Similar by nature but different by practice

子曰:「性相近也,習相遠也。」
Confucius said: “People are similar by nature, but become different by practice.”

性 (xìng), meaning human nature, was the source of a major debate between Mencius, who believed that people were born essentially good, and Xunzi, who believed it was bad.

This question doesn’t seem to have exercised Confucius quite so much. He was much more interested in how people could be taught to refine their nature though learning and “practice” (or habit) in order to make a positive contribution to society.

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