The Mencius-Xunzi Debate in Early Confucian Ethnics

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Confucianism is regarded as one of the primary religions that have profoundly influenced Chinese beliefs and ideologies. While Kongzi, or Confucius, is the founder of Confucianism, he is not the only philosopher who has contributed to such a significant impact on China. Similarly, the Analects of Confucius is not the single text that represents Confucianism. In fact, during different time periods throughout the history, there are a number of eminent representatives of Confucian thoughts, such as Mengzi and Xunzi. Because Confucianism aims at eliminating chaos and maintaining order in a harmonious society , they all agree that the guidance and education of virtuous Confucian pioneers are of extreme importance to achieve this goal. Yet, instead of supporting each other, Mengzi and Xunzi have made contradictory arguments on human nature and cultivation of moral elites .
Previous researchers have found that Mengzi, as the second most influential Confucian philosopher , maintains that human nature is good , whereas Xunzi, who shaped the Confucianism that followed him , claims that human nature is bad . This sharp contrast may result from the fact that both Mengzi and Xunzi live in the Warring States period, in which China was divided into a large number of small states with their rulers, warring against each other constantly . The reason Xunzi considers human nature much worse than Mengzi does is that he lives in the peak of long-term strives right before Qin Shihuang unified China in 221BCE . However, in this research paper, I will argue that Mengzi and Xunzi do not completely disagree with each other when talking about human nature and education, even though their ideologies are shaped by distinct historical backgrounds...

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