Ch'eng Fu-hsin's Discussion of Diagram A 124
T'oegye's Discussion of Diagrams B and C 125
Mind, Nature, Feelings, and Intention 128
The Two States of the Mind 130
Correspondence Between T'oegye and Ki Taesung132
Principle and Material Force Mutually Issue the Feelings 134
The Casual Origin of the Four-Seven Distinction135
The Four-Seven Debate and the Understanding of Mencius137
The Significance of the Four-Seven Debate 139


This chapter presents the basic elements of Neo-Confucian psychological theory. In this theory the metaphysical concepts that describe the universe are applied likewise to elucidate the composition and functioning of the human psyche. The subject is complex, but the description of the psyche has immediate bearing upon how one approaches the practical task of self-cultivation, as was exemplified in the divergence of the Ch'eng-Chu and Wang Yang-ming schools in China.

There are three diagrams in this chapter. T'oegye borrowed Diagram A from a Chinese source; it gives us a schematic presentation of the major elements of Ch'eng-Chu psychological theory. Diagrams B and C are his own work. On one level they are simply a more detailed working out of the matter summarily presented in Diagram A; but they are also a carefully formulated expression of T'oegye's final position on the issues of his famous Four-Seven Debate with Ki Taesŭng. l

The Four-Seven Debate was the single most important intellectual controversy of the Yi dynasty. It was carried on in lengthy correspondence between T'oegye and Ki Taesŭng from 1559 to 1566. Then in the next generation, Yi I (Yulgok) resurrected the position Ki had finally abandoned and further developed it in debate with Sŏng Hon.2 T'oegye and Yulgok were the foremost philosophers of the Yi dynasty, and the positions they elaborated set a distinctive intellectual agenda for following generations of Korean Neo-Confucians.

The topic of the debate involved the precise relationship of the Four Beginnings, feelings described by Mencius as purely good,3 and another

diagram six part A diagram six parts B and C

124             Diagram of the Saying "The Mind Combines. . . "

classical list of feelings, the Seven Feelings, which may be either good or evil.4 The main issue was whether or not principle and material force are involved in exactly the same way in the issuance or activation of these two kinds of feelings. If they are, the difference between these two sets of feelings is in fact only nominal. The question is technical, but it is directly related to the central issue of how one understands the relationship of principle and material force. The commentary will draw out the issues involved and show how T'oegye handled them, concluding with a discussion of the importance of this question for Ch'eng-Chu thought and its development in Korea.

Ch'eng Fu-hsin's Discussion of Diagram A

Ch'eng Lin-yin5 [Fu-hsin] says: The saying, "The mind combines and governs the nature and the feelings,"6 refers to man's being born endowed with the Five Agents in their highest excellence. In their excellence, the Five Natures [i.e., humanity, propriety, etc.] are fully present; when they move, the seven feelings become manifest.7 In general, that which combines the nature and the feelings is the mind. Thus when the mind is perfectly still and does not act, it is [in the state of] the nature, which is the substance of the mind; when it is stirred and goes forth penetratingly, it is [in the state of] feelings, which are the function of the mind.8

Thus Chang Tsai's saying that the mind combines and governs the nature and the feelings is indeed appropriate. The mind combines and governs the nature; thus while humanity, righteousness, propriety, and wisdom constitute the nature, there is also the expression, "The mind of humanity and right­eousness."9 The mind combines and governs the feelings; thus while compassion, shame and dislike [for evil], modesty and deference, and the sense of approval and disapproval [of right and wrong] are the feelings, there is also the expression, "the mind of compassion and the mind of shame and dislike, of modesty and deference, of approving and disapproving."10

Diagram of the Saying "The Mind Combines. . . "                               125

If the mind does not combine and govern the nature, it will not be able to attain the perfect equilibrium which should characterize it before it is aroused and the nature will thus easily be impaired. If the mind does not combine and govern the feelings, it will not be able to attain the perfectly measured harmony [which should characterize it after it is aroused], and the feelings will easily run wild.11 One who studies, understanding this, must first rectify his mind, whereby he may nurture his nature and restrain his feelings. Then the true path of learning will be attained.

[T'oegye's notes:]

In Ch'eng I's "Treatise on [What Yen Hui] Loved to Learn,"12 restraining the feelings precedes rectifying the mind and nur­turing the nature, while here it follows them. That is because here it is spoken of in terms of the mind combining and governing the nature and the feelings [so the discussion follows the pattern of the saying being discussed]. But if one examines the principle (li) involved here and discusses the matter in that light, Ch'eng I's treatise should be followed.

In [Ch'eng Fu-hsin's] diagram there were some points which were not exact, and I have slightly revised it.13

T'oegye's Discussion of Diagrams B and C

The first of these diagrams is the work of Ch'eng Fu-hsin, and it is accompanied by his explanation. As for the other two diagrams, I have made them myself, attempting to get to the source of what is meant by the sayings and instruction established and handed down by the sages and wise men.


Diagram B takes up [the nature] as embodied in the endowment of material force, but singles out the original nature,

126         Diagram of the Saying "The Mind Combines. . . "

that is, the nature as it is when [distorted by] no admixture of [imperfect] material force. This is what Tzu Ssu speaks of when he says the nature is the Heavenly Mandate,14 the nature Men­cius refers to when he says that the nature is [perfectly] good.15   When Ch'eng I says that the nature is the same as li16 and when Chang Tsai speaks of the nature which is [identical with] that of Heaven and Earth,17 it is this to which they refer.

