Posted in Philosophy

Fundamental Malevolence

Human beings are fundamentally evil. This was a theory concerning human nature put forward by Xunzi – a leading Chinese Confucian philosopher, along with Confucius and Mencius. Xunzi stated that human beings naturally seek out only their own interests and greed, envying and hating each other so much that they are bound to fight if left alone. He suggested that people needed to learn etiquette and culture themselves to correct this.

Xunzi’s philosophies are on a background of the chaotic setting of the Warring States Period. The Warring States Period was a period when China was split into many different countries, all warring with each other to gain dominance over each other’s lands. During these wars, Xunzi saw countless cases of people looting and killing each other, which led him to the conclusion that people are naturally selfish beings. He believed that human beings focus on their greed and self-preservation from the moment of birth. He also believed that leaving people without order would indubitably lead to social chaos. Thus, to effectively rule over the people, a leader must place limits such as laws, ethics, etiquette and culture.

From an evolutionary point of view, the theory of fundamental malevolence (성악설, sung ak sul) makes sense. Would a starving lion mourn the death of a baby zebra? Protecting one’s own interests is a great way to increase your chance of survival and propagating your genes.

The more you carefully observe people’s behaviour, the more credibility the theory seems to gain. Human beings are selfish beings who become jealous of others for having more than themselves, kill someone because they tried to take away their love and engage in fratricidal war because others do not share their beliefs. You as the reader may state that you cannot imagine hurting anyone, let alone taking a life. In that case, let us examine the following thought experiment.

One day, you are kidnapped. When you come about, you find that you are trapped in a pitch-black room, tied to a pole. The room appears to be completely empty and you cannot see or hear anything. Suddenly, you hear a voice coming from the other side of the room. The voice talks about how it will murder you in a violent, excruciating way, over and over. The voice continues to threaten you in a macabre way for three days. Just when you are near your breaking point from the overwhelming fear of imminent death, another voice appears. The voice says: “If you nominate someone you are close to that I can kill in your stead, I will let you go and not harm you in any way”. Would you have the courage to not give a name?

Posted in Life & Happiness

The Ant And The Grasshopper

Once upon a time, there lived an ant and a grasshopper in the forest.
In the hot summer, the ant worked hard under the burning sunlight.
But the grasshopper spent all of his time playing on his instrument and having fun instead of working.
The ant was envious of the grasshopper, but on the other hand he pitied him.

One day, the grasshopper asked the ant: “You should rest a bit. It is important to work hard, but you should also think of your health.”
The ant, in a fit of rage, said: “You have no right to say that. The summer will not last forever and there is a finite supply of food in the forest. If you do not work hard now to gather food, everyone else will take it and you will die in the winter. To be happy in the future you must endure the pain of the present. I worry for your future.”
“If you have to live a hard present for a happy future, what meaning does your life have? Food does not define happiness.”
“That is just wishful thinking of the poor. A day will come when you will pay dearly for your lack of reality.”

And time passed until winter came. The winter brought a merciless cold snap and the forest quickly froze over.
The ant was right. The grasshopper – with no food or shelter – could not fight the cold and soon froze to death. As his body became more and more rigid, he thought to himself: “Well, I enjoyed my youth and had a happy time, so I have no regrets at least.”

The ant had enough food stored up and so he could live in his burrow without starving to death.

In his cold, damp, dark burrow he spent a lonely time, extending his miserable life just a little bit longer.
After a month of enduring it, he could not bear the continuous cold and eventually froze to death.

All is vain in the face of nature. Instead of just worrying about the future, one must also invest in the past and present to lead a complete life of happiness.