The Li Series

Waves: the li as patterns in space and time

The Li Series is an integrated set of five posts which introduce the traditional Neo-Confucian concept of “the li” – the organizing principles of Nature – and explain their relevance to today’s world.

I recommend reading them in order, but I’ve given a brief synopsis of each one below, so you can jump to any post that you find particularly interesting.

I hope you find the ideas in the posts as interesting as I do!

1: Nature’s Organizing Principles: The Li.

Introduces the Neo-Confucian idea of the li and explains how it evolved to mean the “ever-moving, ever-present set of patterns which flow through everything in nature and in all our perceptions of the world including our own consciousness.”

2: The Li: Beyond the Laws of Nature.

Contrasts the li to our Western concept of the “laws of Nature”, and explores similarities to some scientific views of Nature expressed in the area of complexity science.

3: Wiggles in the Stream of Time: Li and Ch’i.

Explains how the li relates to the Chinese concept of ch’i (energy/matter), and explores some of the philosophical implications of viewing life in terms of the integrated dynamics of li and ch’i.

4: The Rosetta Stone of Metaphysics: The Li.

Argues that an understanding of the li offers us a kind of metaphysical Rosetta Stone: a conceptual bridge between the material world of science and the immeasurable world of the spirit.

5: Einstein, Chu Hsi and the Investigation of Things.

Explores how the Neo-Confucian way of understanding the natural world may offer us a view of humanity’s oneness with Nature that’s increasingly important in light of the current global environmental crisis.
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1 Comment

  1. Derek Dey said,

    July 15, 2011 at 12:48 am

    I love these posts. They point to a way of thinking and a way of life which draw us together as co-creative beings. I have been trying to come to terms with this basic philosophy which appears as the ‘quadruple base’ in Unification Thought (the philosophy of the Unification Church). The quadruple base has two interactive components described as a ‘maintaining base’ i.e. an unchanging set of principles governed by heart but including principles, law, math, logos ( pre-plan and pre-energy),then followed by a ‘developing base’ which is found in general creativity and process philosophy.

    I have found some help in defining all this in the philosophy of Heraclitus in the West and in Li chi in the East, in particular, in the work of Chu-tzu mentioned as a reference for understanding the quadruple base. I have found Schiller helpful as he says such principles are obscured when a culture is either in chaos or ill informed and Jung’s ideas about the world of archetypes and his work on interpretation of the symbol. This apprehension of principles happens on the base of the growth of the personality and education.

    Towards this end Alfred North Whitehead also proposes a participation in field consciousness in his philosophy of ‘Process,’ an advance into novelty, as he puts it, regarding our creativity. If rooted in natural law then ethics are no longer a problem as all becomes part of the natural order.

    I believe the oriental view of Li Chi takes this into account by asking us to participate in sincerity and the practice of love towards others. I suppose Hillman’s notions of growth, character and calling and the stadial psychologists are also close to this, in principle, where they encourage, in some cases, growth and an involvement in innate consciousness regarding this connectivity between life and the universe. Gilbert Rose and George Hagman in the field of psychology help us here by proposing creativity as a healthy, necessary, biological, innate, and nurtured value which we become involved in through the mature stages of life. This is far removed from Freud’s early classification of art and culture as mere neurosis.

    I find your posts invaluable, because they cover this ground with a sense of aesthetic beauty and eloquence not always found in the semantics of psychology, philosophy or theology. They open to the contemporary world in both realms of idea and science and this too opens to a field of fascinating and relevant inquiry. Thanks for that. I have enjoyed it immensely. Best wishes, Derek Dey.


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