Open Journal of Philosophy
2011. Vol.1, No.2, 61-66
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. DOI:10.4236/ojpp.2011.12011
Evil Human Nature: From the Perspectives of St. Augustine
and Hsun Tzu
Xiajun Hu, Jing Guo
School of Foreign Language, Wuhan University of Technology, Wuhan, China.
Received September 26th, 2011; revised October 28th, 2011; accepted Nove m ber 10th, 2011.
The view of evil human nature is important in Chinese and western cultures. The thesis chooses evil human in St.
Augustine’s thoughts and Hsun Tzu’s thoughts to compare and analyze evil in these two. St. Augustine, who is
called “the Saint of God”, views the definition of evil, the resource of it, and salvations of it from the aspect of
religious beliefs. He considers that evil is the privation of goodness and is not created by God. Because God is
omnipotent and all-good, it is impossible for God to create evil. Evil results from the free will of human beings
themselves. If people want to attain their salvations, they should use their free will to choose good will and fol-
low the goodness given by God. Hsun Tzu, one of Confucian scholars, puts forward evil human nature which is
totally different from good human nature in Confucianism. He views the definition of evil, the source of it, and
ways to change evil into good from the angle of social reality in Warring States Period. In Hsun Tzu’s views,
evil results from the uninhibited extension of sound physical needs and desires for living. Hsun Tzu believes that
human nature is evil and goodness comes from nurture, therefore, converting evil into good is to change human
nature through nurturing. By further comparison and analysis, the thesis f urther looks into these two perspectives
from their differences and similarities. It states their differences from five aspects: backgrounds, ways to change
evil to good, categories, historical status, and positions of human beings. Apart from those, the thesis also refers
to their similarities to complement the comparative analysis. From comparison and analysis, we can draw two
conclusions: first, evil human nature from Hsun Tzu is simple in connotation and relatively objective compared
with the view of St. Augustine; second, St. Augustine thinks that human beings are equal in front of evil, which
has positive significance compared with the ideas posed by Hsun Tzu who insists on the distinction between
saint and ordinary people, between monarchs and their subjects.
Keywords: Augustine, Hs un Tzu, Evil, Free Will, Nurture
In this paper, evil human nature in St. Augustine’s thoughts
and Hsun Tzu’s thoughts is compared under scrutiny. In the
light of St. Augustine, evil is the privation of goodness. God is
omniscient and omnipotent, and creates every thing. But evil is
not created by God, because God is all-good. Besides, accord-
ing to his views, the source of evil is the free will of people.
God creates every thing, definitely including human beings.
When human beings are created, they are also endowed with
free will to accept or reject goodness. Compared with the view
of St. Augustine, evil human nature proposed by Hsun Tzu may
be understood from two aspects what evil is and what human
nature is. Evil has two levels of meaning physical evil and
moral evil. In the light of Hsun Tzu, he emphasizes on moral
evil. His human nature has three levels of meaning: first, it is
not nurtured but inborn; second, it is simple and plain without
any polish; third, it contains all kinds of sound physical needs
and desires for living. The source of evil in the views of Hsun
Tzu is from the uninhibited extension of sound physical needs
for living. Through observing their explanations about evil
human nature, we can see their differences. By further analysis,
the thesis presents their differences from five aspects: their
different backgrounds, ways to convert evil into good, catego-
ries, positions of human beings, and their historical status. St.
Augustine puts forward his views from the aspect of religious
beliefs. He admits the existence of God and God creating hu-
man beings. He also considers that the relationship between
God and human beings is in the central part of his theories. On
the contrary, Hsun Tzu may be an atheist on the issue of evil
human nature. He poses his views from the aspect of social
reality. He focuses on the relationship between saints and ordi-
nary people, monarchs and their subjects. Through the com-
parison of evil in these two, it draws two conclusions. In the
later stage of St. Augustine, he raises the idea of predestination
which expresses that God has a plan and foresees everything in
the future, including the choice of evil. So, why does not God
prevent the occurrence of evil? God has foreseen that people
choose evil. However, they are also entitled to the choice be-
tween evil and good. It is found that there is an apparent con-
tradiction in the theories of St. Augustine. In comparison with
St. Augustine’s radically contradictory views, Hsun Tzu’s views
are relatively simple and easy to understand. However, when
referring to positions of human beings in front of evil, St.