Since the nature is here considered in this way, when it issues as feelings they likewise are considered only as good. These are what Tzu Ssu refers to as feelings which are "perfectly mea­sured,"18 the feelings Mencius refers to as the "Four Begin­nings."19 They are the feelings of which Ch'eng I says, "How can one term them 'not good,'"20 and of which Chu Hsi says, "That which flows forth from the nature is originally nothing but good."21


Diagram C takes up the matter in terms of li as it is conjoined with material force. This is what Confucius referred to as the nature which is "quite similar [in men at birth],"22 and what Ch'eng I meant when he said, "The nature is the same as material force and material force the same as nature."23 It is what Chang Tsai calls "the physical nature,"24 and what Chu Hsi refers to when he says, "Although it is in the midst of material force, material force is material force and the nature is the nature; they do not become mixed with one another."25 Since the nature is considered in this way, when it issues as feelings, it is likewise said that being interdependent they may damage one another, [with the feelings becoming wrong as a result].26

If one considers the Four Beginnings, principle issues and material force follows in accord. Of themselves, they are purely good and without evil; only if principle's issuance is obstructed by material force before it is complete can they then degenerate

Diagram of the Saying "The Mind Combines. . . "               127

into what is not good. As for the Seven feelings, material force issues and li "mounts" it.27 They likewise have nothing in them which is not good; but if material forces' issuance is not properly measured and obliterates principle, they get out of control and become evil.

[The interrelation of principle and material force] being thus, Master Ch'eng [Hao] said, "If one discusses the nature but does not consider material force, it is incomplete; if one discusses material force without considering the nature, there is a lack of clarity. If one treats them as two, it is incorrect."28 Nevertheless, this does not mean that Tzu Ssu and Mencius were "incomplete" when they spoke only with reference to principle [i.e., the orig­inal nature]. They did so only because if they had spoken of it as combined with material force they would not have been able to show the original goodness of the nature. This is the signif­icance of the second diagram.

The essence of the matter is this: that which includes both principle and material force and combines and governs the nature and the feelings is the mind; and the moment of the nature's issuance as feelings is the subtle wellspring of the whole mind, the pivot of ten thousand transformations, the separation point of good and evil. If one who pursues learning is truly able to recollect himself through maintaining mindfulness and does not confuse principle with human desires but brings the greatest caution to bear on this matter, and if his application to the composure [of his mind] and the nurturing [of his nature] before the mind is aroused is profound and he is likewise well-versed in the exercise of reflection and discernment after it is aroused, and if he accumulates truth and is constant in his effort for a long time and does not stop, then the learning of sagehood characterized as "being discerning and undivided, holding fast the mean,"29 and the method of cultivating the mind wherein it is composed in substance and [accurately] responsive in func­tion, need not be sought elsewhere, but will all be attained in this.

128             Diagram of the Saying "The Mind Combines. . . "


The first two sections of this commentary will deal mainly with matters essential to general Neo-Confucian psychological theory, which are summarized in Diagram A and its accompanying remarks. Subsequent sections of commentary will be addressed to the main issues and questions involved in the Four-Seven Debate, the conclu­sions of which are expressed in Diagrams B and C and their accom­panying remarks.

Mind, Nature, Feelings, and Intention

Mind is the subject that possesses principle as its sub­stance or nature, and has feelings as its function, the concrete and active manifestation of substance. Being endowed with all principle as its substance renders the mind responsive to all things in existence; actively responding in a concrete instance is a matter of feelings, which are not a distinct faculty, as in the Aristotelian analysis, but the active issuing forth of responses in the modality provided by the principle of our nature. Being concrete and particular, actual feelings are on the side of material force, though what they manifest, ideally, is principle.

The distinctive role of mind, the subject and nexus of principle and material force, is to preside over this issuance of principle in its active, material force manifestation as the feelings that arise in re­sponse to concrete situations. This presiding function is essentially expressed in terms of self-possession (mindfulness), whereby distorting elements (basically forms of self-centeredness which arise as the psychic manifestation of the imperfection or turbidity of material force) are controlled and excluded so that principle may issue forth integrally and be perfectly manifested in the character of appropriate feelings.

The typical western analysis regards man as balanced between good and evil and so makes free will, our ability to decide between them, a central issue. But the Neo-Confucian analysis focuses on the

Diagram of the Saying "The Mind Combines. . . "                  129

moral situation in terms of responsiveness: in the ideal order the mind's response is spontaneously perfect, but in fact it is often problematically distorted. Attention therefore centers on the means to obviate the distortion, i.e., self-possession, rather than on the role of will as the arbiter of choice. As reflected in these diagrams, the central items of concern in describing our psychological constitution are therefore na­ture, feelings, and mind as presiding over them; these are the essential items for understanding how a response arises.

The phenomena we associate with a separate faculty, the will, are not altogether neglected, however. Sometimes what we would call an act of the will, the intention, is treated as the function of the mind, paralleled by describing feelings as the function of the nature. This, however, could lead to a mistaken separation of mind and nature by differentiating their functions,30 a matter T'oegye addresses as follows:

The mind is the thing that combines principle and material force and governs and combines the nature and the feelings. Therefore it is not only the intention that issues from the mind; the issuing of the feelings is also done by the mind. Principle is without form or concreteness; as it fills and is perfectly held by the mind, it is the nature. The nature is without form or concreteness; as it is broadly manifested and issues forth as function in de­pendence upon the mind, it is the feelings. That which, based upon the issuing of the feelings, manages, calculates, and asserts that it must be like this or must be like that, is the intention. Since the feelings spontaneously issue forth, the former Confucians therefore described them as issuing from the nature; since the intention asserts that it must be such and such a way, they therefore described it as issuing from the mind. (A, 36.16a, p. 823, Letter to Yi Koengjung)

