Aristotle VS Yi Hwang

Who comes to your mind when you think of the most famous Western philosopher?

Many people will say that it is Aristotle (BC 384-322), who along with Socrates and Plato, is the most influential scholar. He was the most influential Greek philosopher contributing to laying the foundation for
Greek philosophy to be developed into a comprehensive system of Western philosophy. Especially, he is more familiar to us as the teacher of Alexander the Great.

In Korean history, there is Yi Hwang (1501-170), who was the most prominent scholar, as well as the teacher of the most powerful ruler. Yi Hwang, like Aristotle, contributed to create and develop Eastern philosophy. Many great rulers of Joseon Dynasty wanted him as their teacher to gain his wisdom. Many of his disciples, like ‘Yu Seong-ryong’, became great leaders in society who saved the nation in times of crisis. His teaching and spirit still remain in all corners of Korean society even after 500 years. Like Aristotle, the learning and philosophy of Toegye(penname of Yi Hwang) Yi Hwang is spreading beyond our borders.

Already, many scholars in China and Japan are doing research on him as a subject of respect and learning. His 45 books of 11 kinds were published in the Edo period of Tokugawa Ieyasu in Japan, having a great influence on the Kimon and Kumamoto Schools, the mainstream of modern Confucianism. Moreover, in China, the home of Confucianism, Liang Chi Chao, the representative philosopher during the Enlightenment praised Yi Hwang as a saint, calling him ‘dear Yi Buja(李夫子)so far away’ showing how deeply he was influenced by Yi Hwang. Yi Hwang’s influence was not limited to Japan and China. There are many Toegye Yi Hwang’s research institutes built to disseminate and develop his learning in the world, including Asia, the Americas and Europe, which shows that his teaching and influence are now spreading across the world.

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