Augustine deems that human beings, no matter evil or not, are
equal in the eyes of God; on the contrary, based on the social
reality Hsun Tzu believes that saints and monarchs are different
from ordinary people and their subjects who are subordinate to
Evil, Free Will, Theodicy and Predestination
Posed by St. Augustine
Evil and Theodicy
On evil human nature, St. Augustine gives his own explana-
tions. He refines his views from the Christianity doctrines sin.
Then, what is sin?
Whatever it is, it is both astonishingly deep and deeply elu-
sive (Plantinga, 2000). According to Saint Augustine’s Doc-
trine of Original Sin, sin and evil exists because of Adam and
Eve’s defiance of God and since we are all descendants of
Adam and eve, we are automatically born into sin and are thus,
evil choice. Since we are naturally evil, we as human beings
can commit evil just for the sake of committing evil, or even to
attempt a taste of God’s powers (Duong, 2009).
From the quotation above, it can be found that the view of St.
Augustine has something to do with the relationship between
God and evil. So, it is necessary to introduce what the theodicy
is. From the new world encyclopedia, theodicy is a specific
branch of theology and philosophy, which attempts to solve the
problem of evil the problem that arises when trying to reconcile
the observed existence of evil in the world with the assumption
of the existence of God who is fully good and almighty. That is
to say, theodicy is an attempt to explain the coexistence of God
and evil. It studies the relationship between God and evil. In
accordance with Hexter’s Augustinian Theodicy.
St. Augustine created a theodicy that tried to explain the evil
in the world by searching for an alternate source for this evil
than God. The first premises of this argument is that evil is not
itself an entity. Instead it is the state in which there is a lack, or
perversion (a “privation”) of good. This is necessary, because
as all things come from God if evil were an entity then God
must have originally created it, and this would be inconsistent
with his benevolence. Secondly, human beings were created by
God with free will. This gives them the potential to do well, but
does not enforce it. This is backed up by two points (Hexter,
God is omnipotent, omniscient and all-good. Evil is not an
entity or separate being by itself. According to St. Augustine,
evil is a privation of good. God creates human beings, and He is
good. So, a conclusion can be drawn that God does not have a
bearing on evil and is not responsible for the cause of evil. In
other words, God does not cause or create evil. Actually, about
the problem of evil, it has other views. For example, one way to
understand the origin of evil is a syllogism: 1) God creates
every thing; 2) evil is a thing; 3) so, God creates evil too. This
formulation is devastating for Christianity. From these, we can
draw a conclusion that God is not all-good, for he creates evil.
To this opposite view, St. Augustine solves the problem from a
different angle. In Koukl and Gregory’s Augustine on Evil, he
Do we have any convincing evidence that a good God exists?
If independent evidence leads us to conclude that God exists
and is good, then He would be incapable of creating evil. So-
mething else, then, must be its source. If Augustine’s approach
is fair, it prompts a pair of syllogisms that lead to a different
conclusion. First: 1) All things that God created are good; 2)
evil is not good; 3) therefore, evil was not created by God.
Second: 1) God created every thing; 2) God did not create evil;
3) therefore, evil is not a thing (Koukl, 2005).
Through this syllogism from the assumption of St. Augustine, it
returns to his view of evil that evil is the privation of goodness.
Free Will and Predestination
God is not responsible for evil which originates from the free
will of human beings. Simply speaking, free will which is or-
dained by God means that people have choices in front of evil
and goodness. Evil results from the choice of human beings’
free will. St. Augustine defines “good will as a will by which
we seek to live a good and upright life and to attain perfect
wisdom which, of course, assumes that it is free.”1 In the oppo-
sition to good will, bad will which attributes to evil is a will to
choose desires or values irrationally. “He freely bestows upon
us voluntary assent, earnest effort, and the power to perform
works of fervent charity” (Augustine, 1953). Free will is St.
