Mencius successfully lead by example. In short, polishing

Mencius is a widely known Chinese philosopher in the fourth century B.C.E. He is the second most influential Confucian, second to Confucius himself, to take up his approach to morality and humanist vision for a successful society. He developed a matured moral psychology as an explanation of Confucian’ ethic of Ren, a virtue denoting the good feeling a virtuous human experiences when being altruistic. Mencius is likewise noted for his argument that human nature is predisposed to be good, due to the presence of moral sprouts, which he implores us to nurture by engaging in general acts of goodness.Mengzi maintains that human nature is good, as all humans have a natural disposition towards goodness. His use of thought experiments and personal experiences highlight this. One of his most notable thought experiments is of a child falling down a well.  With this thought experiment Mencius postulates that “everyone in such a situation would have a feeling of alarm and compassion”(2A6). The person who hears the cries could not have had the time to read the scenario pragmatically and react out of self-interest. Mengzi rules out the possibility of the person wants to “get in good with the child’s parents, not because one wanted fame among their neighbors and friends, and not because one would dislike the sound of the child’s cries”(2A6). Mencius is implying that the person must have felt alarm and compassion out of an predisposed tendency towards goodness, a tendency facilitated by something he calls the “Four Sprouts”. Mencius is making the argument that humans are naturally empowered with “Four Sprouts” of humanity and righteousness, and that we only need to steadily cultivate those sprouts so that they may enrich ourselves more. He implores we do this as a way to become more virtuous people. Essentially if political leaders were to lead working on enriching themselves in place of enriching their country they could successfully lead by example. In short, polishing themselves before their nation would make world peace much easier to accomplish. It is important to understand that Mengzi phrases the nature of people with the analogy of “sprouts” rather than “seeds”. Contrary to sprouts which already reveal themselves, seeds mistakenly imply that the human potential to do good burrowed deep within us. Sprouts are morso already in their infant stage of growth; fully alive and ready to thrive. These sprouts express the idea that people are born with a natural inclination towards goodness and do not need to awaken this potential. As Mencius said:”If one is without the heart of deference/compassion/disdain/approval and disapproval, one is not a human”(2A6). Our natural goodness is a characterizing trait of what it means to be human and human nature is biologically good. Though, Mengzi implores that the inherent goodness of humans is not guaranteed from birth. The actual goodness of an individual, must be nurtured like a newly sprouted plant, so that it grows to its potential as a towering sunflower. He mentions: “Having these four sprouts within oneself, if one knows to fill them all out, it will be like a fire starting up, a spring breaking through! If one can merely fill them out,  will be sufficient to care for all within the Four Seas. If one merely fails to fill them out, they will be insufficient to serve one’s parents”(2A6). Although each individual has the capacity for goodness, the person must develop their respective “four sprouts”(A26) diligently to fill their virtuous potential. The analogy of the sprouts is once again essential to understanding Mencius’ interpretation of human nature. In the thought experiment of the child falling in the well, Mengzi believes that each individual will experience a natural feeling of compassion and empathy for the child’s suffering. Although this exemplifies that human nature is naturally good, Mengzi does not insist that all humans will necessarily try to save the child. If one were to act out a save the child, that would be an instance of watering ones sprout of benevolence. There is a distinct separation between the humanistic instinct towards goodness, which are the four sprouts, and virtuous actions. These occur when an individual nurtures their sprouts into beautiful trees that bear the fruit of goodness. As previously stated, there are four sprouts that Mencius mentions, these four sprouts are qualities that are achieved when we reach our capacity for good. These four sprouts are: Rén (Benevolence), Yì (Righteous), Zhì (Wisdom), and Lì (Propriety). Each of these individual virtues, or “sprouts”, is related to a motivational attitude or emotional characteristic. These characteristics are mentioned by Mencius: “Humans all have a heart of compassion, Humans all have the heart of disdain. Humans all have the heart of respect. Humans all have the heart of disdain. Humans all have the heart of respect. Humans all have the heart of approval and disapproval. The heart of compassion is benevolence. The heart of disdain is righteousness. The heart of respect is propriety. The heart of approval and disapproval is wisdom” (6A6). He proceeds to mentions that we all “inherently have them”(6A6).These predisposed emotional characteristics (disdain/respect/compassion), as mentioned earlier, individually epitomize a quality of some kind (a “sprout”). Righteousness is the quality of being morally right or justifiable. Propriety is the state or quality of conforming to conventionally accepted standards of behavior or morals. Wisdom is the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment; the quality of being wise. Benevolence is the quality of being well meaning; kindness. It is these qualities (Four Sprouts) that are birthed through our inherent virtuous tendencies (heart of disdain/approval/disapproval/etc.) Mencius implores us to nurture.  He is asserting the reason we as humans have the natural capacity for goodness because he all are born with hearts of disdain, respect, compassion and so on. But to truly be good we must employ these motivational forces pragmatically; as a means of improving ourselves so that we may be have developed qualities of benevolence, righteousness, wisdom, and propriety.


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