Menzi (Mencius) on Human Nature [7:36]


Mengzi, also known as Mencius, was an early Confucian philosopher from 300 BCE.  For Mencius, the Confucian Way, or Dao, taught that benevolence, righteousness, propriety, and wisdom were necessary for a life well lived.  We all have innate pre-dispositions towards these virtues, but we must cultivate them.  The video discusses Mengzi’s “Child and the Well” thought experiment which argues that everyone has an immediate, gut reaction when even imagining a child falling down a well.  Therefore, we all have at least minimal innate dispositions towards compassion.  The video then discusses responses to this and other thought experiments, including the role of moral education.

Discussion Questions

  • What virtues, if any, do you think are necessary for a “life well lived”?
  • What do you think of Mengzi’s thought experiment?  Is compassion, for instance, innate?
  • Do you think the root of human nature is mostly good, mostly bad, or some other mix?
  • What role does ethics education have for Mengzi?  Do you agree?

Keywords: philosophy, human nature, Confucianism, humanity, Mencius, virtue, character, morality, ethics, flourishing,


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