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Factional Politics and Philosophical Development in the Late Chosön Mark Setton 1 his paper explores the relationship between political developments and the emergence of critical attitudes towards orthodox Neo-Confucianism, or Ch'eng-Chu learning,1 in the latter half of the Chosön period.2 As we shall see, critical attitudes towards Ch'eng-Chu learning took various forms. A number of scholars questioned excessive reliance on Chu Hsi's interpretations for insight into the Confucian Classics. Some of these scholars also challenged the validity of Chu Hsi's edition of the Four Books3 and particularly his arrangement of their textual order, as well as his suggested amendments to the content of certain passages. Criticisms were also made of certain key philosophical concepts developed by Chu Hsi. At the same time most critics, in varying degrees, continued to use the 1.Ch'eng-Chu learning, widely regarded by the Chosön literati as forming the "orthodox line of transmission" of the Confucian teachings, was named after its founders, Ch'eng I (1033-1107) and Chu Hsi (1130-1200). 2.This paper is a preliminary forage, rather than an exhaustive study, into what is after all the broad, largely uncharted territory delineated by the interaction between Confucian philosophy and political history over a period of more than two hundred years. 3.ThfrFour Books (ssu-shu), a part of the Confucian Canon dealing extensively with philosophical issues, consist of the Analects (Lun-yii), the Mencius (Meng-tzu), the Mean (Chung-yung), and the Great Learning (Ta-hsüeh). 37 38Journal of Korean Studies metaphysical framework or terminology provided by Ch'eng I and Chu Hsi to discuss philosophical issues. Nonetheless, at the turn of the eighteenth century, Chöng Yagyong, inspired by previous critiques as well as new schools of thought filtering into the peninsula, directly assailed the foundations of the Ch'eng-Chu cosmology. An examination of all of these critical attitudes provides a key to understanding the nature of broader changes in philosophical orientations. This is because, for many thinkers of the late Chosön, dissatisfaction with, and critiques of, the orthodox Neo-Confucian world view served as a springboard for the formulation of alternative views, which they based, or at least, claimed to have based, on a reassessment of the Confucian classics themselves. Nearly all the relatively innovative or "unorthodox" thinkers of this period, including Yun Hyu (1617-80), Yi Ik( 168 1-1763), Kwön Ch'ölsin (1736-1801), and Chöng Yagyong( 1762-1836) on the one hand, and Pak Sedang (1629-1703) and Chöng Chedu (1649-1736) on the other, belonged to two distinct political factions, the Namin and the Soron. Nonetheless they were linked by a common element. They were all associated with opposition to a champion of orthodox Neo-Confucianism, Song Siyöl, and his powerful faction, which, particularly after the rites disputes (yesong) of 1659 and 1674, claimed the moral high ground on the basis of an unquestioning veneration of Chu Hsi's teachings. It is widely recognized that factionalism had a profound impact on the politics of the late Chosön. Furthermore, nearly all the outstanding thinkers of this period belonged to factions representing the political opposition. In spite of this, very little work has been done on the relationship between intellectual trends and factional associations. It has often been maintained that Iapanese scholarship underscored the pervasiveness of Chosön factionalism to illustrate the political impotency of the state, thereby lending a hint of legitimacy to the colonial rule of Korea. This is generally regarded by Korean scholars as an essential theme in the "colonial view of (Korean) history."4 This may explain why the most widely acclaimed 4. See discussion on the significance that should be ascribed to factionalism in Chang Tasan kwa kú sidae [Chöng Tasan and his era], Kang Man'gil et al., eds. (Seoul: Minümsa, 1986), pp.41-43. Setton: Factional Politics and Philosophical Development39 treatments of intellectual developments during the period in question avoid any detailing of the impact of factionalism.5 Consequently, the first part of this paper is concerned with the inadequacy of commonly accepted categorizations of intellectual trends that...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2158-1665
Print ISSN
0731-1613
Pages
pp. 37-80
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
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