THE CURRENT STATE OF THE ECOLOGICAL DISCOURSE WITHIN KOREAN CONFUCIANISM AND ITS FUTURE OUTLOOK

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  • ABSTRACT

    Few studies, approximately twenty papers over a short ten-year history, have to date been attempted on the topic of the ecological discourse within Korean Confucianism. This field of study launched in the late 1990s was in turn motivated by the environmental movements of the mid-twentieth century, as well as by the global trend towards the establishment of environmental and ecological ethics. The present study analyzes the various attempts that have been made to reestablish Korean Confucianism as ecological ethics, ecological education, and ecological politics in the face of the present ecological crisis. More to the point, this study reviews the ecological characteristics of Korean Confucianism, and examines the problems inherent in the ecological discourses within Korean Confucianism. Although Korean Confucianism possesses organic and ecological elements, the following tasks must be resolved if it is to emerge as an actual alternative that could be used to resolve the ecological crisis. First, it is necessary to broaden the subjects on which research is conducted. Second, there is an urgent need to educate individuals who specialize in both Korean Confucianism and ecology. Third, there is a need to gain an awareness of the general problems created within contemporary society as a result of the ecological crisis, as well as to understand the ecological philosophy of the Western world. Fourth, once the ecological characteristics that differentiate Korean Confucianism from the ecological discourse in the Western world have been established, actual alternatives can be created by overcoming the problems faced by the ecological discourse in the West through creative encounters between the ecological discourses of Korean Confucianism and Western philosophy. Fifth, the very survival of Korean Confucianism amidst the current ecological crisis is predicated on the search for more realistic measures and the paving of the way for opportunities to actually implement such measures.


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    Yi Hwang , Yi I , Pak Chiwon , Hong Taeyong , Chong Yagyong , Ch’oe Han’gi

  • I. INTRODUCTION

    Is the Four Major Rivers Project currently being implemented in Korea designed to bring about ecological restoration as the government has asserted? Or will it wind up destroying the ecology as environmental organizations and ecological specialists have clamored? If the latter turns out to be true, then not only the people and beings currently residing on the Korean peninsula, but also future generations, will find themselves facing a tremendous ecological disaster. Once seriously damaged, the natural ecosystem established over several thousands of years cannot be easily restored. Although this fact should be a serious cause for apprehension as far as the present project is concerned, the government, seemingly oblivious to the concerns of the public, has blissfully overseen the destruction of the ecosystem on a national scale in the name of green growth. The Korean nation has boasted of being nature-friendly, having respect for life, and loving peace since the days of Tan’gun. However, one cannot help but to question whether such traditions actually exist when looking at the Four Major Rivers Project.

    Of course, such ecological crises occasioned by the destruction of ecosystems are not only our problem. The rapid development of science and technology and global industrialization has meant that, on the surface, mankind has over the past few centuries enjoyed a level of material well-being that has been unrivalled since the beginning of history. However, a closer look reveals that such advancements have been accompanied by serious environmental problems. These include the disposal of nuclear waste, air pollution, water pollution, the need to limit fossil fuel use, deforestation, an explosive increase in the population, acid rain, the destruction of the ozone layer, and global warming. The destruction of ecosystems has been based on the ‘mechanical view of the world’ and the ‘anthropocentric’ orientation behind Western modernity. The mechanical view of the world defines nature, that is, all beings other than man, as an extension of spiritless objects that are unable to think, and perceives organisms as automated machines.1 By objectifying nature and not recognizing natural objects right to life, as well boasting an anti-bioethical outlook under which no ethical awareness of the destruction of nature and life forms exists, the mechanical view of the world made possible a technology-oriented attitude that was used to justify the technological manipulation of life forms.2 In addition, the traditions of Judaism and Christianity in the West maintained that while humans endowed with reason, souls, and virtue could have their own values and rights, the instrumental value of natural beings lay in their ability to foster human prosperity. The ‘anthropocentrism’ and ‘instrumental view of nature’ in the West3 granted the rational justification for man’s conquest and rule over nature.4 The mechanical view of the world, anthropocentrism, global industrialization, and the significant development of science & technology removed nature’s vitality, and degraded it to the status of a mere implement to fulfill human desires and interests through a mutual engagement that has resulted in the thorough conquest, destruction, and exploitation of nature, all of which has led to an ecological crisis at the global level. The crisis faced by ecosystems ultimately threatened the survival of the human race that had to coexist with nature. As such, mankind now finds itself having paid a great price, in the form of ecological disasters, for its material well-being.5

    It was amidst such a crisis awareness that the animal rights and environmental movements began to spring up in the West during the 1960s. With such movements serving as a backdrop, environmental philosophies and ethics started to form in the West.6 Various theories were also developed. These ranged from individualistic environmental ethics such as ‘anthropocentric environmental ethics’, animal liberation, animal rights, and biocentrism, to ecology-centered environmental ethics such as deep ecology, social ecology, and ecological feminism.7 In addition, the ecological crisis has created new interests in Asian philosophies such as Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism that are laden with ecological characteristics as well as organic elements. To this end, studies have been carried out in Korea since the late 1990s that have sought to reinterpret the traditional philosophies of Asia from modern viewpoints such as environmental ethics, ecological philosophy, and bioethics, and to search for alternatives which can be used to resolve the problems associated with the current ecological crisis.8 Ecological discourses related to Korean Confucianism have also been conducted in conjunction with this trend. Unlike environmental and ecological discourses in the West, which have been around for forty?fifty years, the study of the ecological discourse within Korean Confucianism only has a short history of some ten years. The results of such studies have also been limited to the initial and proclamation levels. There is a need to resolve many tasks in order for the ecological discourse within Korean Confucianism to cement its status as an actual alternative which can be used to resolve the ecological crisis. As such, the time has come to move beyond the proclamation of mere assertions that Korean Confucianism includes an abundance of organic elements and ecological characteristics. In this regard, this study examines the current state of the ecological discourse within Korean Confucianism by analyzing and criticizing studies that have been conducted on this topic over the past ten years. Once this has been carried out, a discussion of the future tasks that must be achieved in order to ultimately position Korean Confucianism as a practical and detailed alternative that can be used to resolve the crisis afflicting ecosystems today will be undertaken.

    1Kim Chaehŭi, Sin’gwahak sanch’aek [Promenade through new science] (Kamyŏngsa, 1995), 20–29/74–79.  2Kim Kukt’ae, Kwahak kisul munmyŏng ŭi panhwan’gyŏngsŏng [The anti-environmental nature of scientific and technological civilization], vol. 17, Kwahak sasang (Bŏmyangsa, 1996), 158–159.  3See Michael E. Zimmerman eds., Environmental Philosophy—From Animal Rights to Radical Ecology (New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1998), 34–36/80–84.  4Pak Imun, Munmyŏng ŭi wigi wa munhwa ŭi chŏnhwan [The crisis of civilization and cultural transition] (Minŭmsa, 1996), 76–80.  5Kim Sea-jeong, “Hwangyŏng yulli e taehan tongyang ch’ŏrhakchŏk chŏpkŭn: yuga ch’ŏrhak ŭl chungsim ŭro [The Asian philosophical approach to environmental ethics: with a special focus on Confucian philosophy],” Pŏmhan ch’ŏlhak (Bumhan Philosophy Association) 29 (2003): 58.  6Michael E. Zimmerman eds., Environmental Philosophy—From Animal Rights to Radical Ecology, 1–2.  7Kim Sea-jeong, “Yuga saengt’ae tamnon ŭl t’onghae pon yuga saengt’ae yulli The ecological ethics of Confucianism as viewed through ecological discourses in Confucianism],” Tongsŏ ch’ŏlhak yŏn’gu (Korean Society For Philosophy East-West) 50 (December 2008): 81–84.  8As part of this trend, I have dealt with Confucian philosophy in the following papers, “Hwangyŏng yulli e taehan tongyang ch’ŏrhakchŏk chŏpkŭn: yuga ch’ŏrhak ŭl chungsim ŭro [The Asian philosophical approach to environmental ethics: with a special focus on Confucian philosophy]” and “Yuga saengt’ae tamnon ŭl t’onghae pon yuga saengt’ae yulli [The ecological ethics of Confucianism as viewed through ecological discourses in Confucianism].”

    II. THE CURRENT STATE OF THE ECOLOGICAL DISCOURSE WITHIN KOREAN CONFUCIANISM

    Only a few studies have dealt with Korean Confucianism from the perspectives of environmental philosophy, environmental ethics, ecological philosophy, and ecology (hereafter referred to as ‘ecological perspectives’ for convenience) over the past ten years. In terms of the materials that deal with Korean Confucianism from an ecological perspective, the present research found three books, nine papers related to Neo-Confucianism, and eight papers related to Sirhak (Practical Learning).

      >  A. Books

    Kim Uktong. Han’guk ŭi noksaek munhwa [The Green Culture of Korea]. Munye Publishing, 2000.

    Han Myŏnhŭi. Tongasia munmyŏng kwa han’guk ŭi saengt’aejuŭi [East Asian Civilization and Korean Ecologism]. Philosophy and Reality Publishing, 2009.

    Pak Hŭibyŏng. Han’guk ŭi saengt’ae sasang [Ecological Philosophy of Korea]. Tolbegae, 1999.

      >  B. Papers related to Korean Neo-Confucianism

    Kim Sangjin. “Kosan kugokka ŭi sŏngnihakchŏk saengt’ae insik [The Neo-Confucianism based ecological perceptions found in the Kosan kugokka].” Sijohak nonch’ong (Han’guk sijo hakhoe) 20 (2004): 51–73.

    Chang Sŭnggu. “T’oegye sasang ŭi saengt’ae ch’ŏrhakchŏk chomyŏng [Highlighting Yi Hwang’s ecological philosophy].” T’oegye hakpo (The T’oegye Studies Institute) (2001): 227–249.

    Chŏng Yŏnjŏng. “Sin Hŭm ŭi sisegye e mich’in Chuyŏk saengt’aegwan ŭi yŏnghyang [The influences of the ecological views found in the Book of Changes on Sin Hŭm’s poetry].” Onji nonch’ong (Onji hakhoe) 27 (2011): 231–261.

    Lee Dong-hee (Yi Tonghŭi). “Sŏngnihak ŭi hwangyŏng ch’ŏrhakchŏk sisa [Environmental philosophical implications of Neo-Confucianism].” Tongyang ch’ŏrhak (The Society for Asian Philosophy in Korea) 13 (September 2000):27–52.

    Ro Young-chan (No Yŏngch’an). “Yulgok ujuron ŭi saengt’aeronjŏk amsi tŭl [The ecological allusions contained in Yi I’s theory of the cosmos].” Yuhak sasang kwa saengt’aehak [Confucianism and Ecology], Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Berthrong, ed., trans. Oh Chŏngsŏn. (Yemun sŏwon, 2010), 249–268.

    U Ŭngsun. “Chang Yu ŭi sayu pangsik e taehan han ihae—saengt’aehakchŏk insik ŭi mosaek [Understanding Chang Yu’s way of thinking—searching for ecological perceptions].” Han’guk hanmunhak yŏn’gu [Journal of Korean Literature in Hanmun] (Society of Korean Literature in Hanmun) 33 (2004):67–92.

    Yi Chongho. “T’oegye Yi Hwang ŭi yugich’e ujuron kwa saengt’ae sasang [Yi Hwang’s theory of the organic universe and ecological thought].” Han’guk hanmunhak yŏn’gu [Journal of Korean Literature in Hanmun] (Society of Korean Literature in Hanmun) (2004): 33–65.

    Yi Kiyong. “Yulgok ŭi chayŏn ihae wa ch’ŏnin kyoyŏ–Han’gukchŏk chayŏn’gwan ŭi sae p’aerŏdaim mosaek ŭl wihan siron [Yi I’s perception of nature and the relationship between heaven and man–Search for a new paradigm in terms of the Korean-style view of nature].” Journal of Asian Philosophy (The Society for Asian Philosophy in Korea) 13 (2000): 91–127.

    Yu Sŏngsŏn. “Yulgok simnon e kŭn’gŏhan hwan’gyŏng yulli ŭi mosaek [Search for environmental ethics based on Yi I’s theory of the mind].” Yulgok sasang yŏn’gu (Association of Yulgok Study) 4 (2001): 73–100.

      >  C. Papers related to Korean Sirhak (Practical Learning)

    Kim Chiyŏng. “Hong Taeyong ŭi Ŭisan mundap ŭl t’onghae salp’yŏ pon Han’guk saengt’ae sasang ŭi kanŭngsŏng [Korean ecological thought as viewed through Hong Taeyong’s Ŭisan mundap].” Ŏmun yŏn’gu 33–2 (Summer 2005):431–449.

    Kim T’aeo. “Hyegang sasang ŭi saengt’aejuŭijŏk kyoyuk wŏlli [The ecological education principle contained in Hyegang’s thought].” Philosophy Education (The Philosophy Education Society of Korea) 35 (2008): 261–284.

    ———. “Hyegang ŭi taedongnon kwa sot’ongnon kŭrigo kyoyuk saengt’aehak [Hyegang’s theories of great harmony and communication and educational ecology].” Philosophy Education (The Philosophy Education Society of Korea) 41 (2010): 243–268.

    Ch’a Sŏnghwan. “Chŏng Yagyong kyŏnghak sasang i saengt’ae hwan’gyŏng wigi ŭi sidae e chunŭn sisajŏm [The implications of Chŏng Yagyong’s thought regarding the Confucian Classics in terms of the ecological crisis].” Tamnon (The Korean Association of Socio-Historical Studies) 201 (2010): 5–31.

