Emerson and Neo-Confucianism
eBook - ePub

Emerson and Neo-Confucianism

Crossing Paths over the Pacific

Y. Takanashi

  1. English
  2. ePUB (mobile friendly)
  3. Available on iOS & Android
eBook - ePub

Emerson and Neo-Confucianism

Crossing Paths over the Pacific

Y. Takanashi

Book details
Book preview
Table of contents
Citations

About This Book

A comparative investigation of Emerson's Transcendental thought and Zhu Xi's Neo-Confucianism, this book shows how both thinkers traced the human morality to the same source in the ultimately moral nature of the universe and developed theories of the interrelation of universal law and the human mind.

Frequently asked questions

How do I cancel my subscription?
Simply head over to the account section in settings and click on “Cancel Subscription” - it’s as simple as that. After you cancel, your membership will stay active for the remainder of the time you’ve paid for. Learn more here.
Can/how do I download books?
At the moment all of our mobile-responsive ePub books are available to download via the app. Most of our PDFs are also available to download and we're working on making the final remaining ones downloadable now. Learn more here.
What is the difference between the pricing plans?
Both plans give you full access to the library and all of Perlego’s features. The only differences are the price and subscription period: With the annual plan you’ll save around 30% compared to 12 months on the monthly plan.
What is Perlego?
We are an online textbook subscription service, where you can get access to an entire online library for less than the price of a single book per month. With over 1 million books across 1000+ topics, we’ve got you covered! Learn more here.
Do you support text-to-speech?
Look out for the read-aloud symbol on your next book to see if you can listen to it. The read-aloud tool reads text aloud for you, highlighting the text as it is being read. You can pause it, speed it up and slow it down. Learn more here.
Is Emerson and Neo-Confucianism an online PDF/ePUB?
Yes, you can access Emerson and Neo-Confucianism by Y. Takanashi in PDF and/or ePUB format, as well as other popular books in Philosophie & Geschichte & Theorie der Philosophie. We have over one million books available in our catalogue for you to explore.

