Opposing Views

Innate Good

Meng Tzu (or Mencius) was a Chinese philosopher, poet, novelist, and statesman. Today, he is still considered to be the second most important figure in Confucianism, with Confucius himself being the most important. Because Confucius's teachings were vague on the subject of good and evil, there was dissension among his followers about which was correct. Mencius suggested that all men are born good and, that with time and proper training, can become perfect.

Mencius believed that people who are left to their original nature or that follow their gut feelings are able to do good. People are not naturally inclined to do evil. If they do, it's because of their upbringing. He also believed in the "Four Beginnings." The four beginnings are commiseration (sympathy and empathy), shame and dislike, obedience and compliance, and right and wrong. He said that a person without these traits is not really a person at all.

Innate Benevolence

Kao Tzu was another Chinese philosopher who followed the teachings of Confucius. Whereas Mencius claimed that man is born with an inclination to do good, Kao Tzu believed that all of mankind is born morally neutral. His beliefs fell between the difference of nature and morality. He claimed that one was "inner", a person's humanity and humaneness. The other was "outer", which was a person's sense of righteousness and duty.

Kao Tzu claimed that man is born with the biological needs for food and sex, and the instinctual love of family and self-gratifying acts. He also claimed that everything else was a learned behavior based on social standards and societal demands. The former are untaught while the latter are taught.

Innate Evil

The third and final viewpoint on inborn human nature came from yet another Confucian follower. Hsun Tzu's philosophies directly contradicted those of Mencius and had a great effect on the Chinese legal system. Hsun Tzu believed that man's nature is always selfish. He said that every man is born with "feelings of envy and hatred... and with desires of the eyes and ears." He also said that if humans indulge their nature that their lives will be difficult and any who do so will inevitably become a criminal.

Hsun Tzu disagreed with Mencius in saying that man's good acts are results of conscious effort rather than their nature. He claimed that nature is what is given from Heaven and cannot be learned or acquired through effort. This opposed conscious activity, which can be learned and applied through effort.

Hsun Tzu disagreed with Mencius in saying that man's good acts are results of conscious effort rather than their nature. He claimed that nature is what is given from Heaven and cannot be learned or acquired through effort. This opposed conscious activity, which can be learned and applied through effort.

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