The Korean Neo-Confucianism of Yi Toegye and Yi Yulgok (Part 59)

Note that the whole issue comes from Chu Hsi himself. The real problematic in Chu Hsi’s metaphysics is that, despite his emphasis on the inseparability and interdependence of i and ki in concert phenomena, he definitely affirmed that i and ki are ontologically and conceptually distinguishable. More to the point, this led him to suggest that, although the Four and the Seven are both feelings, they are, like i and ki, different from an ontological and conceptual frame of reference and, therefore, can be represented by i and ki, respectively. The question is, What did he really intend to mean? There is no clear answer to this question, but it can addressed in terms of his philosophy of the mind, human nature, and feelings. Of course, this was a central issue in the Korean Four-Seven debates.

According to Chu Hsi, the mind combines i and ki and commands human nature and feelings. Both the Four and the Seven are feelings, the aroused states of the mind. It follows hat feelings can be manifestations of either i or ki. But Chu Hsi also argued that the Four are fundamentally moral feelings, and Seven can be selfish feelings or desires. Does this, then, imply that the Four cannot energised by ki in the same manner that the Seven are? Should the Four be represented by i only? These questions were significant for the Korean Neo-Confucians. Other questions included the the following. How can the Four Beginnings be discussed independent of material force? Furthermore, how can principle, which is explicitly interpreted by Chu Hsi as a passive and Fomless entity in itself, have its own self-manifesting power to emanate the Four Beginnings? Hence, Chu Hsi’s whole metaphysics of i and ki and his moral and psychological philosophy were critically reexamined through the unique Korean style off systematic reasoning and creative interpretation.

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