Both Mencius and Confucius were renowned Chinese thinkers whose theories played a significant role in the general Chinese history. Confucius was no doubt the most acclaimed philosopher Chinese has ever had. He was best known to be the founding father of the Confucian School of Thought, which would greatly influence social and political life in China (Tu 33).
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The philosophical approach of Confucius, well-defined as ‘Confucianism’ emphasized on core aspects such government as well as personal morality, justice and sincerity, and social relationships’ correctness. Mencius on the other hand, was the other authoritative thinker China has ever seen after Confucius. Just like his predecessor, Mencius was an itinerant Chinese sage and philosopher who was popular for his outstanding interpretations on Confucianism.
As the most outstanding thinker in the history of Confucianism, Mencius would formulate a detailed view of human nature, a significant subject which Confucius had failed to observe in his vast observations. This paper examines some of the ways by which Mencius philosophical theory would be different from that one of Confucius.
In real sense, both Mencius and Confucius didn’t have same feelings or perceptions for the Chinese society. Confucius played a significant role of setting a thinking platform for other philosophers, such as Mencius who’d come after him and who would use most of his theories to interpret their own theories and perceptions.
As it would be observed, Confucianism would end up becoming the ideology of the state in the course of the time when Han Wudi ruled the Chinese Empire. Confucianism was mainly based on humanism and it’s observation were clear that humans can be improvable and teachable in all manners through communal and also personal endeavor that would include self-creation and self-cultivation (Tu 18).
Mencius’s theoretical approach, on the other hand, expressed views totally different from those of Confucius. For instance, about human nature, humans do share a common innate perfectness or goodness and either can easily be cultivated through self discipline or education or get squandered through negatives influences, but not to be lost altogether.
According to Mencius, people would come first while Nations and Empires would follow in the line. To crown it all, the Emperor would be the least important according to the views of Mencius.
This argument was actually not one of the friendly observations that would be certain to receive great acclaim from the Emperors and would definitely have to tolerate strong rebellions on tyrannical leaders of the Ancient Chinese society. Whereby Confucianism had required all civilians and officials to exercise utmost loyalty and respect on their leaders (Emperors), Mencius’s views would be violating this observation in some way.
Another notable manner by which Mencius theory would be different from that of Confucius is that, Mencius was against the belief that human beings make up the sovereign. He however observed that, for one to be the Son of Heaven, they should follow the path of Ren Yi which was translated as honest and mercy.
This theory further asserted that, leaders and rulers should not only be honest and merciful to their subjects but they should also try to honest and merciful to people from other regions including rival nations and states. In this regard, people would not be the means for the mandate of heaven path and not the ends. However, since human’s general well-being is taken to be the main foundation towards the Ren Yi path, people are one of the core factors contributing to the mandate of heaven.
According to Shun, what Mencius was trying to observe here was that, it is possible for one come to this world as a ruler but there is no way one can be born as a Son of Heaven (77). The Path to Ren Yi is the basis upon where the legitimacy of a monarch exists. Once a ruler happens to violate Ren Yi, then, they are observed to be simply rulers and tyrannies.
Confucianism, on the other hand, would observe a ruler’s legitimacy to come from his birth. In Confucius’s point of view, Zhou King will remain to be the son of Heaven in all cases. A new Son of Heaven can rise and start ruling only when the sitting King starts behaving in manners that don’t define him a king.
In this regard, lowers and commoners would not be allowed rebel for this would break the Order of Rites (Li Jiao). A Son of Heaven would not be identified until by the people until they succeed, and in case they don’t, they would not be regarded as Son’s of Heaven. In Confucianism, you would be wrong to rebel if you are not the Son of Heaven. However, there is simply no way one will have to know this until their throne extends for several decades, without them having to rebel.
These actually are some of the notable differences that would be observed between the two philosophers in their influential theories. One can generally conclude that Mencius interpreted in his own thoughts whatever Confucius had observed, providing a deeper but often controversial meaning to his facts (Shun 54).
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The philosophical concerns of both Confucius and Mencius have had a significant impact in the history of Chinese. In fact, no matter the differences that may exist in the perspective of these two great thinkers, their philosophical contribution to the Chinese societies have always formed part of the modern way of life followed by the citizens of China in their own concepts.
Shun, Kwong-Loi. Mencius and early Chinese thought. New York: Stanford University Press, 1997. Print.
Tu, Wei-Ming. “Confucius and Confucianism.” Confucianism and the family 17. 5 (1998): 3-36. Print.