I came across this passage:

天下失道,而後仁義生焉。國家不治,而後孝子生焉。民爭不分,而後慈惠生焉。道逆時反,而 後權謀生焉。

To translate, I think it would be "When all have lost their way, benevolence shall follow thereof. When the kingdom no longer governs, filial sons shall follow thereof. When the people unified strive, compassion shall follow thereof. When the Dao is lead astray and times are reversed, strategy (scheme?) shall follow thereof."

Does it mean that when the Way is lost, certain virtues will return regardless, or does it mean that only when the Way is lost can these mentioned virtues be attained? It seems that the first is more plausible, but the ”民争不分,而后慈惠生焉“ part seems to go against that, because ”民争不分“ generally seems like a positive notion and so does the following cluase, in contrast to the other pairs where the first clause has a negative connotation.

1 Answer 1


民爭不分 doesn't mean 'people unified strive', it means 'people fight each other and not fulfill their duty

民爭 = 人民互相爭奪/人民互相爭執 (People fighting each other/ People quarrel with each other)

不分 = 不安分/ 不守本分 (not stay within one's bounds)

My understanding of this passage is when the social moral decay, individual benevolence will show itself -- it is not noticeable before because when everyone was moral, being moral was nothing special.

The following statements followed the same logic. When all people were decent, individual kindness was just a norm

  • an excellent answer 😸 Dec 17, 2020 at 0:58

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