The Religion of the Samurai HTML version

5. The Nature Of Man
1. Man is Good-natured according to Mencius.[FN#161]
Oriental scholars, especially the Chinese men of letters, seem to have taken so keen an
interest in the study of human nature that they proposed all the possible opinions
respecting the subject in question-namely, (1) man is good-natured; (2) man is bad-
natured; (3) man is good-natured and bad-natured as well; (4) man is neither good-
natured nor bad-natured. The first of these opinions was proposed by a most reputed
Confucianist scholar, Mencius, and his followers, and is still adhered to by the majority
of the Japanese and the Chinese Confucianists. Mencius thought it as natural for man to
do good as it is for the grass to be green. 'Suppose a person has happened,' he would say,
'to find a child on the point of tumbling down into a deep well. He would rescue it even at
the risk of his life, no matter how morally degenerated he might be. He would have no
time to consider that his act might bring him some reward from its parents, or a good
reputation among his friends and fellow-citizens. He would do it barely out of his inborn
good-nature.' After enumerating some instances similar to this one, Mencius concludes
that goodness is the fundamental nature of man, even if he is often carried away by his
brutal disposition.
[FN#161] Mencius (372-282 B.C.) is regarded as the beat expounder of the doctrine of
Confucius. There exists a well-known work of his, entitled after his own name. See 'A
History of Chinese Philosophy,' by R. Endo, and also 'A History of Chinese Philosophy'
(pp. 38-50), by G. Nakauchi.
2. Man is Bad-natured according to Siun Tsz[FN#162] (Jun-shi).
The weaknesses of Mencius's theory are fully exposed by another diametrically opposed
theory propounded by Siun Tsz (Jun-shi) and his followers. 'Man is bad-natured,' says
Siun Tsz, 'since he has inborn lust, appetite, and desire for wealth. As he has inborn lust
and appetite, he is naturally given to intemperance and wantonness. As he has inborn
desire for wealth, he is naturally inclined to quarrel and fight with others for the sake of
gain.' Leave him without discipline or culture, he would not be a whit better than the
beast. His virtuous acts, such as charity, honesty, propriety, chastity, truthfulness, are
conduct forced by the teachings of ancient sages against his natural inclination. Therefore
vices are congenial and true to his nature, while virtues alien and untrue to his
fundamental nature.
[FN#162] Siun Tsz's date is later by some fifty years than Mencius. Siun Tsz gives the
reason why man seeks after morality, saying that man seeks what he has not, and that he
seeks after morality simply because he has not morality, just as the poor seek riches. See
'A History of Chinese Philosophy' (pp. 51-60), by G. Nakauchi, and 'A History of
Development of Chinese Thought,' by R. Endo.