Wang Yang-Ming’s ‘Inquiry on the Great Learning

by Robert Neville

Robert Neville is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the State University of New York, College at Purchase, and on the Staff of the Institute of Society, Ethics and the Life Sciences in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York.

The following article appeared in Process Studies, pp. 217-237, Vol. 7, Number 4, Winter, 1977. Process Studies is published quarterly by the Center for Process Studies, 1325 N. College Ave., Claremont, CA 91711. Used by permission. This material was prepared for Religion Online by Ted and Winnie Brock.


The author traces some affinities within neo-Confucianism that point in the direction of many themes of process philosophy, namely the relations of mind, action, and value.

I. Introduction

Though an outgrowth of Western philosophy, process philosophy has many affinities with the Chinese tradition. Whitehead himself, as well as Hartshorne, Cobb, and others, pointed out certain parallels with Mahayana Buddhism regarding their common denial of an underlying substantial substratum for enduring objects.1 The Taoist strand of Chinese thought has an even more basic affinity with process philosophy in its insistence that a naturalistic cosmology underlies and provides the limits for an understanding of persons and society; Chang Chung-yuan and David Hall have explored this point, emphasizing the prominence naturalistic cosmology gives the aesthetic dimension of human experience.2 My purpose in this paper is to trace out some affinities with neo-Confucianism.

It is frequently said that neo-Confucianism combines the metaphysical naturalism of Taoism and the process psychology of Buddhism with the moral concerns of Confucianism. To the extent this is so, process philosophy may have something to learn from it, for it is often remarked as a weakness of the process tradition in America that it has not developed a substantial ethical and political theory. The study of Wang Yang-ming is particularly useful here, not only because he was the culmination of the great neo-Confucian tradition and a genuinely original thinker, but also because he struggled very seriously to get along with only the Taoist and Buddhist strains of thought and was driven almost against his will to the active ethical orientation of Confucianism. Here, if anywhere, we should find the special reasons for neo-Confucianism. A recent study of Wang by Tu Wei-ming brilliantly lays out the psychological aspects of Wang’s journeys through Taoism and Buddhism.3 Julia Ching’s To Acquire Wisdom: The Way of Wang Yang-ming is an excellent full scale study of his thought.4

My intention in this essay is twofold. On the one hand, it is to introduce readers of this journal to a philosopher and philosophic tradition that are intrinsically important and probably little known by them. The purpose is not to provide a new critical interpretation of Wang in terms of the Chinese tradition itself, but rather to use the conceptions of process philosophy to show the depth and subtlety of his thought.

On the other hand I am concerned to contribute to the development of viable philosophy and therefore ask whether Wang’s thought in its various points is valuable and true. Similarly I have no predisposition to believe that process philosophy itself is authoritative. Consequently what follows is not merely a comparison or setting of parallels but also an inquiry into whether the parallel themes are valid. The purpose of "finding ancestors" is to give depth and subtlety to one’s own creative work; "massive inheritance" of stable, complex structure is the prerequisite of high-level order.

I propose here to examine certain aspects of the idealism of Wang Yang-ming (1472-1529) that point in the direction of many themes of process philosophy, namely the relations of mind, action, and value. The method will be to examine a central text of Wang’s, explicating it in its own terms and suggesting what it might mean in the language of process philosophy. In order to do this it will be necessary to refer at length to some of Wang’s antecedents in the neo-Confucian tradition, and I hope the main points of this essay hold for a general association of neo-Confucianism with process thought.

II. Manifesting the Clear Character

In 1527 Wang Yang-ming wrote his "Inquiry on the Great Learning," a succinct summary of the main themes he had been developing throughout his life. Its structure is a commentary on each of the "three items" in the Great Learning ("manifesting the clear character," "loving the people," "abiding in the highest good") and then a discussion of the meaning and significance of the order of the "eight steps" for attaining the "three items." The first part of that structure allowed Wang to give an epitome of his metaphysical views, and the second provided the occasion for defending his views against the prevailing theory of Chu Hsi (1130-1200)5

The first of the "three items" is that the education of a great man (Or perhaps the text means only the education of an adult) consists in "manifesting the clear character." Whereas for ancient Confucianism this probably referred mainly to the moral virtue of sincerity, for the neo-Confucianists it was an ontological statement about human nature and its grounding in the nature of things.

Wang began his exposition of this "item" with the assertion that "the great man regards Heaven, Earth, and the myriad things as one body" (WYM 272). In this claim Wang was indeed asserting a diversity in the universe; he did not claim with Parmenides and Bradley that Being is one and diversity is somehow illusory; more to the historical point, he was not asserting a Buddhistic version of diversity as illusion. Rather he was asserting that for the great man, Heaven, Earth, and the myriad things -- a longhand expression for the universe -- are connected as parts of a body are connected.

The metaphor of the body can be interpreted in two ways. The first involves construing the body as an objective physical machine with interrelated and coordinated moving parts. Used as a metaphor for the connectivity of the world, this conception of body suggests that the world is a totally integrated physical whole, perhaps a machine. But this is a Cartesian construing of the notion of body, not necessarily congenial to the Chinese tradition.

The second interpretation construes body in a more personal or "embodied" sense, for instance as Husserl and Merleau-Ponty spoke of the "lived body" for which the objectified physical aspects are but abstractions. On this construction Wang’s point would be that for the great man the whole world is a body, that the difference between his personal body and the rest of the universe is trivial, and that his feeling for the rest of the universe is of the sort most people have only for their personal bodies. From the standpoint of process philosophy this point can be made without explicit use of the notion of body. The world is a world for a prehender, with all the physical connections between things being coordinate divisions of prehensions. Whitehead interpreted the human body as a special case of the human world, in a sense reversing Wang’s metaphor. The similarity between them, however, I suggest, is in the kinds of connections each uses to interpret the relation of things to knowers, connections generalized from cognitive activities. Both neo-Confucianism and process philosophy interpret these cognitive activities as natural processes basic to cosmology.

Wang said, "the great man regards Heaven, Earth and the myriad things as one body" (italics mine). Does this mean that in themselves they are not one body but are so only when regarded by a particular point of view? Not at all. Wang also said "that the great man can regard Heaven, Earth, and the myriad things as one body is not because he deliberately wants to do so, but because it is natural to the humane nature of his mind that he do so" (WYM 272). This means, first, that the great man’s view is not a special categoreal scheme or perspective that is one among others and that can be adopted. It is not like William James’s suggestion that we should see things optimistically. The second implication of the statement is that the view of the things as one body is a function of the "human nature" that underlies a person’s particular mind. Even inferior people have this humane nature and see things as one body, except that they quickly cover it up with selfish desires. Wang quotes Mencius on the primordial quality of feelings of commiseration (SCP 65)6 We shall return shortly to why inferior people go wrong.

