Center & Programs
올해의 주제 연구단 주제강연 2
SPEAKER | Jongtae Lim
INSTITUTE | 서울대학교 과학사 및 과학철학 협동과정
DATE | May 7(Thu), 2015
TIME | 16:00
PLACE | 1503
ABSTRACT | 강연: 임종태 (서울대, 동아시아 과학사)
논평: 우성종 (고등과학원 물리학부)
제목: ‘우주적 소통의 꿈’: 18세기 초반 湖西 老論 학자들의 六面世界說과 人性物性論
“Travel to the Other Sides of the World”: Noron 老論 Scholars' Debate on a Cubic-shaped Earth in Early Eighteenth-century Korea
The doctrine of a cubic-shaped earth, first suggested by a young Seoin-Noron scholar Sin Yu of the Hoseo School in about 1705, tells about the existence of 'other' worlds on the earth, including even an antipodal land in which people stood upside down. This strange doctrine, influenced by the Western concept of a round earth, attracted many enthusiastic followers among the colleagues in a strongly conservative academic school of Gweon Sangha, the alleged successor of Song Siyeol. Subsequently Sin Yu's doctrine became a grave issue of the school and remained as such for several decades even after his premature death in 1706.
I examine how this seemingly ‘unorthodox’ doctrine, conflicting with both the commonsensical world view of a flat earth and the Zhu Xi's cosmological doctrine, was able to attract serious scholars of the Zhu Xi scholarship. Two points will be suggested. First, Sin Yu and his followers successfully circumvented the criticisms of colleagues based on the commonsensical world view and Zhu Xi orthodoxy - by suggesting many absurdities of the so called commonsensical flat earth cosmology, and at the same time by reinterpreting relevant passages of classical texts, including Zhu Xi's, to make them tally with Sin's doctrine. This impressive rhetorical feat, however, does not exhaust the charm of the doctrine. The second point of this article identifies the more profound source of its charm in its link to a Daoxue doctrine about the natures of human beings and plants-animals. Most proponents of Sin's doctrine believed that humans and animals shared the ethical nature - the manifestation of the universal Principle. I argue that in the mind of Sin Yu's followers the doctrine of a cubic-shaped earth was, implicitly but closely, associated with the doctrine of the equality of human and animal natures. These two doctrines, I will suggest further, shared a deeply rooted aspiration among those Korean literati for a cosmic communication: an aspiration inspired by the cosmic voyages of Matteo Ricci from the antipodal land to this world - a world of bloody factional strifes in which no one could easily find an exit but a catastrophic ending.