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Procursus, Military Debate
Content created: 2014-08-30
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Human Nature Is Evil

This Selection

This brief passage contains Master Xún’s famous statement that basic human nature is “evil.” It is an argument that any modern logician would consider fallacious, but it is China’s most widely quoted logical refutation of Mencius' idealized Confucianism. (It comes from near the beginning of chapter 23 of the standard edition of Xúnzǐ’s work, a chapter usually entitled, logically enough, “Human Nature Is Evil” [Xìng È 性恶]).

This Translation

Several terms dominating this text bedevil the English translator (in this case, me), because context and convention sometimes conflict:

For linguistic details of the difficulties posed by these terms, click here.

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