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On the creativity and innateness of the “strong, moving vital force”: A discussion of Feng Youlan’s “explanation of Mencius’ chapter on the ‘strong, moving vital force’ ”

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Feng Youlan emphasizes the concept of “creativity” in his article “Explanation of Mencius’ Chapter on Strong, Moving Vital Force”, in particular highlighting the problem whether the “strong, moving vital force” is “innate” or “acquired”. Cheng Hao and Zhu Xi believed the “strong, moving vital force” was endowed by Heaven, so was therefore innate; “nourishment” cleared fog and allowed one to “recover one’s original nature”. Mencius’ theory on “the good of human nature” is illustrated in the concept of integrated “original endowment”. So Cheng Hao and Zhu Xi’s theory of “recovering the original nature” proposed that the “strong, moving vital force” was innate, which is in complete agreement with Mencius and of which there is ample evidence in Mencius. However, “nature” is “created by the accumulation of righteousness”. Namely, it is the completion and presentation of the process of creation and transformation of human beings. Only when we consider both Cheng Hao and Zhu Xi’s theory and Feng Youlan’s theory can we fully understand Mencius’ theory of “the nourishment of the strong, moving vital force”, which is of great theoretical and academic value in accurately understanding Mencius and the Confucian theory of mind-nature.


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