Chen Ming (陳明)
Confucius and Mencius differ in many ways in describing and demonstrating benevolence. For Confucius, benevolence is a basic concept, with filial piety at its core, and entails socially and culturally regulated action; benevolence symbolizes self-perfection while sagacity symbolizes perfection of all things in the universe. In contrast, for Mencius, who transforms the Confucian universe of unending life into a philosophical universe and changes Confucian benevolence of familial respect into a universal and absolute moral sentiment or instinct, the universe is a basic concept. With the universe as the metaphysical core, Mencius changes benevolence from the fruit of intention to an object of thought, so it is no longer a relation between life and its projects but, rather, a relation between the mind and its cultivation. Confucius talks about benevolence through the individual and familial morality while Mencius does so through the universe and human nature. Distinguishing Confucian and Mencian benevolence has theoretical importance for Confucianism and practical importance in our lives.
Wang Bo (王博)
Much of Xunzi’s philosophy can be characterized as a deepening of themes introduced by Confucius and, at the same time, a reaction against Mencius’ brand of Confucianism. For Xunzi, the idea of learning was a critical concept in achieving both of these goals. In Xunzi’s philosophy, learning is not simply the accumulation of knowledge but, rather, the process of coming to understand morality as a lifelong process of self-cultivation and self-improvement. Xunzi did not agree with Mencius that human nature was inherently good; instead he believed that human nature was bad, which is why individuals must actively learn to control their base desires. It is no coincidence that, in Xunzi’s project of self-cultivation based on learning to overcome one’s primal nature, chapter 1 of his anthology is “Encouraging Learning.” Reexamining the respective moral philosophies of Xunzi and Mencius from the perspective of learning and its role in moral cultivation can provide a deeper understanding of their overall philosophy.