I added some entries to the Dai Zhen article on wikipedia. It is interesting (and not a coincidence) that his criticism of Neo-Confucianism parallels my criticism of international law (that it ignores individual people and that it ignores the element of passion and emotion) . The problem is that Neo-Confucianism believed that one could become a sage by clearing one’s mind of emotion. Dai Zhen argued that this was incorrect and that it was destructive to ignore human desire because it would then be impossible to manage one’s own desires and also that it would make it impossible to feel empathy toward other human beings.
Homework question: Dai Zhen’s criticism of Neo-Confucianism is that it ignores the value and importance of human emotions. Is it a coincidence or not that the Neo-Confucianism idea of rational discovery of the universe also matches the modern idea that emotions are only the reserve of “primitive people” and that “advanced people” should control their emotions (i.e. the British stiff upper lip). Is it possible that this idea was borrowed through Jesuit missionaries or Cantonese traders or something else? Or is there some deep philosophical connection that caused these ideas to develop independently? Or is this all a coincidence?