||Liu Jishan interprets the long discussed ideas, such as mind, nature, principle, material force, and heaven, in a way different from those of earlier scholars. The ambiguity in his expression, however, brought about contradiction to later interpretations. The present study aims to answer the following question: Are Liu’s new interpretations of the ideas form a coherent unity that they serve to rectify and remedy the drawbacks of the late Ming Confucian school of Mind? Or, are they, on the contrary, inevitably the cause of the conflicts among later understandings on Liu’s concepts? By comparing the contemporary interpretations on Liu’s concepts and analyzing Liu’s philosophical texts, the present thesis attempts to resolve the seeming contradictions in Liu’s texts, and re-evaluate and better systematize his theory of Mind and Nature. As this thesis demonstrates, Liu interprets the ideas of mind, nature, principle, material force, and heaven in a new way not so much to develop a theory deviant from the school of Mind, but rather to fix and remedy the problems in the school of Mind.
The thesis at first compares and evaluates contemporary scholars’ different, even contradictory interpretations on Liu’s concept. I indicate that the major difference in their interpretations lies in whether there the idea of “principle” is transcendental in Liu’s concept. The following chapter, through analyzing Liu’s dialogue with and critique on Wang Yangming and Zhu Xi’s philosophy, tries to illustrate Liu’s core concept. I demonstrate that Liu, to rectify the vain argument made by Wang Yangming’s followers, views the nature of the metaphysical reality as the generation of the physical world through the flow and exchange of yin and yang. He further explains, the truth that the way human beings’ exist is actually the principle of the physical reality of the cosmos can be manifested only in the practice of morality in mind. And to counter Zhu Xi’s notion about “principle as the primal basis that precedes material force” (理先氣後), Liu argues that the metaphysical reality must be manifested in the flow and movement of material force. In light of this understanding, the last chapter, through revisiting Liu’s interpretations on the ideas of mind, nature, principle, material force, and heaven, attempts to reconcile the two seeming contradictory ideas in Liu’s text— his inclination toward denying the transcendental meaning of the metaphysical reality, and his insistence on the profoundity of nature and heaven.