The Qualities of Human Nature and the Relationship of Divinity and Humanity: The Typology and Meaning of Doctrines of Mind-Nature According to Mencius and Xunzi

Vol. 36 No. 2   12/2006    


The Qualities of Human Nature and the Relationship of Divinity and Humanity: The Typology and Meaning of Doctrines of Mind-Nature According to Mencius and Xunzi


Ping-kun Chen









Key words

mind, human nature, good, evil, divinity, humanity, Xunzi, Mencius, doctrine of mind-nature


    Mencius and Xunzi were two leading figures in Confucianism representative of the earlier and later Warring Periods; of the two's moral doctrines of human nature, one asserted the theory that human nature was good, and the other that human nature was evil. This article attempts to discuss issues concerning how human nature varies from the standpoint of Mencius' teachings and Xunzi's teachings; by what thinking path the teachings were devised; what kind of fundamental belief stands behind the viewpoints of the two teachings and the like in anticipation of exploring their respective human nature reasoning; and what probable value and modern significance the two teachings may have in moral philosophy.

   Upon comparing and profiling the theories of human nature of Mencius and Xunzi, and upon further exploring the linkage in theoretic reasoning of

their respective viewpoints in terms of the correlation of divinity versus humanity, this article contends that what sets off Mencius and Xunzi to take to different faiths in the empirical truth, or morality, has been a manifestation of how both held distinctly differing viewpoints towards the issue of human nature. Their distinct moral doctrines further highlighted the differences in their thinking in that one leaned towards a configural orientation and the other towards a moral orientation. Nevertheless, Mencius built his viewpoint around the assertion that human nature was good, recognizing the empirical doctrine and good conscience of the mind, whereas Xunzi built his viewpoint around the assertion that human nature was evil, derived from the differences in humanity doctrine versus human desires. Mencius focused on the human's moral self-awareness capability that would aspire to moral fulfillment, whereas Xunzi emphasized the importance of the etiquette system, law and teaching that served to remind the people of issues concerning caring for the empirical doctrine and the value of being objective. Although the theories of human nature between Mencius and Xunzi somewhat differ, it would be more rational to mirror the teaching of the two schools in a complementary manner when it comes to mapping the significance of their teachings in moral philosophy.



Author: Ping-kun Chen
Genre: Article