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The Manifestation Range of Innately Good Knowledge and Ability, and the Danger of Separation: On Zhuzi’s Question about Understanding Words

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Zhuzi (Zhu Xi), Zhang Nanxuan and Lü Donglai continued a discussion begun by Hu Wufeng and his disciples on the subject of “knowing the form of benevolence,” and “seeking for a true mind in an absent one.” One result of their discussion was to make people realize that innately good knowledge and ability are not only manifested in loving one’s parents and respecting one’s elders, but also in the simple acts of drinking when thirsty and eating when hungry. This generated the idea of “manifestation range of innately good knowledge and ability.” However, another conclusion of this discussion claimed that if the desire to drink and eat or the king of Qi’s grudging an ox are included in this range, there would be a danger of viewing innately good knowledge and ability merely as inborn human nature or instinct. This discussion reveals an unsteady relationship between innately good knowledge and ability and the feeling of commiseration, which are sometimes united and sometimes separate.


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