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Lecture 3

Lecture 3 Mencius.docx

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Department
Philosophy
Course
PHL237H1
Professor
Vincent Shen
Semester
Fall

Description
Classical Confucianism: 2 Phase From Zisi to Mencius  The recent unearthed Guodian bamboo slips, dated c.350BC, confirm the transition from Confucius’s grandson Zisi (子思 493-406BEC), to Mencius (孟子 371-289BEC). Scholars today agree to call them the Si-Meng School 思孟學派. Guodian bamboo slips contain both Daoist texts and Confucian texts. The Confucian part of Guodian texts might be seen as the relay between Confucius and Mencius. Philosophical Ideas of Zisi’s School 1. Emphasis on human feeling 2. Distinction: Interior ren vs exterior yi 3. Distinction of xing (action) and de (virtue) 4. Concepts of zhong (centrality) and cheng (sincerity) 5. cheng and ming (educational enlightenment) Emphasis on feeling: Dao Starts from Human Feeling  The Xin Zi Ming Chu《性自命出》 (Human nature comes from mandate) : “Human nature comes from mandate. Mandate descends from Heaven. Dao stars from human feeling. Human feeling is born from human nature. Those who begins from human feeling will end up with righteousness.” Distinction: interior ren vs exterior yi  “Among hundred things Heaven gave birth to, human being is the most noble. The way of man either comes from the interior, or enters into him through the exterior. Those come from the interior are humanity, royalty and fidelity; those enter from the exterior are knowledge, rightness and sagehood. Humanity (ren) is born from within human being, whereas rightness (yi) is born from the Way. They were born either from within or from without.” (Fragments18,19,20,21,22,23) Distinction of action and Virtue in The Wuxing 五行篇:  Five Actions: Ren 仁, when formed within is called virtuous action; when not [formed within] is called action. Yi 義, when formed within is called virtuous action, when not is called action. Li 禮, when formed within is called virtuous action; when not is called action. Zhi 智, when formed within is called virtuous action, when not is called action. Sheng 聖, when formed within is called virtuous action, when even not, is also called virtuous action. Together there are five virtuous actions. Be there synthesis of all five, it is called Virtue. Mere synthesis of four virtuous actions is called excellence. To be excellent is the way of human; to be virtuous is the way of Heaven.” Heaven-Human Nature-Education: Zhong Yong 中庸 (Doctrine of the Mean)  Human Nature: The Zhong Yong develops Zisi’s idea “Human nature comes from mandate; Mandate descends from Heaven” and develops it into a systematic vision of Heaven, Human Nature and education: “What Heaven imparts to human beings is called human Nature. To follow human nature is called the Way. Cultivating the Way is called Education. ”(SB p.98)  The concept of “nature” (xing 性) represents that which is properly human, or the essential nature of human beings. The concept of zhong and cheng  Two meanings of zhong 中 centrality: Metaphysically, it refers to the Centrality understood as the Ultimate Reality in ancient religion(Book of Documents, SB, p.9) (cf. Mircea Eliade) Psychologically, it means the true self or transcendental self before its expression into empirical emotions. (SB, p.98)  Cheng 誠: There is an inner connection or dynamic identification of the Ultimate Reality and human authentic self, expressed by cheng (sincerity), understood both as True Reality and sincerity. Sincerity, Enlightenment, Human nature  “The enlightenment coming from sincerity constitutes our nature; whereas education consists in the process going from enlightenment to sincerity. Given sincerity, there will be enlightenment; given enlightenment, there will be sincerity.”  “Only those who are perfectly sincere can fully unfold their nature. If they could unfold their nature, they can fully unfold the nature of people. If they could unfold the nature of other people, they can the fully develop the nature of things. If they can the fully develop the nature of things, they can then assist in the transformation and nourishing process of heaven and earth… thus form a trinity with Heaven and earth.” Mencius’ view of nature 1. Humans share a common liking for flavors, music, beauty, such that we recognize greatness among them 2. Heart‐mind (xin 心) similar to senses and shared by all humans 3. We must all be alike in heart ‐mind 4. Sages exist in the world and their moral virtues are recognized 5. Heart‐mind cherishes morality just as mouths cherish great food  Mencius’ argument over the definition of nature comes from his need to refute the theory of a contemporary thinker named Gaozi • Gaozi argued that: 1. The word “nature” simply means life 2. Human nature is a blank slate; it is indifferent to good and evil 3. Desire for food/pleasure come naturally and define our nature 4. Moral virtues such as humaneness and righteousness are made by human  What is important for us is Mencius’ theory of the “four sprouts” of moral virtue: benevolence, righteousness, ritual, wisdom  If one wishes to manifest the tendency of goodness into actuality, one must cultivate the sprouts, bringing them to maturity  Where man fails and commits evil is when his effort to cultivate the four sprouts is insufficient Argument for Human Goodness  Mencius’ claim that no human does not tend towards goodness is supported by several arguments:  First, he says: “The reason why I say that humans all have hearts that are not unfeeling toward others is this. Suppose someone saw a child about to fall into a well: everyone would have a feeling of alarm and compassion—not because one wanted to gain fame among his neighbors and friends, and not because one would dislike the sound of the child’s cries. From this we can say if one is without a heart of compassion, one is not human” 1. Anyone who sees a child about to fall