The value of harmony, understood as a unity of complementary differences, lies at the center of the interpretation developed in subsequent chapters of Neo-Confucian psychology, ethics, epistemology, and education. It is also rooted in the distinctive metaphysical commitments of Neo-Confucianism, especially through the idea of “coherence”; these connections, in turn, are linked to the dynamic and creative aspects of harmony. This chapter provides the historical context necessary to understand harmony, as well as some initial efforts to flesh out the implications of harmony both for personal ethics and for broader politics. There is a particular focus on Wang Yangming and his doctrine that we “form one body with all things” in this chapter, though like some later chapters, its sources also go beyond strictly philosophical literature to encompass accounts of moral exemplars. In particular, the chapter considers ways that the experiences of physician and anthropologist Paul Farmer help to illustrate what the Neo-Confucians mean by harmony.
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