III. The Great Ultimate, Principle, and Original Nature

Before that, however, it is necessary to reflect briefly on certain general neo-Confucian doctrines presupposed in Wang’s discussion and what these might mean in contemporary terms. Chou Tun-i (1017-73) was the first great neo-Confucian philosopher to set out the major themes that Chu Hsi and Wang Yang-ming took for granted.7 His classic, "An explanation of the Diagram of the Great Ultimate," began with this paragraph:

The Ultimate of Non-being and also the Great Ultimate (T’ai-chi)! The Great Ultimate through movement generates yang. When its activity reaches its limit, it becomes tranquil. Through tranquillity the Great Ultimate generates yin. When tranquillity reaches its limit, activity begins again. So movement and tranquillity alternate and become the root of each other, giving rise to the distinction of yin and yang, and the two modes are thus established (SCP 463).

From the standpoint of our own concerns, the crucial point of this passage is its assertion that the Great Ultimate is a vibratory movement, wherein movement itself has a limit in which it is transformed to tranquillity which returns to the origin of assertive movement again. The ancient concepts of yang (the active part of movement) and yin (the tranquil part) are interpreted as derivative or partial functions of the Great Ultimate’s movement. I take this to assert that the most primoridal sense of what it is to be feels "being" to be vibration. To be is to be one or several vibrations.

This interpretation obviously depends on Whitehead’s language describing the cosmos as a set of vibratory patterns. Its utility for making connections with modern physics is obvious8 Therefore it is important to determine the degree to which this interpretation was in the minds of the neo-Confucians and the extent to which it is a mere implication or possible reading of what they said. It must be admitted at once that they did not develop the notion toward a theoretical physics; nor did they elaborate a prescientific cosmology drawing out the implications of vibratory motion very explicitly. Rather they usually moved very quickly from naturalistic statements to concerns about human nature, ethics and politics.

On the other hand, the sense that to be is to be a "change" illustrating the principles of yang and yin is very ancient and permeated the Chinese culture the neo-Confucians took for granted. It was more basic than the splits between Confucian, Taoist, and other schools. Furthermore, there was no school of thought in China that would have presented a substantialist alternative to the view of being as change; the closest candidate would be the common-sense view of things attacked by the Buddhists as illusion, and even here it was the Indian, not Chinese, sources of Buddhism that became most exercised about criticizing the theory of permanent substances. The Chinese might never have seen the need to sharpen or even develop explicitly the concept of being as vibratory motion. I believe that my interpretation, though not a paraphrase, would not be denied by the neo-Confucians.

I wrote above that "the most primordial sense of what it is to be feels ‘being’ to be vibration" The language of "sensation" is deliberate. The sense that leads to ontology for the Chinese is not vision or touch, as it has been for the West. Nor is it the hearing of the music of things, as it has been for India.9 Rather it is the dance, more particularly the kind of exercise movement traditionally attributed to the Emperor Yu (2205 BC.) for the purpose of bringing health through harmonizing with the universe, and developed through the millennia into what we now know as T’ai Chi Ch’uan and related movements.10 The importance of this is that learning the rhythms of one’s own movement is part of learning to perceive the being of others; ontology requires cultivated experience, though all of us can feel something of what is intended in an ontology of vibratory movement.

Within the Chinese cosmology of vibratory motion, ascending and descending the waves is called yang and yin respectively. Further concepts are needed to describe the amplitude of the waves. These are concepts that would relate a given vibration to its environment of vibrations with which it must harmonize. Each vibration has its intrinsic nature, "given by Heaven" as the neo-Confucians would say; but its nature is determined by the requirements of harmonizing with its background and the larger rhythms of which it is a part. The cosmology of vibratory motion requires a notion of harmony as a central ontological concept.

Although Wang did not develop the point, I believe he presupposed the cosmology of a harmony of vibratory motions as the background to his claim that the sage is one body with the universe. In one sense, every being is one body with the universe in that its rhythms must at least be compatible with the vibrations around it. To be completely out of phase is to self-destruct. But some internal rhythms can be so attuned that they register and reinforce the rhythms of distant vibrations; these are the ones that are "perceptive" of the distant, or ontologically conjoined by virtue of mutually supportive or organically connected harmonies. The meaning of this in terms of human experience was the primary neo-Confucian concern, not its cosmological meaning.

For Chou, the heart of normative human nature is sincerity, a concept originally developed in the ancient Confucian classic, "The Doctrine of the Mean" (SCP 95-114). Sincerity, for Chou, is that harmonizing trait which connects ideal inner tranquillity and all the outer moral activities. He wrote:

Sagehood is nothing but sincerity. It is the foundation of the Five Constant Virtues (humanity, righteousness, propriety, wisdom, and faithfulness) and the source of all activities. When tranquil, it is in the state of non-being, and when active it is in the state of being. It is perfectly correct and clearly penetrating. Without sincerity, the Five Constant Virtues and all activities will be wrong. They will be depraved and obstructed. Therefore with sincerity very little effort is needed (to achieve the mean). (In itself) it is perfectly easy but it is difficult to put into practice. But with determination and firmness, there will be no difficulty. Therefore it is said, "If a man can for one day master himself and return to propriety, all under heaven will return to humanity." (SCP 466)11

What might this mean in terms of contemporary process philosophy? Within an actual occasion the categoreal obligations govern the passage of separately prehensible data, merely subjectively unified, into a novel, concrete, objectively harmonized occasion. This inner process must satisfy the categoreal obligations, as a cosmological necessity. I suggest that the process of concrescence according to categoreal obligations is what Chou and the other neo-Confucians idealize as inner tranquillity. The inner process of concrescence is not isolated from other occasions, however. Each of the other occasions has its own value, the objective fact of its own subjective process of satisfaction of the categoreal obligations. Properly moral subjective concrescence should respect the values of what it prehends and of what later will prehend it. That is, speaking very generally, an occasion should objectify its data "truly," preserving their individually attained values, and superject to its successors the best potentialities (AI, ch. 16).