Augustine’s theory in his early years, which is obviously con-
tradictory to his theory-Predestination-in his later years. Then,
what is the predestination? God is almighty and omnipotent. He
foresees the future of every thing. We can understand that God
foresees human beings to choose evil. Because evil is foreseen
by God, evil should be laid at God’s feet. Why does God permit
the existence of evil? Why does not God help human beings to
avoid evil? In the later years of St. Augustine, in order to com-
bat with Pelages’ view that God does not have a plan; St.
Augustine advances his idea of predestination. In John A. Bat-
tle’s How Can God Be Just or Ordain, “For Augustine the other
side of the equation was God’s total sovereignty. Thus even the
devil and his demons are completely under God’s control. De-
mons can do nothing ‘unless where they are permitted by the
deep and secret providence of God, and then only as far as they
are permitted’” (Battle, 1996); this quotation may be a bit of
exaggeration, but it completely expresses the meaning of pre-
destination. God permits the existence of evil in order to show
his attributes and glorify himself. When understanding free will
and predestination, it can be found that there is the self-contra-
diction in St. Augustine’s views.
The Idea of Evil in Hsun Tzu’s Thoughts
Evil in Hsun Tzu’s Thoughts
Hsun Tzu may be an atheist when evil human nature is con-
cerned. Philosophy is an essentially-contested notion (Campbell,
2001). From the angle of social reality to see evil, he regards
that Heaven is not responsible for human actions, which means
that evil has nothing to do with Heaven but human beings
themselves. Compared with the thoughts of evil by St. Au-
gustine, the thoughts of it by Hsun Tzu is rela tively simple . His
concept is sole and not relevant with Heaven or God. Desires
for living are the main cause of human evil. If human beings do
not control their desires, evil will follow. In view of Herbert
Plutschow’s Hsun Tzu and the Ancient Chinese Philosophical
Debate on Human Nature,
The nature of man is such that he is born with a fondness for
profit. If he indulges in this fondness, it will lead him into
wrangling and strife and all sense of courtesy and humility will
disappear. He is born with a feeling of envy and hate, and if he
indulges in these, they will lead him into violence and crime,
and all sense of loyalty and good faith will disappear (Plut-
schow, 2002).
From this quotation, it can be found that the ideas of evil by
Hsun Tzu are greatly different from that by St. Augustine.
Further Understanding on Hsun Tzu’s Evil
To further understand Hsun Tzu’s evil, two questions should
be raised. First, what is human nature; second, how do we un-
derstand categories of evil? In conformity with perspectives of
Hsun Tzu, human nature includes three levels of meaning.
“First, human nature is inborn not nurtured or artificial. Second,
in the respect of its feature, human nature is simple and plain
without adornment or polish, which is subject to its innate con-
dition. Third, considering the context of human nature, it con-
tains all kinds of physical needs and desires for living” (Xia,
1987). Knowing what human nature means, the following one
is the explanation of evil. Evil in terms of Hsun Tzu can be
1 (last checked 2009)
X. J. HU ET AL. 63
classified into two aspects-physical evil and moral evil. More-
over, Hsun Tzu emphasizes on moral evil. “Desire and morality
are incompatible. Any one who follows his nature and indulges
his emotions will inevitably violate the forms and rules of soci-
ety and will end up as a criminal” (Plutschow, 2002). Morality
is an important key to control human desires. Morality is like
an alarm that prevents them from falling. As long as human
desires are excessive; the morality will stop them. Besides,
rules which are set up by wise kings or monarchs are also im-
portant. Actually, evil advanced by Hsun Tzu is totally different
from good human nature in Confucianism. Let’s compare the
ideas of evil by Hsun Tzu with the ideas of good by Mencius.
