Page:A history of Chinese literature - Giles.djvu/49

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

of Confucius, and he is considered to have effectually "snuffed out" the heterodox schools of Yang Chu and Mo Ti.

The following is a specimen of the logomachy of the day, in which Mencius is supposed to have excelled. The subject is a favourite one human nature:—

"Kao Tzŭ said, 'Human nature may be compared with a block of wood; duty towards one's neighbour, with a wooden bowl. To develop charity and duty towards one's neighbour out of human nature is like making a bow] out of a block of wood.'

"To this Mencius replied, 'Can you, without interfering with the natural constitution of the wood, make out of it a bowl? Surely you must do violence to that constitution in the process of making your bowl. And by parity of reasoning you would do violence to human nature in the process of developing charity and duty towards one's neighbour. From which it follows that all men would come to regard these rather as evils than otherwise.'

"Kao Tzŭ said, 'Human nature is like rushing water, which flows east or west according as an outlet is made for it. For human nature makes indifferently for good or for evil, precisely as water makes indifferently for the east or for the west.'

"Mencius replied, 'Water will indeed flow indifferently towards the east or west; but will it flow indifferently up or down? It will not; and the tendency of human nature towards good is like the tendency of water to flow down. Every man has this bias towards good, just as all water flows naturally downwards. By splashing water, you may indeed cause it to fly over your head; and by turning its course you may keep it for use on