The Korean Neo-Confucianism of Yi Toegye and Yi Yulgok (Part 102)

Human Mind and Moral Mind:
The Unity and Duality of the Mind

In his first letter to Yulgok, Ugye initiates the debate by supporting the basic ideas of Toegye’s Four-Seven thesis. After studying Toegye’s Sim tong songchong tosol (Diagrammatic Treatise on the Saying “the Mind Commands Human Nature and Feelings”), the sixth of his well-known Songhak sipto, Ugye defends Toegye’s Four-Seven theory of “alternate manifestation of i and ki (iki hobal). Like Toegye, Ugye argues: “The Four Beginnings are purely good without any evil.” Although supporting Toegye’s hobal theory, he sees nothing wrong with analysing the Four and the Seven dualistically, assigning the former to i and the latter to ki as their respective origins. He argues further: “The Four Beginnings refer to one side of the Seven Emotions and are those feelings that are issued from i. The Seven Emotions refer to those feelings that do not attain their due degree and measure, and this is due to the deficiency and excess of ki’s activity that leads one to evil.” This passage reveals Ugye’s commitment to the Doctrine of the Mean that the Seven might lead to evil if they are harmonised according to their “due degree and measure.” Both the Four and the Seven are feelings, so it follows for him that, in trying to draw a diagram of human nature and feelings, one should put both the Four and the Seven inside a circle of feelings. Ugye’s argument means Toegye’s original thesis that one should not be confused between the manifestation of i and the manifestation of ki. Ugye also makes Kobong’s point that the Four can be conceived as a “good side” of the Sun.

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