The Korean Neo-Confucianism of Yi Toegye and Yi Yulgok (Part 113)

Yulgok repeatedly tried to convince Ugye that the Four do not exit outside of the Seven, and the former are only the good side of the latter. “According to Tzu-ssu (in the Doctrine of the Mean), it is called ‘equilibrium’ before the Seven Emotions are aroused, and it is called ‘harmony’ after they are aroused.” But he discussed human nature and feelings in terms of the Seven Emotions. In the Songhak chipyo, Yulgok also argues: “Outside of the Four Beginnings.” In the Non simsongchong (A Treatise on the Mind, Human Nature, and Feelings) as well, Yulgok criticises Toegye’s theory while parsing Kobong for correctly interpreting the Four and the Seven as belonging to one kind of feelings.

In his third letter to Ugye, Yulgok articulates specific examples to emphasise the Four-Seven relationship of continuum in a convincing way:

Now as regard to human nature (song), we are joyous when we should be joyous; we are sorrowful on account of bereavement; we are pleased in seeing those we love; and we desire to investigate principles when we see them and we desire to be equal to the worthies when we meet them. These are the Four feelings (chong) of joy, sorrow, love, and desire that refer to the beginnings of benevolence. We are angry when we should be angry, and we dislike something when we should dislike it. These are the two feelings of anger and dislike that refer to the beginnings of righteousness. We fear our superiors and nobles when we see them. this is the feeling of fear that refers to the beginning of propriety. To know that we should be joyous, angry, sorrowful, or fearful when we should have a feeling of joy, anger, sorrow, or fear, and to know that we should not be joyous, angry, sorrowful, or fearful when we should not have a feeling of joy, anger, sorrow, sorrow, or fear belongs to the feeling of right and wrong…this is the beginning of wisdom.

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