    Ch’oe Yŏngjin. “Inmulsŏng tongiron ŭi saengt’aehakchŏk haesŏk [An ecological interpretation of the theory of the Sameness-Difference of Human and Material Nature].” Journal of Confucian Thought (The Korean Society of Confucianism) 10 (1998): 57–68.

    Ch’oe Yŏngjin and Yi Haenghun. “Ch’oe Han’gi unhwaron ŭi saengt’aehakchŏk haesŏk [An ecological interpretation of Ch’oe Han’gi’s theory of functional activity].” Taedong munhwa yŏn’gu (Taedong Institute for Korean Studies) 45 (2004): 119–139.

    Pak Sumil. “21 segi munmyŏng kwa Pak Chiwŏn ŭi saengt’ae chŏngsin [The civilization of the twenty-first century and Pak Chiwŏn’s ecological spirit].” Journal of East Asian Cultures (Institute for East Asian Cultures, Hanyang University) 47 (May 2010): 215–241.

    ———. “Kyoyuk ŭi kwanjŏm esŏ pon Pak Chiwŏn ŭi saengt’aejŏk sigak kwa kŭ ŭimi [Pak Chiwŏn’s ecological perceptions as viewed from the educational standpoint and the implications thereof].” Onji nonch’ong (Onji hakhoe) 25 (2010): 261–288.

       1. Introduction to the books

    Let us now summarize the above-mentioned three books. Pak Hŭibyŏng’s Han’guk ŭi saengt’ae sasang (Ecological Philosophy of Korea) (1999) was the first book in the field of literature to approach Korean traditional philosophy from an ecological standpoint. This book can be evaluated as the origin of ecological discourse in the field of Hanmun (classical Chinese writing) literature. Pak identified three ecological perspectives as being embedded in Korean traditional philosophy.9 First, all beings in the universe were regarded as being fundamentally equal. Second, man and civilization were introspectively approached from the standpoint of objects (物, mul). Third, a strong focus was placed on the unification of the way (dao) of nature and human life. This book contains a total of eleven papers, namely three papers on the Taoist scholar Yi Kyubo, two papers each on the Neo-Confucian scholars Sŏ Kyŏngdŏk and Sin Hŭm,10 and two papers apiece on the Sirhak scholars Hong Taeyong and Pak Chiwŏn.11

    The characteristics and significance of this book can be summarized as follows. First, the key significance of this book lies in the fact that it introduced the ecological discourse in the field of literature. In particular, it greatly influenced ecological studies in the field of Sirhak. For instance, Kim T’aeo introduced the three ecological views found in Korean traditional thought suggested by Pak Hŭibyŏng, and studied Ch’oe Han’gi’s ecological characteristics in his paper, “Hyegang sasang ŭi saengt’aejuŭijŏk kyoyuk wŏlli (The ecological education principle contained in Hyegang’s thought)” (2008). Furthermore, Pak Hŭibyŏng’s “Pak Chiwŏn ŭi myŏngsim e taehan saengt’ae munhakchŏk chŏpkŭn (The ecoliterary approach of Pak Chiwŏn toward the profound mind)” was further concretized as ‘ecology of the profound mind’ in Pak Sumil’s paper, “21 segi munmyŏng kwa Pak Chiwŏn ŭi saengt’ae chŏngsin (The civilization of the 21st century and Pak Chiwŏn’s ecological spirit)” (2010).12 In addition, Kim Chiyŏng’s “Hong Taeyong ŭi Ŭisan mundap ŭl t΄onghae salp΄yŏ pon hanguk saengt’ae sasangŭi kanŭngsŏng (Korean ecological thought as viewed through Hong Taeyong’s Ŭisan mundap)”,13 is not very different from Pak Hŭibyŏng’s analysis of Hong Taeyong’s ecological view of the world found in his work, Ŭisan mundap (醫山問答). Second, although the title of this book is Han’guk ŭi saengt’ae sasang (Ecological Philosophy of Korea), this book does not conduct a comprehensive introduction of Korean thinkers, but rather is limited to a smattering of individuals. It does not deal with the individuals who can be regarded as the major figures within Korean Confucianism, and who authored the majority of the studies related to the ecological discourse, namely Yi Hwang, Yi I, and Ch’oe Han’gi. As such, this book merely highlights the ecological elements and characteristics of Korean Confucianism as a whole. This denouement can be regarded as a result of the fact that this book was a collection of existing presentations and papers rather than a planned work on Korean ecological thought in general. Third, as they were written from an introductory standpoint, the majority of the papers in this book, with the notable exception of three or four of them, suffer from a lack of concreteness and depth. Furthermore, as the author majored in Korean literature, his analysis of the relevant works is one that is rooted in a literary standpoint. As such, this work is characterized by a limited discussion of philosophical thought and philosophical analysis.

    The second book is Kim Uktong’s Han’guk ŭi noksaek munhwa (The Green Culture of Korea) (2000). Kim Uktong, who is a scholar of English Literature, deals with traditional Korean thought from the standpoint of ecological literature. Among the many papers included in this book, only one, “Sirhak sasang kwa noksaek sasang (Sirhak thought and green thought)” is related to Korean Confucianism. Kim argues that one of the things which set Sirhak (Practical Learning) apart from traditional Confucianism was the amount of attention they paid to nature and the environment. Kim maintains that green thought is evident in the work of Sirhak scholars and that many of them exhibited an interest in ecologism. Furthermore, Kim stresses that contrary to modern capitalism, economic reform as viewed by Sirhak scholars was a process that involved ‘using nature in an ecological manner akin to the notion of ‘sustainable development and growth’ of today.14 Based on this premise, the book goes on to introduce the ecological elements and characteristics found in the philosophy of Sirhak scholars from the Kyŏngse ch’iyong hakp’a (經世致用學派, School of Administration and Practical Usage), Iyong husaeng hakp’a (利用厚生學派, School of Profitable Usage and Benefiting the People), and Silsa kusi hakp’a (實事求是學派, School of Seeking Evidence).

    Kim Uktong’s book is progressive in that it addresses not only the Sirhak scholars from the Iyong husaeng hakp’a, but also scholars such as Yu Hyŏngwŏn and Yi Ik from the Kyŏngse ch’iyong hakp’a, as well as scholars such as Chŏng Yagyong from the Silsa kusi hakp’a. This can be regarded as being in stark contrast with Pak Hŭibyŏng, who only dealt with three Sirhak scholars who belonged to the Iyong husaeng hakp’a. Although this work deals with various Sirhak schools, the author does not discuss the similarities and differences between the three schools, as well as their organic connections, except to mention that the scholars from the Iyong husaeng hakp’a exhibited the most greenness in terms of their ecologism.15 Furthermore, the book for the most part is concerned with the ecological elements found in the works of individual Sirhak scholars, and is very limited in terms of seeking to conduct a comparison, or to identify organic connections, between such Sirhak scholars.

    Let us now take a look at Han Myŏnhŭi’s Tongasia munmyŏng kwa Han’guk ŭi saengt’aejuŭi (East Asian Civilization and Korean Ecologism) (2008). Only one of the book’s six chapters deals with Korean Confucianism, namely Chapter 3: Korean traditional thought and the view of nature, ecological implications.16 In addition, the content pertaining to Korean Confucianism contained in this book is further diluted as a result of the fact that this chapter addresses not only Korean Confucianism, but other Korean traditional schools of thought such as Buddhism, Taoism, and Tonghak. Han Myŏnhŭi divides the main ecological issues addressed by such schools of thought into 1) the connectivity of nature, 2) the noninstrumental value of nature, 3) ecological limitedness of society, and 4) the ideological concretization program. Han regards philosophies that incorporated issues 1) and 2) as falling under the category of ‘passive ecologism.’ Meanwhile, a philosophy that incorporated all four issues is defined as one that is engaged in ‘active ecologism.’ Han separates Korean Confucianism into Neo-Confucianism and Sirhak (Practical Learning). The author delves into which of these issues Neo-Confucianism and Sirhak incorporated, what category Neo-Confucianism and Sirhak fall under, and the ecological implications and limitations of these two philosophies.17

    Han Myŏnhŭi’s book can be regarded as featuring the following implications and limitations. In terms of the work’s positive implications, it is important to note that in his capacity as a scholar who majored in Western philosophy, and in particular environmental philosophy, Han has helped to widen the scope of studies by conducting an ecological discourse from the standpoint of comparative philosophy. This runs contrary to the majority of those involved in ecological discourses within the field of Asian philosophy, who have either majored in Asian philosophy or literature. Second, the majority of the papers related to the ecological discourse within Korean Confucianism have been limited to the mere revelation of the organic or ecological elements embedded in Korean Confucianism. In this regard, Han’s work should be lauded for having introduced a new methodology and for having suggested the limitations of an ecological approach to Korean Confucianism. Moreover, it should also be commended for having suggested measures to overcome such limitations based on more in-depth discussions. On the other hand, the analysis of Korean Neo-Confucianism and Sirhak is too simple and generalized. Furthermore, Korean Neo-Confucian and Sirhak scholars exhibited different characteristics and trends across different periods. Nevertheless, Han’s determination of whether the above four issues were incorporated into Korean Neo-Confucianism and Sirhak is based on a generalization of the ecological studies conducted by a handful of scholars; this comes as part of his attempt to radically separate the groups into those that promoted passive and active ecologism, an approach that is open to criticism.18

    Although saddled with the above-mentioned limitations and problems, these three books are nevertheless of great academic value and significance when it comes to the development of the ecological discourse as it pertains to Korean traditional thought. While Pak Hŭibyŏng and Kim Uktong can be said to have started the ecological discourse in the field of literature, Han Myŏnhŭi should be seen as having suggested a new direction for the ecological discourse within the field of philosophy. However, all three of these books can be regarded as introductory works that do not deal with the ecological thought found in Korean Confucianism in a profound manner. The publication of books that include an account of the ecological thought found in Korean Confucianism in general must therefore be seen as a task to address in the future.

       2. Introduction to the papers

    Approximately nine papers that deal with Korean Neo-Confucianism from an ecological standpoint have so far been published. While one paper is concerned with Neo-Confucianism in general (Lee Dong-hee [Yi Tonghŭi], “Sŏngnihak ŭi hwan’gyŏng ch’ŏrhakchŏk sisa (Environmental philosophical implications of Neo-Confucianism)”), two deal with Yi Hwang (Chang Sŭnggu, “T’oegye sasang ŭi saengt’ae ch’ŏrhakchŏk chomyŏng (Highlighting Yi Hwang’s ecological philosophy)” and Yi Chongho, “T’oegye Yi Hwang ŭi yugich’e ujuron kwa saengt’ae sasang (Yi Hwang’s theory of the organic universe and ecological thought)”). Meanwhile, four papers have as their subject Yi I (Yi Kiyong, “Yulgok ŭi chayŏn ihae wa ch’ŏnin kyoyŏ–Han’gukchŏk chayŏn’gwan ŭi sae p’aeradaim mosaek ŭl wihan siron (Yi I’s perception of nature and the relationship between heaven and man—Search for a new paradigm in terms of the Korean-style view of nature)”; Yu Sŏngsŏn, “Yulgok simnon e kŭn’gŏhan hwan’gyŏng yulli ŭi mosaek (Search for environmental ethics based on Yi I’s theory of the mind)”; Roh Yŏngch’an, “Yulgok ujuron ŭi saengt’aeronjŏk amsi tŭl (The ecological allusions contained in Yi I’s theory of the cosmos)”; Kim Sangjin, “Kosan kugokka ŭi sŏngnihakchŏk saengt’ae insik (The Neo-Confucianism based ecological perceptions found in the Kosan kugokka)”). In addition, while one paper deals with Chang Yu (U Ŭngsun, “Chang Yu ŭi sayu pangsik e taehan han ihae–saengt’aehakchŏk insik ŭi mosaek (Understanding Chang Yu’s way of thinking–– searching for ecological perceptions)”), another is concerned with Sin Hŭm (Chŏng Yŏnjŏng, “Sin Hŭm ŭi sisegye e mich’in chuyŏk saengt’aegwan ŭi yŏnghyang (The influences of the ecological views found in the Book of Changes on Sin Hŭm’s poetry)”). The superficial characteristics pertaining to the ecological discourse within Korean Neo-Confucianism found in these papers can be summarized as follows.

    First, the majority of these papers were focused on a few scholars. While there were many Neo-Confucian scholars, these papers focused exclusively on Yi Hwang, Yi I, Chang Yu and Sin Hŭm.19 Moreover, when we consider that there was only one paper written about Chang Yu and another about Sin Hŭm, we can rightfully conclude that these studies were for the most part concerned with Yi Hwang and Yi I. In addition, there was only one paper written about the ki philosopher Sŏ Kyŏngdŏk, an individual who could easily be considered a main subject of interest when it comes to the organic characteristics and ecological elements of Neo-Confucianism.20

    Second, leaving aside the papers related to literature, little attention has been paid to the ecological approach in Neo-Confucianism from the standpoint of philosophy. While the literary approach was employed in papers dealing with Yi Hwang (Yi Chongho’s paper), Yi I (Kim Sangjin’s paper), Chang Yu and Sin Hŭm, those that approached the topic from the standpoint of philosophy consisted of Yi Tonghŭi’s general survey of Neo-Confucianism, Chang Sŭnggu’s paper on Yi Hwang, and papers by Yi Kiyong, Yu Sŏngsŏn and Roh Yŏngch’an that dealt with the philosophy of Yi I. To this end, while Yu Sŏngsŏn’s paper, “Yulgok simnon e kŭn’gŏhan hwan’gyŏng yulli ŭi mosaek (Searching for environmental ethics based on Yi I’s theory of the mind)” includes environmental ethics in its title, it only introduces Yi I’s mind theory in a general manner without really delving into environmental ethics or an ecological approach and analysis. As such, if we exclude Yu’s paper, then that leaves us with only four papers in the field of philosophy.