Of course, these points about actual occasions are made as if actual occasions were people. They are not; at most they are only momentary parts of people; and most occasions are not parts of anyone. The point of process philosophy is that the elements of subjectivity and value, indeed obligation, are found rudimentarily in every actual element. A continuing difficulty with process thought today is the facile slippage from personal language to cosmological language, and then the assumption that a fully elaborated cosmology is a sufficient theory of the human person. Difficulties aside for the moment, the historical point should be stressed that the neo-Confucianists did exactly the same thing, perhaps because something like panentheism was common to both positions.

Sincerity, for Chou Tun-i read into process terms, is the harmony of ideal subjective process with ideal objective perception and effect. Without that harmony there can be an elegant way of satisfying the categoreal demands for subjective harmony that distorts the values of the world and contributes only trouble for the future. There can also be ways of responding objectively to the world and helpfully toward the future which, without harmony, leave the self (or occasions) in either knots or unwoven skeins. Sincerity is the peculiar harmony that maximizes both inner elegance and outer virtue.

It is apparent from these suggestions for interpretation that the model for sincerity is cosmological, not psychological. This was indeed the way Chou took the point. His little essay "An Explanation of the Diagram of the Great Ultimate" begins cosmologically with the generation of yang and yin from the Great Ultimate; from yang and yin come the Five Agents or material forces: water, fire, wood, metal, and earth; and from these all things are made. Then Chou argued:

It is man alone who receives (the Five Agents) in their highest excellence, and therefore he is most intelligent. His physical form appears, and his spirit develops consciousness. The five moral principles of his nature (humanity or jen, righteousness, propriety, wisdom, and faithfulness) are aroused by, and react to, the external world and engage in activity; good and evil are distinguished; and human affairs take place (SCP 463).

Because man is the purest and best exemplar of the manifestation of the Great Ultimate, human virtues (at base, sincerity) provide the names for cosmological factors,

Consequently, in his book, Penetrating the Book of Changes, Chou said that sincerity is the foundation of the sage obtained from the Originator of all things (SCP 465). It is the original nature of man, and not of man only but of all things except not so clearly or excellently. Later neo-Confucianists such as Ch’eng Hao (1032-1085) and Ch’eng I (1033-1107) developed more straightforwardly cosmological concepts to interpret the original nature of man, namely "principle of nature" and "material force." Roughly, the "principle of nature" is the set of categoreal obligations and "material force" is creativity organized in its basic ways (e.g., as active and passive and as the physical elements) and expressed as initial data. Chu Hsi, the greatest of the neo-Confucianists before Wang Yang-ming, argued that each thing in the universe has its own nature or principle, and that this principle is antecedent to but never separate from the thing’s material force (PHN, bk. II). For these later thinkers the concept of jen, meaning love or humanity, took the place of sincerity in Chou’s thought as describing the ideal harmony of inner process and outer connections.

IV. One Body

In light of this background, we can reinterpret Wang Yang-ming’s claim that "the great man regards Heaven, Earth, and the myriad things as one body." Great because of his humanity (jen), the sage harmonizes his internal process with all things to which he is related. But what about the person who is less than a sage? Is humanity (jen) universal, or is it a special achievement of greatness? This is an ancient question for Confucianism.

Wang addressed this question from two sides. On the first he argued by a series of steps that a person, great or inferior, identifies with all things. If he sees a child about to fall into a well, he feels immediate alarm and commiseration; but the feeling of humanities does not extend only to his "brothers." Wang wrote,

Again, when he observes the pitiful cries and frightened appearance of birds and animals about to be slaughtered, he cannot help feeling an "inability to bear" their sufferings. This shows that his humanity forms one body with birds and animals. It may be objected that birds and animals are sentient beings as he is. But when he sees plants broken and destroyed, he cannot help a feeling of pity. This shows that his humanity forms one body with plants. It may be said that plants are living things as he is. Yet, even when he sees tiles and stones shattered and crushed, he cannot help a feeling of regret. This shows that his humanity forms one body with tiles and stones. (WYM 272)

Note that Wang was explicitly rejecting the view that love or identification -- regarding as one body with oneself -- is a matter of affinity with things like oneself. It is not a matter of appreciating out of analogy with a sense for one’s own feelings. Rather, it is a fundamental appreciation for the values of things’ own natures, and a pang at the loss of those values. This is similar to Whitehead’s point that the primary objects of prehension are other occasions or nexuses of occasions replete with the subjective senses of their own satisfactions. In the process theory of actual occasions, the intrinsic formal value of prehended things is very quickly compromised by the need of the prehending occasion to valuate the things relative to the demands of its own satisfaction. The world is mostly transmuted to structures and lines of energy. Only in human beings, indeed only in connoisseurs, is there a highly developed capacity to integrate prehended things into one’s own subjective experience while acknowledging the objective natures and values of those things. For the most part, physical low-level occasions, and even people most of the time, forget the values things have in themselves and attend only to the values they have in their own coming satisfaction. Massive negative prehension is the price most things pay for subjective harmony. This is precisely Wang’s point: the great man should learn how not to have to pay that price. The scope of prehensions unites all things into one body, but only the sage can regard things that way because only he can minimize negative prehensions.

Wang does not infer from the above that the sage is a higher grade of being than the inferior person. Rather, the inferior person has the same nature the sage does, but obscures it by allowing himself selfish desires. This is Wang’s second approach to the question of the universality of humanity (jen). The effect of having selfish desires is not immediate immorality but rather the breakdown of the harmony between inner process and outer things. Having a selfish desire interposes between the categoreal obligations of subjective satisfaction, and the objective values of things to be attended to, a bad principle of valuation, namely that things should be valued for their contribution to a personal idea of self. This is more than merely valuing things according to their potentials for integration in satisfaction. It is also more than negatively prehending things in order to achieve integration. It is to value things according to how they serve an idea of self in distinction from the rest of the world. The idea of the self, so used, destroys the sage’s regard of the whole world as one body. As Wang put it,

the learning of the great man consists entirely in getting rid of the obscuration of selfish desires in order by his own efforts to make manifest his clear character, so as to restore the condition of forming one body with Heaven, Earth, and the myriad things, a condition that is originally so, that is all. (WYM 273)

Would Wang have said that the original human nature, manifested by the sage as humanity or love, is different from the principle inherent in other things? In one sense yes. Only people have the "clear character" according to which all things are regarded as one body, which it is the duty of the great man to manifest. In another sense, not necessarily. When a great man grasps another thing as part of his body, he does so by appreciating its principle; as we shall see Wang also argued, the principles of all things are identical with the principle to be found in one’s own mind. What might that principle be? My suggestion is, the categoreal obligations for grasping a world into a new valuable actuality; the character a person has, even if obscured by selfish desires, is the same that animals, plants, and tiles have; in nonhumans, that character lacks clarity because of what process philosophy calls "negative prehension.

