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Mencius of Medieval China Analysis Research Paper

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Mencius or Mengzi advocated for the value of humanity and justice and was for the compassionate government. He was inclined on the axiom that touted unique concepts on voluntary self-cultivation. He believed in the conviction that one could achieve inherent good nature through a retrospect of one’s own consciousness; thus ‘good by nature’ theory. (Patricia Buckley, 334). Consequently, man’s good nature or evil were both in response to one’s own realization, and that if one was aware of his good instinctive nature, then one would automatically refrain from enhancing the evil axis. (Patricia Buckley., 332). These traditions have been adopted by most scholars that have come after him. The ‘good nature’ theory also influenced the great vehicle’ Buddhism in china, where it embarked on concluding remarks that the nature Buddha present in every living creature. Imperatively Mencius has been known as one the scholar among hundreds of philosophers of the century B.C that developed a simple, short and snappy prose that was noted for its economy of words, which served as a model of literary form for over 2,000 years. This paper is centered on Mencius and his view of human nature. (Patricia Buckley., 333)

Historical Background

Mencius was born in the state of Zhou pinyin: Zhou Chao; Wade-Giles: Chou chaos; 372BC to 289 BC), forming a territory of the country-level city of Zoucheng (originally Zouxian), Shandong province, only thirty kilometers south of Qufu, Confucius birthplace. (Patricia Buckley., 341). He was a traveling Chinese philosopher and sage and one of the most important interpreters of Confucianism. He was a student of Confucius grandson, Zisi. Like other philosophers he also traveled widely across China for over 40 years mainly to promulgate leadership reforms. He worked as an official during the Warring states Period (403-221 BCE) He expressed his filial devotion when he took an absence of three years from his official duties for Qi to morn mothers death. (Patricia Buckley., p. 340).

He is glowingly distinguished for his hypothesis on human nature, according to Mencius each and every other human being share an instinctive integrity that can be refined through education and willpower or wasted in the course to overlook and unenthusiastic influences, but that it is ultimately not lost at all. Mencius philosophies however, cast aspersions during his medieval age; they however blossomed through the influence of medieval commentators and philosophers like Zhu xi (Chu His, 1130-1200CE) and Wang Yangming (1472-1529 CE). Mencius accounts unequivocally, triggered the contemporary evolutionary psychology and sociology. However, modern philosophical studies question the rationality and genuineness of the text that bears his identity. (Munro, D.J., p. 316)


Some Chinese philosophers have considered Mencius’ elucidation of Confucianism in the light of a conformist, especially the Neo-Confucians of the Song dynasty. Mencius espoused long dialogues contrary to the Confucius which are short and self-contained. (Patricia Buckley., pp. 235-238).

View on human nature

While Confucius himself did not overtly concentrate on the subject of human nature, Mencius emphasized the instinctive integrity of the individual, believing that it was society’s last word.

‘He who exerts his, mind to the utmost knows his nature ‘and the way of learning in none other than finding the lost mind’. Mencius’ views had a close correlation on human nature in regard to those of Bishop Butler’s sermons on Human nature. (Patricia Buckley., pp. 230-231).

The Four Beginnings

To put more weight on innate goodness, Mencius elaborates by a child that is falling down the well, where witnesses of this event instantaneously experience alarm and distress, not to gain friendship with the child’s parent, nor to seek the praise of their neighbors and friends nor because they dislike the reputation of the crying. (Legge, James, p. 317). According to Mencius, the feeling of sympathy is the genesis of humanity; the sentiment of shame and dislike is the genesis of virtue; the feeling of respect and compliance is the beginning of decorum; and the feeling of right and wrong is the beginning of wisdom. Mencius believed in the notion that men had all these four beginnings as they had their four limbs. (Patricia Buckley., pp. 226- 229)

View on politics

Mencius emphasized the connotation of the common citizens in the state. While Confucianism in general regards rulers greatly, he contents with the moral legitimacy to overthrow or even execute martyrdom in opposition to a ruler who ignores the people’s needs and rules harshly. This is for the reason that, a ruler who is not just is not even true. As regarding the assassinating of the impious king Jie of Xia, Mencius echoes that ‘I have heard of killing a mere fellow Chou, but I have not heard of murdering the ruler. (Lau, D. C. “Meng tzu, 275). Xun Zi was a Confucian who hailed the belief that human nature is originally evil, and the purpose of moral cultivation is to develop our nature into goodness. He was declared an orthodox since he upheld radical views as opposed to most his opponents. But was rather compared to Plato since they shared theories on human nature, they were both idealists who believed in the instinctive goodness of all human beings. (Patricia Buckley., pp. 220-222).

The widespread, scholarly and political predicament, which martial states thinkers hoped to solve, was the quandary of China’s confederacy. While no early Chinese intellectual questioned the need for tyrannical rule as a mechanism of confederation, philosophers differed on whether and how the ruler should consider moral precincts of power, time-honored religious ceremonies, obligations, and the wellbeing of his subjects. He championed the notion that all human being were subject to a higher authority, hence they all had allegiance towards Tian. The implicit of this illustration basically centered on the satisfaction of the people as an indication to the ruler’s moral right to power, and on the responsibility of morally-minded ministers as unworthy ruler. To drive this point home, Mencius echoes a philosophical phrase ‘the people are to be valued most, the altars of the grain and the land (traditional symbols of the vitality of the state) next, the ruler least. (Ivanhoe, Philip J., pp. 100-102).

The rationale is that for one to become an emperor one has to win the favour of the people. Although Mencius ideal ruler was a conventional king, and a conservative leader, he strongly objected to the status quo and instead championed for revolutions through the change of government. Legendary Shun was one of the sage kings that Mencius revolted against his system thus he is known for his relentless efforts of democratizing medieval China. This is evident when he express antagonism with followers aligned to Mozi, a fifth century BCE modern-day of Confucius that propounded a down-to-earth philosophy centered on li (assistance). He was a revolutionist who believed that when rulers perfect in making reproaches they should simply be toppled since repeated reproach should be answered with a revolution. (Patricia Buckley, p. 218).

Brain Storming the Moral psychology

Based on a teleological squabble from the instinctive prospective of human beings to the presupposition of intrinsic worth that can be developed, Mencius offered his rough draft of ethical psychology; this are impeccably the structures surrounded by the individual person to facilitate latent and exclusively achievable growth. Mencius discovered an ethical philosophy that is a model of moral psychology in the modern Chinese world; this include, both discovery and developmental. Discovery model hinges on the notion that human nature is good, while developmental model hinges on the notion that human nature cab be made better. (Lau, D. C. “Meng Tzu, p. 276)


Ivanhoe, Philip J. (1990). Ethics in the Confucian Tradition: Thought of Mencius and Wang Yang-ming. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 99-119: 1990.

Lau, D. C. “Meng tzu (1993) (Mencius),” in Early Chinese Texts: A Bibliographical Guide, ed. Michael Loewe (Berkeley: Society, 275-287: 1993

Legge, James, (1970). The Works of Mencius. New York: Dover Publications. 26-54: 1970.

Munro, D.J (2002) Menicius and an Ethics of the New Century: Honolulu University Hawaii Press, 316-331: 2002

Patricia Buckley (1999) History of China: The Cambridge Illustrated history: Oxford University press, 216-241: 1999

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