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  2004/3월 발제문(Mencius/Hsun Tzu)

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오민석

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2004-03-31

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<영미연 비평이론분과 세미나 발제문-오민석/03/21/2004>

(A) Mencius, 'Human Nature is Good'
(B) Hsun Tzu, 'Man's Nature is Evil'

1. Summary

1) Mencius:
He develops Confucius' hint that morality accords with human nature, asserting that 'human nature is good'. Just as water will flow downwards and grains ripen unless circumstances are adverse. Various evidence is cited in favour of this claim - the fact that people prefer to die than to do something utterly shameful, for example, or the 'gut' sympathy people feel when seeing a child drown or an animal suffer. These are not things we learn to do or to feel, and the difference between the 'sage' and the ordinary person is that the former has not lost something - his natural 'heart-mind(hsin) - which, in the case of latter, has atrophied as a result of adverse circumstances and lack of diligence.(60)

2) Hsun Tzu:
In Hsun Tzu's view, what is natural to human beings is desire and desire enevitably leads to conflict: Since this is an evil, so is the nature which results in it. Even if the young child possesses innate benevolence, it is no less natural for this to disappear and it is absurd, Hsun Tzu holds, to suppose that something as obviously acquired and requiring training as moral behavior is natural in the way sight to the eye. Far from the 'sage' being a person who has not lost some innate endowment, he is someone who has fought much harder than the rest of us to acquire the virtues. Performance of 'rites' is not something that flows from our inner being, but must be instilled in us in order to prevent social conflict.(60)

*It is clear that at various points they mean different things by 'natural'. Mencius' claim that a capacity for morality is what distinguishes human from animal nature is not contradicted by Hsun Tzu's insistence that exercise of this capacity is the result of training, environment and the disciplining of natural desires. Arguably, the most interesting difference between the two men is that, for Mencius, the precepts of Confucian 'righteousness' are ones which the uncorrupted 'sage' will intuitively assent to, while for Hsun Tzu, their only warrant is their success, over the centuries, in effectively controlling social conflict and in lending order to the affairs of men.(60-61)


2. Mencious' Text

The example of willow and a cup or a bowl.(61)
Is the nature of a dog like the nature of an ox, and the nature of an ox like the nature of man?(62)
Benevolence, righteousness, propriety and knowledge are not infused into us from without. We are certainly furnished with them. ... Men differ from one another in regard to them...it is because they cannot carry out fully their natral powers.(64)
In good years the children of the people are most of them good, while in bad years the most of them abandon themselves to evil. It is not owing to their natural powers conferred by Heaven that they are thus different. The abandonment is owing to the circumstances through which they allow their minds to be ensnared and drowned in evil.(65) --the example of barley.
All men have in themselves that which is truly honourable. Only they do not think of it.(69)

3. Hsun Tzu's Text

Man's nature is evil; goodness is the result of conscious activity. The nature of man is such that he is born with a fondness for profit...feelings of envy and hate, ...desires of the eyes and ears. ... Therefore, man must first be transformed by the instructions of a teacher and guided by ritual principles, and only then will he be able to observe the dictates of courtesy and humility, obey the forms and rules of society, and achieve order.(70)
Mencius states that man is capable of learning because his nature is good, but I say that this is wrong. It indicates that he has not really understood man's nature nor distinguished properly between the basic nature and conscious activity. The nature is that which is given by Heaven; you cannot learn it, you cannot acquire it by effort. Ritual principles, on the other hand, are created by sages; you can learn to apply them, yo can work to bring them to completion. That part of man which cannot be learned or acquired by effort is called the nature; that part of him which can be acquired by learning and brought to completion by effort is called conscious activity. This is the difference between nature and conscious activity.(71)
Someone may ask: if man's nature is evil, then where do ritual principles come from? I would reply: all ritual principles are produced by the conscious activity of the sages; essentially they are not products of man's nature.(72)
Someone may ask whether ritual principles and concerted conscious activity are not themselves a part of man's nature, so that for that reason the sage is capable of producing them. But I would answer that this is not so. A potter may mould clay and produce an earthen pot, but surely moulding pots out of clay is not a part of the potter's human nature. A carpenter may carve wood and produce a utensil, but surely carving utensils our of wood is not a part of the carpenter's human nature. The sage stands in the same relation to ritual principles as the potter to the things he moulds and produces. How, then, could ritual principles and concerted conscious activity be a part of man's basic human nature? (74)

 

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