20 June 2019

Human Nature and Sun Zi's Art of War

Win or loss is determined much by our emotions. Sun Zi shows us how we can be easily exploited and also how should we manage them for victory.
The following Human Nature is revealed by Sun Zi:
  1. Pride - Glory Seeking.
    So Sun Zi admonish us as in the following verses (the number in the bracket refers to the chapter number):

    [4] 见胜不过众人之所知,非善之善者也;
    Winning that is known by all is not the best.
    Winning and the world say it is good is not best.

    Meaning: The best winning strategy should be unknown. If they know they can predict, copy and beat you.
    Implied: seeking glory and praise is not the purpose of war.

    [4] 胜于易胜者也。无智名,无勇功,故其战胜不忒,不忒者,其所措必胜,胜已败者也

    Defeat the easily overcome opponent (i.e. don’t fight the famous for glory. You run the risks of being defeated). No reputation for wisdom, nor be known for bravery, and hence the victory is without fault. Without fault is because of the way chosen is sure to win. Why? Because you have chosen to fight the loser.

    Hence, advance not for glory-seeking, withdrawn not to escape blame (If the situation calls for withdrawing to minimize the loss of lives, then doing it is not shameful - your men lives are important that your reputation), only care for the protection of the people, bringing benefits to the rulers, such commanders are the treasures of the nation.
  2. Anger

    A ruler cannot be angry and start a war (or a ruler should not start a war out of anger.) A commander should not cause a war out of anger.
  3. Impulsiveness - They just start a war first without any plan. Maybe out of anger, to revenge, or just to show-off.

    Hence, the victorious army first plans to win and then seek a war. The losing army starts a war first and then later seek to win.
  4. Panic & Fear - Winners always remain cool, calm and objective to see and think clearly to win.

    Managed to handle the chaos. Staying calm and quiet to handle the noises.
  5. All Emotions can be exploited - This is a key wisdom of Sun Zi. No matter how good you are, he can press the right button to cause us to react in the way he can beat us.


    The brave (not afraid of death) can be killed. (Recklessness is dangerous).
    The coward (want to live) can be captured. They surrender easily.
    The quick-temper can be insulted. They will then react impulsively.
    The clean and frugal can be despised (black mouthed). They too will get excited and try to defend themselves and will not focus on the real issues on winning.
    The loving of people can be troubled so that they are easily caring for the people and lose focus on warfare.
  6. Finally, our emotions are affected by the environment, the seasons of time. We can use or create the environment to affect the emotion, morale, and vitality of the troops.

    [7]是故朝气锐,昼气惰,暮气归。 善用兵者,避其锐气,击其惰归

    Hence, in the morning, people are energetic. By evening, they will be packing for home. Those wise commanders will avoid the vitality and attack the home going weariness.
For more, please see Sun Zi and The Art of War
More could be said about human nature. About 150 years later, a person called Gui Gu Zi addressed this human nature issue at much greater length and founded the school of diplomacy or strategic alliance and persuasion and wrote the history of China that we know now. The West has completely missed the wisdom of this Gui Gu Zi, whose work, is a great complement to Sun Zi’s Art of War. For his work, see Gui Gu Zi - Art of Strategic Alliances & Persuasions.

Lim Liat (c) 20 Jun 2019

No comments: