The Korean Neo-Confucianism of Yi Toegye and Yi Yulgok (Part 108)

For this reason, Yulgok wanted to convince Ugye that “The Four refer to the moral mind in particular; the Seven refer to the moral mind and the human mind combined as a whole.” Accordingly, the Four and the Seven cannot be considered dualistically as belong to two separate minds. To put in another way, just as the reality of the mind is “one,” the reality of feelings is also “one” and not divided into the Four and the Seven. This was, of course, not only the basis of Yulgok’s Four-Seven thesis, but also a criticism of Toegye’s dualistic Four-Seven thesis. The next topic of our investigation addressed this issue more closely.

The Continuum of Feelings:
The Four in the Seven

In his first letter to Ugye, Yulgok explainers the basic Four-Seven relationship: “The Four BEginnings cannot include the Seven Emotions; however, the Seven Emotions include the Four Beginnings…The Four Beginnings are not like the totality of the Seven Emotions, while the Seven Emotions are not like the purity of the Four BEginnings.” This statement is almost identical to Kobong’s Four-Seven thesis. Yulgok added only that “the Four Beginnings cannot include the Seven.” Like Kobong, he argues that the Four are good, moral feelings included in the Seven, the ‘totality’ of feelings. He also adopted Kobong’s argument that one cannot affirm the difference between the Four and the Seven on the basis of any metaphysical or ethical dualism. As he states, “To call feelings the ‘Four’ or ‘Seven’ is only due to the distinction between speaking only i or speaking also of ki.” The Four-Seven relationship is not exactly like the moral mind-human mind relationship because the Four and the Seven are not “each other’s beginning and end” as are the moral mind and the human mind. Three points of Yulgok’s argument are evident here: first, to talk about feelings, one should refer to both the Four Beginnings ands the Seven Emotions; second, to address feelings in terms of good and evil, one should acknowledge the Seven as the “totality” of feelings; and finally, the Four should be understood as the “good side” of the Seven deliberately selected by Mencius. Of course, these three points are similar to those of Kobong’s Four-Seven thesis. Yulgok added one point that to explain the mind, one has to clarify the human mind and the moral mind.

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