According to Herbert Plutschow’s Hsun Tzu and the Ancient
Chinese Philosophical Debate on Human Nature.
Because of an idealist that he was, Mention believed in the
innate goodness of man. He believed that man’s ability to learn
how to be a good and responsible citizen stems from and
thrives upon his innate goodness. If man were not innately good,
Mention argued, how could he possibly learn to be a good citi-
zen? However, Hsun Tzu maintained that man is bad and that
the state needs to control and guides him to becoming a good
citizen. Mencius nevertheless maintained that the individual
must cultivate and the state must nurture, guide, and help main-
tain his goodness (Plutschow, 2002).
In fact, good human nature Mencius’ thoughts may be re-
garded as transcendentalism. However, “Hsun Tzu, to a certain
extent, doubts predetermined moral values which belong to
Confucius and Mencius” (Xia, 1987). Hsun Tzu considers that
human nature is inherent rather than nutured. In his masterpiece
Hsun Tzu, he describes how evil in human nature forms: “self-
ishness is inborn in human nature; once it expands, the dispute
follows and the modesty falls; jealousy is inherent in human
nature; once it extends, the conspiracy forms and the sincere
advice loses” (Hsun Tzu, 2004). Therefore, evil in human na-
ture is the result of undisciplined physical needs. And if human
nature is not undisciplined and human desires are not inhibited,
Hsun Tzu considers that the feudal hierarchical system and
moral norms will be violated and destroyed, which may lead to
disorder and riot.
Their Differences
Comparing Their Different Backgrounds
St. Augustine lives in a crucial period in the history of Chris-
tianity. In the later period of Roman Empire, slave owners im-
plement barbarous and ruthless dictatorship which brings peo-
ple extreme bitterness and misfortune. “It exposed the un-
precedented weakness and the impracticality of realistic blissful
theories which were created by ancient Greek philosophers who
were optimistic in treating evil in real life” (Yang, 2000). Under
this situation, the whole society calls ideologists to give another
convincing answer about the resource of evil human nature. St.
Augustine, who stands on the side of Christian theology, an-
swers this urgent call in that era. In the attempt to put down lots
of heresies, Saint Augustine makes great efforts to set up his
theories. In the book Great Traditions in Ethics written by De-
nise White Peterfreund, it says that:
In the support and defense of Christian doctrine, Augustine is
obliged to resolve some of the most troublesome metaphysical
problems of ethics. Among these, the most crucial challenge to
the effectiveness of his ethical theory and a natural point of
entry into his whole moral philosophy is the so-called problem
of evil namely, how to reconcile the existence of evil in the
world with the omnipotence and benevolence of God (Peter-
freund, 2003).
Evil human nature proposed by Hsun Tzu came out as early
as it proposed by St. Augustine. In the course of Chinese War-
ring States Period (475-211 BC), ancient Chinese slavery col-
lapsed and crumbled with the development of society. Chinese
feudalism was gradually taking on the shape and newly emerg-
ing landlord class was appearing on the historical stage. On the
basis of these, Warring States produced a special phenomenon
in field of ideology which was the contention and flourishing of
numerous schools of thought and the ideas of Hsun Tzu also
belonged to them. Hsun Tzu was born in 316 BC, and at age of
fifteen he had traveled around to study and spread his ideas. He
stands for the newly emerging landlord class. Thereby, his
ideas are more or less to defend interes t of l andlord class.
Comparing Their Ways for Salvations
The Use of Free Will to Accept and Follow Grace of God
In the view of St. Augustine, human beings converting evil
into goodness have a bearing on two points the free will of
human beings and the grace of God. Free will which is the
source of evil signifies that in front of evil and goodness human
beings have rights to choose. So, one can alter good to live a
moral life or continue to be evil. Goodness is the grace of God.
“Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock,
and the door will be opened for you” (Holy Bible, 2004). Being
good is not mandatory or peremptory; on the contrary, it de-
pends on the awareness of individuals. Good human nature
never exists in human innate. Goodness is the privation of evil.
