The Korean Neo-Confucianism of Yi Toegye and Yi Yulgok (Part 79)

The first three points of Kobong’s argument are based on Cheng-Chu teachings. But the last three points are uniquely his own perspectives that he developed through his debate with Toegye. After discussing these six fundamental points in a systematic manner, Kobong then opposes Toegye’s dualistic thesis based on the distinction of the different “origins” of the Four and the Seven. In the spirit of the Doctrine of the Mean, the fourth point of Kobong’s argument in particular can be convincing, insofar as one cannot talk about the two different “origins” of the Four and the Seven on the basis of both the i-ki dichotomy and the contrast of original human nature and physical human nature. This certainly corresponds to Kobong’s previous view that the real basis of good and evil is only a matter of whether or not aroused feelings are harmonised. Since the Seven actually refer to the total realm of all aroused feelings, including those in harmony and those in disharmony, the Four must, Kobong argues, refer to those harmonised, good feelings of the Seven. For this reason, he criticises Toegye’s Four-Seven thesis for implying the following three points: first, the Four have their own onto logical status outside the Seven; second, the Four and the Seven are, therefore, two distinct kinds of feelings; and finally, the goodness of human nature has two different sources, one originating from the Four and the other from the Seven. The basic difference of the Four and the Seven, as understood by Kobong, pertains merely to whether one speaks of feelings as referring to the “subset” of good, harmonised feelings or the “totality” of all feelings (both harmonised and disharmonised).

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