home | 1000 BCE to 500 CE


previous | next

The Confucian Scholar Mencius (Mengzi)

Attempting to refute Mozi was the Confucian scholar Mengzi, who lived from 372 to 289 – whose name would be Latinized to Mencius. Confucianists would call Mencius the Second Sage.

Whereas Mozi had worn the simplest and most unpretentious clothing and otherwise appeared humble, Mencius rode around in style in a carriage. Mencius claimed that like Mozi he was for adequate living conditions, and he agreed that such conditions were needed for morality to prevail, but he attacked Mozi's belief in universal love. Mencius claimed that people must give love in varying amounts to different people. He accused Mozi of having failed to give sufficient importance to loving one's parents and of wishing to abolish fatherhood.

He argued that a good king was needed to assure that the people were properly fed and clothed, and he argued that unification imposed by an emperor was needed to spare people the horrors of war.

Mencius defended Confucianism against another critic, Yangzhu. He accused Yangzhu of failing to recognize the need of a king, and he said that to fail to recognize the primacy of a father and a sovereign "is to be a bird or beast."

He claimed that the substance of being human was serving one's parents and that "the basis of righteousness" was obeying one's elder brothers. In advocating heaven's harmony through the virtue of emperors and the obedience of common people, Mencius argued that people overall were essentially good but that anarchy made them evil and that people had to be encouraged to be good.

It was still the Warring States period, and with Mencius looking for a ruler to put his teachings into practice it is understandable that rulers facing increased competition and warfare would not be inclined to listen with much patience to his lectures about essential goodness.


Copyright © 1998-2018 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.