In the same letter T'oegye says the feelings are like a chariot and the intention like the driver's use of the chariot. The importance of the intention is thus evident. But it does not call for extensive separate treatment in this framework because structurally it parallels the feel­ings; that is, like the feelings, the intention is understood as an active force operative in the mind. While it does not arise spontaneously, the problems associated with it are essentially the same: the disruptive

130             Diagram of the Saying "The Mind Combines. . . "

influence of self-centeredness (turbid material force) that gives rise to wrong intentions and subtle forms of self-deception. Thus in terms of self-cultivation, the intention attains its perfection of integrity or sincerity through the same process of constantly mindful application to the investigation of principle and reflective practice that brings perfection to the functioning of feelings.

The Two States of the Mind

Diagram A and its explication describe the mind as hav­ing two states, the condition before it is aroused and the condition after it is aroused.31 This is based upon the first chapter of the Doctrine of the Mean: "Before pleasure, anger, sorrow, and joy are aroused it is called equilibrium; when they are aroused and attain their due measure and degree, it is called harmony." The passage itself speaks only of feelings being either aroused or not aroused. But in terms of Neo-­Confucian substance-function analysis feelings were considered the active function of the mind, with the obvious corollary that when the feelings are not aroused what remains must be the tranquil substance of the mind. Thus this passage came to be understood as indicating not just two states of the feelings, but two conditions of the mind itself. This is a matter of great importance for the theory of self-­cultivation; the relation of these states to actual spiritual practice, and just what may or may not pertain to each, were a perennial source of questions from students. In the following passage T'oegye gives a thorough description of the two conditions of the mind:

Man's mind has both substance and function, quiescent and aroused states, and embraces both activity and tranquility. Therefore when it is not yet stirred by something, it is quiescent and is not active; all principles are present and the mind's integral substance is perfectly possessed. When something occurs and stirs it and it goes forth penetratingly without missing the proper

Diagram of the Saying "The Mind Combines. . . "                          131

measure, then the mind's great function is perfectly put into action. If it is tranquil, then it is quiescent and is described as "not yet aroused." If it is active, then it is stirred and is described as "already aroused" . . . .

Therefore what your letter speaks of as the condition before being engaged with something, the time when there is no arising or perishing [of thoughts, feelings, etc.], what is referred to as the condition of emptiness and spirituality, bright and with no dimness, what is called the feelings of pleasure, anger, sorrow, and joy not yet being stirred, and not yet being disturbed by thought or verbalizing, these all belong to the quiescent or tranquil condition, that is, to the condition described as "not yet aroused."

That which is described as the time when one just barely begins to think, or what is referred to as pondering, or exhaustively investigating [principle], or what is described as a time when one's thoughts are in a turmoil, or what is called responding to and dealing with affairs, all of these pertain to being stirred and [going forth] penetratingly and being active, that is, to the condition described as "already aroused." That which is described as there being in the midst of perfect tranquility the beginning of activity, does not likewise mean a condition which is already active: this is just stated with reference to there being the principle of activity, that is all. Therefore this also ought to belong to the not-yet-aroused condition.

The not-yet-aroused condition is the time for one to be cautious and fearful;32 the already aroused condition is the time for personal watchfulness and minute self-reflection. What is referred to as applying oneself to being alert, self-possessed, and focused, or keeping charge [of oneself], this runs throughout both the not-yet-aroused and already aroused conditions and permits of no interruption; it is what is referred to as "mindfulness."

I have carefully examined your letter. Its regarding the mind before it is engaged with something as quiescent and not active, and its regarding pondering, exhaustively investigating, and responding to and dealing with affairs as belonging to the already aroused condition is acceptable. But when between these two you further put a condition of being tranquil and having a slight movement of thought that is not yet formed, and look upon it as pertaining to the not-yet-aroused condition, although what this means seems to be subtle and exact, in fact it is a great error. For if one is tranquil, then he is not yet active and this is the not-yet-aroused condition; how can there be a slightly active tranquility which can be called not yet aroused? If one engages in thought, it is already formed and this is the already aroused state; how can one have a not yet formed thought that can be called not yet aroused? (A, 19.39b-40b p. 486, Letter to Hwang Chunggŏ)

132         Diagram of the Saying "The Mind Combines. . . "

This long description makes it unmistakably clear that what in Neo­Confucian psychology is regarded as one of the two basic conditions of the mind, the not-yet-aroused condition, bespeaks not just a state of relative calm and tranquility, but a conscious and wakeful state of absolute mental quiescence. The western world would regard this as an abnormal or altered state of consciousness, the kind of thing as­sociated with meditation practices; in the East Asian world, long familiar with Buddhist meditation, it is simply accepted as one of the two polar conditions of consciousness, a psychic manifestation of the yin-yang alternation of tranquility arid activity.

This does not mean that such a condition can be dissociated from a form of meditation practice. Quite the contrary: the main practical import of this description of the two states or conditions of the mind is that for the first time it provides a systematic foundation for meditation in Confucian self-cultivation. Chu Hsi learned such meditation, called "quiet sitting," a method of "looking into the equi­libruim of the mind before it is aroused," from his teacher Li T'ung. The exact place such a practice should occupy in self-cultivation was a vexatious issue that was eventually settled by the elaboration of the doctrine of mindfulness. It will be further discussed when mindfulness is taken up below in the ninth and tenth chapters.

