Hsun Tzu

Hsun Tzu on Human Nature
Intro to Asian Religions
Hsun Tzu’s Historical Background
Hsun Tzu 荀子 (310-238 BCE)
 Born in north central China but emigrated to state of Ch’i
to study Confucianism
 Became a master of Ch’i Hsia Academy, a center of
interscholastic philosophical learning
 Advisor to Ch’i and several other imperial courts
 Assassination of patron ended his political career
 Most famous students, Li Si and Han Fei Tzu, became
teachers of Legalist school, denouncing Confucianism
Important Terms
xing = “nature;” disposition, temperment
 惡 e = “evil;” wicked, hateful
 善 shan = “good;” beautiful, auspicious
 情 qing = “emotion;” having heartfelt desires
 偽 wei = “conscious activity;” artifice
Hsun Tzu’s Arguments for the
Selfishness of Human Nature I
 The
natural tendency to be drawn to sense
pleasures (pp. 492-93)
 Ancient sages realization of natural human
selfishness (p. 493)
 Ritual as learned, not inborn (493)
 The contrast between natural emotional response
and learned conscious activity (494-95)
Hsun Tzu’s Arguments for the
Selfishness of Human Nature II
 Since
all desire comes from lack, desire for
goodness also comes from its lack (495)
 Mencius selectivity regarding morally good human
emotions (496)
 Explanation for religion and ritual resides in
human selfishness (496)
 Perfectibility of all human beings through attention
to propriety (497)
A Review of the Confucian Debate on
Human Nature
 The
issue of inborn emotions
 Mencius:
humans born with desire and reflection
 Hsun Tzu: desires are inborn, reflection is learned
 The
issue of culture
 Mencius:
good culture comes from good nature
 Hsun Tzu: culture meant to manipulate nature
 Whose
position is most plausible?
for Next Class
 Sourcebook