Class #17

Mencius on History

Reading:  Mencius, Readings 4

Lecture PowerPoint Deck

Book 6A provides the most important elements of the text's theory about human nature and human goodness.  The doctrines of the "four seeds" and the good nature are highly systematic, easily grasped tools for Confucians who wish to rebut Mohist doctrines and rationalize ethically idealistic political engagement in an apparently amoral world.  But there are also passages in the Mencius that deal with issues of morality and character in a less systematic, sometimes contradictory way.  The readings for Wednesday's class collects some of these less systematic passages, which seems to be dealing with the complexities and difficulty of actual human ethical understanding, as well as ones that seem to idealize the notion of the junzi and the "sage" to a level that seems almost superhuman.  The interplay between these two levels of imagined wisdom forms a basis for the discussion of the doctrines of timeliness and "fate" that we will focus on during the final class meeting on Mencius on Friday.