into a well will feel anxiety and commiseration. He feels this way not to gain friendship with the child’s parents, gain the praise of others, or he detests hearing the child’s screaming 2. This shows people can’t bear to see the suffering of others 3. This feeling is the beginning of humanity 4. Thus, humans have the beginning of humanity in their nature  He next argues that: “Life is something I desire; I also desire righteousness. If I can’t have them both, I will forsake life and select righteousness. Life is something I desire, but there is something I desire more than life. Hence, I will not do just anything to obtain it. Death is something I hate, but there is something I hate more than death. Hence, there are calamities I do not avoid...from this we can see that there are means of obtaining life that one will not employ. Front this we can also see that then are things that would avoid calamity that one will not do. Therefore, there are things one desires more than life and there are also things one hates more than death. It is not the case that only the worthy person has this heart. All humans have it. The worthy person simply never loses it” 1. Everyone desires life and hates death but humiliate someone by giving him food and he would not accept it even if he needs it 2. Hence there is always something that one desires more than life or something that one hates more than death 3. If there is something one would not do to stay alive and avoid death then one is a being for whom self‐survival is the only goal 4. Thus, we all have our own principle on what to do and what not to do, even when it comes to matters of life and death 5. A righteous person is he who holds to his own principle in all cases 6. Thus, we have within ourselves what it takes to be a righteous  Having stated that righteousness is inherent to everyone, Mencius goes on to argue how human nature contains the four sprouts: “Humans all have hearts of compassion. Humans all have hearts of respect. Humans all have hearts of approval and disapproval. The heart of compassion is benevolence. The heart of disdain is righteousness. The heart of respect is propriety. The heart of approval and disapproval is wisdom. Humanity, righteousness, propriety and wisdom are not given to us from outside. We all have them internally” (Mencius, 6a) 1. Humans naturally have feelings of commiseration, awareness of shame and dislike, the sentiment of respect and reverence, and a sense of right and wrong 2. Feeling of commiseration is the sprout of humanity; the awareness of shame and dislike is the sprout of righteousness; the sentiment of respect and reverence is the sprout of propriety; the sense of right and wrong is the sprout of wisdom 3. Humanity, righteousness, propriety, wisdom make up goodness 4. Thus, all humans have the sprouts of goodness in their nature Explaining Moral Failure  Mencius acknowledged that physical comfort and material desire were also part of human nature  Sensory organs are the minor aspect, the mind‐heart is the major aspect of our body  These desires compete with one another such that moral failure arises when the heart‐mind fails to fulfill its functions: thinking, feeling, willing, and using/cultivating one’s qi 氣 “That which a *superior person+ follows as his nature, that is to say, benevolence, righteousness, propriety, wisdom, is rooted in his heart and manifests itself in his face, giving it a sleek appearance. It also shows in his back and extends to his limbs, rendering their message intelligible without words”  We can summarize the causes for moral failure as: 1. The mind fails to think. If the mind does not perform its function of thinking, it is lost in the pursuit of physical pleasure 2. One’s lost mind‐heart is not retrieved. To lose sense of what to avoid is to lose the sense of righteousness 3. One under‐values morality. Our moral sprouts can’t grow into ethical behavior if we do one good deed but many bad ones 4. One pays too much attention to the minor side of their nature/ body (senses) and not the major side (heart‐mind) 5. One harms one’s good nature with repeated vile deeds 6. Weakness of the will/desire to do good leads to failure in moral cultivation 7. Self‐denial/abandonment as reason not to be good is an excuse Difference with Mozi  “Yang Zhu’s principle of “everyone for himself” means making one’s king have no importance. Mozi’s principle of “universal love” means making one’s father have no importance. To have no father and no sovereign is to be like the birds and beasts...These malicious opinions mislead the people and block the way of benevolence and righteousness’’ (Mencius, 3b)  The argument is clearer in a dialogue between the Confucian Wu Mazi and Mozi: “I can’t practice all‐embracing love for I love the men of Zou better than I love those of Yue. I love the men of Lu better than I love those of Zou. I love the men of my own district better than I love those of Lu. I love the members of my own clan better than I love those of my district. I love my parents better than I love the men of my clan. And I love myself better than I love my parents” (Mozi, 46)  Confucians require degrees of love while Mozi has universal form  This is why Mencius says: “The superior man, in relating to things, loves them but has no feeling of humaneness. In relating to people, he has humaneness but lacks feeling of family affection. One should have feelings of family affection for the members of one’s family, but humaneness for people; humaneness for people but love for things” (Mencius, 7a)  We also see a take on the theory of rectification of names: “Treat the aged in your family as they should be treated, and extend this treatment to the aged of other people’s families. Treat the young in your family as they should be treated, and extend this treatment to the young of other people’s families”  Such gradation of love
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