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Xunzi’s Conceptions of Human Nature Research Paper


Xunzi also known as Xun Kuang was a Chinese philosopher during the China’s classical period. He was one of the Confucian philosophers who were under the reign Emperor Xuan in China. Xunzi made significant contribution to modern philosophy because he contributed to the development of the Hundred Schools of Thought. Among many of his philosophical works is his view of human nature.

According to Xunzi, people are evil in nature while their goodness is acquired through training. He states that the nature of human beings is evil from birth and possesses qualities like selfishness, anarchic, and antisocial traits. However, the society shapes and trains an individual to attain moral standards of the society.

Furthermore, Xunzi argues that the society achieves this by influencing a person in a positive way. Therefore, the paper analyses the arguments presented by Augustine, Pelagius, and Zhu Xi concerning Xunzi’s view of human nature.

According to Augustine, since human beings are not perfect, they are bound to make mistakes and errors. In his philosophical work titled “The City of God,” which explains how the first human beings transgressed in the Garden of Eden. Augustine elaborates the infallible human nature.

He asserts that, even after God gave men the freedom to eat any other fruit in the garden and leave the one that was in the center of the garden, they still went ahead to eat the forbidden fruit; hence, making the mistake of disobedience. The “Yahist Legend,” further explains the mistake by presenting an occasion where God tells humans to eat of all the trees, which were pleasing to consume except the tree of life.

According to Augustine, human beings have an imperfect nature and are bound to making mistakes. The concept is evident from what Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden as they committed the mistake of disobedience, and regretted their actions latter when God questioned them.

In addition, Augustine notes that human beings are remorseful. After disobeying God, they became repentant as they hid and covered themselves with stitched leaves from figs. Humans remained subject to God, and thus, they received another chance of redemption through Jesus who is the son of God.

However, since actions have repercussions, man and the woman received punishment from God after disobedience. In the Garden of Eden, the Adam and Eve had the freedom to eat of any tree except the tree in the center of the garden. The consequence of disobedience was death.

Therefore, the man received a sentence of hard work and death as a punishment for the wrongdoing. Since God is just and merciful, he gave Adam and Eve another chance. Thus, Augustine displays human beings as infallible, remorseful, and ready for corrections.

In his letters to Demetrius, Pelagius notes that the reference to the creator is paramount when determining the good human nature. According to Pelagius, people love and admire authority.

He further explains this phenomenon by asserting that men marvel at the strong and big animals that are subject to their authority and control. Additionally, human beings love freedom, which was the initial desire of God. In his letters, Pelagius notes that God wanted human to feel free and do what pleased them.

However, the level of freedom reduced when humans sinned and disobeyed God. Moreover, in his letters to Demetrius he quotes the book of Deuteronomy where God gave human beings the freedom to choose between life and death. Pelagius also highlights that human beings love appreciation and praise. This is the nature of humankind as presented by Pelagius.

Pelagius explains that individuals do not like policies and conventions. He says that people love working in a free environment without rules and regulations.

According to Pelagius, humans love engaging in activities voluntarily without undue coercion. In the letters of Demetrius, he gives an account of some people who had a good human nature like Enoch and men who demonstrated bad morals such as Adam and Simeon to discuss the human character and nature.

Therefore, Pelagius highlights that the ultimate determinant of good human nature is the creator. He also asserts that humans who have a good nature portray good morals that accrue from the good nature. He further asserts that individuals with good manners sometimes make mistakes because no human being is perfect.

Zhu Xi approaches the discussion of human nature using the mind and a river. The scholar asserts that when the river is still or calm, it denotes a composed nature of the individual’s mind. Subsequently, Zhu Xi relates human desires and feelings with waves and flow of water in a river or a lake.

According, to Zhu Xi, some waves are bad and torrential whereas others are less likely to cause any harm, as they are mild. These waves reflect the good and bad desires that people express. In the writings, Zhu Xi notes that nature precedes an activity and feelings then succeed. Hence, the mind helps in uniting nature, feelings, and activity when humans undergo through pre-active and post-active states.

