Cosmogony as political philosophy

Philosophy East and West 58 (1):108-125 (2008)
: This essay examines the Diagram of the Supreme Ultimate and its shifting interpretations—those of Zhu Xi (1130–1200) and Wang Tingxiang (1474–1544) in particular—and by doing so explores the significance of ‘‘cosmogony’’ in the Confucian tradition and its significance for the change of political philosophy from the Song dynasty through the Ming. First, through a close reading of Zhu Xi’s commentaries on the Diagram, it is argued that they should be interpreted primarily as a statement of political philosophy rather than a mere textual study of Zhou Dunyi’s metaphysics. Wang Tingxiang’s reworking of the Diagram is examined in order to explore the transformation of its worldview through the shifted focus from li to qi. Then, by connecting the fundamental structures of the two cosmogonies to other aspects of their systems of thought, the moral and political implications that develop from the cosmogonies are unraveled. This examination of shifting interpretations of the Diagram will shed light on the cosmogonies as crucial expressions of political philosophy in the Confucian tradition without losing sight of their historical contexts.
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DOI 10.1353/pew.2008.0004
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