Wang Yangming

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Wang Yangming (王陽明 14721529) was a Ming Chinese idealist Neo-Confucian scholar–official. After Zhu Xi, he is commonly considered the most important Neo-Confucian thinker, with interpretations of Confucianism that denied the rationalist dualism of the orthodox philosophy of Zhu Xi.

Life and thought

Born Wang Shouren (守仁) in Zhejiang Province, his courtesy name was Bo'an (伯安). He was the leading figure in the Neo-Confucian School of Mind, which championed an interpretation of Mencius (a Classical Confucian who became the focus of later interpretation) that unified knowledge and action. Their rival school, the School of Li (principle) treated gaining knowledge as a kind of preparation or cultivation that, when completed, could guide action.

Wang Yangming developed the idea of innate knowing, arguing that every person knows from birth the difference between good and bad. Such knowledge is intuitive and not rational.

He held that objects do not exist entirely apart from the mind because the mind shapes them. He believed that it is not the world that shapes the mind, but the mind that gives reason to the world. Therefore, the mind alone is the source of all reason. He understood this to be an inner light, an innate moral goodness and understanding of what is good. This is similar to the thinking of the Greek philosopher Socrates who argued that "knowledge is virtue".

In order to eliminate selfish desires that cloud the minds understanding of goodness, one can practice his type of meditation often called tranquil repose or sitting still (靜坐 py jngzo). This is similar to the practice of Chan (Zen) meditation in Buddhism.

Other facts

Yangming Xiansheng (Master Brilliantly Yang) was his sobriquet in the literary circle.

Yangmingshan, a national scenic attraction on Taiwan, is named after him.

References

Antonio S. Cua, The Unity of Knowledge and Action: A Study in Wang Yang-ming's Moral Psychology. University of Hawaii Press, 1982.ja:王陽明 zh:王阳明

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