Hsun Tzu Essay

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Wendy Swartz The Nature of Evil

Hsun Tzu's philosophy is built from the idea that human beings are by nature inherently evil, and the good they produce will only come through their conscious activity. Hsun Tzu believes that if man follows his nature and indulges in his natural desires, without transforming himself by conscious activity he is doomed to fall victim to his evil nature. "Any man who follows his nature will inevitably become involved in wrangling and strife, will violate the forms and rules of society, and will end as a criminal." Despite the pessimistic tone of Hsun Tzu's message he does propose conscious activity as a solution to man's evil. This paper will examine Hsun Tzu's perspective in light of both Mencius
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While Mencius believes that humans are inherently good, but can be corrupted by circumstance, Hsun Tzu argues that man is not inherently good at all. He rejects this view, saying that Mencius "has not really understood man's nature nor distinguished properly between the basic nature and conscious activity" (158). Hsun Tzu does admit that humans have some inherent good in them: "man possesses energy, life, intelligence…" (45). Even so, Hsun Tzu believed that any such inherent good can be lost completely, and that the evil of man can overwhelm him beyond hope: "in the case of the incorrigibly evil men, punish them without trying to reform them" (33). This means that self-improvement alone (and not nature) can save humans, as Hsun Tzu believed that all humans start with the same basic nature: "the gentleman by birth is no different from any other man" (16). Hsun Tzu again returns to his belief that for man to evolve beyond his evil nature, "learning must never cease" (15). Hsun Tzu's teachings sharply contradict those of Lao Tzu. While Lao
Tzu believed in action through inaction, Hsun Tzu linked "dull and determined effort" with "brilliant achievement" (18). Hsun Tzu also emphasized self-improvement through "conscious activity" (158), but Lao Tzu believed that the ideal human "disregards himself" (Lao Tzu, 7) and "does not want to be anything for
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