Mengzi's Losing It

Abstract

Mengzi states that our human nature consists of our ability to feel compassion, disdain, respect, and (dis-)approval: all human beings have them. But he also states that we lose these four emotional capacities if we don’t reflect on or attend to them. There is an apparent contradiction in saying that all humans have them, but some have lost them. This essay offers a close reading of Mengzi’s phrase “to lose it” that helps explain away this appearance of contradiction. In doing so, Mengzi is interpreted to be offering an ethics of attention about how we should attend to ourselves and others selectively to have a functional social life.

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Derek Lam
California State University, Sacramento

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