    Third, compared to the field of literature, the range of figures dealt with in the field of philosophy is rather narrow. More to the point, while studies have been conducted on five scholars, namely Yi Hwang, Yi I, Chang Yu, Sin Hŭm, and Sŏ Kyŏngdŏk, in the field of literature, only Yi Hwang and Yi I have been examined in the field of philosophy.

    There are approximately eight papers that highlight the Sirhak from the ecological standpoint. In this regard, while two papers are about Pak Chiwŏn (Pak Sumil, “21 segi munmyŏng kwa Pak Chiwŏn ŭi saengt’ae chŏngsin (The civilization of the twenty-first century and Pak Chiwŏn’s ecological spirit)” and “Kyoyuk ŭi kwanjŏm esŏ pon Pak Chiwŏn ŭi saengt’aejŏk sigak kwa kŭ ŭimi (Pak Chiwŏn’s ecological perceptions as viewed from the educational standpoint and the implications thereof)”), another two papers are concerned with Hong Taeyong (Ch’oe Yŏngjin, “Inmulsŏng tongiron ŭi saengt’aehakchŏk haesŏk (An ecological interpretation of the theory of the Sameness-Difference of Human and Material Nature)” and Kim Chiyŏng, “Hong Taeyong ŭi Ŭisan mundap ŭl t’onghae salp’yŏ pon Han’guk saengt’ae sasang ŭi kanŭngsŏng (Korean ecological thought as viewed through Hong Taeyong’s Ŭisan mundap).” Moreover, there is also one paper about Chŏng Yagyong (Ch’a Sŏnghwan, “Chŏng Yagyong kyŏnghak sasang i saengt’ae hwan’gyŏng wigi ŭi sidae e chunŭn sisajŏm (The implications of Chŏng Yagyong’s thought regarding the Confucian Classics in terms of the ecological crisis”), and three papers about Ch’oe Han’gi (Ch’oe Yŏngjin, “Ch’oe Han’gi unhwaron ŭi saengt’aehakchŏk haesŏk (An ecological interpretation of Ch’oe Han΄gi’s theory of functional activity)”; Kim T’aeo, “Hyegang sasang ŭi saengt’aejuŭijŏk kyoyuk wŏlli (The ecological education principle contained in Hyegang’s thought)”; Kim T’aeo, “Hyegang ŭi taedongnon kwa sot’ongnon kŭrigo kyoyuk saengt’aehak (Hyegang’s theories of great harmony and communication and educational ecology)”). While two papers were prepared by a scholar in the field of philosophy (Ch’oe Yŏngjin), one was produced by a specialist in the field of literature (Kim Chiyŏng), four by individuals involved in the field of education (Pak Sumil, Kim T’aeo), and one in the field of sociology (Ch’a Sŏnghwan). The major characteristics of these papers related to Sirhak can be summarized as follows.

    First, broad studies were carried out on the major representative Sirhak scholars such as Pak Chiwŏn, Hong Taeyong, Chŏng Yagyong, and Ch’oe Han’gi, all of whom belonged to the Pukhak (Northern Learning) School.

    Second, these papers were limited to the study of individual scholars. While Yi Tonghŭi dealt with the ecological characteristics found in Korean Neo-Confucianism in general, no papers addressed the issue of the ecological elements and characteristics exhibited in Sirhak thought per se.

    Third, various vantage points were used in conjunction with these papers. For example, while Ch’oe Yŏngjin focused on philosophy, Kim Chiyŏng’s approach was based on the literature field, Pak Sumil and Kim T’aeo’s the field of education, and Ch’a Sŏnghwan’s the sociology field. This can be regarded as the result of the fact that while Sirhak focused on the theories of Kyŏngse ch’iyong (經世致用, Administration and Practical Usage) and Iyong husaeng (利用厚生, Profitable Usage and Benefiting the People), Neo-Confucianism was concerned with the yi-ki theory (理氣論, basic principles and the atmospheric force of nature), mind-nature theory (心性論), and the theory of self-cultivation (修養論).

    Fourth, there was a general lack of research conducted in the field of philosophy. While Yi Tonghŭi, Chang Sŭnggu, Yi Kiyong and Roh Yŏngch’an produced papers that were related to Neo-Confucianism from a philosophical standpoint, only Ch’oe Yŏngjin, who wrote papers about Hong Taeyong and Ch’oe Han’gi, produced papers about Sirhak from the standpoint of philosophy. Moreover, while some studies about Neo-Confucianism from the standpoint of philosophy were conducted in an in-depth manner, the above-mentioned papers on Hong Taeyong and Ch’oe Han’gi were introductory works at best.

    These problems regarding ecological approaches to a field of Korean Confucianism that includes Neo-Confucianism and Sirhak can be regarded as a result of the short history of the study of the ecological discourses within Korean traditional thought, and the general lack of specialists and interest. In this regard, the significance of the ecological discourse within Korean Confucianism will be assessed in sections III and IV based on the results of the above-mentioned studies.

    9Pak Hŭibyŏng, Han’guk ŭi saengt’ae sasang [Ecological philosophy of Korea] (Tolbegae, 1999), 15–36.  10“Sŏ Kyŏngdŏk ŭi chayŏn ch’ŏrhak [Sŏ Kyŏngdŏk’s philosophy of nature],” “Sŏ Kyŏngdŏk ŭi ch’ŏllisi [Sŏ Kyŏngdŏk’s philosophical poems],” “Sin Hŭm ŭi hangmun kwa sasang [Sin Hŭm’s learning and thought],” “Sin Hŭm ŭi chayŏn sihak [Sin Hŭm’s poems about nature].”  11“Hong Taeyong ŭi saengt’aejŏk segyegwan [Hong Taeyong’s ecological view of the world],” “Hong Taeyong sasang e issŏsŏ mul a ŭi sangdaesŏng kwa tongilsŏng [The role of the relativity and sameness of objects and the self in Hong Taeyong’s thought],” “Pak Chiwŏn sasang e issŏsŏ ŏnŏ wa myŏngsim [The role of language and the profound mind in Pak Chiwŏn’s thought],” “Pak Chiwŏn ŭi sanmun sihak [Pak Chiwŏn’s prose poems].”  12Pak Sumil, “21 segi munmyŏng kwa Pak Chiwŏn ŭi saengt’ae chŏngsin [The civilization of the 21st century and Pak Chiwŏn’s ecological spirit],” Journal of East Asian Cultures (Institute for East Asian Cultures, Hanyang University) 47 (May 2010).  13Kim Chiyŏng, “Hong Taeyong ŭi Ŭisan mundap ŭl t’onghae salp’yŏ pon Han’guk saengt’ae sasang ŭi kanŭngsŏng [Korean ecological thought as viewed through Hong Taeyong’s Ŭisan mundap],” Ŏmun yŏn’gu 33–2 (Summer 2005).  14Kim Uktong, Han’guk ŭi noksaek munhwa [The green culture of Korea] (Munye Publishing, 2000), 219.  15Kim Uktong, Han’guk ŭi noksaek munhwa [The green culture of Korea] (Munye Publishing, 2000), 221.  16Chapter 3. Han’guk ŭi chŏnt’ong sasang kwa chayŏn’gwan, saengt’aejŏk hamŭi [Korean traditional thought and the view of nature, ecological implications]; 2. Han’guk Yubulsŏn ŭi sasang kwa chayŏn’gwan [Korean Confucian, Buddhist, and Zen thought and their respective perceptions of nature]: 109–131; 3. Han’guk ŭi Sirhak, Tonghak, kŭrigo chayŏn’gwan [Korea’s Sirhak and Tonghak and their perception of nature]: 131–141; 4. Han’guk chŏnt’ong sasang ŭi saengt’aejŏk hamŭi [The ecological implications of Korean traditional thought]: 142–150.  17Han Myŏnhŭi, Tongasia munmyŏng kwa Han’guk ŭi saengt’aejuŭi [East Asian civilization and Korean ecologism] (Philosophy and Reality Publishing, 2009), 101–150.  18A detailed discussion of this matter will be undertaken in Chapters III and IV.  19Even if we add the two papers, “Sŏ Kyŏngdŏk ŭi chayŏn ch’ŏrhak [Sŏ Kyŏngdŏk’s philosophy of nature]” and “Sŏ Kyŏngdŏk ŭi ch’ŏlli si [Sŏ Kyŏngdŏk’s poems of philosophy]” found in Pak Hŭibyŏng’s book to this total, this only amounts to five scholars who were in effect covered by such studies.  20The two papers about Sŏ Kyŏngdŏk included in Pak Hŭibyŏng’s book, Han’guk ŭi saengt’ae sasang [Ecological philosophy of Korea] were respectively a general introduction to Sŏ Kyŏngdŏk’s ki philosophy and poems. One would be hard-pressed to state that these papers dealt with his work from an ecological standpoint.

    III. THE ECOLOGICAL CHARACTERISTICS AND LIMITATIONS OF KOREAN NEO-CONFUCIANISM

    In this section, an analysis of the ecological characteristics and problems of Korean Neo-Confucianism will be carried out based on an examination and criticism of the research that has highlighted Korean Neo-Confucianism from the ecological standpoint. After having conducted a general introductory analysis of Korean Neo-Confucianism, the present study will then analyze the works on Yi Hwang (1501–1570) and Yi I (1536–1584).

       1. The ecological characteristics of Korean Neo-Confucianism in general

    In his book (Chapter 3 Han’guk ŭi chŏnt’ong sasang kwa chayŏn’gwan, saengt’aejŏk hamŭi [Korean traditional thought and the view of nature, ecological implications]), Han Myŏnhŭi sought to identify the general ecological characteristics exhibited in Korean Neo-Confucianism. Han divided the main ecological issues addressed within Neo-Confucianism into 1) connectivity of nature, 2) the non-instrumental value of nature, 3) the ecological limitedness of society, 4) the ideological concretization program. Han regarded a philosophy that incorporated issues 1) the connectivity of nature and 2) the non-instrumental value of nature as falling under the category of ‘passive ecologism.’ Meanwhile, he defined a philosophy that incorporated all four of these themes as falling under the category of ‘active ecologism.’21 Korean Neo-Confucianism, with individuals such as Yi Hwang, Yi I and Sŏ Kyŏngdŏk at the center of this movement, accepted the notion of the ‘organic connectivity of nature’ under which man and nature were regarded as being organically connected based on the notion of the oneness of heaven, earth, and humanity (天地人合一). As Korean Neo-Confucianism regarded nature and mankind as having come into being from the way (道), the Great Ultimate (太極) as the law of nature, and nature as the origin of life, Han also argued that it also encompassed the notion of the ‘non-instrumental value of nature’. As such, Neo-Confucianism is regarded in his study as falling under the category of ‘passive ecologism.’ However, he maintained, the incorporation of an ‘ideological concretization program’ in Neo-Confucianism could have resulted in a form of ecologism that is far from desirable at the practical level. In addition, Neo-Confucianism boasts a rational (理性)–superior thinking structure that places an excessive amount of emphasis on principle (理, yi). As it is very authoritative, Neo-Confucianism possesses a history of accepting class-oriented stratification. As this class discrimination had room to develop into discrimination against nature, it became difficult for Neo-Confucianism to incorporate the ‘ecological limitedness of society.’ For these reasons, Han maintained that it was difficult to place Neo-Confucianism in the active ecologism category.22

    Han’s assertion that Neo-Confucianism encompassed ‘the connectivity of nature and the ‘non-instrumental value of nature’ is not very different from those found in previous works on Neo-Confucianism. Furthermore, the reason why Neo-Confucianism did not have any practical program to socially concretize an ecologism-based ideology can be construed as being because the destruction caused to the ecosystems at the time was yet not very serious. However, there is room for debate as far as Han’s assertion that it was difficult to see that Neo-Confucianism clearly accepted the ‘ecological limitedness of society’ is concerned. As principle (理, yi) was a universal notion that applied to both man and nature, it could very well be seen as the basis for equality between man and nature, and the foundation for the granting of intrinsic value to nature. Furthermore, it does not stand to reason that Neo-Confucianism inevitably favored discrimination against nature because it accepted class-oriented stratification. While the basis of ‘ecological limitedness of society’ is the acceptance that there are limits to the material growth of a society,23 Neo-Confucianism at the time was based on an agrarian society in which man was subordinated to nature. Furthermore, given the basic belief in the unity of man and heaven (天人合一), assertions that material growth could be infinitely implemented would have been hard to support. In this regard, it would be more appropriate to perceive the ‘ecological limitedness of society’ as being embedded in Neo-Confucian scholars’ continuous calls for the removal of human desire and the extinguishment of human desire and greed.

