Organizer and Chair: On-cho Ng, Pennsylvania State University
Discussant: Hoyt Cleveland Tillman, Arizona State University; Chung-ying Cheng, University of Hawaii, Manoa
It seems safe to say that in the philosophical anthropology of both Confucianism and Buddhism, the emotive and the affective are axiologically inferior and posterior to the authentic self as ultimate being, variously construed as the Confucian notions of the "(Heaven-endowed) nature," "principle," "the original substance," or the Buddhist notion of the "Buddha-nature." Consequently, emotion/feeling (qing, chong, sei) is seen to be not only lacking in any ethico-moral normative leverage, but it is often regarded as inimical to the quest for transcendent truth. Nonetheless, in both the Confucian and Buddhist traditions, there are ample arguments that militate against this dualistic conception of fundamental nature which demarcates an a priori transcendental category from empirical experiences, that is, the affective, sensory and somatic.
By focusing on examples from Chinese and Korean Confucianism, and Japanese Buddhism, this panel proposes an inquiry precisely into those ideas that address the apparent antinomy between ultimate truth and its refracted, if not distorted, expression of emotion. These ideas, instead of devaluing the emotive, see it as crucial to the fulfillment of fully moral, humane and blissful living. The first paper of the panel pinpoints the intimate linkage between the transcendental, emotive and somatic in Medieval Japanese Buddhism. The second explores the onto-genetic assumptions about the origin of emotion in the "Four-Seven Debate" in 16th-century Korea. The third examines the axiological reevaluation of emotion as an integral part of the innately moral human nature in late Imperial Chinese Confucian discourse.
Motion and Emotion in Medieval Japanese Buddhism
Steven Heine, Pennsylvania State University
This paper examines the underlying connection between emotions, including the attainment of transcendental emotions associated with the realization of impermanence (muj˘), and motion or movement, including stillness as the absence of movement reflecting spiritually realized emotions. The paper begins by pointing out the etymology of the English term emotions deriving from a sense of "being moved," as suggested by the expression that "I was moved by . . . (a particular experience)." Emotions are reflected or symbolized by physical movement.
In medieval Japanese Buddhism, the transcendental emotions of contemplative awareness or aesthetic attunement to the transient nature of reality are reflected in the motions and gestures of the human body as well as the movement of the natural world. Examples of human motion and stillness include the famous picture of My˘e's meditating while sitting in the limbs of a tree, Fujiwara Teika's instruction that poetic composition requires a seated posture influenced by Tendai shikan practice, and the facial images and body language of the iconography of the Five Hundred Rakan. Also, examples of natural movement symbolizing emotions include the lyrical metaphor in Zen poetry of satori feeling like the branches of a pine tree being swayed by the breeze or the scattering of spring blossoms, the conception of geometric forces linking a network of mountain temples funneling spiritual energy into the sacred sites, and the shape-changing of magical animals signifying transitional states of mind.
The Four-Seven Debate: Harmonizing Emotions and Feelings in Korean
Matthew Levey, Birmingham-Southern College
One of the outstanding features of "Neo-Confucian" thinking is the claim that human behavior, both moral and immoral, must be explained in terms of how human beings are naturally constituted. The purpose of this essay is to use the 16th-century "Four-Seven Debate" to examine the manner in which Korean "Neo-Confucians" used the central concepts of "emotions" and "feelings" to harmonize competing claims about the relation between good and evil in human nature.
The essay begins with an overview of these competing conceptions of how it is people are said to be good and how it is that people who have a "good nature" can still do evil things. I will focus on Zhu Xi (1130-1200) who, throughout his later career, attempted to work out the implications not only of the theory that associated the good "feelings" with the good nature (or li, principle) and evil "emotions" with the "selfish desires" of qi, but also of the theory that while human nature is good and expresses itself as the moral feelings, it sometimes is manifested as evil emotions. The essay then explores the Korean "Four-Seven Debate" which aimed at effecting a synthesis of these apparently conflicting ideas by analyzing the divergent philosophic positions of Yi T'oegye (1501-70), Ki Taesung, (1527-72) and Yi Yulgok (1536-84). In one way or another, they sought to establish the source of human responses to things, that is, emotions and feelings. Their onto-genetic conceptions of emotions/feelings brought themselves directly to bear on their conceptions of human nature.
Escape from a Confucian Antinomy: Discourse on Human Nature (Xing) and
Emotion (Qing) in Late Imperial China
On-cho Ng, Pennsylvania State University
This paper seeks to elucidate Jiao Xun's (1763-1820) re-conception of xing (human nature) in relation to qing (emotion). Influenced by Dai Zhen and guided by his own reading of the Classic of Changes, Jiao wrote the Mengzi zhengyi (Correct Meanings of the Mencius), in which he assumed the Mencian assertion of the fundamental goodness of xing and wrestled with Zhu Xi's dualism of li (principle)-versus-qi (material force), by arguing that qi, with its experiential and corporeal expressions of qing (sentiments) and yu (desires), was integrally a part of human nature, an ontological whole not subject to metaphysical division.
The paper also argues that Jiao's thinking may be seen as part of a trend from the late Ming onward to escape from the antinomic tensions generated by the separation of principle and material force. To Jiao and others in late Imperial China, identifying moral nature exclusively with principle was to create a vacant space between ultimate reality and everyday living. The full ethico-moral realization of xing demanded the direct intervention of the emotional, affective and cognitive.
Furthermore, to study Jiao's work is also to explore the nature of mid-Qing kaozheng (evidential) learning, to the extent that his philosophical endeavors were undertaken within a philological framework as an exegesis of Mencius, involving the mediation of yet another Classic, the Changes. An examination of Jiao Xun's re-conception of human nature sheds light on the hermeneutic nature of Chinese thought.