The purpose of this article is to review the historical processes of how the concept of philosophy was constructed in modern Korea and also how its representations were used; as well as the pattern of changes that the concept of philosophy brought about in the traditional knowledge system of modern Korea. Before philosophy was established as an academic concept, gyeokchi 格致(the investigation of things), gungni 窮理(the study of principles), and seongni 性理(human nature and natural law) were interchangeably used as words and concepts that were synonymous with philosophy. However, the absence of the word “philosophy” does not mean the absence of the concept of philosophy per se. Modern “philosophy” in Korea emerged as the result of multilayered interactions between the traditional worldviews and the modern ones, as well as the tension between universality and the particularities of the knowledge systems. These interactions are evidence for historical changes in the semantics of the concept. From Korea’s independence until the present day, Japanese colonialism influenced not only the domain of philosophy but also humanities as a whole.
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