The Relativity of Ren (Humaneness)

Re-examining 2A6 and 6A6 of the Mengzi from the Perspective of Self-Introspection in Experience

  • Xiangnong Hu The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Keywords: Mengzi (Mencius), 2A6, 6A6, xin (heart/heart-mind), ren (humaneness), moral cultivation

Abstract

A textual difference exists between 2A6 and 6A6 of the Mengzi: In 2A6, the heart-mind of ceyin (compassion), xiuwu (shame), cirang (courtesy and modesty), and shifei (moral judgement) are said to be the four “duan” (germs) of ren (humaneness), yi (optimal appropriateness), li (observance of the rites), and zhi (wisdom), whereas in 6A6, the term “duan” is not found. For this reason, some scholars today criticize the interpretation that translates “duan” as “starting point”, which implies a substantial difference between the four germs and ren, yi, li, and zhi that apparently does not exist in 6A6. Instead, these scholars prefer another interpretation that takes “duan” as an indication of the essential sameness between the four germs and ren, yi, li, and zhi that are originally possessed by a morally perfect heart-mind. This essay re-evaluates these two interpretations. First, it argues that compared to the first, the second interpretation’s argument for a morally perfect heart-mind is less compatible with the nature of Mengzi’s moral philosophy as a teaching that focuses on self-introspection and moral cultivation in experience. Second, this essay reinforces the first interpretation by demonstrating the existence of two different senses of ren (as well as yi, li, and zhi) in the Mengzi, thus allowing it to coherently suggest that the heart-mind possessing the four germs as innate moral feelings is the same as the “relatively antecedent” ren, which is, at the same time, the starting point for developing the “relatively consequent” ren that is substantially different from the former.

Downloads

Download data is not yet available.

References

Ames, Roger T. 2011. Confucian Role Ethics: A Vocabulary. Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press.

–––. 2016. “Philosophizing with Canonical Chinese Texts: Seeking an Interpretative Context.” In The Bloomsbury Research Handbook of Chinese Philosophy Methodologies, edited by Tan Sor-hoon, 37–56. London: Bloomsbury Academic.

Cai, Renhou 蔡仁厚. 1990. Rujia xin xing zhi xue lunyao 儒家心性之學論要 (On the Confucian Study of Heart-Mind and Nature). Taipei: Wenjin chubanshe.

Chen, Daqi 陳大齊. 1953. Mengzi xingshanshuo yu Xunzi xingeshuo de bijiao yanjiu 孟子性善說與荀子性惡說的比較研究 (The Comparative Study on Mengzi’s Theory of the Goodness of Human Nature and Xunzi’s Theory of the Evilness of Human Nature). Taipei: Zhongyang wenwu gongyingshe.

Fu, Peirong 傅佩榮. 2010. Rujia zhexue xin lun 儒家哲學新論 (A New Discourse on Confucian Philosophy). Taipei: Lianjing.

Ivanhoe, Philip J. 1990. Ethics in the Confucian Tradition: The Thought of Mencius and Wang Yang-ming. Atlanta: Scholars Press.

Jiao, Xun 焦循. 2017. Mengzi zhengyi 孟子正義 (The Authentic Meaning of the Mengzi). Edited by Shen Wenzhuo. Beijing: Zhonghua shuju.

Lau, D. C., trans. 1979. Confucius: The Analects. Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press.

–––. 2003. Mencius. Revised ed. Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press.

Li, Minghui 李明輝. 1994. Kangde lunlixue yu Mengzi daode sikao zhi chongjian 康德倫理學與孟子道德思考之重建 (The Reconstruction of Kantian Ethics and Mencian Moral Thought). Taipei: Zhongyang yanjiuyuan zhongguo wenzhe yanjiusuo.

–––. 2018. Rujia yu Kangde 儒家與康德 (Confucianism and Kant). New Taipei City: Lianjing chuban.

Mou, Zongsan 牟宗三. 1978. Daode de lixiang zhuyi 道德的理想主義 (The Idealism of Morality). Taipei: Taiwan xuesheng shuju.

–––. 1979. Cong Lu Xiangshan dao Liu Jishan 從陸象山到劉嶯山 (From Lu Xiangshan to Liu Jishan). Taipei: Taiwan xuesheng shuju.

–––. 2013. Xinti yu xingti 心體與性體 (The Substance of Heart-Mind and the Substance of Human Nature). 3 vols. Changchun: Jilin chuban jituan.

Ng, Kai-chiu 吳啟超. 2014. “Dangdai xinrujia yu yingyu zhexue jie dui Mengzi zhi ‘kuochong’ ji ‘duan’ de quanshi: yi Mou Zongsan, Tang Junyi yu Huang Bairui, Xin Guanglai wei li 當代新儒家與英語哲學界對孟子之「擴充」及「端」的詮釋——以牟宗三、唐君毅與黃百銳、信廣來為例 (How to Interpret Mencius’s Idea of ‘Extension’ and ‘Duan’? A Comparative Study on the Approaches of Contemporary New Confucians and English Academic World Scholars).” E Hu xuezhi 52 (6): 81–113.

Shun, Kwong-loi. 1997. Mencius and Early Chinese Thought. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Tang, Junyi 唐君毅. 1986. Tang Junyi quanji 唐君毅全集 (The Complete Works of Tang Junyi), vol. 14, Zhongguo zhexue yuanlun: yuandao pian juanyi 中國哲學原論:原道篇卷一 (The Original Dissertation on Chinese Philosophy: The Chapter on the Original Way, vol. 1). Taipei: Taiwan xuesheng shuju.

–––. 1989. Tang Junyi quanji 唐君毅全集 (The Complete Works of Tang Junyi), vol. 13, Zhongguo zhexue yuanlun: yuanxing pian 中國哲學原論:原性篇 (The Original Dissertation on Chinese Philosophy: The Chapter on the Original Nature). Taipei: Taiwan xuesheng shuju.

Wong, David B. 2002. “Reasons and Analogical Reasoning in Mengzi.” In Essays on the Moral Philosophy of Mengzi, edited by Liu Xiusheng, and Philip J. Ivanhoe, 187–220. Indianapolis: Hackett.

Yang, Bojun 楊伯峻. 1960. Mengzi yizhu 孟子譯注 (The Translation and Annotation of the Mengzi). Beijing: Zhonghua shuju.

Yang, Zuhan 楊祖漢. 1992. Rujia de xinxue chuantong 儒家的心學傳統 (The Tradition of the Learning of Heart-Mind in Confucianism). Taipei: Wenjin chubanshe.

Zhao, Qi 趙岐, and Sun Shi 孫奭. 1999. Mengzi zhushu 孟子註疏 (The Annotation of the Mengzi), vol. 11 of Shisanjing zhushu 十三經註疏 (The Annotation of the Thirteen Classics). Edited by Li Xueqin. Beijing: Beijing daxue chubanshe.

Zhu, Xi 朱熹. 1986. Zhuzi yulei 朱子語類 (The Collected Conversations of Master Zhu), 8 vols. Edited by Li Jingde. Beijing: Zhonghua shuju.

–––. 2011. Sishu zhangju jizhu 四書章句集註 (The Collected Annotations of the Chapters and Sentences of the Four Books). Beijing: Zhonghua shuju.

Published
2021-01-08
How to Cite
HuX. (2021). The Relativity of Ren (Humaneness). Asian Studies, 9(1), 181-201. https://doi.org/10.4312/as.2021.9.1.181-201
Section
Developments of Classical Chinese Concepts