A hermeneutic reconstruction of the child in the well example

Journal of Chinese Philosophy 19 (3):297-308 (1992)
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This article draws on two Mencian illustrations of human goodness: the example of the child in the well and the metaphor of the continually deforested mountain. By reconstructing Mencius’ two novel ideas within the framework of a phenomenological thought-experiment, this article’s purpose is to explain the validity of this uncommon approach to ethics, an approach which recognizes that subjective participation is necessary to achieve any ethical understanding. It is through this active phenomenological introspection that the individual grasps the goodness of human nature, whilst simultaneously coming to realize one’s own degree of closeness (or estrangement) to this universal nature, depending on the success of the thought experiment. Despite the apparent logical circularity of reformulating Mencius in such fashion, this article further maintains that no theoretical premises need be taken up prior to reenacting the Mencian thought-experiment. On the contrary, this article explains that knowledge of human nature manifests itself in the very moment of the proposed epistemic act.
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