Moreover, Zhu Xi says that, in many cases bad moral values overrule the good values. In explaining how bad morals destroy good moral values, Zhu Xi used a dam to demonstrate that when the dam bursts it causes extensive destruction.

Furthermore, Zhu Xi explains that the mind controls all the operations of an individual whether good or bad. According to Zhu Xi, the mind is a ruler and has the presence of understanding, respect, love, and morality. However, stirred the mind produces feelings like fury, contentment, happiness, and sadness.

Therefore, the mind is like the supreme controller of the whole body, and thus, controls the activity of the person. According to Zhu Xi, human nature is subject to the reflexes in the mind, which is the controller of all the activities that an individual performs.

Hence, according to Zhu Xi human nature greatly attributes its outcomes to the mind. Thus, Zhu Xi clearly elucidates the nature of human beings and presents the existing diversities.

According to Xunzi, human nature is evil and it is only through training that a person can acquire good attributes. In addition, Xunzi notes that from birth, humans display bad qualities like self-centeredness, lawlessness, and antisocial traits. However, through continuous training and molding by the society, a person then acquires moral values and learns to behave in a disciplined manner.

Furthermore, Xunzi believes that an individual can acquire and employ moral values and personality traits from the society. The prime objective of acquiring moral values and traits is to override the innate antisocial and evil traits.

Xunzi also perceives that a state or a country requires rules and regulations so that it can shape and mold the behavior of an individual, which is evil. In his assertion, Xunzi perceives that since human nature is ugly, absence of state and regulations can render a man uncivilized and wild.

Pelagius thought that when determining good human nature it is vital to refer to the supreme creator who is God. He presents that some of the human requirements include love for authority, freedom, and control. In the words of Augustine, human beings are not free from mistakes as they are not perfect.

According to Augustine, humans require companionship and authority. He also states that men are erroneous and employs the case of the first humans who disobeyed God by eating the forbidden fruit. On the other hand, Zhu Xi uses a river or a water body to bring to the fore the discussion of human nature. According to Zhu Xi, the mind acts like the controller of human activities and dictates what an individual performs.

Thus, Pelagius, Augustine, and Zhu Xi have different thoughts concerning human nature as opposed to Xunzi’s view. While Xunzi states that human nature is bad and evil, Pelagius, Augustine, and Zhu Xi explain that human beings have innate traits that are good, but are not acquired in training as asserted by Xunzi.

The research paper focuses on the characteristics that human beings demonstrate. It discusses perceptions of Zhu Xi, Augustine, and Pelagius concerning human nature according to the argument of Xunzi. According to the three individuals, human beings are not perfect, and therefore, they are bound to making mistakes and errors.

Pelagius and Augustine use biblical excerpts like that of Adam and Eve to explain the imperfect and remorseful nature of human beings. On the other hand, Zhu Xi relates the human mind to a body of water and discusses human nature using the relationships of human mind and river.

Contrarily Xunzi believes that human nature is evil from birth and requires training and control in the evil state so that an individual behaves in a morally upright manner.

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IvyPanda. (2019, July 10). Xunzi's Conceptions of Human Nature. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/xunzis-conceptions-of-human-nature/

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"Xunzi's Conceptions of Human Nature." IvyPanda, 10 July 2019, ivypanda.com/essays/xunzis-conceptions-of-human-nature/.

1. IvyPanda. "Xunzi's Conceptions of Human Nature." July 10, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/xunzis-conceptions-of-human-nature/.


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IvyPanda. "Xunzi's Conceptions of Human Nature." July 10, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/xunzis-conceptions-of-human-nature/.

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IvyPanda. 2019. "Xunzi's Conceptions of Human Nature." July 10, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/xunzis-conceptions-of-human-nature/.

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IvyPanda. (2019) 'Xunzi's Conceptions of Human Nature'. 10 July.

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