Lee Seung-Hwan The Social Meaning of Body - Bloc de notas

Topics: Confucius, Confucianism, Chinese philosophy Pages: 30 (8140 words) Published: November 18, 2013
The Social Meaning of Body
The Social Meaning of Body
in Confucian Tradition:
Between Moral and Political Power
Lee Seung-Hwan
Abstract
In Confucian tradition, mind and body are not regarded as separated entities. Human consciousness and emotions are deeply rooted in the physical body. The body is a field of expression that mediates between the Self and the outer world. Through continuous effort of character building, the body elevates itself from a physical being to a social one, from a private being to a public one. Confucian tradition regards power as something not exercised only through explicit verbal behavior such as commands, and obedience is not carried out only through language of submission. Unforced, implicit forms of domination-subordination relations such as eye and facial expressions are more common and more frequent than forced, explicit ones. Yet, when Confucianism talks about facial expressions of the dominant and the subordinate, it is not implying formal or pretentious facial expressions created in consideration of physical power. Those in dominant positions must acquire internal virtue suitable for their positions before wearing the appropriate looks. When they fully develop internal virtue, it is naturally exposed externally through facial expressions. Also, people in subordinate positions should not feign flattering looks; when their inner state of mind is sincerely respectful, it is naturally reflected in their face. Keywords: Confucianism, virtue, mind, body, self-cultivation, expression Lee Seung-Hwan (Yi, Seung-hwan) is Professor of Philosophy at Korea University. He

received his Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Hawaii in 1991. His publications
include Yuga sasang-ui sahoe cheolhakjeok jaejomyeong (Understanding of Confucianism
from a Social Philosophical Perspective) (1998) and “The Concept of Gong in Traditional
Korea and Its Modern Transformations” (2003). E-mail: kulee@mail.korea.ac.kr.

Introduction:
Linguistic Minimalism and Body Language
in Confucian Tradition
Linguistic minimalism is a prominent characteristic of the linguistic tradition in the Confucian culture zone. As it is the case with all semiotic systems, language is used to tell lies as much as to communicate truth. In this sense, language is both a blessing and a curse. Perhaps it is for this reason, then, that linguistic minimalism is preferred in the tradition of the Confucian culture zone when trying to convey the greatest extent of truth with the fewest possible words. Confucius said, “Specious words confound virtue,”1 and “In language it is simply required that it conveyed the meaning.”2 Confucius placed more emphasis on the full communication of meaning than on the subtlety of language. Linguistic minimalism, which seeks the highest level of truthful communication with the fewest possible words, is also found in Mencius. Mencius said, “Those who explain the odes may not insist on one term so as to do violence to a sentence, nor on a sentence so as to do violence to the general scope. They must try with their thoughts to meet that scope, and then we shall apprehend it.”3 In other words, one should try to understand the communicative intent of the speaker rather than get distracted by characters and words floating on the surface. The Yijing (Book of Changes), another Confucian scripture, borrows Confucius’ words and says that, “Written characters are not the full exponent of speech, and speech is not the full expression of ideas.”4 The Confucian viewpoint, then, insists that relative importance of language can Página 1

The Social Meaning of Body
6 KOREA JOURNAL / SUMMER 2004
1. ......... “Weilinggong” (Duke Ling of Wei), in Lunyu (Analects of Confucius). Most translations of Confucian classics in the paper are those of James Legge. However, as context required, some translations were altered by the author. 2. .. ......... “Duke Ling of Wei,” in Analects of Confucius. 3. .. ...... .............

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