The Fallacy of Human Nature According to Mengzi: is It Actually Good Or Bad

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Even though all basic human freedoms for African Americans were denied during the late part of the 1900’s in the American South, how were white Southerners not able to see how lynching was morally wrong? In the following paragraphs, I will use and defend Mengzi’s view regarding human nature to prove how white Southerners actions were morally wrong. In essence, Mengzi believed that human nature is good and defines human nature as the Confucian way of life. The Confucian way can be broken down into four virtues: benevolence, propriety, righteousness, and wisdom. According to Mengzi, humans have inherent predispositions that enable all humans to move naturally towards these four virtues. Ultimately, the cultivation and nurturing of virtues is vital to the Confucian way of life.

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In contrast, if Mengzi believed that benevolence, propriety, righteousness, and wisdom were not given to humans externally, why were white Southerners able to kill and torture blacks for years during the late 1900’s? How were white Southerners able to take organs as prizes after murdering innocent blacks with morally correct inherent predispositions? If Human nature is good, Southerners must have been guided away from lynching and other evil actions. According to Mengzi, the heart mind and moral compass must have guided Southerners towards morally correct decisions and actions. Instead, white people encouraged lynching and viewed lynching as a celebration and a step in the right direction in eradicating and suppressing blacks. Ironically, Southerners inherent predispositions moved them closer to morally wrong actions prohibiting them from determining that their actions were morally wrong and proving that human nature is bad.

To refute the objection that human nature is bad, Mengzi presented two metaphors. In the first metaphor, Mengzi described virtues as “sprouts” or seeds that are located inside of the “heart mind” (Mengzi, p. 40). More importantly, all humans have these sprouts but are only present in those who cultivate and nurture them. Through effort, reflection, and action, only then will sprouts grow and fully manifest themselves. In Mengzi’s child and well thought experiment, Mengzi proved that human nature is good. For example, “suppose someone suddenly saw a child about to fall into a well”, nearby watchers will have an immediate gut reaction warning them of danger (Mengzi, p. 46). This reaction is spontaneous and unintentional. This is crucial because it demonstrates that humans have inherent sprouts that propel us towards morally correct decisions and proves that human nature is good. However, only through action will these sprouts grow and mature over time. Unfortunately, Southerners nurtured and cultivated weeds instead of sprouts. Weeds resemble the Southerners immoral actions as well as their physical and spiritual short comings such as: envy, anger, greed, pride, and gluttony. The sprouts of the Confucian way withered and gave way to the objection and idea that human nature is bad.

In the second metaphor, Mengzi described “Ox Mountain” as fertile and “once beautiful” (Mengzi, p. 152). Conversely, if humans with “hatchets and axes besiege” the vegetation of the surface of the mountain, Ox Mountain will be “barren” and lifeless (Mengzi, p. 152). This metaphor is important because it describes the impact an environment can have on human nature. Ox Mountain correlates to the predispositions or sprouts that are within humans. If the surrounding environment is harmful and prohibits the growth and cultivation of sprouts, then people will act as if human nature is bad just like white Southerners did during the 1900’s. The chaotic environment during the late 1900’s prohibited whites from making morally correct decisions and reinforced celebrating morally wrong actions through lynching. To conclude, the objection is a formal fallacy which does not take into account how an environment can impact human behavior and ultimately define human nature incorrectly.

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