V. Loving the People

The second characteristic of the learning of a great man is "loving the people." Wang explained this by saying

To manifest the clear character is to bring about the substance of the state of forming one body with Heaven, Earth, and the myriad things, whereas loving the people is to put into universal operation the function of the state of forming one body. (WYM 273)12

This involved Wang in an interpretation of the ancient Chinese distinction of substance from function. Roughly, the substance of a thing is what it is in itself, and its function is what it is interacting with others. A thing functions according to its own inner principle (as well as according to the possibilities offered by the things with which it interacts). When the thing is considered in its substance, the principle is there but inactive, undifferentiated and unmanifest. When the thing is considered in its functioning, the principle is the guiding force of its activity, diversely relating to the myriad things. For the Confucian tradition, a person touches his substance in the meditation that attains tranquillity; a person’s function is seen in his relations as rightly ordered.

Wang’s contribution here was to point out that the humanity by virtue of which the great man is one body with the world can be regarded both as substance and as function.13 As substance, the person’s own personal being apart from expressions, humanity is the manifestation of the clear character by which the world is regarded as one body. This is a complicated theory. How can the sage regard the world as one body when he still has the continuing task of making it one body? Is this not a simple confusion of the ideal with the real?

Wang’s usual way of responding to this difficulty is to point out the continuity of knowledge and action. A person does not really know himself to be one body with others unless he is interacting with them in "bodily harmony." This is not merely a matter of his own intentions but of theirs too. For the sage to love the people he must also "renovate" them, that is, make them also great.14 This picks up the traditional Confucian theme -- the main theme of the "Great Learning"-- that by perfecting one’s own life one has a causal influence on perfecting the lives of others, a topic to which we shall return.

At the moment, however, let me stress a point that will pose some difficulties. It seems as if the world is not one body, regardless of how the sages would like to see it; if this were not so there would be no need for effort; on this interpretation, reality simply has not measured up to the ideal. Wang and some other Confucianists see the matter differently. For them the world at base is indeed really ideal, one body, as it were; evil is the superimposition by selfish desires of feelings and actions that pervert the ideal harmony.15 The bulk of the moral program then is the elimination of selfish desires so that the original clear character will shine through, or so that love of the people will be fulfilled, with all that means for the ordering of the family, economy, and state. Put in theological terms, Wang believed that "after the fall" human nature was still intact underneath and moreover man was still in the Garden of Eden. Put another way, the disharmonies that rend the otherwise organic fabric of the world are all functions of one’s selfishness. But is this so?

VI. Abiding in the Highest Good

Before pursuing this point it is necessary to examine Wang’s interpretation of the third item of the "Great Learning," namely, "abiding in the highest good." He wrote:

The highest good is the ultimate principle of manifesting character and loving people. The nature endowed in us by Heaven is pure and perfect. The fact that it is intelligent, clear, and not beclouded is evidence of the emanation and revelation of the highest good. It is the original substance of the clear character which is called innate knowledge of the good. (WYM 274)16

I take this to mean that the highest good is the Heaven that endows us with our original nature or substance, and that in its substantiality, that is, apart from expressive functioning, this original nature is innate knowledge of its own source. In its functioning, the clear character is an innate knowledge of the good as expressed in things, one’s own mind and other things. This valuational quality of inner subjectivity carrying through all experience is characteristic of neo-Confucianism generally. Wang’s own special emphasis is on the fact that if the good can be found functioning within one’s own mind, there is no need to investigate things outside the mind for the purpose of abiding in the highest good; this is the chief point of his dispute with Chu Hsi.17

The general theme of abiding in the highest good is the greatest contribution neo-Confucianism has to contemporary philosophy, because it is the point at which an axiological theory of experience is put forward. Without the necessity of working through the fact-value dichotomy, neo-Confucianism presents an understanding of the knowledge of things’ inner principles in which those principles are values.18

Process philosophy can help explicate "abiding in the highest good" in modern terms, and in turn can learn from that doctrine some ramifications of its own view. First of all, from an objective or coordinate point of view, everything has a pattern or structure; one interpretation of the Chinese term for principle (li) is "pattern." Process philosophy points out that patterns are not only facts or forms of facts but also values. The reason for this is that each pattern or structured thing is a satisfaction, or a nexus of satisfactions. In other terms, a structure has the value of being a means to an end. The end is the satisfying of the categoreal obligations of harmony within the limits imposed by the initial data; the concrete satisfaction is the means by which this end is achieved (PR 127-30)19 Without the factual character of the structure, there would be no actual means by which the end is attained. But without the value of being a means to some end, a structure is radically unintelligible; it must always be somehow "mysterious," as Wittgenstein suggested, that there is such a thing as formal coherence.

Of course, most if not all structures of which we are aware in experience are not the result of single occasions but of nexuses of them; they exhibit a great many satisfactions. Most of them, however, are socially organized so that the satisfaction of each member occasion is coordinated with the satisfactions of many of the others, so the value of the whole has extra coherence. With neo-Confucianism, process philosophy offers as an empirical generalization the proposition that experience is shot through with valuing. To take in a structure is to take it in as the achievement of satisfaction; the factual character of the structure may be isolated from the value elements, and for many practical purposes it is; but this should be recognized as abstraction from the basic "principle" of the structure.

Second, from a genetic or subjective point of view, the principle of a thing is the set of categoreal obligations that define the process of attaining satisfaction for its initial data. The initial data are the "material forces," as it were, needing regulation by "principle" -- the categoreal obligations of creativity -- in order to be existent or present. Stated this way, Wang Yang-ming was surely right that there is only one "principle" in all things. Things differ because of their diverse initial data; as I shall argue shortly there is also another source of difference that Wang does not explicitly take into account. Meanwhile, a common process theme should be mentioned here: in a genetic analysis of an occasion, "principle" would be "innately" present in the sense that the categoreal obligations of creativity govern the genetic process. Moreover, the initial data incorporated into the emerging occasion are themselves innate exemplars of the categoreal obligations. The categoreal obligations, to use Wang’s language, are the clear character of man’s (or anything’s) original nature that the sage might manifest. They are also the principles of other things to which the sage might be related. Because the obligations are present in process, Wang believed they not only are innate but can be known innately. Although it might require sagacity to express this objectively, what he meant was that insofar as a person apprehends the value of something, he apprehends it as satisfying "principle," that is as being a means to the end of incorporating the categoreal obligations in the process of making an actual thing out of initial data.

