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DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-G019-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved July 23, 2024, from

Article Summary

Li means ‘pattern’ or ‘principle’, and as a verb can also refer to the creation of orderly pattern. Mencius believed that the human heart–mind had an inherent taste for and attraction to such ‘good order’. His contemporary, Zhuangzi, was the first to use li to refer to an underlying normative ‘pattern’ structuring and giving order to the entire world. This sense in turn influenced the Confucian thinker Xunzi, who employed and developed the concept to express his understanding of Confucianism. Certain Buddhist thinkers used the notion of li to describe first ‘emptiness’ and later ‘Buddha-nature’, the common underlying characteristic of all phenomena. A version of this idea was adopted by neo-Confucian thinkers, who believed that while each thing manifested its own particular li, it also contained within it the li of all other things. Thus there is a profound metaphysical identity between self and world.

Citing this article:
Ivanhoe, Philip J.. Li, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-G019-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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