The Korean Neo-Confucianism of Yi Toegye and Yi Yulgok (Part 70)

After accepting Kobong’s citation of Chu Hsi’s theory of the inseparability of i and ki, Toegye states: “Generally speaking, i and ki need, and depend on, each other: one being ‘substance’ (che) and the other ‘function’ (yong). Certainly, there is no i without ki, and no ki without i. However, what is spoken of is not the same; there is a distinction between them.” Toegye means the fundamental Cheng-Chu doctrine that, from the standpoint of a concrete thing, i and ki are inseparable in the process of cosmic transformation. Under Kobong’s challenge, Toegye moves a step away from his previous Four-Seven theory that tends to affirm the Four-Seven contrast in terms of not only i and ki but also good and evil. He agrees with Kobong that, because the Four and the Seven are all feelings, it follows that they are the aroused states of the mind and that the process of their emanation involves both i and ki. Nevertheless, he still maintains that the Four and the Seven can be, and should be, understood separately in terms of i and ki. To articulate this point further, he addresses the concept of human nature in the tradition of the Doctrine of the Mean, Mencius, and Cheng-Chu teachings:

The term “human nature” (song) is what Tzu-ssu in the Doctrine of the MEan meant by “the nature endowed by Heaven,” and what Mencius called “the original goodness of human nature.” What do these two phrases about “human nature” mean? Do they refer to the original being of i, as well as the physical endowment of ki? What they refer to is i without any existence of ki.They all meant pure goodness without any evil. If one says that human nature (in itself) includes ki as well because i and ki are inseparable from each other, then one is not talking about the original essence of human nature (song chi pinyon). Tzu-ssu and Mencius spoke of it in this manner and understood the whole essence of the Way… They meant that if one speaks of human nature combined with ki, the origin goodness of i (i chi pons on) will not be understood correctly. It is only from the period of Cheng I, Chang Tsai, and Chu Hsi that there emerged inevitable debates on “physical human nature” (kijil chi song)… BEing reckless, I have considered that the distinction between the Four BEginnings and the Seven Emotions is similar to that between original human nature and physical human nature. Why can we not analyse feelings in terms of i and ki, if human nature is already spoken of in terms of i and ki?

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