Chinese philosophy---Neo-Confucianism


In the Sung dynasty (960-1279), Confucianism became a powerful force of thought in what is generally called the Sung Confucian Revival. In the centuries preceding, Buddhism was the dominant force in China; the intellectual centers of China were the Buddhist temples. But in the Sung, the center of intellectual activity again devolved on the scholar. The most important of these new scholars was Hu Yan (993-1059) who almost single-handedly is responsible for the revival of Confucianism at this time. Like Confucius and his followers, Hu Yan is primarily concerned with ethics rather than abstract religious or metaphysical speculation; his overwhelming concern lies in the concerns of government and the ethics of day to day living. As a result of this Confucian revival, the government itself undertook massive reforms according to Confucian principles; part of this reform was the extension of the examination system for choosing government officials (see your textbook).

Eventually, this revival would split into two central Confucian schools, the School of Mind or Intuition, whose greatest thinker was Wang Yang-ming, and the School of Principle, which culminated in the great thought of Chu Hsi (1130-1200). Both schools agreed that the world consisted of two realms: the realm of principle (li ) (which we might call "laws") and the realm of material force(ch'i ). Principle governs material force and material force makes manifest principle; the ultimate origin of principle is in a single principle, called the Great Ultimate (tao ch'i ), which emanates from Heaven. The School of Mind, founded by Ch'eng Hao (1032-1085), emphasized that the human mind is completely unified and reflects perfectly in itself the principle of the universe. Since the human mind is perfectly identical with the Universal Mind or the Ultimate Principle, the duty of any philosopher is to investigate the nature of the human mind to the exclusion of all other investigations. The School of Principle believed that there was an immaterial and immutable principle or law that inheres in all things, giving them form, motion, and change. The mind of humanity is essentially the same as the mind of the universe and can be perfected to reflect that higher mind; however, the principle inhering in the human mind applied to everything, so that any investigation into any phenomenon whatsoever would reveal the principle of the human and the Universal mind. Studying the heavens or an insect will lead you eventually to that same principle which characterizes the human mind and the Universal mind. The scholars of the School of Principle believed in empirical investigation, for they believed that to find the principle of any material process was to find the principle inherent in all material and intellectual processes.

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