On Cultivating Our Goodness

“Human nature is a mixture of good and evil.  They who cultivate the good in it will become good.  They who cultivate the evil in it will become evil”
(Yang Hsiang; 53B-18A)

1.  The topic of human nature has been a prime subject of conversation amongst Confucianists for over 2,000 years.  

2.  For the most part, Confucianist have accepted (at least to a certain degree) the teachings of Mencius (372 – 289 BCE) that the basic nature of humanity is that of genuine goodness.

3.  It seems to me that Yang Hsiang’s statement that “human nature is a mixture of good and evil” is a balanced and reasonable observation of our tendencies and our ways.  There does indeed seem to be “good and bad” in everyone.

4.  Such is demonstrated by our words and our deeds.  Our words and deeds being a mixture of good/bad words and good/bad deeds manifests Hsiang’s theory in action.

5.  Words and deeds are a response to feelings.

6.  It being the case then that there are good/bad words and good /bad deeds, then those are clearly the product of good/bad feelings.

7.  Feelings then are the root of our being, and are manifested by our words and deeds.

8.  Thus, in order to “cultivate the good” in our nature, we must maintain feelings that are pure and good.

9.  A person who regulates their feelings by acknowledging and acting in accord with their natural sense of “oughtness and ought notness” based upon their own personal feelings is well on their way to “cultivating the goodness” that is within.

10.  The distinguishing characteristic between those who cultivate the goodness which is within and those who cultivate the evil within (for there is the capacity for each) is whether the individual extends his/her feelings to others in the exercise of socializing.

11.  Much can be noted about the individual by observing whether she/he functions in accord with a purely selfish frame of reference; or by whether one extends his/her desires to “the other party” in the exercise of socializing.

12.  They who want what is good for themselves are normal (for who does not look out for their own self interests). They who extend their desires by also wanting the good for everyone else is cultivating the good which is within, and thereby fulfills the genuine goodness for which everyone has the practical capacity.

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