    In his paper, Yi Tonghŭi asserted that Neo-Confucianism boasted a third view of nature that differed from the anthropocentrism and naturism of the West. The third view of nature, which is a convergence of the humanism of Confucianism and the unique organic view of nature found in Neo-Confucianism, can be referred to as ‘humanistic ecology’ or ‘organistic humanism.’ This third view of nature is identified as a very dynamic and dialectic viewpoint under which the two viewpoints of environmental ethics are harmonized.24 In the case of Korean Neo-Confucianism, Yi Hwang’s theory of principle (主理論, churiron), which is an ethical position, can be regarded as having anthropocentric tendencies. On the other hand, Yi I’s theory of vital energy 主氣論, chugiron), which is based on the integration of man and nature, can be regarded as having physiocentric or naturecentered tendencies, or to be more specific non-anthropocentric tendencies. However, as the difference between these viewpoints was viewed as minor, Yi Tonghŭi stressed the fact that Neo-Confucianism represented the common base of both Yi Hwang and Yi I, and asserted that Korean Neo-Confucianism boasted what he refers to as ‘humanistic ecology (nature-friendly anthropocentrism). Moreover, he argued that this humanistic ecology was very relevant to the current discussions on environmental philosophy in the contemporary era.25

    This establishment of a new view of nature that revolves around the definition of Korean Neo-Confucianism as ‘humanistic ecology’ can be regarded as a meaningful attempt to revive traditional thought. However, the attempt made in this paper to ultimately unify the philosophical diversity of Korean Neo-Confucianism, which is at an earlier point in the study divided into the theory of principle, theory of vital energy, theory of only-yi or rationalism (唯理論, yuriron), and the theory of only-ki (唯氣論, yugiron), by binding these thoughts under the banner of ‘humanistic ecology’ can be regarded as being problematic. The diverse schools of thought in the West, such as technocentrism, ethical anthropocentrism, ecologism, and romanticism, not only conflicted with one another, but also developed as a result of their mutual criticism and moderation of each other. Furthermore, Yi’s assertion that humanistic naturalism (which is not physiocentrism because it is based on human superiorism) and nature-friendly humanism (which is not anthropocentrism because it is based on nature-friendly tendencies) can be regarded as a new view of nature to be found within Neo-Confucianism26 creates the impression that Neo-Confucianism developed in a dialectic manner that involved embracing both anthropocentrism and physiocentrism. However, as such a position runs the risk of becoming one that is ‘neither this nor that,’ more profound discussions on this matter are required.

       1. Yi Hwang’s theory of one principle (一理): object and human oneness (物我一體) and the mind of heaven and earth (天地之心)

    In his paper, Chang Sŭnggu identified Yi Hwang’s perception of nature as one that was rooted in the Daoistic view of nature. In addition to highlighting Yi Hwang’s thought from the standpoint of ecological philosophy, Chang also attempted to reestablish Yi Hwang’s perception of respect (敬). For Yi Hwang, nature was a world of truth and life from which vivid life forms emerged, a world of purity devoid of all human desires, a world of aesthetics within which the beauty of the four seasons unfolded, and, in its capacity as the indefinite source, the origin of all beings. As previously mentioned, Chang defined Yi Hwang’s view of nature as being rooted in the ‘Daoistic view of nature.’27 When highlighted from the standpoint of ecological philosophy, it is difficult to regard Yi Hwang’s thought, which was based on the unity of heaven and man, as having originated from anthropocentrism. It is also difficult to regard it as having been rooted in biocentrism or ecologism. Rather, Chang argues that Yi Hwang’s thought included elements of both. Moreover, he maintains that while Yi Hwang’s theory of principle may have emphasized the universality of the whole more than the uniqueness of individuals, Yi Hwang maintained a neutral position in which he refused the dichotomy between individualism and holism. Lastly, Chang stresses that while Yi Hwang recognized the intrinsic value of all beings based on the concept of iil punsu (理一分殊, Principle is one but its manifestations are diverse), he did not perceive all beings in nature as being of the same value as man.28 Yi Hwang’s ‘ethics of respect (敬)’ emphasized the need to respect all beings without prejudice, and to behave in a manner that was based on the rational determination of the need to achieve harmony with nature. Yi Hwang thought that peace within the ecosystem could be maintained by heightening control over oneself based on the ethics of respect (敬) and the development of one’s true nature.29 Chang Sŭnggu concludes that although Yi Hwang’s thought respected the existence of ecosystems and all beings, it was in the end relatively more realistic because it did not dash into excessive idealism or extremism like advocates of deep ecology.30

    Written from the standpoint of literature, Yi Chongho’s study revolves around the premise that Yi Hwang’s profound emotional understanding of humanity can be combined with ecological thought to create the aesthetics of coexistence (共生) and mutual betterment (相生). Yi approached the structure and characteristics of Yi Hwang’s organic view of the universe from the standpoint of the notion of manmul ilch’e (萬物一體, all things are of one body) contained in the “Sŏmyŏngdo (西銘圖: Diagram of the Western Inscription).” For Yi Chongho, Yi Hwang’s organic view of the universe boasts the following characteristics. First, for Yi Hwang, the world was based on the notion of the oneness of objects and man (物我一體) under which all beings and man are connected to one another through the one principle (一理). This can be referred to as the ‘organic view of the universe’. Second, man is depicted as the most intelligent being within this organic universe where all things are regarded as one substance, and as the mind of heaven and earth. The placement of man at the center of the universe is closely connected to the emphasis on the obligation to maintain the superiority of man toward others while simultaneously exercising benevolence towards the latter. Third, the endangerment of the relationship between manmul ilch’e, objects and the self) can be regarded as the result of the supremacy of the individual mind or the selfishness of the self. In order to overcome the estrangement between objects and the self, the selfishness of the self must be removed and the impartial mind of the non-self expanded.31 Yi Chongho also introduced concrete examples of the ecological thought evident in Yi Hwang’s life and work such as his poem exhibiting his affection for plums, and his emphasis on the spirit of forgiveness (恕), the exercise of sympathy (惻隱), the aesthetics of coexistence (共生) and mutual betterment (相生) as the means to practice benevolence (仁), notion of equality, economy in expenditure and love for men (節用愛人), as well as the silsa kusi (實事求是, Seeking Evidence)?based and pro-ecological thought evident in his studies on rites (禮學).32 Lastly, Yi Chongho regarded Yi Hwang’s thought as being consistent with a philosophy of existence based on Confucius’ concept of benevolence and Mencius’ notion of non-endurance (不忍). Yi Hwang asserted that although both man and nature were alive, man should be the only one to die if such a fate is inevitable. This is because if nature dies, then the ‘benevolence’ that constitutes the very seed of existence will also disappear. Furthermore, all beings could be revived through the regeneration of benevolence. Yi Chongho concluded that this not only represents the key to elucidating Yi Hwang’s ecological thought, but could also serve as the basis for the establishment of a uniquely Korean ecological philosophy.33

    Such an attempt to identify elements and implications which can be used to establish a new ecological philosophy and thought in Yi Hwang’s thought is indeed a fresh undertaking. However, the granting of excessive importance to Yi Hwang’s thought may lead to the emergence of other problems. A perusal of Chang Sŭnggu’s paper might lead one to believe that all the ecological problems society faces today could be resolved through the application of Yi Hwang’s thought. For example, the assertion that Yi Hwang’s thought was more rooted in reality than deep ecology makes it look as if Yi Hwang’s thought has already emerged as a direct and realistic alternative through which to actually resolve the current ecological crisis. Can it really be maintained that Yi Hwang’s thought is more practical than deep ecology? Although deep ecology has excessive features, it has suggested detailed alternatives that are based on an astute diagnosis of the ecological crisis afflicting modern society. However, the same does not hold true where Yi Hwang’s thought is concerned. Yi Hwang did not suggest any alternatives to analyze the ecological crisis based on a realistic problem awareness, or to resolve such problems. Only we who are living through the contemporary era can apply Yi Hwang’s thought to the reality as pertains to the problems that have caused this ecological crisis. Furthermore, while the assertion that Yi Hwang’s thought possessed both elements of anthropocentrism and ecologism and maintained a neutral position between individualism and holism, would seem to cover both aspects, it can be attacked from both of these sides when applied to actual problems.

    Yi Chongho’s paper can be assessed as having helped to develop the ecological thought embedded in Yi Hwang’s study from both the standpoint of literature and philosophy. Moreover, by shedding light on the practical aspect of Yi Hwang’s ecological thought evident in his own life, Yi Chongho also introduced the possibility that the ecological discourse within Korean Confucianism could move beyond the ‘knowledge’ level and into that of concrete ‘action.’ However, Yi Chongho’s paper is also plagued by a fundamental problem. Yi Hwang’s emphasis on anthropocentrism and human subjectivity evident in his statement that man, as the most intelligent of all beings, represented the mind of heaven and earth, as well as his proclamation of the oneness of objects and self (物我一體) based on the one principle (一理), can be regarded as a clear departure from the tenets of deep ecology. On the other hand, his claim that nature had to be chosen over man in a situation where one had to inevitably choose between the two is definitely reminiscent of the tenets of deep ecology. The duality of Yi Hwang’s thought could help to position it as a new alternative with which to overcome the problems caused by anthropocentrism and ecologism. However, it also runs the risk of being nothing more than an idle ideological argument that is unable to resolve any problems related to the ecological crisis. Furthermore, when focused on preserving the earth, based on the notion of the oneness of the earth and man, the argument can lead to regarding the sacrifice of man in order to preserve the earth as being inevitable under a mentality that degrades the status of man. To this end, it is necessary to pay attention to Han Myŏnhŭi’s assertion that ecologism is inherently limited by the fact that its propensity to sacrifice man and culture for the earth as a whole exposes it to claims of eco-fascism.34 There is a need to conduct more in-depth discussions as to how Yi Hwang’s ecological thought can be differentiated from the anthropocentrism and ecologism of the West, and how Yi Hwang’s thought can overcome the limitations inherent in such philosophies.

       3. Yi I’s theory of the cosmos and ecological perceptions

    Three papers related to Yi I were published in the field of philosophy. In his study, Yi Kiyong suggested that Yi I’s philosophy of nature and man was based on the relationship between heaven and man (天人交與, ch’ŏnin kyou), and that while the relationship between man and nature was mutually complementary, the main actor in this relationship was man.35 However, other than simply stating the difference between the two, Yi Kiyong makes no mention of how Yi I’s view of nature differs from that of the modern West. Furthermore, Yi Kiyong does not engage in any detailed discussions on how Yi I’s theory of ch’ŏnin kyou could be used to replace and overcome the problems inherent in the modern western perception of nature. Yu Sŏngsŏn’s paper does not include any contents related to environmental and ecological discourse other than his suggestion in the conclusion that, “Yi I’s awareness of ethics rooted in his theory of the mind can provide an effective motivation for the establishment of environmental ethics for the twenty-first century.” 36 On the contrary, Ro Young-chan analyzes the ecological characteristics contained in Yi I’s cosmological theory in a profound manner.37 In his study, Ro advances the argument that the development of an ecological theory that can truthfully preserve the earth is predicated on the abandonment of the anthropocentric or earth-oriented perception in favor of a cosmological one.38 Ro concludes that Yi Hwang interpreted the yi (理, principle) and ki (氣, vital energy) in an anthropological manner and developed an anthropological-based cosmology that was based on a dichotomous perception of yi and ki. On the other hand, by defining yi and ki as fundamentally and naturally neutral cosmological notions that do not have any intrinsic ethical characteristics, Yi I essentially interpreted yi and ki in a cosmological manner.39 Based on his analysis of the Yŏksuch’aek (易數策), Ro concluded that Yi I perceived the ‘universe’ as 1) a vital, active, and changing entity rather than as a fixed physical object or mechanical entity, 2) as a hermeneutical rather than simple physical entity, 3) and as an open system rooted in specific principles and regularity. In addition, Yi I viewed the universe as a mystery which could not be recreated as a rational or conceptual framework, and asserted that man regarded the universe as majestic and stood in awe of the mystery that is the cosmos. Rather than a relationship between subjectivity and objectivity, Yi I perceived the relation between man and the universe as one between two subjectivities.40 Yi I advocated a universal theory of the cosmos that was not dependent on human values. To this end, Ro advanced the idea that this could become the basis for the development of a theory of cosmological ecology. Ro also called for the development of a theory of cosmological ecology in which man opens up to the universe based on a mutual acceptance of nature and the cosmos that is achieved by not only seeing and listening to the mystery and pain of the cosmos, but also learning from the latter.41

    Kim Sangjin can be regarded as the only scholar in the field of literature who focused on Yi I’s poem, Kusan kugokka (高山九曲潭)42 from the standpoint of ecological literature, and analyzed the characteristics and implications evident in this poem in terms of ecological literature. The emphasis on harmony between heaven, man and nature found in the Kusan kugokka makes this work consistent with the basic principles of ecologism. In this regard, Kim Sangjin identified the following three ecological perceptions evident in Yi I’s poem. The first was his cognizance of nature as the basic sphere in which human life resided. Yi I’s concept of choosing a place for residence (卜居) and living place (精舍) hints at an ecological perception in which nature is regarded as the basis (house) of human life.43 The second was his awareness of the beauty of the changing seasons. This was evident in the ideological expression it’ong kiguk (理通氣局, existence of the universal yi within the changeable and limited ki) akin to the ecological spirit rooted in the principles of co-prosperity, connectivity and circularity. This rotation of the four seasons encompassed not only the preservation of the law of the ecosystem, but also the will to maintain this law.44 The third ecological perception can be identified as an awareness of the cosmos as a place where man and nature exist in harmony. More to the point, one finds in this particular poem clear indication of the belief that heaven and man, I and others, as well as man and nature, have been harmonized with one another and have achieved harmony within the framework of nature. Kim Sangjin stressed the fact that the clear description in the Kusan kugokka of nature as an unspoiled ecosystem raises the possibility of it not only being read as an ecological poem, but also serving as an impetus for the revival of ecological literature in the contemporary era.45

    Ro Young-chan can be regarded as having saliently highlighted the ecological characteristics and implications of Yi I’s thought by contrasting his thought with that of Yi Hwang. However, Ro’s study does not introduce any detailed measures or alternatives as to how the realistic problem known as the ecological crisis can be resolved. Ro’s simple statement that the notions of igi chimyo (理氣之妙, the perfect relationship between principle (yi) and energy (ki)), it’ong kiguk, and kiballisŭng (氣發理乘, ki (force) leads and yi (principle) follows) constitute the philosophical basis of Yi I’s perceptions of ecology leaves much to be desired. The following problems can be identified with regards to Ro’s assertions regarding Yi I’s ecological approach. Yi I’s assertion that man represents the ‘mind of heaven and earth’46 because only man has been granted the rightful ki of yin and yang (陰陽) can be regarded as proof that he accepted the differentiation between man and all beings. Furthermore, the assertions that the four beginnings (四端) and seven emotions (七情) originated from the kiballisŭng, and that the adoption of a meditation method based on the change of physical substance (矯氣質) can help restore the noble spirit (浩然之氣) by correcting changeable force (human mind)47 opens up the claims that Yi I perceived principle (yi) and force (ki) as being value-neutral cosmological notions that did not possess any moralistic characteristics to debate. Although Yi I showed more naturalistic tendencies than Yi Hwang, whose focus was more on the moral, Yi I also regarded man and ethics as being of great importance. In this regard, if we regard Yi I as having employed principle (yi) and force (ki) based solely on value-neutral cosmological notions, then we have no other choice but to errantly conclude that he was in fact an ecologist rather than a Confucianist.

