Mencius Essay, Research Paper
The philosopher Mencius considered himself a follower of Confucius, and this is exactly what he was. He was Confucius?s greatest disciple. They were both teachers and tried very hard to influence the rulers of their day, although they both had very little luck. He was the chief architect of Confucian thought. He added components and gave others great emphasis. Mencius introduced the large component of compassion to Confucianism. He believed in the essential goodness of human nature and was highly skeptical of the government. Mencius believed that the qualities characteristic only to man were innate. These qualities were jen and yi. Confucius believed in ritual and humanity. Also religion as a motive of right conduct concerned Mencius much less than it did Confucius.
Both Mencius and Confucius believed that it was the duty of a ruler to provide for the welfare of his people in both material goods and moral guidance. According to Mencius “The people are the most important element in a nation; the spirits of the land and grain come next; the sovereign counts for the least.” The master said ” He who cultivates the five treasures and eschews the five evils is fit to govern.” The five treasures are being generous without having to spend which can be done by allowing people to pursue what is beneficial to them, making people work, but only reasonable tasks, ambition without rapacity, authority but no arrogance, and he is stern but not fierce. The four evils are “terror, which rests on ignorance and murder. Tyranny, which demands results without proper warning. Extortion, which is conducted through contradictory orders. Bureaucracy, which begrudges people their rightful entitlements.”(p.100, 20.2) Unlike Confucius, Mencius believed that if a ruler cannot provide this for his people than the people no longer have to be loyal and if they believe strongly enough they can revolt. When Mencius found Prince Hui living in the lap of luxury while his people were perishing for lack of economic reforms he said “In your kitchen there is fat meat, and in your stables their are sleek horses, while famine sits upon the faces of your people and men die of hunger in the fields. This is to be a beast and prey on your fellow men.” They both believed that rulers were divinely placed in order to bring peace and order to the people they rule. The master said “lead them by political maneuvers, restrain them with punishments: the people will become cunning and shameless. Lead them by virtue and restrain them with ritual: they will develop a sense of shame and a sense of participation.”(p.6, 2.3) Confucius argued that the interests of the people should be first and the interests of the ruler should be last.
Mencius emphasized goodness of human nature as the key to the recognition of social and political significance. “As far as what is genuinely in him is concerned, a man is capable of becoming good,” said Mencius. “That is what I mean by good. As for his becoming bad that is not the fault of his native endowment. The heart of compassion is possessed by all men alike; likewise the heart of the heart of respect and the heart of right and wrong.”(p.162, 6a6) Confucius said “Is goodness out of reach? As soon as I long for goodness, goodness is at hand. They both believe that if you really want to be good you can, just by actually wanting to.”(p.32, 7.30) They defiantly agree that all men have tendency to be good. Confucius spoke lots about the important things about what he was believed to be humane and Mencius expanded on the idea of humanity. The master said “Whoever could spread the five practices everywhere in the world can implement humanity. Courtesy, tolerance, good faith, diligence, generosity. Courtesy wards off insults, tolerance win all hearts, good faith inspires the trust of others, diligence ensures success, generosity confers authority upon others.”(p.86, 17.6) So basically to be humane you just have to practice these five things everywhere you go to show humanity. According to Mencius people are prone to be good, he says “human nature is not does not show any preferences for good or bad just as water does not show any preferences for either east or west? Human nature is good just as water seeks low ground. There is no man who is not good; there is no water that does not flow downwards.”(p.161, 6a2) Again showing he agrees with Confucius but he expands on the Idea by comparing It to water. He also goes on to say that man can go bad just like water can be splashed in all different directions.
Confucius believed very strongly about respect for elders. Master said “A man who respects his parents and his elders would hardly be inclined to defy his superiors. A man who is not inclined to defy his superiors will never foment a rebellion. A Gentleman works at the root. Once the root is secured, the Way unfolds. To respect the parents and elders is the root of humanity.”(p.3, 1.2) This basically says that if you have respect for your elders you won?t rebel against the people you respect, which should be the government. Mencuis says “Their are no young children who do not know loving their parents, and none of them when they grow up will not know respecting their older brothers. Loving one?s parents is benevolence; respecting one?s elders is rightness. What is left to be done is simply the extension of these to the whole empire.”(p184 7a16) To me Mencius says almost the exact same thing as Confucius accept that Confucius implies that the respect for the empire will be their automatically but Mencius is saying that respect for the empire is the one we still have to work on. The master said “At home a young man must respect his parents; abroad, he must respect his elders. He should talk little but with good faith; love all people but associate with virtuous. Having done this, if he still has energy to spare let him study literature.”(p.4, 1.6) Confucius tells about who we should respect both at home and abroad. He throws in his two cents about learning literature because that is what all great scholars will tell you. Mencius talks about the order of who to respect ” The man there is old and I treat him as elder. He owes nothing of his elderliness to me? Treating an elder man from ch?u is no different from treating an elder from my own family as elder? If a man from your village is a year older than your older brother who do you respect? My brother. In filling their cups with wine which do you give precedence to? The man from the village.” (p163, 6a6) Confucius spoke about Home and abroad and Mencius spoke about how to treat someone when pouring them a glass of wine. Either way both teaching proper respect to elders in different situations.