The Korean Neo-Confucianism of Yi Toegye and Yi Yulgok (Part 91)

But Toegye still argues what Kobong refused to recognise is the fundamental fact that the Four, the innate roots of morality, do not really refer to any manifestation of ki itself. In his sec on letter to Toegye, Kobong states: “If we trace the fundamental origin, it is not that there are two different meanings.” By contrast, Toegye asserts that, if we trace the fundamental origin, then there is a difference between i and ki, and “there are different meanings between the Four and the Seven.” For him, then, there must necessarily be clear “difference” between the manifestation of i and the manifestation of ki. Even though Kobong is correct in seeing that the Four cannot exist separately outside of the Seven, “it would be incorrect to consider that the Four and the Seven are no different.”

Obviously, Kobong’s view that the Four lack their own ontological status, belonging to a separate kind of feelings, does not convince Toegye that the Four and the Seven are the same kind of feelings. In Toegye’s opinion, what Mencius meant by the Four refers to i only, Cheng I spoke of physical human nature including both i and ki, and this is why Chu Hsi emphasised that i and ki are distinct. If the origin of the Four is i, then it logically follows that the origin of the Seven would be ki. Toegye argues that “i is manifest and ki follows” can simply be considered as referring “principally to i,” although “this statement does not mean that i exists outside of i.” On the whole, these passages correspond to Toegye’s basic argument that, from his epistemological standpoint of “distinction” and “separation,” one can discuss the Four and the Seven according to i and ki.

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