This article defines Dasan’s view on the Seongni debate as “metaphilosophy.” Metaphilosophy is often dubbed the “philosophy of philosophy” or “second-order philosophy.” The word “meta” has Greek origins, meaning “after” or “beyond.” A metaphilosopher stays outside of an ongoing philosophical debate or problem and conducts a second-order review of its nature, purpose, and method, instead of being directly involved in the debate. If a metaphilosopher is defined as such, Dasan, then, can be regarded as the first and foremost metaphilosopher in the Neo-Confucian history of Joseon. Instead of engaging in the intense Seongni debate of his time as a participant, he remained outside the debate and criticized its nature, goals, and methodology from a second-order perspective. As a metaphilosopher, Dasan employed methodological tools, such as linguistic analysis. This article analyzes Dasan’s metaphilosophical stance on the Seongni debate and concludes that his metaphilosophical perspective provided a turning point in the history of Joseon Neo-Confucianism.
This study aims to provide a more balanced approach to Dasan Jeong Yak-yong’s understanding of Sangje (Lord on High) as the ultimate reality by integrating the existing conflicting theories on Sangje in Dasan’s tenets of Confucianism. It also attempts to make the best use of various views posited in previous studies, with an analytic focus on Dasan’s personal reasons for placing the concept of Sangje at the core of his Confucian theoretical system. Research on a scholar should first deal with their formation of thought and background as an individual, and thus the content and direction of Dasan’s thought, the context of his life that influenced his problem awareness and his thinking, and the mode of thinking embodied in him through his life experiences are included in the scope of this analysis. In particular, this article examines the transformation of the Confucian system Dasan sought through his concept of Sangje, the background of the formation of his view on Sangje, his conception of Sangje, the direction of his thought, and the significance of his approach to the ultimate reality.
This article aims to investigate the issues of the ethical function of emotion in Dasan’s annotations of Confucian classics. Defining nature as “preference,” Dasan argued that the specific content of nature is to “like good and dislike bad.” Verifying the existence of such nature based on his own psychological experiences and the existing canon of literature, he attempted to prove the presence and universality of moral emotions, especially in ordinary dialogue, relying on psychological responses to specific events and the notion of human nature. Since identical emotions can lead to contrasting actions, depending on whether they “achieve harmony in moderation,” emotions should be properly adjusted. To achieve this, Dasan stressed the importance of sincerity and proposed that people, as sincere actors, exert every effort for religious cultivation by serving Sangje (Lord on High). Dasan’s theory on emotions offers a basis for empirically resolving the fundamental problems of Confucian ethics, and his notion of emotions has significance in shifting philosophical concerns from the metaphysical sphere to the everyday lived world.
According to Zhu Xi, individuals are transformed into moral beings through the cultivation of their character, and the increase of moral individuals therefore leads to the generation of a moral society. While acknowledging that moral success through such cultivation produces moral heroes, Dasan Jeong Yak-yong argued that inner cultivation alone could not produce moral individuals and a moral society because in reality humans have a myriad of conflicting desires and fluctuating volitions. Without confining morality to the purification of inner mind, Dasan considered both inner reflection and external practice grounded on free will to be necessary. Through both, he believed, individuals attain a personal sense of responsibility and preside over the entire process of morality. Although in reality there are personal differences, people can partake proactively in the construction of a moral society. In this regard, Dasan is credited with shifting the focus of Confucianism from the sage and his inner reflection to common people and practice.
This article attempts to examine the moral epistemology of Dasan Jeong Yak-yong through analysis of his argument on goodness of human nature in his commentaries on Mengzi (Book of Mencius). Moral epistemology questions how our knowledge about morality is possible, and how we can justify moral beliefs. I attempt to describe Dasan along with some contemporary moral realists who accept our volitional activities such as desires and feelings to be reliable and justifiable bases of our moral knowledge. He connects the knowledge of goodness with the ability to have a feeling of pleasure upon seeing morally approvable situation. Dasan illustrates many concrete examples revealing apriority, objectivity, reliability, and the universality of moral emotions based on natural preference, which serves as a basis of moral judgment. Dasan’s examples, arguments, and proofs can be used as basic counterarguments against those who dismiss the role of emotions and reject the objectivity of moral knowledge, such as non-cognitivists and ethical skeptics.
The story of how Neo-Confucian ideologues swept away Buddhism from the corridors of power after the establishment of the Joseon dynasty in 1392 is well known. Yet this dominant framework of interpretation has such an air of inevitability that it obscures many of the continuities that can be seen in the new dynasty’s attitudes to Buddhism. In his pronouncements on Buddhism and his deployment of Buddhist ritual, Yi Seong-gye, founder of the Joseon dynasty, displays some remarkable similarities with the founder of Goryeo, Wang Geon. Therefore, this article aims to reconsider Yi’s personal and official relation to Buddhism in order to explain the persistence of Buddhism in Joseon public life. Assuming that Yi’s attitudes were shaped by the Goryeo Buddhist worldview, his deployment of Buddhist rituals and monks, and his reference to Buddhist norms, can be seen essentially as a continuation of the Goryeo system. But Yi’s adherence to the Goryeo system was not only because of the sheer force of habit; when he realized that the Goryeo tradition of state-sponsored Buddhism could not be maintained, he tried to salvage as much as possible by identifying the body of the founding ruler with the religion. Although this intention was not fully recognized by later generations, it made it impossible to completely eradicate Buddhism in Joseon.
This study examines how Japanese scholars as well as the public accepted Korean classical novels from the latter part of the Joseon dynasty until the 1920s. During this time, Japanese used translated and published Korean classical novels to learn and understand the Korean language and culture. The first person who transcribed Korean classical novels was Amenomori Hoshu 雨森芳洲, an interpreter who also learned the Korean language by transcribing classical novels such as Sukhyangjeon (The Tale of Sukhyang) and Yi Baek-gyeong jeon (The Tale of Yi Baek-gyeong). He also used Korean classical novels when he was teaching Korean to Japanese apprentices training to become interpreters. Korean classical novels were used continuously as Korean learning materials by Japanese scholars, interpreters, students, and so on. As the interest in Korean classical novels increased, Choe Chung jeon (The Tale of Choe Chung), Im Gyeong-eop jeon (The Tale of Im Gyeong-eop), and Chunhyangjeon (The Tale of Chunhyang), among others, were translated and published. Scholars such as Nakarai Tosui 桃水野史, Takahashi Toru 高橋亨, and Hosoi Hajime 細井肇 continued to translate Korean classical novels. These scholars also published several classical novels up until the 1920s. They contain a total of 15 pieces, which are representative examples of Korean classical novels. Hosoi claimed that learning Korean classical novels was important to learning more about the Joseon dynasty. After receiving Korean classical novels through the transcription, translation, and publication process, Japanese scholars studied them earnestly. This article systematically traces this early period when Korean classical novels first became the subject of study among Japanese.