Human Nature according to Confucius

The importance of a human nature is connected with the fact that philosophy should solve a range of problems tied with human outlook, problems such as the place of a human being in the world, the degree of their freedom, the meaning of life, and the attitude of a human being to nature and society. Understanding the influence of development on human nature is also of major importance. Human nature is a very complex phenomenon and the philosophical approach tries to evaluate human nature in multiple ways. What is human nature? What influences it? And does it change or can a person overcome their physiological drives. Confucius said yes to this question, he believed that humans can be perfected through ethics and practice. He said that if man rejected his inner desires and strived towards respect for others, then society as a whole would be more harmonious.

 “In Confucian cultures, the relational self, is one which is intensely aware of the social presence of other human beings. The appearance of others in the phenomenal world is integral to the emergence of selfhood; that is, self and others are conjointly differentiated from the phenomenal world to form the self-in-relation-with-others” (Ho: 1995).

The Confucians considered humanity and kindness as a integral part of  human nature. A person by relating themselves to others could improve themselves. Respect, education, and integrity were defining principles in Confucianism. Self-improvement was understood as self-education, development of the “humane” origin (the carrier of high morals and psychological qualities) and suppression of “wild” and “malicious” in oneself. The central figure, the Confucianism ideal is “a noble person”, the carrier of the Confucian consciousness. Their virtues include: self-control, justice, respect for seniors, and social responsibility. Their purpose is to be of service to people; the personality in the Confucian is molded by the expectations of elders and society.

Confucius created the doctrine on the basis of his personal experience. He formed the laws according to the principles of the Zhou culture, which emphasized moral responsibility and the concept of chun tzu (Lau, 1979). Chun Tzu was any refined gentleman who embodied the virtue of benevolence while he maintained traditional rites, customs, and filial piety toward his ancestors, family, and god. The main aim of Confucius’s doctrine was to perfect the sense of human life, for man to overcome his maleficent tendencies and become noble. Using certain definite qualities and the position in society, Confucius divided people into three groups:

• Dissolute;

• Reserved (a noble person);

• Fools.

 A dissolute is a person who is lax in morals. A fool according to Confucius was one "who despised good counsel while a wise man took it to heart" (Confucius). A noble person of Confucius is defined as honest and sincere, straight and fearless, all-seeing and understanding, attentive in speeches, and careful in deeds. They should control their doubts and deeds; they should stay honest in the profitable business; they should avoid lusts, quarrels and miserliness. The true nature of a person in Confucianism is indifference to food, wealth, vital conveniences and financial benefits. They devote themselves to the service to high ideals, people, and search for truth. Having learned the truth in the morning, they can quietly die in the evening.

The behavior of a person is based on the observance of two main principles:

a) Help others to achieve what you would want to achieve;                   

b) Do not treat other people the way you do not wish to be treated.

A person should behave according to social norms. A person should remain moderate in everything: they should have neither excessive rage nor excessive love; should not give way to grief or admire pleasures. A person should avoid going to extremes and being too obsessed with hobbies - the basic rule of personal moral consists in it.

The supporters of Confucianism relied mainly on the reflective layer of consciousness, and improved themselves through self-analysis and self-control. “ When human nature is aligned with the rest of nature, order and harmony are the result. ” (Hardy 2012). The realized assimilation and self-education should counterbalance natural and cultural origins of a person so they can be in complete harmony with their society.

The idea of Confucianism is binary, dichotomic, and based on the knowledge of the phenomena through the knowledge of their antithetical. It is based on the opposition of pairs as “natural - unnatural”, “rest - movement”, “good - evil”, “subject - object”, etc. The Confucians accurately divided and opposed “natural” (passions) and expected individuals to curb these passions in their nature of self. Such an approach, opening the way to the analytical knowledge of the world and allowing orderly a world picture, at the same time “breaks” the world into oppositions, depriving it of integrity. Thus, everything which is not kept within this artificial model of the world was distorted or ignored. The Confucian education promoted internal confrontation leading to intrapersonal conflicts. It is possible to say that Confucianism is the way of self-restriction when the undesirable sides of a personality are simply suppressed by the conscious self-coercion.

The doctrine of Confucius sought to preserve the traditions of ancient culture, which promoted the creation of a harmonious society but through this focused more on the achievements of individuals based on social ideals rather than their needs as an individual.  Such an ideal is represented by a perfect, noble person possessing five virtues and keeping order and balance in the world by own behavior. Confucius’s main views are stated in the book “The Analects of Confucius” - a legendary monument of literature which represents the statements and conversations of Confucius which were written down by his pupils and followers.

The word “Analects” means the collection of the quotes, poems and references. According to the “The Analects of Confucius”, translated by Arthur Waley, education is one of the most important human activities.

“Tzu-hsia said, A man who treats his betters as betters, wears an air of respect, who into serving father and mother knows how to put his whole strength, who in the service of his prince will lay down his life, who in intercourse with friends is true to his word - others may say of him that he still lacks education, but I for my part should certainly call him an educated man” (Waley, 1989).

In conclusion, a person has two natures. They are the animal nature and the reasonable nature. The first one consists of a set of instinctual reactions to the world, while the other one is the conscious nature of self. Confucius believed in suppressing the instinctual nature almost completely so that a person could perfect themselves and become an asset to society. He created a philosophy in which his followers focused on suppressing certain maleficent qualities of the human nature so that through education and ethics they could improve the society.

Rather, the reasonable should be used in moderation to control the instinctive nature which is the natural way in which most humans develop. Because a human is most comfortable when they are in sync with their instinctive self while using his reasonable self to assimilate into daily life. A human being is born with the ability to construct personal situations using his reasonable mind which is his biological nature. So the reasonable nature is autonomous and the highest nature of a human being.

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