Information

Chapter 1
Neo-Confucianism, Japan, and “Nature Is Principle”: Foundations for a Comparison of Emerson and Zhu Xi
This chapter provides both a historical framework and an argument for the comparison of the philosophies of Emerson and Zhu Xi. The first of the six sections in the chapter demonstrate the influence of Confucianism on Emerson’s writings through his engagement of the Four Books. The second describes the emergence and development of Neo-Confucianism in China, introducing the principal thinkers, Zhu Xi, Lu Xiangshan (陸象山 1139–92), and Wang Yangming (王陽明 1472–1528), who would define the philosophical views that framed Emerson’s reception in Japan, as well as the more in-depth comparison of Emerson and Zhu Xi in subsequent chapters.
The third section surveys the further development of Neo-Confucianism in Japan as background for understanding the viewpoints of Japanese intellectuals of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries who approached Emerson from a Neo-Confucianist perspective. As further background for understanding the viewpoints of these intellectuals, the fourth section provides an overview of Emerson’s reception in Japan.
The fifth section examines the parallels drawn by these Japanese thinkers—Nakamura Masanao, Iwano Hōmei, Yamaji Aizan, and Takayasu Gekkō—between Emerson’s ideas and those of Neo-Confucianism, demonstrating the characteristic orientation of these thinkers toward the teachings of Lu Xiangshan and Wang Yangming, rather than those of Zhu Xi.
The sixth section argues that although affinities can indeed be found between Emerson’s thought, especially that of his younger days, and the doctrines of Lu Xiangshan and Wang Yangming, Emersonianism is more closely related to the philosophy of Zhu Xi, and in particular, his doctrine that “nature is principle.”
1. Emerson and the Four Books
Emerson’s writings offer both direct and indirect evidence that he read the Analects of Confucius, the Book of Mencius, the Great Learning, and the Doctrine of the Mean in English translation. Let us examine this evidence of Emerson’s encounter with the Four Books and their influence on his writings.1
First, Emerson’s “Spiritual Laws,” in Essays: First Series (1841), contains the following passages:
A man passes for that he is worth. What he is, engraves itself on his face, on his form, on his fortunes, in letters of light. Concealment avails him nothing; boasting nothing. . . . Confucius exclaimed, — “How can a man be concealed! How can a man be concealed!” (CW, 2:92)
A man passes for that he is worth. Very idle is all curiosity concerning other people’s estimate of us, and all fear of remaining unknown is not less so.” (91)
Beyond Emerson’s explicit reference to Confucius here, the specific influence in these passages of the Analects of Confucius can be discerned:
The Master said, “See what a man does. Mark his motives. Examine in what things he rests. How can a man conceal his character? How can a man conceal his character?”2
The Master said, “A man should say, I am not concerned that I have no place, I am concerned how I may fit myself for one. I am not concerned that I am not known, I seek to be worthy to be known.”3
The Master said, “I will not be afflicted at men’s not knowing me; I will be afflicted that I do not know men.”4
Emerson’s Essays: Second Series (1844), written just after Emerson read the Four Books in David Collie’s 1843 English translation, reveals the indirect influence of a range of Confucian doctrines from the Four Books, including those of the Dao (Tao, Way 道), the Mean (中庸), benevolence (仁), the inborn goodness of human nature (性善), sincerity (誠), vast-flowing vigor (浩然之氣), and the superiority of the human individual to the state. In “Experience,” Emerson presents ideas similar to the Confucian doctrines of the Way and the Mean:
Everything good is on the highway. The middle region of our being is the temperate zone. We may climb into the thin and cold realm of pure geometry and lifeless science, or sink into that of sensation. Between these extremes is the equator of life, of thought, of spirit, of poetry,—a narrow belt. (CW, 3:36)
A man is a golden impossibility. The line he must walk is a hair’s breadth. The wise through excess of wisdom is made a fool. (38–39)
These passages seem to resonate with the following from the Doctrine of the Mean:
Let the states of equilibrium and harmony exist in perfection, and a happy order will prevail throughout heaven and earth, and all things will be nourished and flourish.5
The Master said, “I know how it is that the path of the Mean is not walked in:—The knowing go beyond it, and the stupid do not come up to it. I know how it is that the path of the Mean is not understood:—the men of talents and virtue go beyond it, and worthless do not come up to it.”6
Moreover, Emerson quotes directly from “Memories of Mencius” in Collie’s translation of the Four Books7 in the following passage from “Experience,” in which Emerson identifies the vital force circulating through the Universe as Mencius’ “vast flowing vigor”:
The Chinese Mencius has not been the least successful in his generalization. “I fully understand language,” he said, “and nourish well my vast flowing vigor.” —“I beg to ask what you call vast-flowing vigor?” said his companion. “The explanation,” replied Mencius, “is difficult. This vigor is supremely great, and in the highest degree unbending. Nourish it correctly, and do it no injury, and it will fill up the vacancy between heaven and earth. This vigor accords with and assists justice and reason, and leaves no hunger.” In our more correct writing, we give to this generalization the name of Being, and thereby confess we have arrived as far as we can go.” (CW, 3:42)
In “Character,” furthermore, Emerson offers the following reflection on the inborn goodness of human nature:
The reason why we feel one man’s presence, and do not feel another’s, is as simple as gravity. Truth is the summit of being: justice is the application of it to affairs. All individual natures stand in a scale, according to the purity of this element in them. The will of the pure runs down from them into other natures, as water runs down from a higher into a lower vessel. (3:56)
Emerson’s argument here is closely analogous to the following from the Book of Mencius:
