The Korean Neo-Confucianism of Yi Toegye and Yi Yulgok (Part 53)

Implicit in this passage is an ontological and conceptual perspective that the “mind-and-heart.” “human nature,” and “feelings” are three different things that can be discussed separately. From a standpoint of concrete reality, however, “the mind-and-heart includes human nature and feelings.” “The Four Beginnings are all manifest from the mind-and-heart” and “the mind-and-heart includes the four virtues (of benevolence, righteousness, propriety, and wisdom) and penetrates the Four Beginnings.” The mind-and-heart is to be conceived as something that “includes” and “commands” both human nature and feelings. Furthermore, because the Four and the Seven are both feelings, it follows for Chu Hsi that “the Seven Emotions cannot be separated from the Four Beginnings” and that “the Four Beginnings can be understood from the standpoint of the Seven Emotions.” Interestingly, in their Four-Seven debates, Toegye, Yulgok, and their debaters were not familiar with these two statements by Chu Hsi, which suggest that the Four Beginnings do not belong to an independent kind of feelings and, therefore, should be understood in the context of addressing the Seven Emotions.

According to Chu Hsi, the mind-and-heart has its two states: the “unmanifest” (mibal) and the “manifest” (ibal). Human nature is its unmanifest “substance” (che), and feelings are its manifest “function” (yong). The former is the mind-and-heart in itself before manifestation, whereas the latter is its function after manifestation. Commenting on the Mencian idea of the Four, Chu Hsi said: “The mind-and-heart commands human nature and feelings… Human nature is the principle (i) of the mind-and-heart, and the feelings are the function of the mind-and-heart… The mind-and-heart is the master of human nature and feelings.” As “the master of the self,” it commands human nature and feelings, uniting and apprehending them. In other words, it participates in the whole process of integrating all faculties of human experience, including moral principles and feelings, rational reasoning, emotional feelings, and physical desires. Chu Hsi’s philosophy is quite different from the Mencian doctrine of the human that seems to be focused on the ontological status of human nature as the mind-and-heart in itself. This was, in fact, one of the major issues debated by the Korean scholars in the Four-Seven controversy.

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