Because human beings cannot seek for goodness from inside,
they turn to outside to pursue it. “It is both the gift of God and
free choice that some accept this word which not all accept”
(Brown, 2005). Where do they seek for goodness? And what is
outside? God, the answer to these two questions is God. From
the grace of God human beings can get their goodness, for God
himself being all-good and having powers to give goodness to
human beings. Human beings use free will to accept or reject
goodness. If they use free will to reject the gift of God, evil will
follow. To name but one example, in the story of Holy Bible
Adam and Eve do not resist the temptation from the snake. It
can be understood that Adam and Eve choose evil to eat for-
bidden fruit on wise tree. In other words, although Adam and
Eve have rights to be good, they choose evil instead following
the grace of God. Accordingly, human beings have to turn to
human outside-God-to pursue goodness. In his masterpiece
ConfessionsSt. Augustine says, “And now thou didst ‘stretch
forth thy hand from above’ and didst draw up my soul out of
that profound darkness” (Augustine, 2003). It means that evil
human nature can only be saved by the blessing of God. The
only way leading to freedom and be good is to accept and fol-
low the grace of God. Nothing stands in the way for human
beings to pursue goodness as long as they accepting the bless-
ing of God. Goodness always exists, for God owns and offers it.
Consequently, goodness is independent on evil human nature.
In the book Great Traditions in Ethics written by Denise White
Peterfreund, it says, “Knowledge of God is indispensable to our
blessedness. But, Augustine holds that it is false pride for peo-
ple to believe that they can know God through their own efforts.
Only when God by His grace illuminates the mind can it grasp
the truth. Similarly, salvation can be achieved only through
God’s grace.” (Noel, 2004) That is to say, goodness does not
belong to human beings or exists in human nature, because its
master is God. Apart from this, it also shows that human beings
do not attain goodness, though they are on their own initiative
to seek for it. The only way to get goodness is from God. This
view completely ignores the initiative of human beings. But we
cannot deny that God is the master of goodness.
Emphasis on Proprieties and Rule s F o r med by Saints and
However, in accordance with Hsun Tzu, he considers that
human nature is evil inborn. If human beings want to attain
goodness, they have to learn from saints and obey social pro-
prieties and laws. It implies that human beings have to convert
evil into goodness for evil human nature is inherent. To a cer-
tain extent, it is a bit of obligation. According to his master-
piece Hsun Tzu, “proprieties, which were produced by saints,
could be attained by assiduous study of human beings” (Hsun
Tzu, 2004). A question can be raised: where do proprieties
come from? To answer this question, Hsun Tzu states his own
opinions. Saints to think and do that generate a great deal of
experience and knowledge which proprieties are derived from.
Therefore, proprieties originate from acquired assiduity of
saints not their human nature. It does not mean that saints have
goodness innate. On the basis of proprieties, saints and wise
monarchs create laws to govern feudal countries and their citi-
zens. Proprieties and laws are extremely close with each other.
Proprieties focus on values of morality and outlooks on life,
while laws emphasize the punishment. “Laws are absolutely
necessary to social administration” (Chen & Xiao, 2006), of
course, “using laws is just a method to reform human nature not
the final purpose” (Wang, 2008). In order to vividly explain
approaches of Hsun Tzu to convert evil into goodness, an ob-
vious example can be taken. Last year has witnessed the begin-
ning of a worldwide financial crisis which stemmed from
United States. The worldwide financial crisis is still lasting and
spreading. This financial crisis firstly occurs in real estate mar-
ket and stock market. In recent years, real estate investment
arises and has extortionate profits. The extortionate profits at-
tract increasing Americans to invest real estate with credit cards,
which incurs many people to invest real estate with unreal fi-
nance. Indulging in the extortionate profits, people are never
bored with this hazardous financial game. The following result
is the breakout of financial crisis. Leaving the economic reason
aside, let us consider this crisis from the angle of philosophy.
This financial crisis stems from evil human nature. Human
beings do not inhibit their desires for finance. If people who
madly cling to real estate investment control their desire to
attain profits, this worldwide financial crisis may be avoided.