Third, for both neo-Confucianism and process philosophy, exhibiting "principle" allows of degrees. That is, although all processes and resulting structures must be harmonious out of conformity to the categoreal obligations, some ways of meeting those obligations with certain data are more harmonious than other ways with those same data. In particular, as Whitehead expressed the theme, human beings can live with truth, beauty and adventure, which are superlative ways of meeting the categoreal obligations as relevant to human life. The obligations can be met without truth, beauty or adventure, or with only minimal attainments. In neo-Confucian terms, abiding in the highest good is not merely exhibiting "principle," which all things do willy-nilly, but also adjusting those aspects of life under possible control to resonate with the fact of exhibiting principle. Wang and most other neo-Confucians would have argued, as noted above, that the failure to exhibit principle in the highest degree is a result of corrupting selfishness, not lack of original attainment. The result is similar to that expressed in process philosophy, however, that harmony is minimally, not maximally, embodied.

The acknowledgment that the exhibition of "principle" allows of degrees is important for its contribution to solving a larger issue for Chinese thought, most pressing for Taoism (neo-Confucianism had incorporated most Taoist themes). Because the Tao is the principle of existence, nothing can escape it; yet clearly many things depart from the Tao. This is possible because there are minimal and maximal ways of being in the Tao, and many ways in between.

A fourth point of contact between neo-Confucianism and process philosophy regarding value is that for both it is an ontological matter. Principle is that by which things exist, for Wang and other neo-Confucianists. For process philosophy the ontological condition for existence is the satisfaction of the categoreal obligations; past occasions provide the cosmological data and causal constraints, but emergent existence is a matter of meeting the obligations.

The ontological character of the innate quality of value raises the further question of why this is what it means to be rather than something else. Why are these categoreal obligations the way to harmony? That they fit our intuitive sense (or do not) is an empirical matter. But why is harmony "that way?" No description of the conditions for harmony can give the normative reasons for their being obligatory. The Chinese respond to this question by citing Heaven as the source of principle.20 Principle is the original gift native to every determinate thing and process. In itself indeterminate, Heaven or the Great Ultimate gives rise to a principled world.21 On the one hand, there is a sense of arbitrariness in the creative process; yet, on the other hand, Heaven is Heaven precisely because its creation is principled. The theology connected with most process thought asserts that God is finite and does not create in a radical sense; because God is said to be bound by the categoreal obligations, he cannot account for why they are normative. A more radical doctrine of creation is not incompatible with a process cosmology, however; God can be represented as a creator ex nihilo that, from the standpoint of the harmonies of the world, is similar to Plato’s Form of the Good.22

Wang’s interest in "abiding" in the highest good was more immediately moral than ontological. He pointed out that if the superior person does not abide in the highest good, his attempts to manifest the clear character or love the people are likely to go awry. The Buddhists and Taoists sought to manifest the clear character without abiding in the highest good, and lost their minds "in illusions, emptiness, and quietness, having nothing to do with the work of the family, the state, and the world" (WYM 274f). Those who want to love the people without abiding in the highest good sink "their own minds in base and trifling things," losing them in scheming strategy and cunning techniques having neither the sincerity of humanity nor that of commiseration (WYM 274). The point is, both the normative character of harmony within and the objective satisfaction without can be lost, with only factual consideration remaining, unless the value dimension of being is explicitly cultivated.

VII. Investigation of Things

From this point on in his essay Wang dealt with practical implications of his exposition of manifesting the clear character, loving the people, and abiding in the highest good. They fall under three main heads.

The first is his argument that the "principle" should not be sought in external things. Chu Hsi and others had argued that the foundation of Confucian learning, i.e., the "three items," were to be found through investigation of external things. Wang argues that this just leads to the mind’s being confused (WYM 274f.). Of course one must investigate things in order to know what they are, Wang would admit, but one could not discern the "principle" in them if one did not already have that in oneself, and have it identified there. The cultivation of "principle" in tranquillity and peaceful repose therefore allows norms to be brought to deliberation instead of sought in deliberation itself. This makes sense in terms of process philosophy insofar as it means that the categoreal obligations are universal and that it is by discerning them in oneself that one especially appreciates the satisfactions of others as normative. But insofar as there is a parallel with process philosophy at this point, two additions must be made to the problem.

First of all, despite the universality of the categoreal obligations each event in the universe is unique in having its own place, its own data to integrate, and its own subjectivity. As a result, the means, i.e., the "satisfying" structure, by which any other occasion would meet its obligations is unique to itself. Therefore, a person could not know anything about a particular thing other than himself by knowing only the categoreal obligations in himself or in abstraction.

Second, even if a person knew the categoreal obligations and the initial data for another event, that event has its own subjectivity by which it spontaneously weights the importance its antecedents will have for it. So, in order to know how and to what degree "principle" is realized in another thing, it is necessary to investigate it directly.

Wang wrote, "People fail to realize that the highest good is in their minds and seek it outside. As they believe that everything or every event has its own definite principle, they search for the highest good in individual things (WYM 274). But everything does have its own definite "principle." Although "principle" or the categoreal obligations are ingredient in everything, each case is unique. Apart from structuring specific processes, "principle" is vacuous or indeterminate. The statement of "principle" in abstraction from specific processes, as Whitehead makes in discussing the categoreal obligations, is merely an empirical generalization of nodal points in the way of becoming harmonious, not an exhibition of the normativeness of "principle" or the obligations for any particular entities.23

At this point it is relevant to recall the general neo-Confucian conception of nature as a complex, harmonious configuration of vibratory changes. Suppose we said that a person appreciates a distant thing by grasping its vibratory character, its rhythms and the connections of its rhythms with the surrounding environment and across intervening distance. This would be done by virtue of the extraordinarily complex rhythms within human experience wherein the core of the person’s own experience is made compatible with the rhythms of external things, with minimal distortion, and whereby semantic rhythms within the person’s experience point out the external reference; Whitehead’s discussion of symbolic reference is a good account of this. With this level of interpretation, the experience of experiencing a distant thing would be a kind of concrete feel of the harmonious nature in which both the thing felt and the feeler exist, a feeling of participating in the Tao that includes the perceived thing. Put another way, one can feel oneself to be in natural connection with the distant thing; the thing can be isolated for strict observation only by a process of abstraction that somehow attempts to neutralize the intervening medium.

