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From life state to ecological consciousness: on Wang Yangming’s “natural principles of order within the realm of liang zhi”

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Wang Yangming argues that the life state of a virtuous person is “forming one body with Heaven, Earth and the myriad things.” For instance, in watching a child fall into a well, he cannot help feeling alarmed and commiserate; In observing the pitiful cries and frightened appearance of animals, he cannot help feeling “unable to bear” their suffering; In seeing plants destroyed or tiles shattered, he cannot help but feel pity and regret and so forth. At the same time, he also stresses that there is a natural order of values with the help of which a human being deals with the myriad things, namely the natural principles of order within the realm of liang zhi. From a practical perspective, Yangming integrated these two aspects into a spontaneously psychological self-consciousness and an intuition of judgment and choice. Under its direction and instruction, human beings cannot only generally care for the myriad things, but also make reasonable use of them. Therefore, the significant reference to “the natural principles of order within the realm of liang zhi” involves the harmony between nature and human beings from life state to ecological consciousness.


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