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Neo-Confucian works are largely based on classical Confucian texts and thus have a lot in common with them. Neo-Confucians also focus on ethics and morality as the primary things driving all human activities, whereas humanism is regarded by them as the major principle of social life. It means that a person can become moral only through continual self-improvement and strict adherence to cosmologic laws.
According to Liu, “Neo-Confucians were generally concerned with establishing a moralistic cosmology, or we can say what they developed was a form of moral metaphysics” (1). They considered that all the processes in the world are governed by the heavenly principle, which also contains some moral aspects, such as righteousness and wisdom, within itself. Additionally, some Neo-Confucians viewed the cosmos as “a complex network of paths and veins that touches everyone in his or her everyday life” (Hon 355). It means that each person is equally connected to the cosmic law and can comprehend it. In fact, such a view on the nature of things implies that humans and their minds form a unity with the world. The given idea suggests that when a person remains unaware of their connection to the heavenly principle, they cannot behave ethically. Conversely, in order to behave morally, one should necessarily strive to understand the cosmic order and law.
Overall, similarly to classical Confucianism, Neo-Confucianism encourages individuals to develop the knowledge of the heavens will through the investigation of cosmologic principles, as well as human nature, and compliance with them. In this way, the given metaphysical quest is core to the establishment of justice within interpersonal and social relationships, as well as other systems related to human activities.
Hon, Tze-Ki. “Why Be Moral?: Learning from the Neo-Confucian Cheng Brothers. Book Review”. Journal of Chinese Studies, no. 62, 2016, pp. 355-359.
Liu, JeeLoo. Neo-Confucianism: Metaphisics, Mind and Morality. Web.