Besides, if laws of real estate investment are strengthened, the
loss from this crisis may be reduced to the minimum. It shows
that proprieties and laws are necessary and significant to mould
people’s values and restrict their actions.
Comparati ve An al ysi s of T hei r Posi ti ons of
Human Beings
In accordance with the doctrines of Christianity, all human
beings are equal in the eyes of God. Accordingly, positions of
people in Augustinian theology are equal. According to Great
Traditions in Ethics written by Denise White Peterfreund,
“Adam, the first man, chose evil, thus falling from God’s favor,
and his original sin are inherited by all human beings. Each
person is predestined by God either to salvation or to damna-
tion” (Peterfreund, 2003). We can see that though positions of
the Pope and clergymen are distinguished from positions of
ordinary people, in fact they are the same in essence and in the
charge of the same master God. Meanwhile, the disparities are
further eliminated and removed by religious reform which is
sponsored by Luther and Calvin. Henceforth, clergymen have
the same position facing grace of God as ordinary people and
only difference lies in their different tasks.
On the other hand, evil human nature in Hsun Tzu’s thoughts
emphasizes that people are not in equal positions, which is an
apparent opposition to the view of St. Augustine. Not only does
Hsun Tzu consider that human nature are evil, but also draws
clear lines of demarcation between saints and ordinary people,
between monarchs and their subjects. Moreover, he attaches
great importance to feudal hierarchy. On the part of human
nature saints have no difference from ordinary persons, how-
ever, “what they differentiate and surpass ordinary persons is
that they have goodness which forms proprieties and laws by
acquired learning” (Hsun Tzu, 2004). Monarchs are located at
the top of the feudal system and own supreme powers. They
can make policies and use their powers without restriction and
limitation; meanwhile, “monarchs are permitted to neglect their
evil human nature and highly praised to maintain their prestige
and dignity” (Wang, 2008). Besides, unequal positions also
include the relationships between husbands and wives, between
fathers and sons, between younger brothers and elder ones.
Wives conform to their husbands, sons follow fathers, and
younger brothers obey elder ones.
St. Augustine More Welcome than Hsun Tzu
St. Augustine enjoys the great honor in the whole philoso-
phical history in the West, so his perspectives, such as evil
human nature, free will, grace of God, freedom, views of time
and space, predestination and so on, greatly influence western
philosophy. He is the first Christian philosopher to formulate
the doctrines of Christianity in a comprehensive and enduring
world view. His thoughts dominate Christian beliefs almost
exclusively for more than nine centuries. In elaborating the
Christian revelation, he dedicates himself into the task of
showing the way to the spiritual safety and happiness of salva-
tion. Consequently, he carries on an unrelenting campaign to
root out the heretical beliefs that mislead human beings in
seeking for the true religion. In addition, he undertakes the
construction of a reasonable defense against charges of con-
flicts, paradoxes, contradictions, and absurdities in Christian
doctrines. His accomplishment is facilitated by effective com-
bination of Greek philosophy and Christian belief. “St. Au-
gustine is called by church ‘great guide’, ‘the saint of God’, and
‘doctor of church’; meanwhile, he is an important spiritual
guide for forefathers of religious reformers Luther and Calvin”
(Jiang, 2008). Apart from this, he integrates theories from Plato
with Christian theology.
In comparison with St. Augustine, ideas of Hsun Tzu go up
and come down in the whole course of Chinese history. Most of
the time, it suffers from neglect and rejection. Because of his
holding on evil human nature, he is different from other major
thinkers of Confucianism believing good human nature. More-
over, “he denies the innate moral values, the inborn saints, and
the supreme power of monarchs being bestowed from hea- ven”
(Xia, 1987). The thought of Hsun Tzu was the official creed
during Han and Tang Dynasties. But all his ideas are not bene-
ficial to monarchs. Hence, they are rejected by most monarchs,
especially in Song and Ming Dynasties. In fact, evil human
nature posed by Hsun Tzu is considered a positive and progres-
sive view, to a certain extent. It admits human initiative and
advances the progress of history to some degree. Of course,
Hsun Tzu has other positive points, such as the relationship
between monarchs and citizens like the boat and the river that
X. J. HU ET AL. 65
river can load the boat and even flood it, man triumphing over
nature, and so on. Recently, researches on evil human nature
posed by Hsun Tzu are increasing because of its theoretical and
realistic significance in this material overflowing era.