Correspondence Between T'oegye and Ki Taesŭng on the Four-Seven Question

The statement which instigated the debate was: "The Four Beginnings are the issuance of principle; the Seven Feelings are the issuance of Material Force."33 T'oegye heard of Ki's questioning this and quickly sent him a note toning down the extremely dualistic overtones of his original statement with a slight modification: "The issuing of the Four Beginnings is from pure principle; therefore there is none which is not good. The issuing of the Seven Feelings includes material force; therefore they have both good and evil."34 This drew from Ki a three-page response,35 in which he objected that basically

Diagram of the Saying "The Mind Combines. . . "               133

all feelings essentially involve both principle and material force and good and evil; thus the Four Beginnings have no different status from the Seven Feelings, but rather are an expression of the Seven Feelings when they have not been distorted by material force and hence have attained their due measure and degree. What Mencius expressed as the Four Beginnings selectively attends to the good side, and although they may be said to be the issuance of pure principle since they involve no distortion, it is a mistake to contrast them with the Seven Feelings in terms of a different kind of differing relation to principle and ma­terial force, for in fact the Seven Feelings and Four Beginnings are one and the same reality.

T'oegye responded with an eight-page, more fully elaborated defense of his position;36 he had in the meantime become more con­fident in its basic acceptability, for he had discovered a passage in Chu Hsi's Yii-lei which says simply and plainly: "The Four Beginnings are the issuance of principle; the Seven Feelings are the issuance of material force."37 Ki Taesŭng responded with a forty-two page, par­agraph-by-paragraph critique of T'oegye's letter.38

Ki's critique pushed T'oegye to advance his ideas and give them a more precise formulation. He sent Ki a revised copy of his earlier letter with careful notes on each corrected phrase or sentence. But more importantly, he accompanied this with forty-six pages of careful summations of and responses to Ki's points.39 He began this with a categorical analysis in which he noted one place where he had misread Ki, four points where his own ideas or his expressions were wrong, thirteen points of agreement, eight points in which they agree on a basic level but draw different conclusions, and nine points on which there is simply no agreement.40 Then he responded to each of the seventeen items in the last two categories in turn.

This was T'oegye's final significant discussion in the debate; although Ki wrote another lengthy and detailed reply on remaining items of disagreement,41 T'oegye declined to respond in kind, feeling that much had been gained, the basic points investigated and laid out, and that it would not be appropriate to push for absolute and total agreement.42 In 1566 Ki wrote a general summary statement in harmony with T'oegye's basic position,43 which T'oegye accepted with great pleasure.

134          Diagram of the Saying "The Mind Combines. . . "

Principle and Material Force Mutually Issue the Feelings

A theory which became clearly enunciated in the course of the debate was that of "mutual issuing" (hobal, hufa), which came to be regarded as a hallmark of T'oegye's thought in contradistinction to that of Yulgok (Yi I), who vigorously rejected the notion. Ki Taesŭng did not argue with T'oegye concerning the expression itself, but the implications of what each understood in this expression were sharply different and at the heart of the debate. T'oegye states this theory as follows in the course of responding to Ki's objection that distinctions according to material force are appropriate in discussing the constitution of creatures, but not in discussing the feelings, which are on the level of the compound and inseparable activity of principle and material force:

Man's entire body is produced through the conjunction of principle and material force. Therefore these two have a mutual issuance in function, and moreover their issuing is interdependent. Since they mutually issue, one can see that each has a distinctive emphasis (sŏ chu); since they are interdepen­dent, one can see that they are mutually included [in the issuance]. Since both are included, there therefore are definitely cases where they are spoken of as undivided; since each has a distinctive emphasis, there is therefore nothing impermissible in speaking of them as distinct. (A, 16.30b, p. 416, Letter to Ki Myŏngŏn)

On one level, this sets the stage for a general distinction of the two sets of feelings in terms of principle and material force, for the Four Beginnings described by Mencius are clearly meant to point to good­ness, so their "distinctive emphasis" is on the side of principle, which is both normative and purely good. The Seven Feelings, which com­bine good and evil, are more on the side of material force, for it is the imperfection or "turbidity" of material force that accounts for evil.

This is not the heart of the issue, however. If "issuing" in the case of principle means only that it is manifested in the consequent feelings, then all proper feelings, the Four and Seven alike, issue from principle in exactly the same way, and referring to the Four Beginnings as principle does not really distinguish them from the Seven Feelings.

Diagram of the Saying "The Mind Combines . . . "             135

But if principle's "issuing" denotes some sort of self-manifesting activity of principle, a real distinction between the Four and Seven is possible even when the Seven are good: all that is good is certainly so termed because it is in accord with principle, but all that is in accord with principle need not be the product of principle in precisely the same way. This, then, brings us to the causal question that is at the heart of the debate and manifests the full significance of T'oegye's "mutual issuing" thesis.

The Causal Origin of the Four-Seven Distinction

                        In his response to T'oegye's first fully elaborated presen­tation of his position, Ki Taesŭng laid out the essential difference in their views as follows, beginning with a paraphrase of T'oegye's statements:

In your letter you regard the Four Beginnings as issuing from the nature composed of humanity, righteousness, propriety, and wisdom; therefore, al­though they are a composite of principle and material force, what is indicated in speaking of them has its distinctive emphasis on principle. In the case of the Seven Feelings, external things touch the physical form and there is movement from within, and conditioned in this way they emerge. Therefore they are not without principle, but what is indicated in speaking of them has to do with material force. Therefore the Four Beginnings are within as pure principle and at the moment they issue forth they are not mixed with material force; the Seven Feelings are externally stirred by the physical form and their issuing is not the original substance of principle. And so that whence the Four Beginnings and Seven Feelings arise is not the same.44 These statements are truly what you personally have attained;45 therefore in the whole treatise, although there are time and again various leads on the matter, the main meaning does not depart from this.

