attained (and bad nature is fixed) through learning, ritual, and nurture (pp. 258-259). Without these rituals and teachings, chaos and violence would arise (p. 298). While Mencius says almost nothing about ritual, Xunzi has clear beliefs and expectations of it. Rather than focusing on ritual, Mencius emphasized the importance of relationships being reciprocal. On pages 152 – 153 he talks about respecting one’s older brother, treating parents as such, and respecting elders. He says these things bring about benevolence and righteousness and “there is nothing else to do but extend these to the world.” Unlike Mencius, Xunzi has a lot to say about ritual. He does not,

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