    21Han Myŏnhŭi, Tongasia munmyŏng kwa Han’guk ŭi saengt’aejuŭi [East Asian civilization and Korean ecologism] (Philosophy and Reality Publishing, 2009), 49–52.  22Ibid., 143–144.  23Ibid., 50.  24Yi Tonghŭi, “Sŏngnihak ŭi hwan’gyŏng ch’ŏrhakchŏk sisa [Environmental philosophical implications of Neo-Confucianism],” Tongyang ch’ŏlhak (The Society for Asian Philosophy in Korea) 13 (September 2000): 35.  25Ibid., 49.  26Ibid., 35.  27Chang Sŭnggu, “T’oegye sasang ŭi saengt’ae ch’ŏrhakchŏk chomyŏng [Highlighting Yi Hwang’s ecological philosophy],” T’oegye hakpo (The T’oegye Studies Institute) (2001): 236.  28Ibid., 237–241.  29Ibid., 246.  30Ibid., 249.  31Yi Chongho, “T’oegye Yi Hwang ŭi yugich’e ujuron kwa saengt’ae sasang [Yi Hwang’s theory of the organic universe and ecological thought],” Han’guk hanmunhak yŏn’gu [Journal of Korean Literature in Hanmun] (Society of Korean Literature in Hanmun) (2004): 41–51.  32Ibid., 52–59.  33Ibid., 62.  34Han Myŏnhŭi, Mirae sedae wa saengt’ae yulli [Future generations and ecological ethics] (Philosophy and Reality Publishing, 2007), 240.  35Yi Kiyong, “Yulgok ŭi chayŏn ihae wa ch’ŏnin kyoyŏ–Han’gukchŏk chayŏn’gwan ŭi sae p’aeradaim mosaek ŭl wihan siron [Yi I’s perception of nature and the relationship between heaven and man––Search for a new paradigm in terms of the Korean-style view of nature],” Journal of Asian Philosophy (The Society for Asian Philosophy in Korea) 13 (2000): 98–125.  36Yu Sŏngsŏn, “Yulgok simnon e kŭn’gŏhan hwan’gyŏng yulli ŭi mosaek [Searching for environmental ethics bases on Yi I’s theory of the mind],” Yulgok sasang yŏn’gu (Association of Yulgok Study) 4 (2001): 98.  37Ro Young-chan, “Yulgok ujuron ŭi saengt’aeronjŏk amsi tŭl [The ecological elusions found in Yi I’s theory of the cosmos],” in Yuhak sasang kwa saengt’aehak [Confucianism and ecology], ed. Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Berthrong, trans. O Chŏngsŏn (Yemun sŏwon, 2010), 249–268.  38Ibid., 251.  39Ro Young-chan, “Yulgok ujuron ŭi saengt’aeronjŏk amsi tŭl [The ecological elusions found in Yi I’s theory of the cosmos],” in Yuhak sasang kwa saengt’aehak [Confucianism and ecology], ed. Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Berthrong, trans. O Chŏngsŏn (Yemun sŏwon, 2010), 255.  40Ibid., 261–262.  41Ibid., 267–268.  42“Kusan kugokka [高山九曲潭],” in vol. 10, Yulgokhak yŏn’gu ch’ongsŏ [Collection of essays on the studies of Yulgok] (Yulgok Society, 2007), 459–484.  43Kim Sangjin, “Kosan kugokka ŭi sŏngnihakchŏk saengt’ae insik [The Neo-Confucianism based ecological perceptions found in the Kosan kugokka],” Sijohak nonch’ong (Han’guk Sijo Hakhoe) 20 (2004): 58–59.  44Ibid., 63–64.  45Ibid., 71.  46Yulgok chŏnsŏ [栗谷全書], “人者, 天地之心也, 人之心正, 則天地之心亦正, 人之氣順, 則天地之氣亦順矣,” in vol. 14, 雜著 1, 天道策.  47Yi Kiyong, “Yulgok ŭi chayŏn ihaewa ch’ŏnin kyoyŏ—Han’gukchŏk chayŏn’gwan ŭi sae p’aeradaim mosaek ŭl wihan siron [Yi I’s perception of nature and the relationship between heaven and man—search for a new paradigm for the Korean-style view of nature],” Journal of Asian Philosophy (The Society for Asian Philosophy in Korea) 13 (2000): 111–118.

    IV. THE ECOLOGICAL CHARACTERISTICS AND LIMITATIONS OF KOREAN SIRHAK

    No papers have to date been produced that have approached Korean Sirhak (Practical Learning) as a whole from an ecological standpoint, or discussed its ecological characteristics in a profound manner. In his study entitled, “Sirhak sasang kwa noksaek munhwa (Sirhak thought and green culture)” Kim Uktong raises the possibility that along with the concepts of liberty, science, and reality suggested by Ch’ŏn Kwanwu, ecologism could also be pointed out as another characteristic of Sirhak (Practical Learning). Kim asserted that Sirhak scholars showed a level of interest in nature that went beyond simple economic reforms. More to the point, the economic reforms called for by the Sirhak scholars were fundamentally different from the tenets of modern capitalism that seeks to maximize profits. In this regard, the Sirhak scholars intended to develop and use nature in an effective and nature-friendly manner. They also regarded man and nature not as dichotomous beings, but rather as one organic entity. Kim stresses the point that the economic logic of Sirhak is reminiscent of the modern notion of ‘sustainable development and growth.’48 The term ‘sustainable development,’ which first emerged in the UN report entitled “Our Common Future” published in 1987, is defined as development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.49 Anthropocentric environmental ethics are derived from how man’s ethical obligations toward the natural world impact interactions with other humans. The need to respect the rights of man can be regarded as the reason why we create specific limitations and restrictions when we discuss the environment, and the manner in which we should treat all the beings who reside on the earth other than man. In addition, there is also a need to protect and enhance the well-being of mankind, including that of people from the third-world and future generations.50 That being the case, Sirhak, which as mentioned before evokes the notion of ‘sustainable development and growth,’ can be accepted as being closer to anthropocentric environmental ethics than ecocentrism. However, Kim Uktong’s analysis of individual Sirhak scholars from the standpoint of ecological elements inherently contrasts with his assertion that Sirhak thought was akin to ‘sustainable development and growth.’ There is a clear need to determine whether Sirhak thought was more in keeping with anthropocentric environmental ethics or ecocentrism. The absence of any further discussions on Korean Sirhak as a whole in a detailed and profound manner makes it essential to discuss the ecological characteristics of Korean Sirhak. This task is carried out herein by analyzing and criticizing the work that has so far been conducted on the ecological discourses of Bukhak (Northern Learning) scholars such as Hong Taeyong (1731?1783), Pak Chiwŏn (1737?1805), Chŏng Yagyong (1762?1836) and Ch’oe Han’gi (1803?1877), individuals who have been the main topic of interest in the study of Sirhak scholars.

       1. Equality between man and objects (人物均) and ecological egalitarianism

    Although Han Myŏnhŭi purportedly discusses the Sirhak School as a whole in Chapter 3 of his book, “Ecological implications of Korean traditional thought and views of nature,” the actual focus is in fact limited to Hong Taeyong and Pak Chega. As such, Han’s essay can be regarded as a discussion of the Pukhak (Northern Learning) School. Han’s evaluation of Sirhak is based on the previously mentioned four main ecological themes. First, in the case of Hong Taeyong, Han assessed that his assertion that man and nature enjoyed equal rights in the eyes of the heavens could be construed as evidence that Sirhak fell under the category of a passive ecologism in which the connectivity of nature and the non-instrumental value of nature are embedded. Furthermore, Hong Taeyong’s emphasis on the egalitarian view of society, abolition of the discrimination between legitimate and illegitimate, abolition of the discrimination between the four classes of society (scholars, farmers, artisans and tradesmen), and his introduction of policy measures designed to correct the land system that served as the basis of public life can also be perceived as evidence that Korean Sirhak to some extent accepted the ‘ideological concretization program’. However, such conclusions are clouded by the presence of the notion of Iyong husaeng (利用厚生, Profitable Usage and Benefiting the People) emphasized by Pak Chega. Stressing the fact that money and goods were like a well, in that they had to be continuously utilized once they started to be used or they would dry out, Pak Chega placed great importance on consumption as a means to activate production. To this end, Sirhak runs the risk of moving towards the heightened use of nature if guidelines with which to appropriately control this tendency towards Iyong husaeng are not implemented. As such, Sirhak cannot accept the ‘ecological limitedness of society’ under a state in which no clear guidelines to curb the Iyong husaeng’s natural proclivity towards nature have been established.51

    While Han sets out to discuss Korean Sirhak as a whole, he in fact limits himself to the study of the thought of Hong Taeyong and Pak Chega. Although Han encompasses the thought of these individuals in the overarching category called Sirhak, the Sirhak School in fact boasted a variety of schools of thought. While the Sirhak School was separated into proponents of the notion of Iyong husaeng hakp’a (利用厚生學派, School of Profitable Usage and Benefiting the People), Kyŏngse ch’iyong hakp’a (經世致用學派 School of Administration and Practical Usage), and Silsa kusi hakp’a (實事求是學派, School of Seeking Evidence), the analysis of the four main ecological themes must in reality be undertaken at the individual Sirhak scholar level. For example, the blanket claim that all Sirhak scholars who advocated the notion of Iyong husaeng unconditionally failed to incorporate the concept of the ‘ecological limitation of society’ is rendered baseless by the fact that Pak Chega did in fact incorporate such a concept into his thought.

    1) The ecological characteristics of Pak Chiw?n

    In his study, Pak Sumil divided the ecological spirit of Pak Chiwŏn into the following elements: 1) ecology of living creatures, 2) relational ecology, and 3) ecology of the profound mind. First, Pak Chiwŏn’s view of the world was one that was rooted in the criticism of the futile pursuit of justification found in Neo-Confucianism and calls for the focus to be placed on useful concepts anchored in reality. For example, Pak supported the notion of Iyong husaeng under which use nature was to be used and society reformed in an effective manner that enhanced the well-being of the people. To this end, rather than destroying and exploiting nature, Pak Sumil stresses the fact that Pak Chiwŏn advocated using nature in a more ecological manner that was based on respect of nature. The practicality inherent in Pak Chiwŏn’s worldview was a notion that was based not simply on the usefulness of materials and capital, but also on the aesthetic values of man. Pak Sumil maintains that Pak Chiwŏn’s ecological thought was one in which he viewed nature from the realistic standpoint of others, and accepted the true nature of objects found in nature.52 Based on this understanding, Pak divided the ecology of Pak Chiwŏn into the following three elements. The first is what he referred to as the ecology of living creatures. Pak Chiwŏn perceived nature as a being that is intricately connected to man, not as one that is separated from the latter. Nature is viewed as a living organism (life form) that spontaneously emanates, develops, and changes. Pak equated the ebbs and flows of nature with human activities. Thus, we can see that Pak Chiwŏn’s ecological thought was rooted in reality and civilization.53 The second was the so-called relational ecology. Relational ecology revolves around the careful observation of the relationship between man and nature in a manner that does not perceive these entities in a superficial manner and that also rejects dichotomous approaches. Once this comes to pass, one can discover a new truth that could not be seen with existing values. Furthermore, one should not engage in any discrimination or prejudice because the truth could be differently perceived depending on the situation. Pak also emphasized the need to move beyond the stratification of values and move towards the equality of all beings.54 Under this notion of the equality of all beings, humans and tigers fall under the same category of animals from the standpoint of the heavens regarded as being a higher level than man. All beings, regardless of whether they are ants or humans, live together and occupy their own unique positions under the heavens.55 Thus, ‘relational ecology’ can as such be evaluated as Pak Chiwŏn’s strategy to dismantle centrism and place the periphery on an equal standing with the center.56 The third is the ecology of the profound mind. The profound mind (冥心) is a practical concept that can be defined as a responsive attitude to reality. The actual meaning of profound mind can be defined as: 1) viewing the world in an objective manner without falling into the trap of prejudice, 2) refusing the self, and 3) doing away with all vanity by emptying the ego. To Pak Chiwŏn, the profound mind was a practical concept that moved beyond idealism and towards a responsive attitude towards reality. The profound mind brings about an ecological awakening by compelling us to reflect on and reconsider notions that we had heretofore perceived as being clear, and requiring us to put into practice this newly awakened thought in a manner that moves well beyond mere idealism.57

    In his work, Pak Sumil presents an organized assessment of the ecological spirit embedded in Pak Chiwŏn’s thought. Pak Chiwŏn criticized the errant prejudice encompassed in ‘self-centrism’ and ‘anthropocentrism,’ and called for the removal of fallacies through a process of self-abnegation rooted in the profound mind and the move towards the actualization of the equality of all beings. This runs contrary to the tenets of Neo-Confucianism under which man is defined as the heart of heaven and earth (天地之心). Pak Chiwŏn’s ecological spirit implies an overcoming of the anthropocentric prejudice of today in which human beings endowed with reason and souls are regarded as possessing intrinsic values. Such assertions, namely that the stratification of values should be destroyed as we do away with discrimination and prejudice and move toward the equality of beings, are similar to those found in the ecological egalitarianism rooted in ecocentrism.58 However, regardless of Pak Sumil’s explanation, it cannot be denied that the concept of Iyong husaeng that revolves around the efficient utilization of nature is one in which ‘nature’ is perceived as an implement to make life better for man. As this contrasts with the inherent thought behind the equality of beings, more in-depth discussions and assessments of this issue are required.

