The Korean Neo-Confucianism of Yi Toegye and Yi Yulgok (Part 86)

Toegye then claims that he does not see why Kobong accepted the first part (the Four as “manifestations of i”) of his Four-Seven statement but rejected the second part of it (the Seven as “manifestations of ki”). In his view, although the issuance of the Seven involve both i and ki, it can refer mainly to ki. To Kobong, however, this was not a convincing argument at all. From a logical standpoint, Toegye makes a strong point that if Kobong agreed with him that “i manifesting” (ibal), in the case of the Four, refers mainly to i, then he should also accept logically that “ki manifesting” (kibal), in the case of the Seven, refers mainly ki. Otherwise, as Toegye asserts, Chu Hsi would not have said that “the Four BEginnings are manifestations of i” and that “the Seven Emotions are manifestations of ki.” Here, Toegye, of course, means to defend Chu Hsi and justify what appeared to be a naive attempt in Kobong’s view. Obviously, he had o accept his junior scholar’s view that both the Four and the Seven involve i and ki that are never separable in all phenomena including feelings.

Given the conceptual distinction of i and ki, however, it is, Toegye argues, possible to say that the Four are “not without ki”, but “said to be manifestations of i”; similarly, the Seven are “not without i,” but said to be manifestations of i.” To put it in a clearer perspective, although the issuing process of the Four involves some participation of ki,” the Four themselves can still be considered as manifestations of i; although the issuing process of the Seven involves some participation of i,” the Seven themselves can still be considered as manifestations of ki. As Kobong himself realised, such an interpretation, though obscure and confusing from a philosophical standpoint of argumentation, clearly bears Toegye’s basic presupposition that the origin of Four BEginnings should be i and the origin of the Seven Emotions should be ki. The interesting matter is that Toegye adopted Kobong’s theory that “i is manifest” in the case of the Four because “i is undisturbed by ki” and that “i rides on the Seven.” In response to Kobong’s challenging views on the inseparability of i and ki, Toegye utilises it to articulate his revised Four-Seven theory in terms of what he calls an alternatively. When they are about to be manifest, they need each other. Since they are manifest with each other, we can understand that there is a distinctive emphasis in each case. They can be spoken of separately as distinctive entities because the manifestation of each entity has what is principal in itself.” Toegye means that the relationship between i and ki is one of hobal, which can also mean “reciprocal issuing” or “mutual manifestation.” Critically speaking, however, this theory is the slightly revised version of Kobong’s own argument. It is Toegye’s attempt to accommodate Kobong’s points that the Four and the Seven belong to one reality of feelings seen in two interrelated perspectives with a matter of “emphasis” and that Toegye’s idea of “origin” is inappropriate in discussing the Four-Seven relationship. In his view, i and ki do not manifest themselves at the same time: in the issuing process of the Four and the Seven, “there is a distinctive emphasis in each case.” This specific reference to “distinction” and “emphasis” still indicates Toegye’s dualistic position on the Four-Seven relationship in terms of i and ki.

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