As for my foolish view, it differs from this. For human feelings are of one kind, and that whereby they are feelings definitely combines principle and material force and has both good and evil. But Mencius in approaching the marvelous composite of principle and material force, exclusively pointed

136             Diagram of the Saying "The Mind Combines. . . "

to the aspect which issues from principle and is nothing but good. Tzu Ssu, in approaching the marvelous composite of principle and material force, spoke of it without discriminating; so the feelings [as he speaks of them] definitely combine principle and material force and have both good and evil: these are the Seven Feelings. Truly their approaches in discussing the matter were not the same. Nevertheless, as for those which are described as the Seven Feel­ings, although they involve material force, principle likewise is included. When they issue and attain their due measure and degree, they are the nature which is the Heavenly Mandate, the original substance [of principle], and are the same reality with a different name as what Mencius described as the Four Beginnings.46

Whether the Four Beginnings and Seven Feelings are only different names for the same reality looked at from differing perspectives, or rather truly point to some differentiation in the condition whence they arise, is a central issue that is returned to repeatedly. It is the core running through the items T'oegye cites as matters of fundamental disagreement between himself and Ki.47  Ki Taesŭng felt that T'oegye's causal distinction between the Four and Seven was based on an over­emphasis upon the questionable nature of the Seven Feelings; this leads to stressing the role of material force in their origination. But if the Seven Feelings' intrinsic connection with principle or the nature is given full recognition, and the fact that the Four Beginnings are likewise stimulated by external circumstances is also taken into ac­count, a causal differentiation between the two is by no means as obvious as it first seemed. Ki made these arguments forcefully and at length, and T'oegye had to accept a number of his points and refine his own position in order to incorporate them. Instead of his original description of the Seven Feelings as "undecided" with regard to good and evil, he now said, as in our text (Diagram C), that "they likewise are nothing but good," and granted that they also express the original nature. The effects of Ki's arguments are clearly evident in Diagram B, where the good Seven Feelings are ranked alongside the Four Beginnings as manifestations of the original nature. That his original differentiation was not entirely abandoned, however, is also evidenced in the diagram by the way the Four Beginnings are depicted as an inner core with the Seven Feelings arranged on the outside.

T'oegye's final formulation of the relationship of the Four Be-

Diagram of the Saying "The Mind Combines. . . "                               137

ginnings and Seven Feelings appears in Diagram C. It was thus for­mulated by T'oegye precisely as a reworking of his initial loose differentiation of the two in terms of the degree physical form is implicated in their arising:

Even I, likewise, do not describe the Seven Feelings as being unrelated to principle but [only] stirred and moved by the fortuitous meeting with external things. And the Four Beginnings are stirred and moved by things; they definitely are no different from the Seven Feelings in this regard. But in the case of the Four, principle issues and material force follows it; in the case of the Seven, material force issues and principle mounts it, that is all. (A, 16.32a, p. 417, Letter to Ki Myŏngŏn)

In this formulation, then, T'oegye means to do full justice to the role of principle vis-a-vis the Seven Feelings, and material force vis-a-vis the Four Beginnings. With due regard to the complementarity and interdependence of principle and material force and their mutual in­volvement in all feelings, he now points to a form of nontemporal priority of principle in the issuance of the Four Beginnings and of material force in the issuance of the Seven Feelings.

The Four-Seven Debate and the Understanding of Mencius

Mencius' description of the Four Beginnings is virtually synonymous with what the Ch'eng-Chu school describes as the per­fectly good "original nature." Although man possesses this nature, it is concretized and active only in the context of material force; con­sidered in this context, it is the "material nature." If the material force of the psychological endowment is turbid, like muddy water, then all that issues through the agency of this medium might be regarded as equally subject to distortion. Ki Taesŭng in fact views the situation in much this manner, arguing that in reality even the Four Beginnings are frequently distorted and so involve good and evil, just

138             Diagram of the Saying "The Mind Combines. . . "

as the Seven Feelings.48 Whatever the innate goodness of his original nature, the ordinary man is in all cases dealing with a mixed condition in which he must exercise the utmost caution and self-examination. In effect this makes Mencius' description of the Four Beginnings or original nature less an active reality upon which man builds and de­velops, and more an abstract ideal, a description of what man really is in the depths of his being and should strive to become in reality. T'oegye has a rather different view of Mencius:

I characterize the Four Beginnings as likewise involving material force, the point you have repeatedly stated in the course of your discussion .... Even so, in your view of Mencius' explanation of the Four Beginnings, do you see it as likewise a matter of the issuance of material force? And if you see it as treating the issuance of material force, then how do you think one ought to look at what is described as "the beginning of humanity," "the beginning of righteousness, propriety, and wisdom"? If you see this as involving even a slight participation of material force, then it is not the original condition of pure heavenly principle. If you see is as a matter of pure heavenly principle, then the basis whence it issues is definitely not a mixed sort of thing like mud and water. What you mean is that humanity, righteousness, propriety, and wisdom are terms which belong to the not-yet-aroused state; therefore they are pure principle. As for the Four Beginnings, they are terms which belong to the state after [the mind] is aroused. Without material force they could not act; therefore they also involve material force, that is all. The way I would describe the Four Beginnings is that, although they are said to mount material force, 49 what Mencius was pointing out consists not in their mount­ing material force50 but only in their issuing from pure principle. (A, 16,32a­b, p. 417, Letter to Ki Myŏngŏn)

Real feelings have to do with the actual world of material force, and hence with the material nature; if one is going to distinguish the Seven Feelings and Four Beginnings on this level there must be some reality, not just an abstraction, as the basis of speaking of an issuance from pure principle. This is what T'oegye expresses in his formulation of the Four Beginnings as "principle issues and material force follows it." Within the interdependent compound of principle and material force one can distinguish and differentiate kinds of feelings as originating from principle or being more intimately connected with material force.

