4 Wang - Wang Yangming (1472-1529) Wang was born in Yuyao...

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Wang Yangming (1472-1529) Wang was born in Yuyao in Zhejiang province, and passed the highest civil service exam in 1499. His bureaucratic career went off the rails in 1506 when he was banished for offending a powerful eunuch, but while he was out of office he emerged as a leading champion of the branch of Neo-Confucian thought known as the School of Mind. Wang consistently criticized the ideas of Zhu Xi (1130-1200), which insisted that perfection can only be gained through individual cultivation of virtue; instead, Wang looked back to the Confucian philosopher Mencius (372-289 BCE), arguing that virtue and wisdom are to be found inside everyone. They do not need to be cultivated by a life of contemplation; instead, they are best found in action. Wang exemplified this approach after his rehabilitation in 1519; a governor of Jiangxi province he defeated a rebellion and was an early adopter of European cannons, bought from Portuguese sailors. Excerpt from Instructions for Practical Life (c. 1525) No one who really has knowledge fails to practice it. Knowledge without practice should be interpreted as lack of knowledge. Sages and virtuous men teach men to know how to act, because they wish them to return to nature. They do not tell them merely to reflect and let this suffice. The Great Learning exhibits true knowledge and practice, that men may understand this. For instance, take the case of loving what is beautiful and despising a bad odor. Seeing beauty is a result of knowledge; loving the beautiful is a result of practice. Nevertheless, it is true that when one sees beauty one already loves it. It is not a case of determining to love it after one sees it. Smelling a bad odor involves knowledge; hating the odor involves action. Nevertheless, when one perceives the bad odor one already hates it. One does not determine to hate it after one has smelt it. A man with his nostrils stuffed may see the malodorous object before him, but does not smell it. Under such circumstances it is a case of not perceiving it, rather than of disliking it. . . .Or it may be compared to one's understanding of pain. A person certainly must have experienced pain before he can know what it is. Likewise to understand cold one must first have endured cold; and to understand hunger one must have been hungry. How, then, can knowledge and practice be separated? This is their original nature before selfish aims have separated them. The sage instructs the individual that he must practice before he may be said to have understanding. If he fails to practice, he does not understand. How thoroughly important a task this is! . . . Knowledge is the beginning of practice; doing is the completion of knowing. If when one knows how to attain the desired end, one speaks only of knowing, the doing is already naturally included; or if he speaks of acting, the knowing is already included. That the ancients after having spoken of knowledge also speak of doing, is due to the fact that there is a class of people on earth who foolishly do as they wish and fail to understand
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4 Wang - Wang Yangming (1472-1529) Wang was born in Yuyao...

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