The Korean Neo-Confucianism of Yi Toegye and Yi Yulgok (Part 48)

The Cheng-Chu Interpretation in China

Commenting on Mencius, Cheng I briefly argued that Mencius’ saying that “the mind-and-heart (sim) of commiseration is benevolence” does not imply that love (one of the seven Emotions) is also benevolence. A passage from his commentary illustrates this point further: “The ‘mind-and-heart of commiseration’ is certainly and expression of ‘love.’ However, love is a feeling (chong), whereas benevolence is human nature (song). How can love be taken simply as benevolence? Mencius said that ‘the mind-and-heart of commiseration is benevolence,’ for it is ‘the beginning of benevolence.'” Cheng I generally meant that “the mind-and-heart of commiseration” pertains to a seed of benevolence inherent in what Mencius calls the “original goodness of human nature.” By contrast, love is to be understood as a common mental feeling that is not, in the Mencian sense, a virtuous root of morality. When asked whether “joy and anger come from human nature,” Cheng I answered “yes, of course” and said: “As there is human nature, there must be feelings as well. Without the former, how can there be the latter?” The Four Beginnings and the emotions like joy and anger are all feelings aroused not from the outside; they “arise within under external influence.” Cheng I did not discuss the Seven Emotions specifically; neither did he clarify any connection between the Four Beginnings and the emotions like joy and love he mentioned. Using an interesting analogy of water and waves, he said: “It is the nature of water to be clear, level, and tranquil like a mirror. But when water strikes sand and stone, or when the ground underneath it is not level, water immediately begins to move. when wind moves over it, water immediately gives rise to waves and currents…In human nature there are only the Four Beginnings without any form of evil.Nevertheless, without water, how can there be waves? Similarly, without human nature, how can there be feelings?”

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