Mencius replied, “Water indeed will flow indifferently to the east or west, but will it flow indifferently up or down? The tendency of man’s nature to good is like the tendency of water to flow downwards. There are none but have this tendency to good, just as all water flows downwards.”8
In “Manners,” Emerson offers the following description of gentlemen:
The gentleman is a man of truth, lord of his own actions, and expressing that lordship in his behavior . . . Beyond this fact of truth and real force, the word denotes good-nature or benevolence. (CW, 3:73)
This bears a substantial resemblance to the following from the Doctrine of the Mean:
He who possesses sincerity, is he who, without an effort, hits what is right, and apprehends, without the exercise of thought;—he is the sage who naturally and easily embodies the right way.9
That character is to be cultivated by his treading in the ways of duty. And the treading in those ways of duty is to be cultivated by the cherishing of benevolence. Benevolence is the characteristic element of humanity.10
In “Politics,” Emerson relates his belief in the priority of the individual over the state as follows:
[T]he highest end of government is the culture of men: and if men can be educated, the institutions will share their improvement, and the moral sentiment will write the law of the land. (CW, 3:120)
To educate the wise man, the State exists; and with the appearance of the wise man, the State expires. The appearance of character makes the State unnecessary. The wise man is the State. (126)
Emerson’s argument here is analogous to the following from the Great Learning and the Doctrine of the Mean, which frequently cast “cultivation of the self” as the “root” and “government of the state” as the “branch” of the same tree:
Wishing to order well their States, they first regulated their families. Wishing to regulate their families, they first cultivated their persons. Wishing to cultivate their persons, they first rectified their hearts. Wishing to rectify their hearts, they first sought to be sincere in their thoughts. Wishing to be sincere in their thoughts, they first extended to the utmost their knowledge.11
The Master said, “The government of Wăn and Wû is displayed in the records,—the tablets of wood and bamboo. Let there be the men and the government will flourish; but without the men, their government decays and ceases. . . . Therefore the administration of government lies in getting proper men.”12
In his journal of October 7, 1863, Emerson quoted the following passages from the Doctrine of the Mean in James Legge’s translation as follows:
I am reading a better Pascal. “It is said in the Book of Poetry, ‘Over her embroidered robe she puts a plain single garment.’ So it is the way of the superior man to prefer the concealment of his virtue, while it daily becomes more illustrious, and the way of the mean man to seek notoriety; while he daily goes more and more to ruin. It is characteristic of the superior man, appearing insipid, yet never to produce satiety; while showing a simple negligence, yet to have his accomplishments recognized; while seemingly plain, yet to be discriminating. He knows how what is distant lies in what is near.—whence the wind proceeds from, how what is minute becomes manifested.” (JMN, 15:368)13
“The way of Heaven and Earth may be declared in a sentence:—They are without doubleness, and so they produce things in a manner that is unfathomable.” Heaven is a shining spot, yet sun, moon, stars, constellations are suspended in it; the earth is a handful of soil, but sustains mountains like Hwa and Yoh without feeling their weight, and contains rivers and seas without leaking away. (369)14
As the evidence we have seen demonstrates, Emerson’s writings show that he encountered and was impressed with Confucianism through his reading of the translations of the Four Books—the Great Learning, the Analects of Confucius, the Book of Mencius, and the Doctrine of the Mean. As Arthur Versluis summarized the influence, “Confucianism reinforced Emerson’s emphasis on the moral imperative for every individual, and second, the Confucian ideal of the ethical, solitary, learned, and decorous man certainly appealed to Emerson’s sense of himself.”15 Emerson’s conception of Confucianism thus broadly accorded with Neo-Confucian scholars such as Zhu Xi who regarded the Four Books, with their central value of cheng (sincerity 誠) as the cardinal classics of Confucianism. In contrast to the Five Classics—the Book of Changes, the Book of History, the Book of Poetry, the Book of Rites, and the Spring and Autumn Annals—which centered on li (propriety 禮), an outward practice of ritual propriety, the Four Books emphasized the moral cultivation of the individual mind. Significantly, Collie and Legge, translators of the editions of the Four Books that Emerson read, consulted Zhu Xi’s commentaries on the Four Books in preparing their translations. Emerson’s reading of the Four Books thus represents an intriguing historical point of departure for the significance of a comparative investigation of Emerson’s thought and Zhu’s Neo-Confucian teachings.
2. The Emergence and Development of Neo-Confucianism in China
This section offers an outline of the development of Neo-Confucianism in China, surveying the philosophies of its foundational thinkers of the Song dynasty, Zhu Xi’s great synthesis of Neo-Confucianist thought, and the competing views of Zhu’s contemporary Lu Xiangshan and his successor Wang Yangming. This survey reveals the essential conceptual divide between Zhu’s doctrine of nature as principle and the teaching of Lu and Wang that “the mind is principle.”
The Neo-Confucianists in Northern Song Dynasty China
Let us consider several prominent figures who laid the conceptual foundations of Neo-Confucianism during the Northern Song dynasty (960–1127). Zhou Dunyi (周敦頤, also called Zhou Lianxi, 1017–73) brought a Confucian viewpoint to bear on the Daoist doctrine of the transformation, reinterpreting it in a diagram in An Explanation of the Diagram of the Supreme Ultimate (太極圖説). In the diagram, Zhou shows the universe to proceed from the Ultimate of Non-be...

Table of contents

  1. Cover
  2. Title
  3. Introduction
  4. 1   Neo-Confucianism, Japan, and “Nature Is Principle”: Foundations for a Comparison of Emerson and Zhu Xi
  5. 2   The Fundamental Principle and Generation of the Universe
  6. 3   Cosmic Law and Human Ethics
  7. 4   Realization of the Self
  8. Conclusion
  9. Notes
  10. Bibliography
  11. Index