Proceedings of the XXII World Congress of Philosophy

Volume 9, 2008

Confucian Philosophy

Kyo-Jin Sung
Pages 303-313

牛溪 成渾의 主理主氣纔發或主說에 關한 硏究

The Li-Primacy Qi-Primacy theory (主理主氣說) of Sung Woogye, Neo-Confucian scholar in 16th century Joseon dynasty, is contained in the 5 letters among the 9 letters of inquiry sent to Yi Yulgok. What Woogye liked to emphasize was, when our mind of Li Qi combination (理氣合物) begins to arise, Li and Qi does not arise separately but Li and Qi become prime (主) or subordinate (從) alternatively to be in a thread. It is that we approach one thread to take the important and say (就一途而取其重而言也). The terms of Li-Primacy Qi-Primacy were in the letter of reply to Kobong (高峰:奇大升) by Yi Toegye. He said the four clues (四端) were Li-Primacy and the seven feelings (七情) were Qi-Primacy. In the inquiries and answers between Woogye and Yulgok, it was developed that moral mind follows Li-Primacy while human selfish desire follows Qi-Primacy. Woogye liked to see human mind and moral mind as the theory of rise and fall (消長說). However, Yulgok liked to grasp them as the theory of beginning and end (始終說). In plain language, the ratio between human mind and moral mind can be 1:99 or 99:1 in the theory of rise and fall, but never be 0:100 or 100:0 as in the theory of beginning and end.