First Knowledge, Then Action
The term represents one interpretation of the relationship between “knowledge” and “action.” Regarding the relationship between “knowledge” and “action,” scholars like Cheng Yi and Zhu Xi argued that “knowledge precedes action.” They did not deny that an understanding of the principles underlying human relations in everyday life is interrelated with the application of these principles, nor did they feel that either of the two should be overlooked. However, in terms of sequence, they argued that “knowledge” came first, that it was the basis of “action,” and that “action” took place through the guidance of “knowledge.” Only by first understanding the principles underlying human relations in everyday life can we make our words and deeds follow the rules which govern human activities.
Knowledge must be present before it can be acted upon, just as light must illuminate the path to be followed. (Writings of the Cheng Brothers)
Knowledge and action are interdependent, just as eyes cannot walk without the feet, and feet cannot see without the eyes. In terms of sequence, knowledge comes first; in terms of importance, action is more important. (Classified Conversations of Master Zhu Xi)