Hsun Tzu in his essay “Man’s nature is evil” tries to employ various strategies so as to convince the reader that human nature is truly wicked. He believes that the natural desires of a man are evil and if somebody follows his nature, he must be evil. This is a deductive reasoning that does not convince the reader since there are those who follow their nature and yet are still good. He says “Anyone who follows his nature must be involved in bickering and contention, and must disobey the societal rules and forms, and must be a criminal.” Tzu uses various illustrations including people’s envy and jealousy to prove his philosophy. He gives examples that definitely lead to a conclusion that man is evil. In this work, I intend to expound on this philosophy.
Hsun Tzu has employed the use of both deductive and inductive reasoning in bringing forth his philosophy. There are also various cases where metaphors and the history of the human being have been used in support of his ideas.
To start with, he says that conscious activity directly results into goodness and every man loves profit. If man continues with this love, the result is wrangling and strife. At the same time, all the sense of humanity and courtesy must disappear. Deducing that the love of profit leads to wrangling and strife and loss of humanity and courtesy is not convincing. He goes ahead and says that the feelings of both hate and envy are manifested directly from the time man is born. If man continues with this, the direct result is crime and violence. In such a case, all the sense of good faith and loyalty must disappear. This is another deductive reasoning that cannot be disputed. He continues that there is no possibility in separating man from the desires of the eye and ear. Man always loves attractive sights and beautiful sounds. Continuous desire of this directly leads man into immorality and all forms of ritual principles.
Considering all these, Hsun Tzu concludes that every man who involves his emotions and follows his nature must be involved in strife and wrangling. Such a man must violate all the societal forms, rules and regulations and ends as a criminal.
For a man to be good there must be ritual principles’ guidance and he must be transformed by a teacher who must give him instructions. He argues that for a man to change from the evil, he must learn or become a student. Since learning is seen as the unconditional good, every man who learns is less controlled by the evil desire. He compares whoever that abandons learning to a beast. The observation of the dictates of humanity and courtesy, the achievement of order and the observation of the societal forms, rules and regulations is only possible if the above is taken into account. It is therefore obvious that the nature of man is evil and any goodness of man directly results from conscious activity.
In these arguments, Hsun Tzu has used generalization and analogy which to an extent makes the reasoning logically unsound. He believes in conscious activity brought by transformation which requires aspiration to completeness and perfection. In regard to completeness and perfection, he believes that whoever misses one shot in one hundred can never be called a good archer. By observation, wood can only be made straight if it is pressed against the straightening board; a blunt metal can only be sharpened if it is whetted on the grindstone; and similarly, man’s evil nature can only change if instructions are given by the teacher, and guided by the ritual principles.
In Hsun Tzu’s reasoning, he failed to think that society provides the moral education that is responsible in perfecting the human nature. A society, at any time, depicts the overall spiritual and moral attainments of every member.