Mencius (Penguin Classics) Rev. Ed Edition, Kindle Edition
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Mencius developed many of the ideas of Confucius and at the same time discussed problems not touched upon by Confucius. He drew out the implications of Confucius' moral principles and reinterpreted them for the conditions of his time. As the fullest of the four great Confucian texts, the Mencius has been the required reading amongst Chinese scholars for two thousand years, and it still throws considerable light on the character of the Chinese people. --This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
About the Author
- ASIN : B002RI9RCA
- Publisher : Penguin; Rev. Ed edition (October 28, 2004)
- Publication date : October 28, 2004
- Language : English
- File size : 3414 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 308 pages
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #979,306 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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The text itself is full of many gems. As others have noted, one of Mencius' critical additions to Confucianism is the idea that human nature is good, as argued using a number of powerful analogies such as the "child falling into a well" and the "downward flow of water" scenarios. Of course one can take issue with these analogies and come up with counterarguments, but remember that it is essentially impossible to "prove" which way human nature leans. Likewise, while the general idea of the Mandate of Heaven is present in the Analects, I believe it is Mencius who fully articulates it in a series of wonderful examples. Therefore Mencius does not just refine or restate Confucianism, he expands it as well.
Overall, I enjoyed reading Mencius greatly and highly recommend it to anyone who enjoyed the Analects. However, I did not find quite the same level of enjoyment reading Mencius as I did Confucius. For me, the analogies grew a little dense at times, and there was not the simple yet elegant profundity that keeps pulling me back to read the Analects time and time again. For me, Mencius is a great supplemental reader to Confucianism ... but it does not come close to surpassing its primary text: the Analects. Then again, that was not Mencius' intent. He would likely be the first to admit that he was standing on the shoulders of the giant in his philosophical tradition: Confucius.
A very good read, nonetheless. I am always amazed to think of the mental masterminds who sprung up in China and Europe at the same general time in history. Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Confucius, Mencius, Laozi, Zhuangzi, etc. Even if some of the works were written by disciples, the brilliance of the ideas shines through. Mencius is a worthy addition to this tradition of scholarly excellence. However, if you are to read one book and one book only on Confucianism, make it the Analects! But if Confucius is the paragon, Mencius should feel no shame in being #2.
After the thinking I do get an idea. It is amazing what is conveyed in a few words. There is no attempt to set forth an ordered set of ideas. What I understand are thoughts that form a point of view. That is what I mean by inscrutable.
Mencius is not nearly as minimalist as the Analects. He tells short tales with a moral. To that extent he is easier to understand. The same ideas appear with different emphasis in tales. The writing does not present a clear direct system of ideas, such as Aristotle. My interpretation may be much different than yours.
I enjoyed Mencius. I felt it was worth while and gave me insight into Chinese thought. It must be remembered that he is second only to Confucius in Confucian thought.
What worked for me was to read slowly and take notes. I had to invest a great deal of time in reading what is a short book. I still feel I need to read some type of treatise to get a better understanding of the philosophy of Mencius. Reading Mencius first gives the basis to build a greater understanding of Chinese philosophy and the Chinese point of view.
Mencius is most famous for his claim that human nature is good. He illustrates this by asking us to imagine a person who suddenly sees a child about to fall into a well. Anyone, Mencius claims, would have a feeling of alarm and compassion at this sight. This feeling is a manifestation of our innate tendency toward benevolence. Mencius is aware that, despite having this innate tendency toward virtue, most people fail to act in a benevolent manner. But he claims that this is due to bad environmental factors, as well as a failure to cultivate one's "sprouts" of virtue. (Lau translates "sprout" as "germ," a minor infelicity.)
Lau's _Mencius_ is probably the best complete translation of this work in English. It also includes extensive supporting material: an interpretive introduction, a glossary, and appendices on events in the life of Mencius, early traditions about Mencius, the text of the _Mencius_, ancient history as understood by Mencius, and Mencius's method of argumentation.
James Legge also did a complete translation, _The Works of Mencius_, which is a little dated (it was completed in the late 19th century), but it is still a good translation, and includes the Chinese text, along with extensive notes. I did a partial translation of the _Mencius_ for _Readings in Classical Chinese Philosophy_.
Beyond that, what is advertised in the picture and what you actually get are two different translations. It appears that others have been misled the same way.
Top reviews from other countries
While it's well known that Mencius is second to Confucius himself as the most famous of the Confucians, his work is much more readable and well constructed than Confucius's Analects, which can become tiring at times.
Mencius provides insight into noble intentions and conduct, as much as Confucius. Confucius's works frequently refer to the conduct of a gentleman, to the point that it becomes rather tiresome, however, Mencius uses accounts and analogies to essentially deliver the message of his philosophy.
Mencius concerns himself with human nature, and states that the man who rescues a baby from crawling into a well does so not out of interest of pleasing the parents or societal prestige, but out of the genuine feeling of pity one feels in the heart.
A decent proverb later in the book is "He who puts reputation and real achievement first is a man who tries to benefit others; he who puts reputation and real achievement last is a man who tries to benefit himself."
On the whole, a much more readable work of Legalist philosophy than The Analects, and worth a read for those who want to understand Chinese philosophy and social organization.
It is written by a thoughtful man who is at the top of politics and goes round trying to improve the awful dictators he was working with, very patiently.
He has not really got much of a religion, but that does not stop him.
And it is a good translation too.