Past Event

How to be Moral: Practical Tips from a Chosŏn Confucian

September 28, 2023
4:00 PM - 5:30 PM
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School of International and Public Affairs, 420 West 118th Street, Room 918, New York, NY 10027

Speaker: Donald Baker, Professor in Korean History and Civilization, Department of Asian Studies, The University of British Columbia

Moderator: Jungwon Kim, King Sejong Associate Professor of Korean Studies, EALAC, Columbia University

Tasan Chŏng Yagyong (1762-1836) is often called the epitome of a Practical Learning (sirhak) scholar.  Historians usually point to his writings on government and on medicine as well as his role in building the Hwasŏng fortress south of Seoul as evidence of his practical bent. Less often noted is the practicality of his moral philosophy, probably because he constructed his moral philosophy through commentaries on ancient Confucian classics. This talk will examine Tasan’s discussion of two of those classics, the Daxue and the Zhongyong, to show how he drew on them to argue for what he believed was a more realistic, and more practical, approach to the Confucian project of the cultivation of a moral character.

Tasan argued that many of the core assumptions of Neo-Confucian philosophy made it more difficult for men and women to develop the ability to act the way they knew they should act. He proposed an alternative understanding of human nature and virtue which, he believed, pointed toward more effective, and more practical, ways of cultivating the ability to act appropriately. This talk will introduce some of those suggestions for how to be moral put forward by Tasan.

This event is hosted by the Weatherhead East Asian Institute and cosponsored by the Center for Korean Research.

Registration: To attend this event in-personplease register HERE

Contact Information

Julie Kwan