    1) Hong Taeyong’s ecological thought

    Ch’oe Yŏngjin’s study, “Inmulsŏng tongiron ŭi saengt’aehakchŏk haesŏk (Ecological interpretation of the theory of the Sameness-Difference of Human and Material Nature)”, introduced Hong Taeyong’s theory of the oneness of man-nature-animals (人物性同論) as part of his wider analysis of the inmulsŏng tongiron (人物性同異論, debates on whether the original nature of man and animal (or objects) is the same). Ch’oe’s study includes the open-ended declaration that Hong Taeyong’s theory of the oneness of man-nature-animals can serve as an important theoretical basis upon which to implement the current task of overcoming anthropocentrism. In this regard, this study cannot really be regarded as having analyzed the inmulsŏng tongiron from an ecological point of view.59 Based on his analysis of the Ŭisan mundap, Kim Chiyŏng divided Hong Taeyong’s ecological thought into the ‘mind of animals or objects (物)’, ‘the transformation of the earth into our fundamental base,’ and ‘the restoration of the earth’s ki (地氣) in his study entitled, “Hong Taeyong ŭi Ŭisan mundap ŭl t’onghae salp’yŏ pon Han’guk saengt’ae sasang ŭi kanŭngsŏng (Korean ecological thought as viewed through Hong Taeyong’s Ŭisan mundap)”. Although published in 2005, Kim’s very basic study never reaches the level of sophistication found in Pak Hŭibyŏng’s 1999 study, “Hong Taeyong sasang e issŏsŏ mul-a ŭi sangdaesŏng kwa tongilsŏng (The relativity and similarity of nature and oneself in Hong Taeyong’s thought),” a study that was based on the author’s own analysis of the Ŭisan mundap.60 To this end, Pak Hŭibyŏng’s study can be regarded as the premiere work on Hong Taeyong.

    Pak Hŭibyŏng argues that not only were Hong Taeyong’s epistemology and ontology laden with ecological aspects, but his ecological leanings were also evident in his general perceptions of the relationship between objects, between nature and human, and between nations.61 Based on his analysis of Hong’s writing, ?isan mundap which is regarded as saliently highlighting Hong Taeyong’s position regarding the relationship between the self and nature (物我), Pak separated Hong Taeyong’s ecological thought into four elements. The first is an introspection on anthropocentrism that is rooted in equality between man and objects (人物均). In his novel, Hong Taeyong’s character of Sirong responds to the Confucian scholar Hŏja’s statement that man was the most precious of all the life forms under heaven and earth by advocating the equality of man and objects. More to the point, he argued that while from the standpoint of man himself man was regarded as a more precious being than the other life forms, the other lifeforms were regarded, when viewed from the standpoint of the heavens, as being as precious as man.62 In its capacity as the origin of all the beings, heaven was regarded as the t’aehŏ (太虛, Great Emptiness). Viewed from the standpoint of t’aehŏ, all beings, despite their phenomenal differences, are equal. Pak claims that by perceiving nature and the self (物我) from the standpoint of the t’aehŏ, Hong Taeyong in effect established the theoretical basis with which to reflect on and eventually overcome anthropocentrism.63 Second, Hong viewed the earth (地) as an organic living being. Hong Taeyong asserted that the earth was a living creature (活物), and perceived the earth as an enormous sphere within which the life activities of man and nature alike were carried out. Moreover, the earth itself was a living organic being, and all beings on earth were organically related to each other. Hong Taeyong’s ecological insight regarding the close organic relationship between man and nature became the basis for his theory of the oneness of mannature-animals. 64 The third element is a rejection of self-centrism and an emphasis on equal relations between beings. Hong Taeyong rejected self-centrism and accepted the existence of horizontal relational networks between beings. The oneness of nature and the self thus becomes the epistemological and ontological basis for a world where it is possible to achieve harmony, coexistence, and mutual prosperity between all beings without any center. Hong Taeyong’s yŏgoe ch’unch’uron (域外春秋論, theory of the independent history of each nation) can be regarded as part of his cognizance of a world where relational networks are established between the main actors within a structure devoid of an exclusivist center. Under Western modernity, nature, much like the various other nations, is perceived as the other, and treated as an implement to be used and controlled. However, Hong Taeyong perceived nature as a main actor that alongside man promotes the harmony and coexistence between nature and mankind and between the different nations. This can be viewed as Hong Taeyong’s profound ecological thought, and as a vantage point that is clearly differentiated from the tenets of Western nationalism.65 The fourth element that can be identified is a critical attitude toward civilization. Hong Taeyong viewed human desire and the development of civilization as having led to the emergence or worsening of the exploitation of nature, man’s conquest of other men, ownership, war, extravagance, waste, empty formalities and vanity, and deceit. As civilization develops, the distinction between the self and nature worsens, and man moves further away from supreme harmony. This can be regarded as having originated from the fact that the characteristics of civilization were perceived from the position of nature or heaven rather than from that of man.66

    Pak’s study clearly exposes the characteristics of Hong Taeyong’s ecological thought in a profound and organized manner. Hong Taeyong exhibited a clearly different position from Neo-Confucianists when it came to the perception of nature and the relationship between nature and man. Although Yi Hwang and Yi I promoted the organic view of nature (cosmos), both scholars identified man as the most outstanding being of all. More to the point, man’s status as the ‘mind of heaven and earth’ was regarded as the basis for the acceptance of the hierarchal differences between man and all other beings. However, Hong Taeyong criticized anthropocentrism on the grounds that man and nature should be regarded as equal from the standpoint of equality between man and objects. He also maintained a critical position with regards to human civilization, which he regarded as having caused the distinction between the self and nature and as having forced man to grow further away from the supreme harmony. Furthermore, although he claimed equality between man and objects, Hong Taeyong did not directly assert the oneness of objects (nature) and man; meanwhile, Yi Hwang and Yi I both supported, based on the notion of one principle (理一), the oneness of objects (nature) and man. Although Hong Taeyong promoted the need to perceive nature from the standpoint of heaven, he did not assert that man could or should participate in the development of all beings between heaven and earth. Viewed from this vantage point, Hong Taeyong’s philosophy can be said to have been more akin to ecocentrism than anthropocentrism. Hong Taeyong’s thought is consistent in part with deep ecology, which promotes the notion of ‘ecological egalitarianism’ under which all beings have an equal right to live and bloom.67 Furthermore, the critical attitude toward civilization under which nature is perceived as having been further exploited and the distinction between the self and nature worsened as a result of the development of human desires and civilization can be linked to Arne Naess’ assertion, “Man does not have any right to deplete the wealth and diversity of nature; we should maintain smaller human populations and decrease man’s encroachment of nature”.68 However, Hong Taeyong’s excessive egalitarianism and criticism of civilization may also lead to the same problems as those associated with deep ecology. Deep ecology identifies man and nature as equal members of the life community, and attaches the same value to man and all beings in nature. However, by doing this, deep ecology runs the risk of degrading the value and status of human beings, which can be seen as the utmost result of global evolution, in favor of nature, while degrading man to the status of accessory to nature. In the extreme case, it opens itself up to the criticism that it represents an example of an eco-fascism under which man is regarded as being expendable in the name of actualizing the true value of the natural ecosystem.69 As such, there is a need to discuss this issue within the wider ecological discourse on the thought of Hong Taeyong, a scholar whose leanings were closer to deep ecology than those of any other scholar.

       2. Can Ch?ng Yagyong be regarded as an ecologist?

    Ch’a Sŏnghwan’s paper, “Chŏng Yagyong kyŏnghak sasang i saengt’ae hwan’gyŏng wigi ŭi sidae e chunŭn sisajŏm (The implications of Chŏng Yagyong’s thought regarding the Confucian Classics in terms of the ecological crisis)” can be regarded as the only study that approaches Chŏng Yagyong’s thought from an ecological standpoint. Ch’a shed new light on Chŏng Yagyong’s thought from the standpoint of ‘ecological environmental politics’, a position that is closely related to sociology. The characteristics of Chŏng Yagyong’s ecological and environmental thought, that is, as seen by Ch’a Sŏnghwan, can be summarized as follows. First, the universe surrounding man forms the house in which the former lives. Viewed from the standpoint of human nature, only man can rule the world.70 For example, Chŏng Yagyong asserted, “Animals and plants are part of an order in that they all exist to elevate man, to keep man warm, to raise man, and to serve man. What else can rule the world except man? Heaven regards this world as a house within which man is expected to pursue virtue. The sun, moon, stars, trees and grass, and animals are all entities which support this house.”71 Second, the life forms which make up the ecosystem enjoy different natures (性). There are three different natures. While trees and grass boast life but lack knowledge, animals enjoy life and knowledge. Meanwhile, the nature of man is characterized by life, knowledge, exquisiteness, and an orientation towards good. Third, man contributes to reaching the acme of central harmony by organically connecting the natural realm to the entire cosmos, thereby achieving a functional balance and bringing about the harmonized prosperity of all beings. However, in accordance with the standard of morality (愼獨, sindok, moral behavior even when one is alone), the virtue of central harmony can only be possessed by virtuous man. Fourth, the nature of man can be achieved through the complete actualization of the nature of objects, a role which allows man to be positioned as the ruler of this world.72

    Ch’a Sŏnghwan asserted that the characteristics of Chŏng Yagyong’s ecological and environmental thought were rooted in Chŏng’s perception that the universal ecological environment, which he believed existed to serve man, could not automatically function without the intervention of the latter. Such intervention was limited to special measures on the part of saints such as the establishment of institutions to actualize the nature of objects that make up the ecological environment. In order to make the universal ecological environment that constituted a house for man function, a form of ecological environmental politics known as the ideal state of central harmony (致中和) had to be established by virtuous men endowed with a sacred mind who served the heavenly ruler (上帝).73

    Based on these assertions, Ch’a Sŏnghwan introduced new modern images of saints, virtuous men, and ordinary people, all of which he regarded as important elements of universal ecological environmental politics. For example, the saint can be interpreted as a ‘cultural intellectual’ who develops the ecological ethics needed to actualize the true nature of the objects that make up the universal ecological environment that serves as the house of man. Meanwhile, the virtuous man can be likened to a new political bureaucrat who is able to move beyond merely serving the interests of the human world and continuously maintain balance and harmony with nature. Lastly, the ‘public’ referred to by Chŏng Yagyong is one that can accept the imposition of regulatory regulations by the cultural intellectuals as part of their environmental vision and environmental politics, with these regulations perceived as being inevitable for the survival and prosperity of the entire human race, and this even if they may conflict with their actual interests.74

    Ch’a Sŏnghwan’s study reestablishes the characteristics of Chŏng Yagyong’s ecological and environmental thought from the standpoint of ‘ecological environment politics,’ and searches for political measures that could be used to resolve the current ecological crisis. His study stands out from other papers, which focused exclusively on the identification of ecological elements and the significance thereof, in that Ch’a introduces detailed measures with which to resolve the current crisis. However, despite its significance, his ecological approach to Chŏng Yagyong inevitably suffers from the following fundamental problems. In fact, when compared with other Confucian scholars, Chŏng Yagyong’s thought can be regarded as having been endowed with relatively few ecological elements, and as having leaned more towards anthropocentrism than ecologism. For example, unlike other Confucian scholars, Chŏng Yagyong did not support an ‘organic view of the universe’ that was based on the notions of mul-a ilch’e (物我一體, oneness of objects and man) and manmul ilch’e (萬物一體, all things are of one body), which in turn originated from the concepts of iil punsu (理一分殊, Principle is one but its manifestations are diverse) and ilgi yut’ong (一氣流通, man and nature are connected to one another based on one ki). He also did not claim equality between man and objects or ecological egalitarianism like the scholars of the Pukhak (Northern Learning) School. Rather, Chŏng Yagyong asserted that the universe was the ‘house of man’ whose fruits man was meant to benefit from, that man was the only creature that could rule the world, and that the nature of man was the highest of the three natures he identified. Such assertions can become the basis for human chauvinistic behavior in which, much like the anthropocentric and instrumental views of nature found in the modern West, man is perceived as being superior to any other creatures within nature. Contrary to anthropocentrism, Chŏng Yagyong maintained that man had an important responsibility and mission vis-à-vis nature. To this end, he asserted that man could only actualize his true nature by actualizing the true nature of objects. However, this mission was perceived as being the task of saints and virtuous men alone; moreover, Chŏng’s inability to suggest any detailed measures to save nature and all beings results in such assertions being of little more than declarative significance. Chŏng Yagyong’s thought exhibits the periodic limitations, in that such efforts were regarded as being dependent on the capacity of saints and virtuous men rather than the public. These problems are also evident in the type of universal ecological environment politics clamored for by Ch’a Sŏnghwan. A situation in which cultural intellectuals and political bureaucrats become the main actors in the establishment of ecological ethics and institutions rather than the public inevitably results in the public having to passively follow the former. Such a situation leads to the creation of another hierarchal order, and can as such be regarded as running contrary to the tenets of ecologism.

