Whether to regard Sung-li-hak (Neo-Confucianism: Learning of Nature and Principle) and Shilhak (Practical Learning) as two phases of a continuous development or disparate philosophies has been an unresolved question since the 1950s until today. The differentiation between the two philosophies may be enabled by a comparison of their basic "concepts" and "premises" Such is the objective of this paper, and to make the approach clear I take the thoughts of Yi Hwang and Cheong Yak-yong as the representatives of the two philosophies.
Considering that Neo-Confucianism is called at times Practical Learning, we need to review the usages of the term "Practical Learning" which are quite different in the two philosophies. In case of Yi Hwang, the term "Practical Learning" is oriented toward the practicality centering on "morality" as opposed to Buddhism which is considered an empty discipline. In comparison, later Practical Learning considers Neo-Confucianism an empty displine, and in doing so it exhibits an even more practical, "governance for the people based on law." Therefore, the two philosophies should not be confused on the mere ground of the term Practical Learning. Cheong Yak-yong refutes the basic assumptions and beliefs posited on the ground of the concepts deployed in Yi Hwang's Neo-Confucianism such as Heaven, li, chi, the mind, nature, and emotion. That is, he denies that "Heaven is li." that "sung(nature) is li," that "one li divides into all things," that "the mind integrates sung(nature) and jung (emotion)," or that "sung(nature) rises to become jung(emotion)." As the result, in his thoughts appear new views on the universe, the humanity, or morality. This leads us to the conclusion that Practical Learning is an altogether different philosophy from Neo-Confucianism.
Living at a time when concrete Neo-Confucianist studies were at their height, Cheong Yak-yong founded his early academic career in the Neo-Confucianist atmosphere, like many other Confucianist scholars of his time. He thus did not simply dismiss major Neo-Confucianist theories, but made frequent references to them. In this sense, some may argue that Cheong Yak-yong's thoughts do not differ very much from Neo-Confucianism. However, we need to remember that the implicit objective of his discourse on Neo-Confucianism was not a further development of Neo-Confucianism. Rather, his discourse aims at ending once and for all the misunderstandings and disputes about the existing Neo-Confucianist theories. Therefore, his thoughts render materials that help differentiate fundamentally Neo-Confucianism and Practical Learning.
What we should not overlook as well are that Confucianism before the rise of Neo-Confucianism, namely, the "notions of primitive Confucianism" were accepted by both Neo-Confucianists like Yi Hwang and scholars of Practical Learning like Cheong Yak-yong, and that the "formation of the school of Practical Learning" took place gradually, and not suddenly with Cheong Yak-yong's solitary efforts. These facts allow us to realize that Neo-Confucianism and Practical Learning are distinct on the philosophical level, but not exactly separable from each other.
The author's belief is that it is inappropriate to conceptualize the flow of philosophical development in such simplistic terms as "continuity" or "discontinuity," for such an approach is liable to cause misunderstanding. Therefore, the rise of Practical Learning from the soil of Neo-Confucianism may be appropriately understood as a phenomenon of "a change in the way of thinking by man as a subject," which took place according to the historical environment. In other words, it was a fresh philosophy (on the universe, the humanity, and morality) arrived at by such scholars as Cheong Yak-yong, based on the concepts and premises that were newly posited from an almost entire revision of the basic notions of Neo-Confucianism, i.e., "a transition in the course of creative thinking" that took into consideration the conditions of late Chosun.
1.2. 實學 用語에 비친 同異点
1.3. 字宙觀을 형성하는 기본 槪念과 命題
1.4. 人間觀을 형성하는 基本槪念과 命題
1.5. 倫理·道德觀을 형성하는 基本槪念과 命題
1.6. 性理學과 實學의 相異点 및 그 含意
1.7. 相同点과 實學派 관점의 성찰