Friday, September 11, 2009

Mencius on moral compromise

Mencius said, "I desire fish, and I also desire bear's paws. If I cannot have both of them, I will give up fish and take bear's paws. I desire life, and I also desire rightness. If I cannot have both of them, I will give up life and take rightness.


魚,我所欲也,熊掌,亦我所欲也;二者不可得兼,舍魚而取熊掌者也。生,亦我所欲也,義,亦我所欲也;二者不可得兼,舍生而取義者也。

It is true that I desire life, but there is something I desire more than life, and therefore I will not do something dishonorable in order to hold on to it. I detest death, but there is something I detest more than death, and therefore there are some dangers I may not avoid.

生亦我所欲,所欲有甚于生者,故不為苟得也;死亦我所惡,所惡有甚于死者,故患有所不辟也。

If among a person's desires there were none greater than life, then why should he not do anything necessary in order to cling to life? If among the things he detested there were none greater than death, why should he not do whatever he had to in order to avoid danger? There is a means by which one may preserve life, and yet he does not employ it; there is a means by which one may avoid danger, and yet he does not adopt it.

如使人之所欲莫甚于生,則凡可以得生者,何不用也?使人之所惡莫甚于死者,則凡可以避患者,何不為也?由是則生而有不用也;由是則可以避患而有不為也。

Thus there are things that we desire more than life, and things that we detest more than death. It is not only exemplary persons who have this mind; all human beings have it. It is only that the exemplary ones are able to avoid losing it, that is all.

是故所欲有甚于生者,所惡有甚于死者。非獨賢者由是心也,人皆有之,賢者勿喪耳。

Suppose there are a basketful of rice and a bowlful of soup. If I get them, I may remain alive; if I do not get them I must die. If they are offered contemptuously, a wayfarer would decline to accept them. If they are offered after they have been trampled on, a beggar would not demean himself by taking them.

一簞食,一豆羹,得之則生,弗得則死。呼爾而與之,行道之人弗受;蹴爾而與之,乞人不屑也。

And yet when it comes to ten thousand bushels I accept them without regard for decorum and rightness. What do the ten thousand bushels add to me? Is it for the sake of beautiful dwellings that I take them, or for the service of wives and concubines, or for the recognition of those afflicted by poverty? What formerly I would not accept even if it meant my death, I now accept for the sake of beautiful houses. What formerly I would not accept even if it meant my death, I now accept for the service of wives and concubines. What formerly I would not accept even if it meant my death, I now accept for the recognition of those afflicted by poverty. Could this not have been declined as well? This is what is called "losing one's original mind."

萬鐘則不辯禮義而受之,萬鐘于我何加焉!為宮室之美,妻妾之奉,所識窮乏者得我與?鄉為身死而不受,今為宮室之美為之;鄉為身死而不受,今為妻妾之奉為之;鄉為身死而不受,今為所識窮乏者得我而為之:是亦不可以已乎?此之謂失其本心。

English translation in Wm. Theodore de Bary and Irene Bloom, Sourcesof the Chinese Tradition, Volume 1: From Earliest Times to 1600, Columbia University Press, 1999, pp. 151-152.

Here is a translation into modern Chinese:

魚 是我所喜愛的,熊掌也是我所喜愛的,如果這兩種東西不能同時都得到的話,那么我就只好放棄魚而選取熊掌了。生命是我所喜愛的,大義也是我所喜愛的,如果這 兩樣東西不能同時都具有的話,那么我就只好犧牲生命而選取大義了。生命是我所喜愛的,但我所喜愛的還有勝過生命的東西,所以我不做苟且偷生的事;死亡是我 所厭惡的,但我所厭惡的還有超過死亡的事,所以有的災禍我不躲避。如果人們所喜愛的東西沒有超過生命的,那么凡是能夠用來求得生存的手段,哪一樣不可以釆 用呢?如果人們所厭惡的事情沒有超過死亡的,那么凡是能夠用來逃避災禍的壞事,哪一樁不可以干呢?釆用某種手段就能夠活命,可是有的人卻不肯釆用;釆用某 種辦法就能夠躲避災禍,可是有的人也不肯釆用。由此可見,他們所喜愛的有比生命更寶貴的東西(那就是"義");他們所厭惡的,有比死亡更嚴重的事(那就 是"不義")。不僅賢人有這種本性,人人都有,不過賢人能夠不喪失罷了。

  一碗飯,一碗湯,吃了就能活下去,不吃就會餓死。可是輕蔑地、呵叱着給別人吃,過路的飢民也不肯接受;用腳踢着(或踩過)給別人吃,乞丐也不願意接受。

   (可是有的人)見了"萬鐘"的優厚俸祿卻不辨是否合乎禮義就接受了。這樣,優厚的俸祿對我有什么好處呢?是為了住宅的華麗、大小老婆的侍奉和熟識的窮人 感激我嗎?先前(有人)寧肯死也不願接受,現在(有人)為了住宅的華麗卻接受了;先前(有人)寧肯死也不願接受,現在(有人)為了大小老婆的侍奉卻接受 了;先前(有人)寧肯死也不願接受,現在(有人)為了熟識的窮人感激自己卻接受了。這種做法不是可以讓它停止了嗎?這就叫做喪失了人所固有的羞惡廉恥之 心。

Source: http://gpccs-t6.blogspot.com/

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