Mencius

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A great man is he who has not lost the heart of a child.
The way of learning is none other than finding the lost mind.

Mencius [孟子; Mèng Zǐ; Meng Tzu; Zhuyin Fuhao: ㄇㄥˋ ㄗˇ] (372 – 289 BC, or perhaps 385 – 303/302 BC) is one of the most famous Confucian philosophers.

Quotes[edit]

  • If the king loves music, there is little wrong in the land.
    • Discourses, as quoted in "I Want to Know!" by Ivan Gogol Esipoff, The Etude, Vol. LXIII, No. 9 (September 1945), p. 496

The Mencius[edit]

He who exerts his mind to the utmost knows his nature.
The sense of mercy is found in all men; the sense of right and wrong is found in all men.
  • Mencius went to see King Huei of Liang. The king said, "Venerable sir, since you have not counted it far to come here, a distance of a thousand li, may I presume that you are provided with counsels to profit my kingdom?" Mencius replied, "Why must your Majesty use that word 'profit'? What I am provided with, are counsels to benevolence and righteousness, and these are my only topics."
    • Book 1, part 1, as translated by James Legge in The Life and Works of Mencius (1875), p. 124
  • He who outrages benevolence is called a ruffian: he who outrages righteousness is called a villain. I have heard of the cutting off of the villain Chow, but I have not heard of the putting of a ruler to death.
    • 1B:8, In relation to righteousness and the overthrow of the tyrannous King Zhou of Shang, as translated in China (1904) by Sir Robert Kennaway Douglas, p. 8
    • Variant translations:
    • The ruffian and the villain we call a mere fellow. I have heard of killing the fellow Chou; I have not heard of killing a king.
      • As translated in Free China Review, Vol. 5 (1955)
    • I have merely heard of killing a villain Zhou, but I have not heard of murdering the ruler.
      • 1B:8 as translated by Wing-tsit Chan in A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy (1963), p. 78
  • The feeling of commiseration is the beginning of humanity; the feeling of shame and dislike is the beginning of righteousness; the feeling of deference and compliance is the beginning of propriety; and the feeling of right or wrong is the beginning of wisdom.
    Men have these Four Beginnings just as they have their four limbs. Having these Four Beginnings, but saying that they cannot develop them is to destroy themselves.
    • 2A:6, as translated by Wing-tsit Chan in A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy (1963), p. 65
    • Variant translation: The sense of compassion is the beginning of benevolence; the sense of shame the beginning of righteousness; the sense of modesty the beginning of decorum; the sense of right and wrong the beginning of wisdom. Man possesses these four beginnings just as he possesses four limbs. Anyone possessing these four and saying that he can not do what is required of him is abasing himself.
  • They who accord with Heaven are preserved, and they who rebel against Heaven perish.
    • Book 4, part 1, ch. 7
  • 是故誠者,天之道也
    • Sincerity is the way of Heaven
    • Book 4, part 1, 12
  • 大人者,不失其赤子之心者也
    • The great man is the one who does not lose his child's heart.
    • Book 4, pt. 2, v. 12
    • Variant translations by Lin Yutang:
      • A great man is one who has not lost the child's heart.
      • A great man is he who has not lost the heart of a child.
  • If you let people follow their feelings, they will be able to do good. This is what is meant by saying that human nature is good.
    • Book 6, pt. 1, v. 6
  • The sense of mercy is found in all men; the sense of shame is found in all men; the sense of respect is found in all men; the sense of right and wrong is found in all men.
    • 6A:6
  • The way of learning is none other than finding the lost mind.
    • 6A:11, as translated by Wing-tsit Chan in A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy (1963), p. 58
  • He who exerts his mind to the utmost knows his nature.
    • 7A:1, as translated by Wing-tsit Chan in A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy (1963), p. 62
  • The superior man has three things in which he delights, and to be ruler over the kingdom is not one of them. That his father and mother are both alive, and that the condition of his brothers affords no cause for anxiety;—this is one delight. That, when looking up, he has no occasion for shame before Heaven, and, below, he has no occasion to blush before men;—this is a second delight. That he can get from the whole kingdom the most talented individuals, and teach and nourish them;—this is the third delight.
    • 7A:20, as translated by James Legge in The Chinese Classics, Vol. II (1861), p. 335
  • 民为贵,社稷次之,君为轻。
    • Of the first importance are the people, next comes the good of land and grains, and of the least importance is the ruler.
    • 7B:14. Variant translation: The people are the most important ... and the ruler is the least important.

Quotes about Mencius[edit]

  • The most important development of the Confucian School was in the teachings of Mencius (372–289 B.C.). After the death of Confucius, the teachings were divided into two schools, one of Hsuntse and one of Mencius, the former believing in the wickedness of human nature and the necessity of restraint, and the latter believing in the sheer expansiveness of the good heart of man. Mencius said, "The great man is one who has not lost the heart of a child." He started out from the assumption that man has the innate capacity for good and loves what is good, that it is through corruption that man deteriorates, and that therefore the essence of self-cultivation, of preserving one's moral character, consists merely in "finding the lost heart of the child." This has become the orthodox school. Mencius has been given a place next only to Confucius, and it is common to speak of Confucian doctrines as "the teachings of Kung-Meng," meaning Confucius (Kung) and Mencius (Meng).
    • Lin Yutang, From Pagan to Christian (1959), Ch. 3: "The Mansion of Confucius", IV. 'Mencius: Finding the Lost Heart', pp. 86–87

See also[edit]


Social and political philosophy
Philosophers AmbedkarArendtAristotleAugustineAurobindoAquinasAronAverroesAzurmendiBadiouBakuninBaudrillardBaumanBenthamBerlinBurkeJudith ButlerCamusChanakyaChomskyCiceroComteConfuciusDe BeauvoirDebordDu BoisDurkheimEmersonEngelsFanonFoucaultFourierFranklinGandhiGentileGramsciGrotiusHabermasHan FeiHayekHegelHeideggerHobbesHumeIrigarayJeffersonKantKierkegaardKirkKropotkinLaoziLeibnizLeninLockeLuxemburgMachiavelliMaistreMalebrancheMaoMarcuseMaritainMarxMenciusMichelsMillMisesMontesquieuMoziMuhammadNegriNiebuhrNietzscheNozickOakeshottOrtegaPaineParetoPlatoPolanyiPopperRadhakrishnanRandRawlsRenanRothbardRousseauRoyceRussellSadeSantayanaSartreSchmittSearleSkinnerSmithSocratesSombartSpencerSpinozaStirnerStraussSunSun TzuTaineTaylorThucydidesThoreauTocquevilleVivekanandaVoltaireWalzerWeberŽižek
Social theories AnarchismAuthoritarianismCollectivismCommunismConfucianismConservatismFascismIndividualismLiberalismLibertarianismRepublicanismSocial constructionismSocialismUtilitarianism
Concepts Civil disobedienceJusticeLawPeacePropertyRevolutionRightsSocial contractSocietyTyrannyWar
Forms of rule AristocracyBureaucracyDemocracyMeritocracyPlutocracyTechnocracy


External links[edit]

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