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postgraduate thesis: An empirical interpretation of Confucianism: a modern re-evalution of the philosophies of the Ming Dynastyconfucian Wang Yangming

TitleAn empirical interpretation of Confucianism: a modern re-evalution of the philosophies of the Ming Dynastyconfucian Wang Yangming
Authors
Issue Date2010
PublisherThe University of Hong Kong (Pokfulam, Hong Kong)
Abstract
Wang Yangming, the most renowned Ming dynasty Confucian, has often been accused of being unorthodox and subjectively idealistic in his doctrines and influence. This claim will be refuted. The title of “idealism” in association with Wang’s work has been misused and misunderstood if the common Western usage of the term is applied. My examination of Wang’s teachings in a metaphysical-empirical sense and comparison of them with descriptions of Western reason, will reveal that Wang’s teachings are immanently holistic on a cosmological level, and practically pluralistic on the physical plane. This holds true as Wang makes no dualistic separation between mental and non-mental substances (cosmologically) and makes little distinction between self and other in his conception of a unified plural universe. In other words, Wang’s Confucian materialism allows for no concept of an Absolute that lives in another dimension. The result proves that Wang’s philosophy has little in common with traditional Western idealism. The overall precedent of this work will follow the ‘four sprouts’ or the four inherent feelings described by Mencius and the ‘four axioms’ described by Wang. And in similar manner to the methodology used by these two Confucian scholars, they will be used by this writer in a progressive developmental way which leads toward individual and societal betterment. A humanistic path used in many Chinese philosophical systems and a “Way” that combines the four virtues described by Mencius into a natural evolving continuum. A pattern that is in agreement with how Mencius and Wang associated human development with both instinctual and theoretical knowledge to reach the highest state of enlightened virtue and wisdom associated with sage-hood. The underlying premise insisting that the four virtues of both Wang and Mencius are best understood when both the yin and yang elements of the virtues are combined and harmonized into a pluralistic oneness that results in both happiness and healthiness. According to this rationale, the enlightened person or sage does the right thing because they instinctually feel the action is correct and because the rational part of their thinking mind has confirmed this course of action. As Wang infers there is a higher consciousness that makes the decision either to follow our instincts or not, then he allows that our thinking is instinctual, rationalistic, and intuitional all at once. Using this description, Wang’s teaching will be proven to have more in common with modern scientific views and traditional Western empiricism and/or materialism. The result reveals Wang’s interpretation of Confucianism has much in common with the liberalist foundations of Western democratic and conceptions of human rights, Western concepts which have traditionally been linked to empiricism and materialism. This work thereby provides significance for modern political discussion on whether Confucianism supports these Western concepts.
DegreeMaster of Philosophy
Dept/ProgramPhilosophy

 

DC FieldValueLanguage
dc.contributor.authorPhillips, David William.-
dc.date.issued2010-
dc.description.abstractWang Yangming, the most renowned Ming dynasty Confucian, has often been accused of being unorthodox and subjectively idealistic in his doctrines and influence. This claim will be refuted. The title of “idealism” in association with Wang’s work has been misused and misunderstood if the common Western usage of the term is applied. My examination of Wang’s teachings in a metaphysical-empirical sense and comparison of them with descriptions of Western reason, will reveal that Wang’s teachings are immanently holistic on a cosmological level, and practically pluralistic on the physical plane. This holds true as Wang makes no dualistic separation between mental and non-mental substances (cosmologically) and makes little distinction between self and other in his conception of a unified plural universe. In other words, Wang’s Confucian materialism allows for no concept of an Absolute that lives in another dimension. The result proves that Wang’s philosophy has little in common with traditional Western idealism. The overall precedent of this work will follow the ‘four sprouts’ or the four inherent feelings described by Mencius and the ‘four axioms’ described by Wang. And in similar manner to the methodology used by these two Confucian scholars, they will be used by this writer in a progressive developmental way which leads toward individual and societal betterment. A humanistic path used in many Chinese philosophical systems and a “Way” that combines the four virtues described by Mencius into a natural evolving continuum. A pattern that is in agreement with how Mencius and Wang associated human development with both instinctual and theoretical knowledge to reach the highest state of enlightened virtue and wisdom associated with sage-hood. The underlying premise insisting that the four virtues of both Wang and Mencius are best understood when both the yin and yang elements of the virtues are combined and harmonized into a pluralistic oneness that results in both happiness and healthiness. According to this rationale, the enlightened person or sage does the right thing because they instinctually feel the action is correct and because the rational part of their thinking mind has confirmed this course of action. As Wang infers there is a higher consciousness that makes the decision either to follow our instincts or not, then he allows that our thinking is instinctual, rationalistic, and intuitional all at once. Using this description, Wang’s teaching will be proven to have more in common with modern scientific views and traditional Western empiricism and/or materialism. The result reveals Wang’s interpretation of Confucianism has much in common with the liberalist foundations of Western democratic and conceptions of human rights, Western concepts which have traditionally been linked to empiricism and materialism. This work thereby provides significance for modern political discussion on whether Confucianism supports these Western concepts.-
dc.languageeng-
dc.publisherThe University of Hong Kong (Pokfulam, Hong Kong)-
dc.relation.ispartofHKU Theses Online (HKUTO)-
dc.rightsThe author retains all proprietary rights, (such as patent rights) and the right to use in future works.-
dc.rightsCreative Commons: Attribution 3.0 Hong Kong License-
dc.source.urihttp://hub.hku.hk/bib/B47752750-
dc.titleAn empirical interpretation of Confucianism: a modern re-evalution of the philosophies of the Ming Dynastyconfucian Wang Yangming-
dc.typePG_Thesis-
dc.identifier.hkulb4775275-
dc.description.thesisnameMaster of Philosophy-
dc.description.thesislevelmaster's-
dc.description.thesisdisciplinePhilosophy-
dc.description.naturepublished_or_final_version-
dc.identifier.doi10.5353/th_b4775275-
dc.date.hkucongregation2012-

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