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Zhu Xi's interpretation of the concept of "learning" (xue) in the analects

朱熹對 論語 學 的槪念的詮釋

Authors Chen, Liangliang (陳亮亮)
Issue Date 2008
Summary It is generally held that the concept of “xue” (learning) contained in the Analects has much to bear upon the Confucian program of moral self-cultivation. However, regarding how the concept should be understood, there has never been any consensus. Zhu Xi , the Song Neo-Confucian philosopher whose interpretation will be the focus of this thesis, considers “xue” as the key to a thorough understanding of the teachings of Confucius, and through a rigorous and meticulous interpretation of the concept, he indeed has outlined a program that would lead one to moral perfection. This thesis is composed of three parts. Part One deals with two major interpretations of the concept before Zhu. Each supported with its textual analysis, these interpretations are, however, radically different, demonstrating amply the complexity and ambiguity of the materials related to the concept. The bone of contention there is how relevant “xue wen” (the learning of culture) is to moral perfection. Following the discussion in Part One, Part Two proceeds to analyze how Zhu considers the significance of “xue wen”. Based on the emphasis Confucius placed on the concept, Zhu argues strongly for the indispensibility of it as a means to moral perfection. Zhu defines “xue wen” as “emulating what the earlier awakened did”, which definitely covers book learning. Through book learning, one will understand what is good and, thus, recover the goodness that resides originally in one’s mind. The reason why such is possible is that the goodness that is to be acquired through book learning, as Zhu believes, is in principle coincident with what is inherently good in one’s mind. Of course, whether the acquisition of the former will necessarily lead to the opening up of the latter depends ultimately on how one utilizes the function of one’s mind. Having realized what is good, one has to act accordingly. That is the reason why following the discussion on “xue wen”, Part Three of the thesis concerns itself with the subject of “yue li” (observing rites). Since what underlies the normative rites is the “li” (principle) inherent in one’s mind, observing rites means that one has to act in accordance with principle, and to act according to principle, one has to overcome the selfishness residing in one’s mind. But, in order to overcome the selfishness, as emphasized Zhu, one first of all has to distinguish the subtle difference between principle and selfishness, which inevitaby has to resort to “xue wen”. Zhu has undoubtedly invested tremendous metaphysical connotations in his interpretation of the concept of “xue”. However, with the concept of “principle”, not only has he successfully related “xue wen” to moral perfection, but he has also succeeded in organizing into a coherent system all the materials that are relevant to “xue”.
Note Thesis (M.Phil.)--Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, 2008
Language Chinese
Format Thesis
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