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Man's Nature is Evil?,
This review is from: Xunzi: Basic Writings (Translations from the Asian Classics) (Paperback)
Xunzi, 321 BC, is one of he very few philosophers that declares Man's nature is evil to which he adds, "Goodness is the result of conscious activity." That is not as far removed from for example Buddhism as one might think. Buddhism teaches that man has good and bad tendencies and must train their mind with meditation to overcome the negative ones. Xunzi like Buddha insists even more on the necessity of training the mind to become a good person.
Xunzi describes man as " The nature of man is such that he is born with a fondness for profit. If he indulges this fondness, it will lead him to wrangling and strife, and all sense of courtesy and humility will disappear. He is born with feelings of envy and hate. Man is born with the desires of the eyes and ears. The eye's fondness for beautiful forms, the mouth fondness for delicious flavors, or the body's fondness for pleasure and ease-these are all the products of the emotional nature of man. They are instinctive and spontaneous". "If he indulges in these, they will lead him into violence and crime."
"Therefore man must be transformed. That part of man, which cannot be learned or acquired by nature, is called human nature; that part of him which can be acquired by learning and brought to completion by effort is called conscious activity. This is the difference between nature and conscious activity." This description is also very similar to Buddhism.
Xunzi also makes interesting comments about rulers and ruling a country. " The legitimacy and survival of the ruler rests ultimately upon the support of the people: he is a boat, they the water which may bear him up or capsize him as they choose. No claims of hereditary right or iron discipline can hold out forever in the face of popular indifference or anger. A King enriches his people, a dictator enriches his soldiers, a state that is barely managing to survive enriches its high officers, and a doomed state enriches only its coffer and stuffs its storehouses. "
"The ruler is one who is good at organizing men in society. There has never been an enlightened ruler who succeeded by keeping secrets from his ministers. If the ruler is open with his ministers, then honest advice will reach his ears and slanderous reports will cease. Gentlemen will draw close to him and petty men will disappear."
Xunzi was one the first that recognized the importance of people understanding a word the same way which he referred to as "rectifying names". "If there are no fixed names but men begin to discriminate on the basis of their own particular observations, each applying his own names, and interpreting the different phenomena in his own fashion, then the relationships between names and realities will become obscured and entangled, the distinction between "eminent" and "humble" will become unclear." A good example to day is the word "liberal" in politics.
If you like these comments, you should buy the book and find many, many more. The book shows that even though a lot changed since 321 BC, human nature is still the same.
Xansa's ideas had considerable influence on the rulers of the Han Dynasty. He was a follower of Confucius but differed on several important points. He criticized some of the teachings of Mencius, Mo Tzu and Han Feizi, some of it, in my view justified, in others not.
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