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Mencius

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  • Born: 370 BCE
  • Died: 290 BCE
  • Chinese/Japanese: 孟子 (Mèng Zǐ / Moushi)

Mencius was a Chinese philosopher of the Warring States period, quite possibly the most famous historical Chinese philosopher after Confucius himself. Like Confucius and Mozi, he is known chiefly from a collection of his sayings and teachings referred to simply as The Mencius.

A native of the State of Zou, Mencius, like Confucius, wandered from state to state seeking employment as an advisor, but ultimately found little success, and simply took on students. Drawing upon the teachings of Confucius, Mencius is most famous for his assertions of the inherent goodness of human nature, and of the moral will of Heaven. He proposed that education helped man uncover and cultivate that inherently good nature, and that the will of Heaven was for government to care for the people. Mencius also asserted that man's love for his father and kin above others is what separates men from animals, and that being good sons, good brothers, and so forth was essential to social order. This stands in contrast to Mozi's idea that partiality is what causes conflict, and that treating all men as equals was essential to peace and order. Mencius' teachings also stand in contrast to those of his rough contemporary Xunzi, who supported the notion that human nature was inherently selfish and/or irrational, and that if left unchecked, human desires and emotions would lead to social conflict.

Mencius also expanded upon the idea of the Mandate of Heaven.

The teachings of Mencius, which are more coherent and sustained in their arguments than those of Confucius or Mozi, came to be included as part of the standard canon of Confucian classics due to the influence of Zhu Xi in the 12th century CE.

References

  • Albert Craig, The Heritage of Chinese Civilization, Third Edition, Prentice Hall (2011), 18-19.
  • Conrad Schirokauer, et al, A Brief History of Chinese and Japanese Civilizations, Fourth Edition, Cengage Learning (2012), 36-38.
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