‘Is Human Nature Evil?’ – A Critical Analysis of Xunzi’s Rebuttal of Mengzi’s Appraisal of Human Nature (68933)

Session Information: Chinese Studies
Session Chair: Yalei Zhai

Sunday, 21 May 2023 11:25
Session: Session 2
Room: Room 704
Presentation Type:Oral Presentation

All presentation times are UTC + 9 (Asia/Tokyo)

‘The stereotyped, simple version of Chinese philosophy portrays Xunzi 荀子as the opposite to Mencius 孟子. Mencius argues that human nature is good; Xunzi portrays it as evil.’ (Kupperman, 2000, 89).
Indeed, Xunzi, criticising Mengzi’s position, seems to be advocating that human nature (人之性) is originally evil/wicked. In the chapter On Evil (Human) Nature (性惡篇), he claims that what is natural in humans is evil (人之性惡), and what is good is a result of learning and appropriation (其善者偽). However, the fact that such learning and appropriation is possible begs the question about the ‘nature of nature’ in Xunzi’s thought. Moreover, the explicit claim about evil human nature is nowhere to be found outside the chapter dedicated to it. It makes one doubt the centrality of the notion in Xunzi’s philosophy, so readily ascribed to it by Chinese and some western scholars, or on the other hand, put under question the widely accepted perception of Xunzi’s position in this regard.
This paper is intended as a detailed, critical analysis of the content of the chapter On Evil (Human) Nature in the Xunzi. It will then first determine the actual point of controversy between Xunzi and Mengzi. Second, it will discuss the method Xunzi’ applied in his analysis. Third, it will revisit the notion of ‘Evil (Human) Nature’ and demonstrate what and why the notion of nature means in Xunzi.

Paweł Zygadło, Xian Jiaotong-Liverpool University, China

About the Presenter(s)
Dr Pawel Zygadlo is a University Assistant Professor/Lecturer at Xian Jiaotong-Liverpool University in China

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Posted by Clive Staples Lewis

Last updated: 2023-02-23 23:45:00