Master Yin Shun’s Comments on Yangming’s Philosophy
黃文樹 (Wen-shu Huang)

  Wang Yangming's theory of mind centers on "the realization of (original) knowledge (致良知)", emphasizing the notions of "mind as principle (心即理)", "nothing outside the mind (心外無物)" and "no principles outside the mind (心外無理)". The idea of "realizing knowledge by investigating things (格物致知)" is to "seek the mind within (自求諸心)" rather than to investigate external objects. His elegant theory, combining the goals of "unity of knowledge and action (知行合一)" and "the realization of (original) knowledge (致良知)", has attracted numerous followers and has had a deep influence on later generations. Master Yin Shun, through a process of identifying similarities and differences, has presented several responses to Yangming's theories, which can be categorized into five points: First, Yangming emphasizes the teachings on morality, which belong to the good laws for people of limited faculties. Second, Yangming's theory on investigating things is found lacking, in that it limits itself to the psychological dimension. Third, Yangming equals conscience to the Buddhist idea of the intrinsically pure nature of the mind, which is a misinterpretation of Buddhist doctrines. Fourth, Yangming's "four-sentence teaching (四句教)" should be commended, but there are still shortcomings. Fifth, there is still deficiencies in Yangming's theory of the unity of knowledge and action. These comments offer a fresh perspective for deepening one's understanding of Yangming's philosophy.


Master Yin Shun, Wang Yangming, conscience theory, good laws for people