Diagram of the Saying "The Mind Combines. . . "              139

Although all alike are feelings, all involve both principle and material force, and all may be perfectly good, there is a real, even a phenom­enological difference between them:

The reason the four [i.e., joy, anger, sorrow, and fear]51 are easily harmful to the mind is that truly what issues [intrinsically] conditioned by material force, although it is originally good, easily flows toward evil; therefore it is so, and that is all. In the case of the Four Beginnings, which issue from principle, how is there any such problem? (A, 16,37a, p. 420, Letter to Ki Myŏngŏn)

A similar differentiation also appears in the text related to Dia­gram C.

Looked at in terms of the interpretation of Mencius, then, Diagram B and Diagram C have more significance than might appear at first glance. Diagram B presents the doctrine of the original nature, with the added precision that the Seven Feelings when they are good also stem from and manifest the original nature. Diagram C is a presentation of the doctrine of the physical nature. But it goes beyond the common application of this doctrine as an explanation of the origin of evil, for it also explicates the existential functionality of the original nature. Even though the nature is conjoined with material force, there is a distinctive issuance of the Four Beginnings in which principle is not only manifested, but also is the point of origination. To be sure, it does so only in conjunction with material force, but not in a way that admits the distorting element of material force in the very wellspring of the origination of these feelings.

The Significance of the Four-Seven Debate

The Four-Seven Debate became a gate through which every Korean with a claim to significant Neo-Confucian learning passed. The issues involved are subtle and of a nature which admits of no final absolute determination upon which all agree; at the same

140         Diagram of the Saying "The Mind Combines. . . "

time they involve fundamental questions regarding the interpretation of the relationship of principle and material force as applied not only to the feelings, but also as regards the closely related topics of the original nature and the physical nature, and the human mind and the mind of the Tao. These matters are so fundamental in the Ch'eng-­Chu school that, once they were raised and became the object of broad attention, they could not just be laid aside as could the discussion of equally perplexing but more peripheral questions that became fash­ionable for a time and then were left behind. Thus the Four-Seven Debate decisively fixed the intellectual agenda for generations to come; the problematique that it established served as a general framework within which other questions emerged and were addressed.

Although these issues are basic, they were never raised with the same urgency in China, which instead became occupied with questions concerning the nature and the mind as rival foci in the competing Ch'eng-Chu and Lu-Wang schools of thought.52 Korea, accepting Chu Hsi's basic description of mind as a composite of ma­terial force and principle, feelings and nature, went on to investigate the fundamental questions inherent in this description; these could be explored only by an extensive inquiry into the precise understanding of the relationship of principle and material force. The Chinese, ar­guing the Lu-Wang proposal that the mind itself is principle, were not led into the same kind of development of the inner problems and resources of the Ch'eng-Chu school in this fundamental area.

The Four-Seven Debate, then, established a distinctive intel­lectual agenda for Korean Neo-Confucianism. In so doing, one might suggest, it contributed in no small way to a closely related and dis­tinctive feature of Korean Neo-Confucianism: its exclusive devotion to the Ch'eng-Chu school and the absence of any significant role of Wang Yang-ming's thought in Yi dynasty intellectual life, in spite of its great popularity in China. Once embarked upon this inquiry, the Korean intellectual world had little place for Wang Yang-ming; his thought was not so much a furthering of these questions as it was an invitation to abandon them for a quite different alternative. One might also go beyond the intellectual level as such to further consider that the intellectual debate was very soon socially grounded, both in terms of regional and factional loyalties and in the less palpable terms of

Diagram of the Saying "The Mind Combines. . . "              141

prestige, recognition for "learning" accorded to those who could han­dle these issues with competence. There was no similar social reward or gratification for the study of Wang Yang-ming.

But on a more profound level than this, there is a way in which the Four-Seven Debate, and particularly the ideas developed by T'oegye, made Wang's thought less compelling and attractive. The Lu-Wang school, by equating principle directly with the mind rather than with the nature, gave full expression to the dynamic, active side of the original goodness of human nature as discussed by Mencius. The Ch'eng-Chu school preserved Mencius' teaching in its doctrine of the perfectly good original nature, but in the context of the cor­related doctrine of the imperfection of the physical nature (the nature as existentially embodied in material force), there was the danger, as we have seen, that the goodness spoken of by Mencius might be reduced to more an analytic intellectual affirmation than an existential reality. T'oegye's differentiation of the Four Beginnings from the Seven Feelings, however, establishes an existential functionality for the orig­inal goodness of human nature, and at the same time remains fully within the context of the Ch'eng-Chu school and leaves the doctrine of the material nature fundamentally intact.

While the underlying problematique of T'oegye's thought is quite different from that of the Lu-Wang school, with regard to Men, cius, who occupies a key place in both discussions, they do cover the same ground, albeit with widely different results. Once this discussion was established in the Korean intellectual world, the Lu-Wang school's treatment of Mencius might well be dismissed in favor of a more fine­grained analysis that remained fully within the authoritative Ch'eng­Chu tradition. Wang Yang-ming was disregarded not only because Korean minds were occupied by other things, but because with these developments there was little intellectual need for the alternative he presented.


