The Korean Neo-Confucianism of Yi Toegye and Yi Yulgok (Part 93)

Undeniably, Toegye maintains a moral argument for the Mencian and Cheng-Chu doctrine that the original goodness of human nature must be preserved. All human beings are perfectly capable of doing it by realising this inborn, moral quality of human nature as principle. On the one hand, the way of self-cultivation is to nourish the Four Beginnings; on the other, it means to control the Seven Emotions because their fundamental problem is their excessiveness. In this context of moral self-cultivation, Toegye emphasises one’s clear understanding of the Four and the Seven from a standpoint of conceptual “distinction” and logical “separation.”

How did Kobong respond to the philosophically revised and morally strengthened version of Toegye’s Four-Seven thesis? The depth and breath of Toegye’s argument, which is presented with a series of relevant quotations, sequential arguments, and personal insights, stimulated Kobong to articulate his Four-Seven thesis further in the light of another popular Neo-Confucian discourse, namely, the “moon-moonlight” metaphor.

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