Self-Cultivation as a Microphysics of Reverence: Toward a Foucauldian Understanding of Korean Culture

Philosophy East and West 60 (1):20 - 39 (2010)
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This essay discusses Korean Neo-Confucian conceptions of the self and the important practice of self-cultivation in Neo-Confucian culture. Although approaching the question and practice from different perspectives, these conceptions reflect a foundation in reverence for knowledge, righteousness, propriety, and benevolence. Basic comparisons are then drawn between Neo-Confucian and Western conceptions of the self and self-cultivation. In particular, Michel Foucault's work on self-cultivation as embedded in social discourses or practices suggests that Neo-Confucian self-cultivation also can be described through a microphysics of reverence. Two examples from modern Korean culture are considered in order to demonstrate how a microphysics of reverence reveals replication and reinforcement of existing social practices in the guise of self-cultivation



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