The Korean Neo-Confucianism of Yi Toegye and Yi Yulgok (Part 90)

The interesting fact here is that Kobong’s convincing challenge forced Toegye to revise his original theory and defend his new theory. But the revised version of Toegye’s theory is formulated to accommodate Kobong’s insistence on the fundamental inseparability of i and ki in the emanation of feelings. Nonetheless, its underlying theme still does not accord with Kobong’s belief that what is manifest in all phenomena including feelings is ki, not i. But Toegye criticises Kobong:

If I speak of the Four BEginnings and the Seven Emotions from the standpoint of distinction and separation, you oppose me by using a theory from the standpoint of non differentiation. This is the same as saying that when a rider and a horse are going (somewhere), they are one and, thus, cannot be separated. If I speak of the Seven Emotions in terms of the manifestation of ki, you still oppose me by asserting (your theory of) the manifestation of i. this is the same as saying that a rider is going (somewhere) when a horse is going (somewhere). If I speak of the Four Beginnings in terms of the manifestation of i, you oppose me by insisting on (your theory of) the manifestation of ki. This is the same as saying that a horse is going (somewhere) when a rider is going (somewhere).

To justify his belief that the Four are never the same as the Seven, Toegye synthesises it with the Mencian doctrine of the Four. He argues that the Four constitute the pure existence of goodness in human nature represented by i:

Can you see that Mencius’ explanation of the Four BEginnings refers to the manifestation of ki? Do you view the Four as manifestations of ki? To what extent do you really comprehend (what Mencius calls) “the beginning of humanity” and “the beginning of righteousness,” as well as four terms such as humanity, righteousness, propriety, and wisdom? If these are understood as involving even a little bit of participation by ki, then they do not belong to the original essence of Heaven’s Principal… According to your view, humanity, righteousness, propriety, and wisdom pertain purely to i because they are the names in the unmanifested state; the Four BEginnings cannot move in the manifested state. In my opinion, however, although the Four BEginnings ride on ki, what Mencius meant does not refer to the context of i’s riding (on ki); it refers only to the manifestation of pure i.

According to this quotation, the Four are the names of what is already aroused; therefore, the precess of their issuance involve ki’s participation.

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