Social Life In Mencius's How To Live A Good Life

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How to live a good life is imperative for countless people. In the Mengzi, Chinese philosopher Mencius explains how to live the good life by way of living the social life. It is in my view that the social life is the most convincing because it demonstrates how we as humans are cultivated into living a full, happy life.
In Mencius’ view, living the social life is identified as living as a truly happy person because you fit into society and have fully cultivated sprouts. The moral sprouts are humanity (ren), rightness (yi), social rituals (li), and wisdom (zhi) (Mengzi 1A7). Society shapes these sprouts much like a woodworker would shape dishware. In Mengzi 6A1, Mencius and Gaozi compare making cups and bowls to human nature. When wood is hacked,
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The quote from Mencius, “’Those who follow their greater body become great men, those who follow their lesser body become small men’” (Mengzi 6A15) is one that presents what it means to live a good life. A great man is an individual who listens to their heart and mind and is not overcome by distractions. On the contrary, a small man is an individual who only listens to their desires. When an individual only listens to their desires, their soul is not in harmony. Rather, one of their moral sprouts has not been fully cultivated. An example in daily life is when an individual is overcome by their desire for money and sells their deceased great-grandmother’s antiques. The moral sprout of yi would not be fully cultivated in this case, making this person’s soul inharmonious. It is wrong to sell a deceased individual’s belongs just for the sake of earning money. Another reason why the social life is the ideal way to live a good life is when a person knows they are in a truly yi situation. In other words, this is when a person knows to go against social rituals so as to benefit another person. Mencius clarifies this by stating that it is appropriate to touch the hand of a drowning sister-in-law because it is the right thing to do (Mengzi 4A17). The social ritual here is not touching the hand of a woman other than one’s wife. However, witnessing a drowning person in general evokes a strong sense of dismay…show more content…
Plato would apply his critique of the conventional life by stating the claim that following social rituals could have bad consequences. Mencius would respond to this claim by explaining that in the social life, consequences do not matter. What does matter is following the social ritual. Following any ritual is about following one’s moral senses and knowing right from wrong. This applies the sense of wisdom because the individual knows that not following a social ritual would invoke a moral consequence: shame. Once an individual feels a sense of shame, their soul is not in harmony. Thus, they would not be living a good life in that moment. Another point Mencius would make is a social ritual is not merely created because it is the right thing to do. Rather, the reason behind why a social ritual was created makes it right. Plato at this point might point out the fact that there are instances where not following a social ritual does occur. Mencius would agree with Plato, but, explain that an individual would do so for the sake of others. This ties back to Mengzi 4A17, touching the hand of a drowning sister-in-law. While yes, it is the right thing to do in terms of saving a life, it is also the right thing to do in terms of saving the family of the sister-in-law from feeling sorrow. If the person who saved the woman did the opposite and followed the social ritual, they would more than likely feel
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