The Notion of Practicality in Wang Yang-Ming's Thought

Dissertation, University of Pennsylvania (2001)

Abstract
Previous studies on Wang Yang-ming's philosophy have made an important contribution. Nevertheless, few scholars draw attention to Wang Yang-ming's contribution to Confucian practicality or the notion of the inner connection between his practicality and Confucius' and Mencius' orientation of practicality in their learning. Without a close examination of his notion of practicality, the significance of Wang Yang-ming as a Confucian master will not be appreciated properly. Therefore, in this research, I examine Wang Yang-ming's notion of practicality in relation to his interpretation of the learning of Confucius and Mencius. ;In my research, I begin with clarifying the learning of Confucius and Mencius necessitated actual action and concrete practice. I also find that such an orientation of practicality gives an explanation to the fact that Wang Yang-ming, however contrary to Chu Hsi, still is regarded as a Confucian master. It is the orientation of practicality that embraces the diversities of Confucian learning and keeps the essence of the learning of Confucius and Mencius. ;Through my investigation, I have pointed out that Wang Yang-ming's advocating the unity of knowledge and action was his successful application of Confucian practicality, that, also, is, the learning of Confucius and Mencius. Since the realization of humanity required the fulfillment of one's various responsibilities, corresponding to various social roles, Wang Yang-ming underscored that, to completely realize humanity, one could not separate oneself from family and society. In addition, his doctrine that mind and principle are identical gives a different perspective that can help us better understand the idea of fulfilling our roles in society and responsibilities to family without being confined to the rules and regulations of society which dictate our conduct. ;With the examination of Wang Yang-ming's notion of practicality, I believe that I have clarified Wang Yang-ming's success of transmitting the practicality-oriented learning of Confucius and Mencius. I am also convinced that his notion of practicality is an important reason why his learning agrees with the learning of Confucius and Mencius, and why he is recognized as a philosopher in action
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