Man Is Neither Good-natured Nor Bad-natured According To Su Shih


The difficulty may be avoided by a theory given by Su Shih and other

scholars influenced by Buddhism, which maintains that man is neither

good-natured nor bad-natured. According to this opinion man is not

moral nor immoral by nature, but unmoral. He is morally a blank. He

is at a crossroad, so to speak, of morality when he is first born.

As he if; blank, he can be dyed black or red. As he is at the

cross-road, he c
n turn to the right or to the left. He is like

fresh water, which has no flavour, and can be made sweet or bitter by

circumstances. If we are not mistaken, this theory, too, has to

encounter insurmountable difficulties. How could it be possible to

make the unmoral being moral or immoral? We might as well try to get

honey out of sand as to get good or evil out of the blank nature.

There can be no fruit of good or evil where there is no seed of good

or bad nature. Thus we find no satisfactory solution of the problem

at issue in these four theories proposed by the Chinese scholars--the

first theory being incompetent to explain the problem of human

depravity; the second breaking down at the origin of morality; the

third failing to explain the possibility of moral culture; the fourth

being logically self-contradictory.

[FN#164] Su Shih (1042-1101), a great man of letters, practiser of

Zen, noted for his poetical works.