St. Augustine’s Thought Belonging to Religion While
Hsun Tzu’s Morality
The perspective of evil human nature by St. Augustine be-
longs to religious category, which “is the part of Christianity
original sin” (Chen, 2002); but the idea of evil human nature by
Hsun Tzu can be sorted out to the category of moral realm.
Why? How do we understand them? St. Augustine’s view,
deriving from Socrates and Plato, metaphysical to some extent,
belongs to the transcendentalism. God has supreme goodness;
meanwhile, human beings cannot match or attain this supreme
one. Goodness human beings seeking for are subordinate to
God’s. In other words, God not only creates all kinds of crea-
ture from nihilistic world, but also commands goodness.
St. Augustine says that God is the source of goodness and
creatures are arranged by their degrees of goodness. “God alone
is intrinsically good. The individual virtues are simply different
aspects of the love of God” (Noel, 2004). When human beings
are created by God, they also are endowed with abilities to
think, recognize, and to choose evil or good. Accordingly, hu-
man nature does not have goodness, let alone the supreme
On the other hand, evil human nature in Hsun Tzu’s thoughts
belongs to the category of morality, “his view just belongs to
moral realm” (Chen, 2002). His idea is initially based on the
humanism and pays an attention to morality. Because Hsun Tzu
may be an atheist on the issue of evil and his concept of evil
originates from social reality, he emphasizes on morality to
defend feudal system, such as, moral laws, moral proprieties
and moral principles. In the book Philosophy: the Power of
Ideas written by Brook Noel Moore, “The hierarchical order of
society is set up through following unchanging moral principles.
If moral practices, laws, and the rules of propriety are followed,
order, peace, and prosperity will inevitably be the result. If they
were not followed, disorder and disaster will result” (Noel,
2004). Because of his view of evil belonging to moral realm,
nurture on morality is extremely necessary.
Their Similarities
Evil both Physical and Moral
Both St. Augustine and Hsun Tzu confirm that human nature
is evil without goodness innate. Besides, they both reach
agreement on evil including two levels. “There are two levels
of meaning on evil physical evil and moral evil” (Zhou, 2007).
The former one depends on the physical existence of human
beings and human beings need food, clothing, shelter and
means of travel. Moreover, physical evil also incl udes physical
weakness, such as blindness and deafness. St. Augustine and
Hsun Tzu do not deny physical needs for human living. When
desires for living are not inhibited, evil comes. Then, the later
one depends on individual moral consciousness. Apart from
this, they both emphasize on the usage of nurture and cultiva-
tion. They believe that education is helpful to human beings
convert evil into g o o d ness.
In a Tint of Their Times
Both of them have their own limitations on evil human na-
ture. These limitations mainly originate from realities of their
own eras. St. Augustine lives in the later period of Roman Em-
pire. “He was the last of the great late ancient philosophers.
Between the sixth century and the eleventh, Europe went
through the Dark Ages” (Noel, 2004). Under that cruel and
ruthless situation, a lot of heresies were rising. Paradoxes and
conflicts in these different religious schools were continually
aggravated. In order to maintain the dominant position of
Christianity and unravel the puzzle on evil, St. Augustine puts
forward his theories. One typical feature of his perspectives is
to digest thoughts of ancient philosophers Plato, especially
Plato’s New Principles on freedom. The other typical feature is
that his thoughts are more or less imprinted with Christian doc-
trines and stand for the class which he belongs to. When St.
