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Two Kinds of Oneness: Cheng Hao’s Letter on Calming Nature in Contrast with Zhang Zai’s Monism

Two Kinds of Oneness: Cheng Hao’s Letter on Calming Nature in Contrast with Zhang Zai’s Monism School of Philosophy, Wuhan University zemian@gmail.com Introduction Two kinds of life experience of oneness (or unity), frequently described, as well as disputed, by the major figures in the history of Neo-Confucianism during the SongMing period -- for example Zhang Zai (1020­1077), Cheng Hao (1032­1085), Zhu Xi (1130­1200), and Wang Yangming (1472­1529) -- are the focus of the present article. The fundamental characteristic of this experience is a serene feeling of being profoundly united with all things; specifically, the term `oneness' is herein utilized to refer to a state in which Heaven, Earth, and a myriad of things form one body (yiti ) with the human individual.1 To further illustrate this notion, I offer a new reading of Cheng Hao's groundbreaking essay Letter on Calming Nature (Dingxing shu ), a letter to Zhang Zai, in which I argue that, in this very debate with Zhang, one may discern various conceptions of oneness. In addition, my argument shows how Cheng's refutation of the inner-outer distinction may prove a better starting point for self-cultivation and moral psychology when compared to Zhang's; this reading characterizes Cheng's ethics as therapeutic, and as a moderate version of ethical realism based on a non-objectifiable first-person http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Philosophy East and West University of Hawai'I Press

Two Kinds of Oneness: Cheng Hao’s Letter on Calming Nature in Contrast with Zhang Zai’s Monism

Philosophy East and West , Volume 65 (4) – Oct 23, 2015

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Publisher
University of Hawai'I Press
Copyright
Copyright © 2008 University of Hawai'i Press.
ISSN
1529-1898
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Abstract

School of Philosophy, Wuhan University zemian@gmail.com Introduction Two kinds of life experience of oneness (or unity), frequently described, as well as disputed, by the major figures in the history of Neo-Confucianism during the SongMing period -- for example Zhang Zai (1020­1077), Cheng Hao (1032­1085), Zhu Xi (1130­1200), and Wang Yangming (1472­1529) -- are the focus of the present article. The fundamental characteristic of this experience is a serene feeling of being profoundly united with all things; specifically, the term `oneness' is herein utilized to refer to a state in which Heaven, Earth, and a myriad of things form one body (yiti ) with the human individual.1 To further illustrate this notion, I offer a new reading of Cheng Hao's groundbreaking essay Letter on Calming Nature (Dingxing shu ), a letter to Zhang Zai, in which I argue that, in this very debate with Zhang, one may discern various conceptions of oneness. In addition, my argument shows how Cheng's refutation of the inner-outer distinction may prove a better starting point for self-cultivation and moral psychology when compared to Zhang's; this reading characterizes Cheng's ethics as therapeutic, and as a moderate version of ethical realism based on a non-objectifiable first-person

Journal

Philosophy East and WestUniversity of Hawai'I Press

Published: Oct 23, 2015

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