       2. Ch’oe Han’gi’s great harmony and a communication-based organic society

    There are three studies related to Ch’oe Han’gi. In his philosophy-based study, “Ch’oe Han’gi unhwaron ŭi saengt’aehakchŏk haesŏk (Ecological interpretation of Ch’oe Han’gi’s theory of functional activity),” Ch’oe Yŏngjin identified the characteristics of Ch’oe Han’gi’s view of nature found in his theory of circulation and change (運化論), and delved into the possibility of using it as an alternative solution for the current ecological crisis. Ch’oe Yŏngjin analyzed the structure and characteristics of Ch’oe Han’gi’s theory of circulation and change, which he divided into three aspects: The true nature of ki, triple structure of circulation and change (運化), and the oneness of man and nature. Ch’oe Yŏngjin asserts that the seeds for the development of an alternative philosophy with which to overcome the ecological crisis lies in these elements. Ch’oe Han’gi’s theory of circulation and change, which promotes the oneness of man and nature, differs from the Neo-Confucianism based view of nature in that it is rooted in the tangible ki. It also differs from the mechanical view of nature found in the Western world in that while it regards the objective entities of nature as being important, it does not neglect the possibility of nature as an ethical prototype.75

    On the other hand, in his two studies, “Hyegang sasang ŭi saengt’aejuŭijŏk kyoyuk wŏlli (The ecological education principle contained in Hyegang’s thought)” and “Hyegang ŭi taedongnon kwa sot’ongnon kŭrigo kyoyuk saengt’aehak (Hyegang’s theories of great harmony and communication and educational ecology),” Kim T’aeo highlighted Ch’oe Han’gi’s thought from the standpoint of education, and in particular educational ecology. Kim identified three aspects as the characteristics of Ch’oe Han’gi’s perception of ecology contained in his study of ki. The first is the presence of a oneness (一統)?based disciplinary structure. Ch’oe Han’gi’s study of ki (氣學) was based on a perception of the heavens, earth, and nature as well as society and individuals from the standpoint of the organic circulation of ki. Ch’oe’s study of ki (氣學) was rooted in a philosophical structure that emphasized the unified principle of three movements: circulation and change of great ki (大氣運化), circulation and change in people (統民運化), and circulation and change in individuals (一身運化). The second was the division of nature (自然) from what should be (當爲). Ch’oe Han’gi maintained an organic standpoint when it came to the continuity that exists between the ways of nature and man, “The way of man originates from the way of heaven, and the ability to surmise (推測, to form a notion from scant evidence) originates from the flow of movements (流行).”76 However, the presence of ontological and epistemological gaps between nature and man result in, based on the way of heaven (nature) being identified as the standard for the way of man (what should be), continuity having to be pursued from the standpoint of the principle of the oneness of the ability to surmise and the flow of movements.77 The third is the dialectic between organicism and mechanism. The relationship between man and nature is perceived as being both organic and mechanical at the same time. Mechanism is based on the belief that man is not the only being that possesses a transcendental nature or rational cognitive capability. All beings in the heavens and on earth have been bestowed original natures by ki. Ch’oe Han’gi even compared the ki of the mind, which he labeled as the cognitive capability as well as the body of man, to a mechanic. Ch’oe Han’gi’s notion of mechanism should be viewed as being of great ecological value in that it effectively seeks to limit the arrogance of man toward nature.78

    Furthermore, Kim T’aeo identified two elements as the key to the ecological education principle contained in Ch’oe Han’gi’s thought: the theory of great harmony (大同論) and the theory of communication (疏通論). When viewed from the ecological standpoint, the theory of great harmony can be regarded as having three overarching characteristics: The first is that of great love. More to the point, Ch’oe Han’gi asserted that philanthropic love toward man and nature should be regarded as true love.79 Here, the philanthropic spirit under which one loves both man and nature should be perceived as the key to Ch’oe Han’gi’s understanding of the notion of great harmony. The second is the notion of the continuous transformation of ki through circulation (運化承順). The circulation of the ki of heaven and man results in the basic orientation of man and nature being that of mutual communication and harmony. Ch’oe Han’gi defined the movement of air, or natural sphere, and the movement of the body (individuals) and people (society), or human sphere, as the great harmony of circulation (大同運化). The great harmony of circulation in turn refers to the continuous transformation of ki through circulation (運化承順) under which the human way follows the heavenly way, and subjective ethics are consistent with objective nature. The third is the belief that great harmony is based on the notion of the fundamental orientation towards peace. Ch’oe Han’gi maintained that the ki of circulation originally emerged to achieve peace between the self and others, and that this peacefulness was a normal attribute of any relationship.80 Three overarching characteristics were also identified in conjunction with the theory of communication: The first is the penetration of the supernatural ki. Communication can as such be defined as the supernatural ki’s ability to penetrate man and nature. Man and all beings in the universe are equal in that they are all vital or instrumental beings endowed with the supernatural ki. The second is related to post self-centrality. Narrow-minded subjectivity can be regarded as a barrier that stops mutual communication between the self and objects. The ability to smoothly communicate with others is as such intricately related to the removal of the narrow self-centric mindset. The third is the flexibility of change. The ability to engage in smooth and profound communication is predicated on the presence of the flexibility needed to deal with various situations. Ch’oe Han’gi regarded the penetration of the supernatural ki as the essence of communication. By appropriately controlling one’s state in a manner that removed self-centrality, Ch’oe intended to pave the way for true communication. Ch’oe Han’gi’s theory of communication can be evaluated as having provided an approach with which to restore the ecological relationship between humans and between man and nature.81 While from the standpoint of educational ecology, the way of great harmony can be identified as the search for love and peace, the way of communication can be likened to the quest for modesty and self-introspection. While under the former, Korean education should make efforts to focus on the love of others and a larger and wider love of life, Kim T’aeo maintains that the latter compels Korean education to view the wisdom of self-introspection and modesty from the standpoint of mutual communication between nature and man, society and man, and between humans themselves.82

    Kim T’aeo not only actively delved into the ecological characteristics of Ch’oe Han’gi’s thought, but also searched for measures to establish educational ecology that could be applied to the modern era. In this regard, it can be evaluated as being of greater academic value than the other studies on this topic. Ch’oe Han’gi’s thought, which was discussed in the above-mentioned three studies, shares many similarities with ecocentrism. First, the assertion found in the preface to Kihak (氣學) that, “There is only ki in the universe, no other complete beings exist,” the oneness structure and the principle of three circulations, as well as the circulation of the great ki, can be regarded as the basis for the provision of ‘intrinsic values’ to all beings within the universe rather than only select ones. Moreover, the assertions that man and nature, both of which exist between heaven and earth, are composed of the same mechanical elements (器), and that man and all beings have been equally granted a true nature,83 can be perceived as providing the basis for ‘ecological egalitarianism.’ Lastly, the theory of great harmony based on the great love of philanthropy, continuous transformation of circulation (運化承順), and peace-orientation, as well as the theory of communication based on the penetration of the supernatural ki, post self-centrality, and the flexibility of change, can be viewed as being similar to the notion of ‘selfrealization’ advanced by Arne Naess and the ‘life community’ advocated by Thomas Berry.84 Nevertheless, Ch’oe Han’gi’s thought should not be regarded as being akin to ecocentrism. Although Ch’oe Han’gi’s study of ki to some extent includes traditional organic characteristics, he in reality exhibited a stronger affinity for modern scientific technology than other Confucian scholars. His work also encompassed a mechanical thinking structure under which all beings within the universe were regarded as being composed of mechanical elements, including the organs found in the human body. 85 In Ch’oe Han’gi’s study of ki, anthropocentrism and physiocentrism, mechanical and organic theories, as well as modern and traditional elements, were all viewed as constantly transforming as a result of their interactions and mutual influence on one another. This duality in terms of Ch’oe Han’gi’s study of ki, which exhibited elements of organic and mechanical theories, opens him up to the criticism that his theory is nothing more than obscure syncretism which is neither true to modern scientific technology nor to the traditional, flexible, organic view of the world.86 In this regard, it becomes necessary to clearly verify the duality of Ch’oe Han’gi’s study of ki, and to resolve the problems occasioned by this duality. In addition, Kim T’aeo’s assertion87 that Ch’oe Han’gi’s notion of mechanics, under which even the ki of the mind (心氣), a concept that refers to man’s cognitive capability, was compared to mechanics, is of great ecological value in that it limited human arrogance toward nature is open to debate. The period in which Ch’oe Han’gi lived was not one in which the abuses occasioned by anthropocentrism had yet become evident. As such, Ch’oe Han’gi’s perception of man as a mechanism equal to all other beings may result in a refusal of the positive significance of the ontological value or uniqueness of man. The mere fact that man is different from other beings does not automatically translate into the former’s destruction of nature. This can be regarded as being rooted in anthropocentrism, which was itself based on the rationalism of Western modernity. Rather, the Asian perception of man as the mind of all beings in the heavens and on earth, and of man as a being endowed with the highest level of ki, identified man as a being to whom the responsibility and mission of subjectively participating in the achievement of harmony amongst all beings in the universe has been bestowed. As such, rather than evaluating it in an unconditionally positive manner, there is a need to critically approach Ch’oe Han’gi’s comparison of the human’s mind of ki to a mechanism.

