The Korean Neo-Confucianism of Yi Toegye and Yi Yulgok (Part 164)


Self-Cultivation and Emotional Integration

In his Four-Seven thesis, Yulgok minted that if one knows and nourishes the functioning of one’s ki, then one’s mind will follow moral principles. Otherwise, self-cultivation is very difficult because one’s feelings and desires attain their selfishness, as the mind becomes precarious. In the context of Yulgok’s theory of the nourishment of ki, the underlying theme of his Four-Seven thesis suggests a positive view of feelings and desires. That is to say, the human feelings and desires are basically a good and natural part of human nature. when properly harmonised, all feelings and desired, including the Seven, are good. By affirming the human feelings and desires not as the source of evil, Yulgok opposed Toegye directly and Chu Hsi indirectly dualistic analysis of the Four and the Seven in terms of the opposition of good and evil. For Yulgok, one cannot say that Heaven’s principle (i), as the source of our virtuous and moral behaviour, represents the Four BEginnings, whereas the emotional and moral behaviour, represents the Four Beginnings, whereas the emotional and physical desires (ki), as the source of evil, represent the Seven. His argument means that one cannot make any exclusive distinction or contrast between the virtuous behaviour and the emotional and physical desires, between the moral mind and the human mind, and between the original human nature and the physical human nature. In other words, the Four and the Seven have what he calls a mutual relationship of continuum and interaction.

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