Response on Mencius's statement: "Whoever is devoid of the heart of right and wrong is not human."

Essay by swngchpCollege, UndergraduateA-, May 2006

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Mencius (370-330 BC) was a reputable scholar and statesman and traveled throughout China to tutor monarchs in politics. His work, Mencius, is a collection of the conversations he shared with the rulers. The book comprise of discussion on virtue, benevolence, and many ethical foundations. In one of the conversations, he said, "Whoever is devoid of the heart of right and wrong is not human." This statement well reflects his view on human nature, which he believed to be inherently good. Through morals and reasoning, he claimed people's innate goodness and compassion can be found in their impulsive reactions to the sufferings of others. For example, when someone sees a child about to be drowned will involuntarily reach out to help without contemplating about the thing he will gain in helping that child.

Then why does the evil still exists? Mencius answers people are naturally good, but often display evil sides due to external and social issues.

People natural inclinations can be compared to water that naturally flows downward. By some mechanics, people can make water flow backwards, but it is not the natural tendency of the water. Just like this, a human can be led to do bad deeds influenced by external forces, but this is not their inborn qualities. Therefore, Mencius states people should continuously cultivate their heart and mind to bring forth their natural goodness to become more compassionate, kind, and sympathetic person.

Nevertheless, Mencius is not always optimistic about human nature; there is also an extreme side to Mencius's philosophy. Mencius maintains people have to display decorum and those who first have to show such decorum are the rulers or government officials. They need to set a good example, so civilians can look up to them and practice good deeds as well. Furthermore, he asserted...