    48Kim Uktong, Han’guk ŭi noksaek munhwa [The green culture of Korea] (Munye Publishing, 2000), 219.  49Wikipedia, http://enc.daum.net/dic100/contents.do?query1=10XXX95919 (accessed April 27, 2011).  50Hwang Kyŏngsik, Kaebang sahoe ŭi sahoe yulli [Social ethics of an open society] (Philosophy and Reality Publishing, 1997), 380–381.  51Han Myŏnhŭi, Tongasia munmyŏng kwa Han’guk ŭi saengt’aejuŭi [East Asian civilization and Korean ecologism] (Philosophy and Reality Publishing, 2009), 147–148.  52Pak Sumil, “21 segi munmyŏng kwa Pak Chiwŏn ŭi saengt’ae chŏngsin [The civilization of the twenty-first century and Pak Chiwŏn’s ecological spirit],” Journal of East Asian Cultures (Institute for East Asian Cultures, Hanyang University) 47 (May 2010): 220–221.  53Ibid., 227.  54Ibid., 227–230.  55In his work Hojil (虎叱, a political fable of the Qing dynasty) Pak Chiwŏn states, “You often mention about heaven when discussing principle and nature (性). However, from the standpoint of heaven, tigers and humans are both regarded as animals. Viewed from the standpoint of the magnanimous heavens and earth that have given life to all beings, tigers and grasshoppers, silkworms and bees, ants and humans all live together. They should not quarrel or be estranged from one another.”  56Pak Sumil, 21 segi munmyŏng kwa Pak Chiwŏn ŭi saengt’ae chŏngsin [The civilization of the 21st century and Pak Chiwŏn’s ecological spirit], 233.  57Ibid., 234–236.  58Naess defined the deep ecology movement as advocating an ecological egalitarianism under which all beings have “equal rights to live and bloom” based on a relational, total-field image. (Arne Naess, “The Shallow and Deep, Long-Range Ecology Movement: A Summary,” Inquiry 16 (1973): 96–96.)  59Ch’oe Yŏngjin, “Inmulsŏng tongiron ŭi saengt’aehakchŏk haesŏk [Ecological interpretation of the theory of the sameness-difference of human and material nature],” Journal of Confucian Thought (The Korean Society of Confucianism) 10 (1998): 57–68.  60Kim Chiyŏng, “Hong Taeyong ŭi Ŭisan mundap ŭl t’onghae salp’yŏ pon Han’guk saengt’ae sasang ŭi kanŭngsŏng [Korean ecological as viewed through Hong Taeyong’s Ŭisan mundap],” Ŏmun yŏn’gu 33–2 (Summer 2005): 431–449.  61Pak Hŭibyŏng, “Hong Taeyong sasang e issŏsŏ mul-a ŭi sangdaesŏng kwa tongilsŏng [The relativity and similarity between nature and the self found in Hong Taeyong’s thought],” Han’guk ŭi saengt’ae sasang [Ecological philosophy of Korea] (Tolbegae, 1999), 278.  62Tamhŏnjip [湛軒集], 4, Ŭisan mundap [醫山問答], Chapters 18–19. “天地之生, 惟人爲貴.[⋯] 以人 視物, 人貴而物賤, 以物視人, 物貴而人賤, 自天而視之, 人與物均也.[⋯] 今爾曷不以天視物, 而猶以人 視物也?”  63Pak Hŭibyŏng, “Hong Taeyong sasang e issŏsŏ mul-a ŭi sangdaesŏng kwa tongilsŏng [The relativity and similarity between nature and the self found in Hong Taeyong’s thought],” Han’guk ŭi saengt’ae sasang [Ecological philosophy of Korea] (Tolbegae, 1999), 280–281.  64Ibid., 283.  65Ibid., 284–290.  66Ibid., 292.  67Arne Naess, “The Shallow and Deep, Long-Range Ecology Movement: a Summary,” Inquiry 16 (1973): 95–96.  68Michael E. Zimmerman eds., Environmental Philosophy—From Animal Rights to Radical Ecology, 196–197.  69Kim Sea-jeong, “Saengt’aegye wigi wa yuga saengt’ae ch’ŏrhak ŭi paljŏn panghyang [The crisis of ecosystems and the direction of the development of ecological philosophy within Confucianism],” Ch’ŏrhak yŏn’gu (Korean Philosophical Society) 85 (2003): 94–95. For example, Tom Regan asserted, “Advocates of synoptic anti-anthropocentrism who find themselves in a situation where they must kill man or a rare wild flower will inevitably see the killing of man as being justified in order to protect the rare wild flower which contributes to the integration, stability, and beauty of the land community.” (No Hŭijŏng, “Hwan’gyŏng yullihak esŏ ŭi kaech’eron kwa ch’ongch’eron ŭi t’onghap” (Ph.D. diss., Korea National University of Education, 2002), 114.)  70Ch’a Sŏnghwan, “Chŏng Yagyong kyŏnghak sasang i saengt’ae hwan’gyŏng wigi ŭi sidae e chunŭn sisajŏm [The implications of Chŏng Yagyong’s thought regarding the Confucian Classics in terms of the ecological crisis],” Tamnon (The Korean Association of Socio-Historical Studies) 201, (2010): 7–8.  71Chŏng Yagyong, Kukyŏk yŏyudang chŏnsŏ: Nonŏ kogŭmju (Kyŏngjip III), trans. Institute of Honam Studies (Chunnam University Press, 1989), 134–135.  72Ch’a Sŏnghwan, Chŏng Yagyong kyŏnghak sasang i saengt’ae hwan’gyŏng wigi ŭi sidae e chunŭn sisajŏm [The implications of Chŏng Yagyong’s thought regarding the Confucian Classics in terms of the ecological crisis], 9–21.  73Ibid., 23.  74Ibid., 25–28.  75Ch’oe Yŏngjin and Yi Haenghun, “Ch’oe Han’gi unhwaron ŭi saengt’aehakchŏk haesŏk [Ecological interpretation of Ch’oe Han’gi’s theory of functional activity],” Taedong munhwa yŏn’gu (Taedong Institute for Korean Studies) 45 (2004): 119–136.  76Ch’uch’ŭngnok [推測錄], “人道出於天道, 推測出於流行,” 2, 天人有分.  77Ch’uch’ŭngnok [推測錄], 2, 「自然當然」, “自然者, 天地流行之理. 當然者, 人心推測之理也. 學者, 以 自然爲標準, 以當然爲工夫.”  78Kim T’aeo, “Hyegang sasang ŭi saengt’aejuŭijŏk kyoyuk wŏlli [The ecological education principle contained in Hyegang’s thought],” Philosophy Education (The Philosophy Education Society of Korea) 35 (2008): 268–271.  79Injŏng [人政], 25, 愛有大小.  80Kim T’aeo, “Hyegang ŭi taedongnon kwa sot’ongnon kŭrigo kyoyuk saengt’aehak [Hyegang’s theories of great harmony and communication and educational ecology],” Philosophy Education (The Philosophy Education Society of Korea) 41 (2010): 246–253.  81Ibid., 253–261.  82Ibid., 264–265.  83Ch’uch’ŭngnok [推測錄], 3, 「推情測性」/6, 「推物測事」  84Arne Naess pointed out that the resolution of the current ecological crisis is predicated on the maximization of self-realization through the expansion of the self or ego towards nature as a whole, including animals and plants. For his part, Thomas Berry believes that overcoming the ecological crisis requires a move from ‘anthropocentric norms’ to ‘biocentric norms’. This move towards biocentric norm includes the realization that the life community made up of all living species is actually a bigger entity with greater value, and that the main interests of man would be best served by accepting the need to enhance the preservation of this wider life community. (Kim Sea-jeong, “Saengt’aegye wigi wa yuga saengt’ae ch’ŏrhak ŭi paljŏn panghyang [The crisis of ecosystems and the direction of the development of ecological philosophy within Confucianism],” Ch’ŏlhak yŏn’gu (Korean Philosophical Society) 85 (2003): 94.  85Ch’uch’ŭngok [推測錄], 6, “天是器也, 地亦器也, 人亦器也.”; Sin’git’ong (神氣通)/2, “人身形體, 是一 機械也.”  86Ch’oe Chindŏk, “Hyegang kihak ŭi ijungsŏn ge taehan pip’anjŏk sŏngch’al [Critical introspection of the duality of Hyegang’s study of ki],” Hyegang Ch’oe Han’gi (Ch’ŏnggye, 2000):140–141.  87Kim T’aeo, Hyegang sasang ŭi saengt’aejuŭijŏk kyoyuk wŏlli [The ecological education principle contained in Hyegang’s thought], 271.

    V. CONCLUSION

    This study analyzed the study of the ‘ecological discourse within Korean Confucianism’ which has been carried out since the late 1990s. The history of the study of the ecological discourse within Korean Confucianism is much shorter than that of the environmental and ecological discourses in the Western world, which, stimulated by the environmental movement of the 1960s, started in earnest in the 1970s. Even if we account for the fact that this particular field of study only started to be active recently, the results of the study of the ecological discourse within Korean Confucianism so far can only be regarded as having been insignificant. Only twenty research papers have been produced over the past ten years. Moreover, when we exclude the studies that are of an introductory or declarative nature, only ten papers related to the ecological discourse within Korean Confucianism have so far been published. Thus, this field of study has remained at an introductory level. However, this does not mean that the ecological discourse within Korean Confucianism is devoid of implications, or that it has no future. The problems that have caused the ecological crisis cannot be resolved in one day. These problems cannot be resolved by a single theory or measure. To this end, the ecological discourse within Korean Confucianism may emerge in the future as an alternative discourse with which to resolve the problems associated with the ecological crisis. However, many tasks need to be addressed before the ecological discourse within Korean Confucianism can move from the realm of the possible to the realistic. In this regard, this study summarizes the ecological characteristics and problems exposed by the analysis of the ecological discourse within Korean Confucianism and also takes a look at the future tasks that will need to be resolved.

    First, let us take a look at the ecological discourse within Korean Neo-Confucianism. Scholars such as Yi Hwang and Yi I were at the forefront of the ecological discourse within Korean Neo-Confucianism. The ecological characteristics and problems exposed by the ecological discourses within Korean Neo-Confucianism can be summarized as follows. First, the ecological characteristics of the Korean Neo-Confucianism that revolved around Yi Hwang and Yi I can be identified as an ‘organic view of the universe,’ in which the self and external objects are regarded as one body based on the principle of oneness. Second, Korean Neo-Confucianism includes both elements of anthropocentrism and ecocentrism. Third, while Yi Hwang exhibited anthropocentric tendencies, Yi I boasted ecocentric ones. Fourth, although Korean Neo-Confucianism includes abundant ecological characteristics, it differs from ecocentrism in that it defines man as the most intelligent being and as the symbol of the mind of heaven and earth. Emphasizing these aspects makes it possible to establish alternatives with which to overcome the problems stemming from ecocentrism as well as the abuses occasioned by anthropocentrism. On the other hand, it is important to remember that failure to establish an organized and realistic theory and measures that reflect realistic conditions may result in allowing the anthropocentric and ecocentric elements of Korean Neo-Confucianism to block the creation of anything other than an obscure theory which cannot play any role in the resolution of concrete problems.

    Next, let us look at the ecological discourse within Sirhak (Practical Learning). As even individuals from the same Pukhak (Northern Learning) School such as Pak Chiwŏn, Hong Taeyong, Chŏng Yagyong, and Ch’oe Han’gi exhibited their own tendencies, it becomes difficult to include all Sirhak scholars in one group. Be that as it may, the ecological characteristics of the Pukhak (Northern Learning) School represented by Pak Chiwŏn and Hong Taeyong can be summarized as follows: First, they regarded nature as a living creature (活物) and as an organic being. They also believed that an organic relationship existed between man and nature. Second, they criticized the notion of the superiority of man by asserting that when viewed from the standpoint of heaven, man and nature were equal. Third, contrary to Neo-Confucian scholars, they did not identify man as the symbol of the mind of heaven and earth. Their claims of the equality between man and objects are in many ways reminiscent of the notion of ecological egalitarianism found in ecocentrism. However, the notion of Iyong husaeng that revolves around the efficient utilization of objects inherently conflicts with the concept of the equality of beings in that it regards nature as an implement with which to improve human life. Furthermore, an overemphasis on the equality of man and objects runs the risk of descending into eco-fascism.

    Contrary to other Sirhak scholars, Chŏng Yagyong’s thought featured more anthropocentric elements than ecological ones. Rather than emphasizing the notion of the self and external objects as one body or the equality of man and objects, Chŏng’s beliefs were more akin to anthropocentrism. For instance, he believed that nature and the universe constituted the house in which man existed, only man could rule the world, and that man boasted the most advanced nature. However, Chŏng Yagyong’s awareness of man’s responsibility to nature is evidenced by his claims that man could only actualize his true nature by actualizing the true nature of all beings. Nevertheless, such human responsibilities were perceived as being an onus that was carried only by saints and virtuous men. As such, it may be unreasonable to seek to identify ecological characteristics in Chŏng Yagyong’s thought. That being said, one of the related tasks which should be undertaken is that of finding ways to harmonize the anthropocentric elements in his thought with ecocentrism. Furthermore, it is essential that practical measures that make it possible for the common people to not only actively participate in this process, but also assume the reins thereof, be drawn up. Meanwhile, unlike Chŏng Yagyong, Ch’oe Han’gi’s thought can be perceived as having been laden with organic and ecological elements. First, Ch’oe possessed an organic view of the universe that was based on the notion of the circulation of the one ki. Second, Ch’oe’s assertions that man and nature were composed of ki, and that all entities that existed between the heavens and earth were granted their unique natures, may become the basis for ecological egalitarianism. Third, the theory of great harmony through philanthropy, continuous transformation of circulation, and peace-orientation, as well as the theory of communication based on the penetration of the supernatural ki, post self-centrality, and the flexibility of change, can be regarded as being akin to the notions of ‘self-realization’ and ‘life community’ found in ecocentrism. However, Ch’oe Han’gi’s study of ki suffers from the duality of boasting both organic and mechanical characteristics. In this regard, there is a need to address the problems caused by this duality.

    As such, even though Korean Confucianism includes an abundance of ecological elements and characteristics, Neo-Confucianism and Sirhak (Practical Learning) differed in terms of the details, and such differences were also visible on an individual scholar basis. Furthermore, one also finds instances in which organic and mechanical theories coexisted within a scholar’s anthropocentric approach. These aspects may work as positive factors that will help to enrich the ecological discourse within Korean Confucianism. However, the following tasks must be resolved in order for such a denouement to come to pass.

    First, there is a need to extend the scope of research subjects. Although organic and ecological elements can be found in the thought of many Confucian scholars, only nine scholars, including Yi Hwang, have been dealt with as part of the study of the ecological discourse within Korean Confucianism. The ecological characteristics of Korean Confucianism can only truly be comprehensively highlighted when studies have been conducted on various scholars and theories, and the basis for the establishment of the Korean-style ecological theory needed within contemporary society has been prepared.

    Second, it is essential that specialists be educated as part of efforts to establish an ecological philosophy and ethics that is based on Korean Confucianism. To date, only seven of the studies on ecological discourse within Korean Confucianism have been produced by experts in the field of philosophy. Including Lee Dong-hee, there are only six researchers in this field. In other words, each researcher has produced approximately one paper. Truth be told, practically no specialists in the field of ‘Korean Confucianism and ecology’ have been produced. In this regard, having failed to position itself as an actual and realistic alternative to the resolution of the ecological crisis as well as to conduct studies related to the ecological characteristics of Korean Confucianism in an in-depth manner, the ecological discourse has to date constituted nothing more than a temporary discourse. The ecological discourse within Korean Confucianism can only move beyond being an empty echo and entrench itself as a realistic alternative when numerous specialists capable of addressing these tasks in a concentrated and consistent manner are produced.

    Third, there is a need, based on the results of the studies conducted at the initial stage of the search for the ecological significance and implications of Korean Confucianism, to move to the second stage of the reorganization and recreation the ecological implications of Korean Confucianism. To this end, there is a need to develop an understanding of the environmental and ecological philosophy/ethics of the Western world, as well as to perceive the general problems related to the ecological crisis within contemporary society. It is essential to move beyond the matter of focusing on the past or present and create a new ecological philosophy that integrates past and present as well as east and west.

    Fourth, it is necessary to clearly identify the ecological characteristics of Korean Confucianism that differentiate it from the tenets of the ecological discourse in the Western world. The assertion that Korean Confucianism features many of the ecological characteristics found in the Western world can be regarded as little more than a starting point. For Korean Confucianism to become an important part of the attempts to resolve the ecological crisis, the unique characteristics of Korean Confucianism must be highlighted in order to help resolve the problems which the ecological discourse in the Western world have encountered; furthermore, concrete alternatives should be established through the advent of a creative encounter between the ecological discourses of the East and West.

    Fifth, it is necessary to suggest realistic measures through which to resolve the ecological crisis, and to implement them in an active manner. While advocates of Buddhism have implemented concrete practical measures pertaining to the ecological crisis, Korean Confucianism has yet to prepare realistic and detailed alternatives that could help to resolve this crisis. Furthermore, the willingness to implement such measures, or even to design tools through which to gain feedback, has been sorely lacking. Confucianism cannot ignore the fact that the Kyŏngse ch’iyong (經世致用, Administration and Practical Usage) school of thought advocates the study of self-discipline (修己), governing others (治人), being self (成己), being things (成物), enlightening the lucid virtue (明明德), and approaching the people (親民). Korean Confucianism’s ability to survive under the current ecological crisis is predicated on the active search for concrete measures, and further, the development of opportunities to implement such measures.

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