The Korean Neo-Confucianism of Yi Toegye and Yi Yulgok (Part 104)


Quoting Chu Hsi’s theory, Ugye writes to Yulgok:

“The mind (sim) is one in its pure intelligence and consciousness.” Why do we, then, have the two terms, “human mind” and “moral mind”? In some cases, “it is born of the partial physical form”; in other cases, “it originates from the correctness of Heaven and destiny.” I and Ki differ in their manifestations (pal); therefore, there are two terms such as the “moral mind” and the “human mind” that differ in their functioning. One is “precarious,” whereas the other is “subtle.” Is this (relationship), then the same as (the relationship between) the Four BEginnings and the Seven Emotions? It would be correct to call the moral mind the Four BEginnings, but it would be correct to call the human mind the Seven Emotions. Moreover, the Four Beginnings and the Seven Emotions refer to what is manifest from human nature (song), whereas the moral mind and the human mind refer to what is manifest from the mind (sim). The names and meanings are not the same. I would welcome your instruction on the right way (of understanding this issue).

In this passage, Ugye means that the mind is ontologically one but called differently depending on whether it rises from selfishness identified with physical form or is based on virtuous behaviour. For him, then, it is incorrect to say that the moral mind is one thing and the human mind is another. However, the mind way be two on account of the difference between i and ki because i and ki are the sources of the moral mind and the human mind, respectively. By contrasting the goodness of the “subtle” moral mind and the “instability” of the human mind involving both good and evil, he suggests, though he did not argue explicitly, that there can be some correlation between the moral mind and the human mind.

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