Confucius said ‘By nature men are similar; by practice men are wide apart’. The truth of PIM

One of the many Confucian quotes is ‘By nature men are similar; by practice men are wide apart’. Thinking of it, it can be applied directly to PIM. We all manage information, although we all do it differently in practice

However, Confucius did not have the PIM in mind when writing the Analects. This phrase has a wider view of the word in which all humans are equal when born. It is the learning and the environment that shape us. There are different views of this quote by later neo-Confucionists (especially Mencius and Xunzi). However they explain the quote, it can be interpreted in many contexts. Here’s how some scholars see it:

Esmond D. Smith, Johnson & Wales University

"One of the distinctive features of Confucius’s teaching is the confidence that he expressed that human beings are essentially alike by nature. Confucius thought that the important differences in human beings are determined by environment and education, by the habits and preferences they develop and the lives they lead. For this reason Confucius put great emphasis on learning. But because he saw people as constantly changing and growing, his teaching was not the same for everyone."

Wikipedia explains Mencius’ and Xunzi’s views of human nature, focusing on the good and evil

"Confucius never stated whether man was born good or evil, noting that ‘By nature men are similar; by practice men are wide apart’ —implying that whether good or bad, Confucius must have perceived all men to be born with intrinsic similarities, but that man is conditioned and influenced by study and practise. Xunzi’s opinion is that men originally just want what they instinctively want despite positive or negative results it may bring, so cultivation is needed. In Mencius’ view, all men are born to share goodness such as compassion and good heart, although they may become wicked. The Three Character Classic begins with "People at birth are naturally good (kind-hearted)", which stems from Mencius’ idea. All the views eventually lead to recognize the importance of human education and cultivation."

Sanderson Beck, Confucius, Mencius and Xun-zi, CHINA, KOREA & JAPAN to 1800

"Confucius believed that people were similar by nature but became different by practice, and thus there are some one can join in study, others one can join in progress along the way, others again beside whom one can take one’s stand, and finally some whom one can join in counsel."

Edward Gilman Slingerland, Confucius, p. 200, Hackett Publishing, 2003

"17.2 The Master said, “By nature people are similar; they diverge as the result of practice."
Although not a primary concern for Confucius, the topic of human nature (xing 12) became a central focus of debate in later Confucianism. Mencius famously declared that “human nature is good (shan §),” and repeatedly defended this claim against his opponents. Xunzi chose human nature as the center of his confrontation with Mencius, famously entitling one of his chapters, “Human Nature Is Bad.” The character of human nature was a topic of lively debate throughout pre-Tang Confucian thought, with various positions—it is good; it is bad; it is neutral; it is mixed (some people are born good, others bad)—all being defended as expressions of Confucius’ original view. The lack of theoretical consistency in the Analcts makes it possible to argue for any of these positions. Passages that emphasize the importance of native substance (zhi Q) (3.4, 3.8) sometimes seem to imply that at least some people are born with the “stuff” of virtue that merely needs to be refined into full Goodness; passages such as 2.9, 5.9, ll.4, 16.9, and 17.3 imply that some exceptional sages (such as Yan Hui) are bom fully good, while 5.10 and 17.3 similarly imply that some are born hopelessly flawed. The general tenor of the Analcts, however, seems to be summed up fairly well here in 17.2: all people, even non-Chinese barbarians, are bom with more or less similar basic stuff, and it is the quality of the tradition into which they are socialized—the consequences of "practice" (xi ’§)—that really makes the difference."