This feeling of harmonious connection with other things is perfectly concrete, and if it serves as a categoreally basic feeling, puts a new perspective on both the knowledge of principle (categoreal obligations) and the knowledge of particular other things arising out of their specific initial data. Knowledge of principle is completely abstract: as noted above, the categoreal obligations are universal for all occasions and are actually indefinite without some specific initial data. The particular actual entities prehended, according to process philosophy, are absolutely unique, both because of the uniqueness of their initial data and because of the individuality of their own subjective processes of unifying those data.

Within the ambiance of process philosophy, experience of another thing is usually presented as a matter of receiving the other as datum and then transmuting it so as to make it compatible with other demands within the experiencing occasion: the Other/Self dichotomy is preserved in a strict fashion, and doubtless there are important contexts where this is valid. But suppose there are indeed aafeelings of harmonious connection" within which both the appreciation of categoreal obligation ("principle") and the givenness of the data of others are abstractions. One’s self-constitution would be a vibratory response to the rhythms felt in the environing universe, but the character of that response would be a harmonic constituent of the larger "body" of the universe. The "morality" of self-constitution would include both the acknowledgment of distant rhythms and setting up one’s own rhythm so as to enhance those others. To bring such feelings of harmonious connection to consciousness is unlikely to be a frequent occurrence. But it is not incompatible with Whitehead’s vision of things, and indeed is closely allied to the sense of Peace that he articulated in his later writings.

What I have called "feelings of harmonious connection" are not explicitly discussed and defended by Wang Yang-ming. Is there any ground for thinking he asserted something like them in other terms? I believe they are natural extensions of the doctrine of vibratory motion underlying yang and yin that is common to the entire heritage of neo-Confucianism. Indeed, those feelings must be close to what the entire Chinese tradition has meant by being aware of one’s participation in the Tao.

Second, I believe this notion was what Wang was reaching for in his attempt to extend the concept of principle to cover what some other neo-Confucianists called material force. His insistence on monism was not aimed to reduce the particularity and materiality of the world to ideal "principle" in some subjective sense, although he did misstate his case when he called for seeking principle within oneself instead of in external things. His monism was rather the doctrine that genuinely human functioning was a concrete grasp of the rhythms of the universe in harmony; from the perspective of the actual rhythms of the universe, both particular initial data and universal categoreal obligations are partial and abstract. Finally, there are other doctrines of Wang that make good sense on this interpretation, among which are the following.

VIII. Roots and Branches

Wang’s second main practical theme had to do with the continuity of process. "Things have their roots and their branches," said the Great Learning, and Chu Hsi had likened manifesting the clear character to the roots and loving the people to the branches (WYM 276). Wang objected that this inevitably leads to making these two things and argued instead that manifesting the clear character consists in loving the people, and vice versa (so long as this continuous process abides in the highest good). To distinguish strongly between roots and branches is to encourage self-preoccupation on the one hand and unintegrated moral activity on the other. So far so good; pragmatism has made a similar point.

But if we remember the problem above concerning "principle" in things outside one’s mind, we must cope with the problem of contingency. An act of love issuing from one’s own clearly manifested character cannot flow smoothly through the world to its objects as guided by principle. The specific expression of principles of other things might be different; further, other things have their own subjective responses to make that might thwart the love (or renovation). The superior person simply does not have the control over others and over the nonanimate part of the world that Wang and other Confucianists would like to think.24 The metaphor of roots and branches might be too limited.

From the perspective of process thought, the problem is that of spontaneity. Although each occasion is obligated to constitute itself within the limits of its initial data and the tolerance of the environment, it exercises spontaneity in doing so, and when the occasions are parts of complex human experience, that spontaneity might be significant. One person’s self-constitution cannot affect the spontaneity of another’s except through persuasion; furthermore, limiting attempts to influence to mere persuasion is one way of showing basic human respect. Where the self/other dichotomy is strictly observed, influence and control can be nothing more than presenting oneself as initial data to be done with as the other occasion may. But from the perspective of the world as an interlocking harmony of rhythms, one’s action is the setting up of a chain of vibratory processes within which other people move. They, of course, behave with some spontaneity and may act so as to change the rhythms one intends for them. But the overarching concrete harmonic pattern is a larger matrix of value than either their own personal ideals or one’s own initial intentions.

My suggestion is that the metaphor of roots and branches ought not be interpreted by identifying one’s initiating actions as the roots and the consequences of those actions in others as the branches. Rather, the roots and branches are the proximate and remote elements of the overall harmonic process of the universe.

Wang was correct precisely in his insistence in not separating them. The limitation on this point, however, is that people do have the spontaneous ability to fit within the overall harmonies in ways that minimally harmonize, that barely meet the categoreal obligations; the price paid for this diminution of one’s rhythmic answer to nature’s pulses is the necessity to erect a barrier of a narcissistic image of self and world to which one answers instead.

IX. From Person to Society

Wang’s third theme brings out the critical elements in the others even more. Asked to explicate the passage from the Great Learning that says the sages ordered the state by cultivating their personal lives in knowledge and will, Wang developed his view that the rectified will or innate knowledge of the good is the foundation for action and knowledge of external things. All things, from the inner mind to ordering the state, are "really one thing," Wang said.

Now the original substance of the mind is man’s nature. Human nature being universally good, the original substance of the mind is correct. How is it that any effort is required to rectify the mind? The reason is that, while the original substance of the mind is originally correct, incorrectness enters when one’s thoughts and will are in operation. Therefore he who wishes to rectify his mind must rectify it in connection with the operation of his thoughts and will. (WYM 277)

Wang exegeted his statement with the comment that only when one is actually willing things or thinking thoughts does the question arise as to their goodness or evil; prior to the "functioning" of will and thinking there is only the original nature or principle. A well-cultivated person responds to good thoughts and actions as good, bad ones as bad. What does the cultivation consist in? It consists in extending the innate knowledge of principle, the highest good, into all objects of thought and action so that their real value-character is manifest.

