The Korean Neo-Confucianism of Yi Toegye and Yi Yulgok (Part 55)

Chu Hsi said: “As there is Heaven-endowed nature (chonmyong chi song), there is also physical nature.” The following passage illustrates his view further:

Original human nature is purely good. This is the nature described by Mencius as good. Master Chou Tun-i described it as “pure and perfectly good,” and master Cheng I called it “the fundamental character of our nature.”… However, it would be wrong to say that physical human nature contains impurity. This is why (Chang Tsai said) “In physical human nature, there is what which the superior person declines to call original nature,” and “If one learns to the original human nature endowed by Heaven and Earth, one will preserve it.” Accordingly, any discussion of human nature must include physical human nature, so that the discussion can be complete.

The physical human nature is neither different nor separate from the original human nature; more to the point, “the latter runs through the former.” For this reason, Chu Hsi said: “The nature of all human beings is good; however, some people are good from their birth, while some people are evil from theirs. This is due to the difference in the physical endowment.” Despite Chu Hsi’s extensive discussion of such a topic on the two dimensions of human nature, he did not address it terms of feelings; neither did he discuss it especially in relation to the Four Beginnings and the Seven Emotions.

Indeed, the Four-Seven debates in Korea addressed these and other problems with respect to Chu Hsi’s Four-Seven statement, his metaphysics of li and chi, and his moral and psychological philosophy of mind-and-heart, human nature, and feelings. Consequently, various questions and issues centring around such ambiguous or underdeveloped areas of Chu Hsi’s philosophy became the focus of the Four-Seven controversy in Korea.

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