Images of Human Nature

Images of Human Nature: A Sung Portrait

DONALD J. MUNRO
Copyright Date: 1988
Pages: 334
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt7zvsvp
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    Images of Human Nature
    Book Description:

    In this volume Donald Munro, author of important studies on early and contemporary China, provides a critical analysis of the doctrines of the Sung Neo-Confucian philosopher Chu Hsi (1130-1200). For nearly six centuries Confucian orthodoxy was based on Chu Hsi's commentaries on Confucian classics. These commentaries were the core of the curriculum studied by candidates for the civil service in China until 1905 and provided guidelines both for personal behavior and for official policy. Munro finds the key to the complexities of Chu Hsi's thought in his mode of discourse: the structural images of family, stream of water, mirror, body, plant, and ruler. Furthermore, he discloses the basic framework of Chu Hsi's ethics and the theory of human nature that is provided by these illustrative images.

    As revealed by Munro, Chu Hsi's thought is polarized between family duty and a broader altruism and between obedience to external authority and self-discovery of moral truth. To understand these tensions moves us toward clarifying the meaning of each idea in the sets. The interplay of these ideas, selectively emphasized over time by later Confucians, is a background for explaining modern Chinese thought. In it, among other things, Confucianism and Marxism-Leninism co-exist.

    Originally published in 1988.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-5974-0
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. ONE BACKGROUND AND METHODOLOGY
    (pp. 3-42)

    Chu Hsi (1130-1200), the subject of this book, is historically important because his ideas became orthodoxy in China after his death and remained so until 1905. Yet the very breadth of his writings and recorded conversations, and the long and fluctuating history of his influence in China, have made it difficult to untangle the intricacies of his philosophical doctrines. Moreover, the organization of his ideas is not easy to grasp. The occasion for this study is the application of a new methodology in the attempt to clarify one core element in Chu’s thought: his conception of human nature. This methodology...

  5. TWO THE FAMILY AND THE STREAM: TRANQUIL HIERARCHY AND EQUAL WORTH
    (pp. 43-74)

    Chu Hsi uses a great many pictorial images in his explanations. Of the banquet of options before him, he settles on a very few that then change their functional nature. Instead of being simply heuristic descriptive devices, they become conceptual frameworks used to structure the relations between increasingly complex sets of facts. These sets of facts may pertain to anything, from parts of an individual person to nature as a whole. Chu Hsi’s repertoire of dominant structural images includes the family, the stream of water, and the plant. The first two of these will be examined in this chapter. The...

  6. THREE THE MIRROR AND THE BODY: INTERNAL KNOWLEDGE AND EXTERNAL EMBODIMENT
    (pp. 75-111)

    The theme of psychological separation is a remarkably pervasive background concern in the thought of Sung Neo-Confucian writers and also in that of medieval and early modern Western philosophers, from Augustine to Descartes. What is revealing about their concern, however, is the variety of objects from which it is claimed that man may become separated. Throughout their history, Confucians have argued for man’s obligation to be an engaged participant in the social and physical world in which he lives. Its “human affairs”(jen-shih)are his proper concern. They have shied away from metaphysical positions that question the worth of such...

  7. FOUR THE PLANT AND THE GARDENER: SELF-CULTIVATION AND THE CULTIVATION OF OTHERS
    (pp. 112-154)

    From time to time serious people in any society ask the question: What kind of person do I want to be? The answer is largely a function of the idea of the self that the person already entertains. For Chu Hsi, the answer is someone with ever maturing and expanding sentiments (especially love rooted in kinship affection) and a mind clear enough to ensure that actions always properly fit situations. In short, it is to be a sage, someone sufficiently enlightened to make his actions effective in guiding and caring for others, within the family and beyond it. The method...

  8. FIVE THE RULER AND THE RULED: AUTHORITARIAN TEACHERS AND PERSONAL DISCOVERY
    (pp. 155-191)

    Chu Hsi’s writings have an authoritarian strand that coexists with the stress on self-cultivation. That strand is broader in scope than the study of classical texts containing fundamental truths with which scholars of Chu are familiar. It centers on the importance of rulers and teachers to the nurturance of people and on the attitude that one should have toward the texts.

    Many analysts have noticed that Chu is often critical of existing rulers. Few have noted that he still treats them and their office with the respect due models and regards their social role as essential. It is a commonplace...

  9. SIX TWO POLARITIES AND THEIR MODERN LEGACY: THE MORAL SENSE AND ITS CONTENT
    (pp. 192-232)

    Chu’s writings contain the key to Confucian explanations of how social order and personal tranquility are achieved. That key is the cultivation of what in common speech would be called the conscience. In the Confucian case, however, its content is innately fixed. Included in that content are the principles and feelings appropriate to personal relationships, especially family ones. Insight into the indubitable sentiment of family love is for Confucian ethics what Descartes’scogito ergo sumis for his epistemology. It is the intuitive first principle on which the individual builds all subsequent moral judgments. In this chapter I deal with...

  10. NOTES
    (pp. 233-293)
  11. CHARACTER GLOSSARY
    (pp. 294-298)
  12. SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 299-310)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 311-322)