. Diagram of the Saying, "The Mind Combines and Governs the

Nature and the Feelings"

1. On Ki Taesŭng, see Introduction, note 33. He was only thirty-two years old, twenty-seven years junior to T'oegye, when the debate between them began. The learning, tenacity, and thoroughness of his argumentation against T'oegye were a great contribution to what was attained in the course of the debate. That T'oegye allowed himself to be pressed so hard by one so much his junior reflects a rare intellectual humility and openness on his part, especially in a social context which normally demanded great deference to one's elders.

2. The courtesy name of Sŏng Hon (1535-1598) was Howŏn, and his hon­orific name was Ugye. He was a close friend of Yulgok, but although he had never studied with T'oegye, he was convinced of T'oegye's position and debated the issue from 1572-1577 in correspondence with Yulgok. This discussion, occurring just two years after T'oegye's death, attracted wide attention.

3. See Mencius, 2A:6.

4. The Seven Feelings are listed in the Book of Rites, ch. 9. The shorter list of feelings in the first chapter of the Doctrine of the Mean, pleasure, anger, sorrow, and joy, are considered likewise to represent the seven, and along with Mencius, the Doctrine of the Mean's handling of the feelings is a major consideration in discussing this issue.

5. See chapter 2, note 32.

6. Chang Tzu chüan-shu, 14.2a. The verb in this sentence, t'ung, has a range of meaning which includes both the idea of combining and the associated idea of exercising governance or command. This ambivalence was fruitfully exploited by Neo-Confucians, who refer to the saying both in the context of discussing the mind as the subject which combines the nature and feelings as its substance and function, and in the context of discussing the distinctive role of the mind as presiding over the two; the present chapter is a case in point. The two discussions are intimately related, and whichever aspect of t'ung is in the forefront in a given context, its alternative is implicit within it. For this reason, as well as for consistency, I will translate t'ung as "combines and governs," whatever the immediate context, except in cases where it is used in a compound which singles out one of its aspects.

7. This description draws heavily on the language of traditional Confucian formulas. The Book of Rites, ch. 9, says: "Thus man is [composed ofl the virtue of Heaven and Earth, the interaction of yin and yang, the combination of the physical and the spiritual, and the most excellent material force of the Five Agents." The commentary of Kung Ying-to (fl. c. 620 A.D.) remarks: "Man is stirred by the most excellent material force of the Five Agents and hence possesses humanity, righ­teousness, propriety, wisdom, and faithfulness; these are 'the most excellent material force of the Five Agents.'. . . The combination of the physical and the spiritual, and the most excellent material force of the Five Agents constitute man's nature "Li-chi cheng-i, 22). While much of the language of this description is preserved by the Neo-­Confucians, the introduction of the dualism of principle and material force and the equation of the nature with principle are a new departure that transforms the sig­nificance of the traditional description.

8. From the Book of Changes, Appended Remarks, pt. I, ch. 10: "The Changes is without thought, without action; it is still and unmoving. When acted on, it immediately penetrates all things." Here the characteristics of the mind of a sage are applied to the Book of Changes; Neo-Confucians reapply the passage to describe the substance and function of the mind of everyman. Thus it becomes part of a theoretical framework which will support everyman's cultivation of sagehood.

9. Mencius, 6A:8; see also 7A:21.

10. Ibid., 2A:6.

11. This paragraph is based on the Doctrine of the Mean, ch. 1. See discussion below, Commentary, "The Two States of the Mind."

12. I-ch'uan wen-chi, 4. la. Yen Hui was the foremost of Confucius' disciples, and was especially praised by the Master for his love of learning.

13. In speaking with King Sŏnjo, T'oegye says, "The first diagram was made by Ch'eng Lin-yin, but in his distinguishing principle and material force there were many inexact points. Thus I removed them and made the second and third diagrams distinguishing the original nature and the physical nature as they are discussed by Mencius, the Ch'eng brothers, and Master Chu" (ŎHN, 3.27a, B, p. 832). The T'oegye sŏnsaeng munjip kojŭng, a book of annotations to T'oegye's Collected Works compiled by the eighteenth century Korean scholar, Yu Towŏn, gives further details: "In Ch'eng's original diagram, "mind" was in the center of the circle with "combines and governs the nature" and "combines and governs the feelings" arranged to the right and left. Beneath the word "principle," "called humanity" etc., was absent," in TGCS (B, 3.32b-33a, pp. 1119-120). When we put these passages together, it seems likely that T'oegye felt that Ch'eng's arrangement of words within the circle suggested a division of nature and feelings according to principle and material force, an oversimplification which he is careful to correct with his own two additional diagrams.

14. Doctrine of the Mean, ch. 1. This work was traditionally attributed to Tzu Ssu, the grandson of Confucius.

15. Mencius, 6A:6.

16. I-shu, 22A:lla.

17. Cheng meng, ch. 6.

18. Doctrine of the Mean, ch. 1.

19. Mencius, 2A:6.

20. Ts'ui yen, 2.25a.

21. Yü-lei 4. lOb.

22. Analects, 17.2.

23. I-shu, 1.7b.

24. Cheng meng, ch. 6: "After assuming concrete form there is the physical nature; if one is good at returning it [to its original condition] then the nature of Heaven and Earth is preserved in one. Therefore, with regard to the physical nature, there is that which the superior man denies to be his nature." This passage was of great importance, for in it Chang Tsai ennunciates for the first time the key doctrine of a "physical nature," and points the way to the distinction of what comes to be called the "original nature."

