Does the Heart Revolt at Evil? The Case of Racial AtrocitiesEric Schwitzgebel
Journal of Confucian Philosophy and Culture (2022), 38, 5-13
The ancient Chinese philosophers Mengzi and Xunzi famously disagree about whether human nature is good. If human nature is good, as Mengzi holds, people have an innate moral compass. Everyone has the "sprouts" of morality -- the beginnings of moral goodness, which moral education can nourish into mature moral excellence. In contrast, if human nature is bad, as Xunzi holds, we have no such innate compass, no natural aversion to evil. Morality is an artificial construction, a cultural invention. I examine this question through the lens of 20th century racial atrocities in the southern United States and in Nazi Germany. To what extent might the perpetrators of those atrocities been able to see past their culturally common racial prejudices to see the humanity of those they killed, and the wrongness of their acts, if they had paused to really reflect on the nature of their actions?
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