xìng wú shàn wú è 性无善无恶
Human Nature Is Neither Good nor Evil.
Human nature has nothing to do with good or evil, which is a view held by ancient Chinese people. The philosopher Gaozi was one of the advocates of this “neither good nor evil” theory. Here, human nature refers to the in-born attributes of a human being. According to Gaozi, a person’s inherent desires directed to the outside world reflects no more than physical needs, such as the need for food and for sex. Such instincts are irrelevant to ethics, free of good or evil. A person’s good or evil traits result from cultivation and social influence in life after birth. People who are exposed to good influences tend to do good things. People who live in a bad environment tend to do bad things.
Gaozi said: “Human nature resembles the rapid flow of river water. When a breach occurs on the eastern bank of a river, the water flows towards east. When a breach occurs on the western bank of the river, the water flows towards west. Just as flowing water cannot determine where it goes, human nature cannot be characterized as good or evil.” (Mencius)