25. Yü-lei, 4.lOb.

26. That is, material force may by its turbidity distort the feelings, which would be purely good if their issuance depended solely upon principle.

27. This twofold formula is famous as T'oegye's culminating expression of the relationship of the Four Beginnings and Seven Feelings. The "principle mounting material force" description of the Seven Feelings is borrowed from a horse and rider image Chu Hsi occasionally used to express the basic relationship of principle and material force. However, he used it only in a cosmic context. It is notable that T'oegye uses it for only one set of feelings; Yulgok argues strongly that this single formula must be used for both sets of feelings, there being only one way in which principle and material force relate, whether at the cosmic or the human level (See Yulgok chŏnsŏ, 10.15b-16a).

28. I-shu, 6.2a.

29. Book of Documents, 11.2.15. This passage is the classical locus for the contrasting concepts, "the human mind" and "the mind of the Tao," making it an essential reference point for Neo-Confucians. For further discussion, see below, chap­ter 8.

30. This separation led to a dispute among T'oegye's contemporaries re­garding whether the nature could be regarded as acting prior to the mind. See Letter to Kim Ijŏng, TGCS, A, 30.17a-19b, pp. 685-686.

31. Pal (Chinese, fa), the term here translated as "aroused," I have translated as "issues," "issuance," etc., in discussing the relationship of the nature and the feelings in order to avoid the implication that feelings are something separate from the nature that the nature acts upon and arouses. This is usually done by translating pal as "manifests," but this conventional rendition is inadequate for the context of the Four-Seven Debate, where the focus of the issue is the causal activation or issuance of the feelings by principle and material force.

32. "Cautious and fearful" not in the sense of being anxious and watchful, which would be active, but in the sense of the profound reverence and carefulness evoked by the presence of the sacred, an attitude fully in keeping with a quiescent state of mind.

33. T'oegye first used this formula in 1553 in emending a basically similar expression in the Ch'ŏnmyŏng to (Diagram of the Heavenly Mandate), a work of his contemporary, Chŏng Chi-un (1509-1561). On the Ch'ŏnmyŏng to, see chapter 3 note 30. For the original and emended diagrams, and T'oegye's long preface, see

TGCS, A, 41.1a-lla, pp. 911-916. For the chapters of explanation, see TGCS, B,

8.12b-20b, pp. 140-144.

                 34. TGCS, A, 16.1b, p. 402.

                 35. TGCS, A, 16.12b-14a, pp. 407-408.

                 36. TGCS, A, 16.8a-12b, pp. 405-407.

                 37. Yü-lei, 53.17b. This brief statement seems to be the only expression of this doctrine in Chu Hsi's works; since Chu Hsi did not devote explicit attention to this issue, it could not be finally settled on his authority.

                 38. Sa chil li ki wangbok sŏ (The Correspondence Exchanged in the Four­

Seven, Principle and Material Force Debate), 1.6b-286, in Kobong chŏnsŏ (The Complete Works of Ki Taesŭng), pp. 249-260. This work contains the complete corre­spondence of both T'oegye and Ki Taesŭng relating to the debate; it was published and circulated separately, and was also incorporated into the Kobong chŏnsŏ.

                 39. TGCS, A, 16.19a-45a, pp. 411-424.

                 40. TGCS, A, 16.25a-28a, pp. 414-415.

                 41. Sa chil li ki wangbok sŏ, 2.1a-226, Kobong chŏnsŏ, pp. 273-283.

                 42. TGCS, A, 17.2b-3a, pp. 428-429. Although he never sent a reply to

Ki's second long response, he did evidently jot some notes in response to various

sections of it. These have been edited and put together with the sections of Ki's

original letter to which they are addressed, and treated as if it were a letter to Ki.

This work appears only in TGCS, A, 17>3a-66, pp. 429-430.

                 43. Sa chil li ki wangbok sŏ, 2.25a-27a, Kobong chŏnsŏ, pp. 285-286.

                 44. To this point the passage is a paraphrase of T'oegye's position presented in TGCS, A, 16,9a-10a, p. 406. Emphasis is mine.

                   45. Ki and T'oegye are both aware that T'oegye's insistence on a causal

differentiation underlying the verbal distinctions made in the authoritative sources is an interpretive move that goes beyond what is explicitly said by Chu Hsi on this matter, although T'oegye is convinced he is being loyal to Chu Hsi's intent.

                 46. Sa chil li ki wangbok sŏ, 1.9a-10a, Kobong chŏnsŏ, p. 259.

                 47. Cf. TGCS, A, 16.27a-28a, p. 415.

                 48. Sa chil li ki wangbok sŏ, 1.25b, Kobong chŏnsŏ. P. 259.

                 49. Mencius, 2A:6.

                 50. The language of principle mounting material force was applied by Ki Taesŭng to the Four Beginnings; T'oegye here concedes the usage insofar as it expresses the interdependence of principle and material force. In his own final formulation, however, he abandons this image in describing the Four Beginnings, because it cannot bring out the priority of principle which is his point.

                 51. The.discussion at this point has touched on the Great Learning, com­

mentary section, ch. 7, which discusses these four feelings in negative terms. T'oegye views these four, and the remarks made about them, to pertain generically to the Seven Feelings.

                 52. For a discussion of the differences between the development of ChuHsi's thought in China and the issues which become paramount in Korea with T'oegye's thought, see Tu Wei-ming, "T'oegye's Creative Interpretation of Chu Hsi's Philosophy of Principle."