To extend that knowledge is to investigate those things. The external world cannot be ignored; it must be investigated so as to manifest its structured value. Chu Hsi would say the "investigating" means finding out what things are. In contrast, Wang said, "To investigate is to rectify" (WYM 279), by which he means a person knows an external thing by rectifying it so that it is lovingly conformed to principle. Rejecting all strong distinctions between internal and external things, Wang defined a thing as an object of will. Anticipating Josiah Royce. Wang argued that willing a thing’s good is the way to know it. On his view, it would not make sense to say one knows a bad thing; in the complete sense of "know," the sense appropriate to the sage, "to know" is "to will."

Therefore the rectification of the mind so as to bring its functioning into consonance with the highest good is the foundation for all particular willed actions and acts of knowing, including matters of government. "If one sincerely loves the good known by the innate faculty but does not in reality do the good as he comes into contact with the thing to which the will is directed, it means that the thing has not been investigated and that the will to love the good is not yet sincere" (WYM 279).

This is a remarkable, and dangerous, strategy as it stands, for it amounts to saying that moral and political action flow naturally from a cultivated personal life. Let me briefly develop this line of criticism, leaving for another time the discussion of the identification of will and knowledge.

From the perspective of process philosophy, the events of the world are unique and perhaps interestingly contingent; this is particularly true of the events comprising personal and social life. Therefore. there are cosmologically built-in limits to the moral force of a person, indeed to his moral ideals. Whereas it may be true that there is an ideal state of affairs for all the things affected by a person’s actions, it is not at all true that it is ideal that they should be made to realize their ideals by his actions alone. In most human affairs, freedom to be self-governing is a rather higher ideal than most of the ideals about which governance decisions would be made.25

If a Confucian sage could indeed strictly order the state by his investigative will, that would be a totalitarian situation. Confucians earlier than Wang noted that a sage-king could order the state by encouraging people to imitate his own virtue; but this is not the same as causing the people to be virtuous by the will that knows them.

Now I believe that if the concept of vibratory change is noted as the background to Wang’s thought, a different interpretation emerges. To know and to will a thing would mean both to reverberate to its rhythms in ways that reinforce what is good and to set up improved rhythms where possible. One could no more control another person than one dancer can force the movements of another dancer. But one dancer is neither knowing nor caring for the other without dancing in such a way as to acknowledge tenderly and to provide rhythms for the other’s initiative. A caring dancer evokes spontaneity in others with the very rhythms he or she sets up. Herbert Fingarette has developed an elaborate interpretation of Confucius in which the dominant thesis is that the ruler governs the empire, establishing harmony and peace, by a kind of ritual dance or observance of propriety.26 Wang was no totalitarian!

X. Unresolved Paradoxes

At this point it is necessary for me to admit that the interpretation I have been pressing based on the notion of vibratory change and harmony has lifted up an extreme Taoist tendency in Wang. It emphasizes a communication with nature and other people whose rhythms do not always respect the idiosyncrasies of individuals. Particularly, it tends to dismiss into irrelevance those elements of spontaneity that are not significant for the great harmonies of natural and social life, and those elements of degrading brute force whose existential harmony with nature thwarts humanity.

It also suggests that social and political strategy would not respect the rules of propriety, or the integrity of private experience, if propriety and private integrity stand in opposition to the larger rhythms of harmony and justice. Indeed, the Confucians traditionally criticized the Taoists for taking propriety and private integrity too lightly, for being willing to use deceit in strategy and public affairs. I believe this is not an unfair interpretation of Wang Yang-ming. His great achievements were as a military leader -- a Taoist occupation -- rather than as a Confucian court scholar. His famous victory over royal rebels was based on deceiving envoys.

But where does this leave us with regard to ethics and political theory? For is it not the case that the problems we so often must deal with are the brute, disharmonic forces of poverty, malice, stupidity, and entrenched personal and group interest? To focus on the high level harmonic connections of things is to mystify practical politics and permit what should be changed. Does not justice sometimes demand paying strict attention to the Self/Other dichotomy? Is it not the case in fact that the Maoists are right in insisting on changing the basic material conditions of life before attempting the subtler cultivation of character through interpersonal rhythms and that the traditional approaches of both Confucianism and Taoism were counterrevolutionary?

I suspect that the answer to those rhetorical questions is yes and that the resolutions of the problems they pose will involve distinguishing various kinds of experience and assigning to each a domain of appropriate roles. The Taoist awareness of the harmonic connections of the universe has its place, particularly in contexts of cultivation of the spirit. The moral experience of dealing with resolutely opposed Others also has its place, and the norms for that kind of experience are not easily derivable from considerations manifesting the clear character. loving the people, and abiding in the highest good.

A cosmology of social thinking is needed to sort and order these and other kinds of experience. The hallmark of such a cosmology would be an emphasis on the participation of all parties rather than the harmonic pattern in which they participate, for the pattern is moral to the extent that it is an extension of individual, responsible exercise of spontaneity. Neither neo-Confucianism nor process philosophy so far has contributed a cosmology of social thinking.

The remarkable ethical point about Wang Yang-ming was that in his vigorous and active life he continually kept his immediate practical concerns in contact with his metaphysical tradition concerning value. It is a topic for another essay, though the point is well explored in Tu Wei-ming’s book, to discern how Wang’s personal spiritual development was the occasion for making his metaphysical life concrete.



PHN -- Chu Hsi, Philosophy of Human Nature, trans. byJ. Percy Bruce. London: Probsthain & Co., 1922.

SCP -- Wing-tsit Chan, ed. and trans., Sourcebook in Chinese Philosophy. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1963.

WYM -- Wang Yang-ming, Instructions for Practical Living, trans. by Wing-tsit Chan. New York: Columbia University Press, 1963.



1. See, for instance, Whitehead’s RM; Hartshorne’s Creative Synthesis and Philosophic Method (La Salle, Ill.: Open Court, 1970); John B. Cobb, Jr.’s "Buddhist Emptiness and the Christian Cod," Journal of the American Academy of Religion 45/1 (March, 1977), 11-26; and Christ in a Pluralistic Age (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1975); for several critical dialogues on this issue, see John Cobb’s Theology in Process, edited by David Ray Griffin and Thomas J. J. Altizer (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1977).

2. See Chang Chung-yan’s Creativity and Taoism: A Study of Chinese Philosophy, Art, and Poetry (New York: Harper, 1970); and David Hall’s Uncertain Phoenix (New York: Fordham University Press, forthcoming).

