The next session of the Columbia University Seminar on Neo-Confucian Studies will convene on Friday, March 5, from 7-8:30 pm EST, over Zoom. The speaker will be Professor Kim Sungmoon of the City University of Hong Kong. Prof. Kim’s title and abstract are below. The Zoom session can be accessed here. If you have questions, contact the new rapporteur at email@example.com any time.
(For more info see below)
Between Coherence and Principle: Li 理 and the Politics of Neo-Confucianism in Late Koryŏ KoreaThough li 理 is the philosophical term that defines the distinctive nature of Cheng-Zhu Neo-Confucianism, the mainstream Confucianism in China and Korea since the twelfth-century, the understanding of li as either “principle” or “coherence” is the subject of ongoing debate. Little attention, however, has been paid to li as the lived experience(s) of Neo-Confucians as “scholar-officials,” the key political agents of Neo-Confucian politics, as if it was (and is) a pure philosophical concept. This paper examines li’s complex nature against the backdrop of the political conflict between two of the most prominent Neo-Confucian scholar-officials of late Koryŏ Korea (918-1392), Yi Saek and Chŏng Tojŏn, and shows that it was mainly due to their different understandings of li either (primarily) as coherence or as public principle that led Yi and Chŏng to radically different ethical visions and political judgments. The paper concludes by revisiting the contemporary debate on li.