The Korean Neo-Confucianism of Yi Toegye and Yi Yulgok (Part 120)

A Critique of Toegye’s Theory of Alternate Manifestation:
The Working of Ki

In his first letter to Yulgok, Ugye defends Toegye’s Four-Seven theory of “alternate manifestation of i and ki”: “In the case of the Four Beginnings, i is manifest and ki follows it; in the case of the Seven Emotions, ki is manifest and i rides on it.” Ugye asserts that he himself sees nothing wrong with analysing the origins of the Four and the Seven dualistically, assigning the former to i and the latter to ki. “In my view, when we speak of the Four Beginnings and the Seven Emotions from a standpoint of contrast, we can say (as Toegye has said) that the Four Beginnings issue from i; the seven Emotions issue from ki.”

In his response to Ugye, Yulgok argues that Toegye’s hobal theory is not convincing because it implies wrongly that i and ki are two separated entities, each manifesting independently. He criticises Ugye for following such an incorrect view. “If i and ki manifest themselves independently,” as Toegye has claimed, then “i and ki would be two entities, each with its own root and ground.” As Yulgok argues, the former sages’ and worthies’ teachings on mind cultivation do not support Toegye’s dualistic theory of the alternate manifesting of i and ki. With regard to all concrete phenomena, it is not true that i is manifest in some cases and ki is manifest in other cases. Rather, i and ki are always inseparable in concrete things, and there is neither priority nor posteriority between i and ki.

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