3. Tu Wei-ming, Neo-Confucian Thought in Action: Wang Yang-ming’s Youth (1472-1509) (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976).

4. Julia Ching, To Acquire Wisdom: The Way of Wang Yang-ming (New York: Columbia University Press, 1976).

5. Chu Hsi was the great systematic synthesizer of Sung neo-Confucianism. Just as Thomas Aquinas provided the great synthesis of medieval Christian responses to Aristotelian and Arabic thought, so Chu brought together Confucianism’s incorporation of Taoism and Buddhism. His editions and interpretations of the Chinese classics were the basis of the civil service examinations in China from 1313 to 1905! Selections of Chu’s writings are in Chan’s Source Book; see also PHN. For background see J. Percy Bruce’s Chu Hsi and His Masters: An Introduction to Chu Hsi and the Sung School of Chinese Philosophy (London: Probsthain & Co., 1923); also Professor Carsun Chang’s The Development of Neo-Confucian Thought, Volume I (New York: Bookman Associates, 1957).

6. Book of Mencius, 2A:6, (SCP 65).

7. For a brief biography and exposition see Bruce’s Chu Hsi and His Masters, chs. 2 and 6.

8. Cf. SMW. For a more complete development of themes of "vibration" in Eastern thought and modern physics, see Fritjof Capra’s The Tao of Physics (Berkeley: Shambala, 1975.)

9. See Antonio T. de Nicolas’ Four Dimensional Man (Stony Brook, N.Y.: Nicolas Hays, 1976), and Ernest C. McClain’s The Myth of Invariance (Stony Brook, N.Y.: Nicolas Hays, 1976).

10. See Sophia Delza’s Tai Chi Ch’uan: Body and Mind in Harmony (New York: David McKay, 1961), appendix.

11. The internal quotation is from Analects 12:1, in Chan, p. 38.

12. Wang’s general line of argument concerning the origin of evil had been originally developed by Chang Tsai (1020-1077); see for instance Chang’s Correcting Youthful Ignorance, SCP 507-14.

13. Although this particular interpretation is original with Wang, Ch’eng Hao had written, "The man of jen forms one body with all things without any differentiation. Righteousness, propriety, wisdom, and faithfulness are all (expression of) Jen," in his essay "On Understanding the Nature of Jen (Humanity)," SCP 523.

14. The "item" in the Great Learning, "loving the people," can also be translated "renovating the people," which was Chu Hsi’s preferred rendering. Wang argued that it means both loving in the sense that a parent loves a child and also renovating in the sense of to "arouse the people to become new," a phrase from a later portion of the Great Learning (WYM 51).

15. Ch’eng Hao, for instance, wrote "everyone’s nature is obscured in some way and as a consequence he cannot follow the Way. In general the trouble lies in resorting to selfishness and the exercise of cunning. Being selfish, one cannot take purposive action to respond to things, and being cunning, one cannot be at home with enlightenment. For a mind that hates external things to seek illumination in a mind where nothing exists, is to look for a reflection on the back of a mirror," from "Reply to Mater Heng-chu’s Letter," SCP 256. Chu Hsi said, "Whatever remedy you find for the distraction and distress of the Mind you cannot regain its lordship. You must perceive and understand the principles of the universe without the slightest admixture of selfish motives, then you will succeed. . . . Otherwise, you will find that selfish desire becomes like a live dragon or tiger, impossible to master (PHN 247; cf. 264-66). Wang Yang-ming discussed desires throughout the Instructions for Practical Living; see for instance part II, section 161 (WYM 140f.).

16. In his Investigation of Things Wang wrote, "The highest good is the original substance of the mind. It is no other than manifesting one’s clear character to the point of refinement and singleness of mind. And yet it is not separated from the events and things. When Chu Hsi said in his commentary that (manifesting the clear character is) ‘the realization of the Principle of Nature to the fullest extent without an iota of selfish human desire,’ he got the point" (WYM 7).

17. Chu was not as "externalistic" as Wang sometimes made him out. Chu wrote, "The mind embraces all principles and all principles are complete in this single entity, the mind. If one is not able to preserve the mind, he will be unable to investigate principle to the utmost. If he is unable to investigate principle to the utmost he will be unable to exert his mind to the utmost" (SCP 606). On the other hand, as will be discussed below, Chu Hsi did believe that external things must be investigated to understand principle thoroughly. He wrote, "From the most essential and most fundamental about oneself to every single thing or affair in the world, even the meaning of one word or half a word, everything should be investigated to the utmost, and none of it is unworthy of attention. . . .There is no other way to investigate principle to the utmost than to pay attention to everything in our daily reading of books and handling of affairs. . . . To investigate principle to the utmost means to seek to know the reason or which things and affairs are as they are and the reason according to which they should be, that is all if we know why they are as they are, our will will not be perplexed, and if we know what they should be, our action will not be wrong. It does not mean to take the principle of something and put it in another" (SCP 610f).

18. Whereas Chu distinguished the "reason for which things and affairs are as they are" from the "reason according to which they should be," Wang emphasized an identity of fact and value in things’ reasons or principles; all neo-Confucianism stressed the continuity of value with fact in experience.

19. Whitehead says here (PR 127, for instance, the "‘order’ in the actual world is differentiated from mere givenness by introduction of adaption for the attainment of an end."

20. See, for instance PHN Book I, "The Nature and the Decree" passim; Wang treated the theme throughout his Instructions for Practical Living, for instance in part II, WYM 96.

21. See Bruce’s discussion of the Great Ultimate in chapter VI of his Chu Hsi and His Masters.

22. The alternative conception of God is developed in my God the Creator (Chicago. University of Chicago Press, 1968); the connection with Plato’s Form of the Good is developed in my Cosmology of Freedom (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1974), chapter 3.

23. That Whitehead’s basic categories are empirical generalizations without demonstrated normativeness even when ingredient in specific entities is argued, in connection with the Category of the Ultimate, in my "Whitehead on the One and the Many," Southern Journal of Philosophy, 7/4 (Winter 1969-70), pp. 387-93.

24. This is not to suggest the neo-Confucianists believed that a sage could control completely through efficient causes. Still they believed that control was not limited by the responses of others if one’s own character were perfected to manifest principle clearly.

25. See Cosmology of Freedom, chapters 9 and 11.

26. Herbert Fingarette, Confucius: The Secular as Sacred (New York: Harper Torch-books, 1972).