Augustine puts forward his evil human nature, he has become a
clergyman in northern Africa, which shows that he actually acts
for the interest of the Pope and clergymen. Besides, in St.
Augustine’s thoughts, it implies that “it totally denies human
initiative to seek for goodness and truth” (Yang, 2000). Al-
though human beings have free will to choose evil or goodness,
it does not mean that they seize the initiative during seeking for
the goodness. Because human beings do not know what good-
ness is when they are beset with inborn evil, they only follow
the way God offers to attain goodness.
On the other hand, Hsun Tzu lived in the course of Chinese
Warring States Period. During that era, slavery was gradually
removed with the disappearance of slave economy. At the same
time, feudal economy was forming. Hsun Tzu is one of these
newly emerging classes landlord class. Because of the repre-
sentative of newly emerging landlord class, Hsun Tzu un-
doubtedly acts for the interest of landlord class. His ideas about
proprieties and laws are on the standpoint of landlord class and
in the name of saints and wise monarchs to set up feudal coun-
tries and execute the centralization. Besides, the purpose of his
views is to strengthen feudal system and enhance powers of
landlord class. To be a thinker standing for the newly emerging
landlord class, especially in order to landlord class totally grasp
the initiative, Hsun Tzu pays his attentions to the establishment
and enhancement of feudal system that requires subjects to
form firm values of feudal morality and laws and rigidly obey
these. Apart from these, both of their perspectives, to a certain
extent, refer to the views about politics. Of course, most of the
points about these also depend on realities of their own eras,
which have obvious limitations. Accordingly, no matter evil
human nature and its solution from Augustine or from Hsun
Tzu, they are both in the tint of their own times.
The thesis initially explains what evil is in St. Augustine’s
and Hsun Tzu’s thoughts. It presents a general impression of
evil. And through their explanations, it can be seen that these
two perspectives have apparent distinction. From differences
and similarities of evil human nature in these two, we get a
whole picture about them. The comparison reveals that differ-
ences between the perspective of St. Augustine and that of
Hsun Tzu account for the most important part. Differences of
these two points are further divided into five sub-types, includ-
ing their different backgrounds, ways to convert evil into good,
positions of human beings, historical status, and categories. In
fact, ways to convert evil into good are the major part in dis-
tinction. To illuminate their different ways, my thesis takes two
relatively typical examples to explain and express them, which
make it easy to comprehend the major part of distinction between
these two thinkers on evil human nature. Apart from their dis-
tinction, the thesis adds their similarities to complement and
perfect comparison and analysis of evil human nature in St.
Augustine’s and Hsun Tzu’s thoughts. After the whole com-
parative analysis, it naturally draws two obvious conclusions.
First, evil human nature proposed by Hsun Tzu is simple in
connotation and relatively objective compared with the evil
proposed by St. Augustine. In the views of St. Augustine’s evil,
there is an apparent contradiction in his theories. Evil is the
privation of goodness, which is original from the free will of
human beings. However, in his later years, St. Augustine pro-
poses his ideas of predestination. God foresees everything, so
he also has the foreknowledge that human beings may choose
evil with free will. That is to say, God has the great power to
prevent evil, so evil does not come from free will. In compari-
son with these, Hsun Tzu’s view is simpler and more objective.
His idea of evil results from desires for living. He views evil
from the angle of social reality. Therefore, his view is more
objective. Second, St. Augustine deems that human being are
equal in front of evil, which has positive significance compared
with the view proposed by Hsun Tzu who insists on the dispari-
ties between saint and ordinary people, between monarchs and
their subjects. In the eyes of God, human beings are equal even
with evil. Because of Hsun Tzu’s idea based on social reality, it
is definitely affected by reality. In order to defend the feudal
hierarchy, he distinguishes saints and wise kings from ordinary
people and subjects. They are subordinate to saints and kings.
In this respective, the view of evil by St. Augustine is more
positive than it by Hsun Tzu. According to these conclusions,
we can see that these two ideas of evil have their own merits on
different levels. Consequently, we cannot consider evil in these
two without close observation.
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