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AN INTRODUCTION TO DAOIST THOUGHT ACTION, LANGUAGE, AND ETHICS IN ZHUANGZI
There has been a growing interest in Daoism in the West, not only in academia but also in the culture at large. This is the ﬁrst work available in English which addresses Zhuangzi’s thought as a whole. It presents an interpretation of the Zhuangzi, a book in 33 chapters that is the most important collection of Daoist texts in early China. The author introduces a complex reading that shows the unity of Zhuangzi’s thought, in particular in his views of action, language, and ethics. By addressing methodological questions that arise in reading Zhuangzi, a hermeneutics is developed which makes understanding Zhuangzi’s religious thought possible. The book is a theoretical contribution to comparative philosophy and the cross-cultural study of religious traditions. Additionally, it serves as an introduction to Daoism for graduate students in religion, philosophy, and East Asian studies. Eske Møllgaard received his PhD in East Asian Languages and Civilizations from Harvard University. He currently is Assistant Professor in the Department of Philosophy at University of Rhode Island. His teaching interests include Asian philosophy, comparative philosophy and continental philosophy. He is particularly interested in the ways East Asian traditions of thought make us reconsider and rediscover salient features of Western philosophical traditions.
ROUTLEDGE STUDIES IN ASIAN RELIGION AND PHILOSOPHY 1 Deconstruction and the Ethical in Asian Thought Edited by Youru Wang 2 An Introduction to Daoist Thought Action, language, and ethics in Zhuangzi Eske Møllgaard
and ethics in Zhuangzi Eske Møllgaard iii .AN INTRODUCTION TO DAOIST THOUGHT Action. language.
cm. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic.uk. “To purchase your own copy of this or any of Taylor & Francis or Routledge’s collection of thousands of eBooks please go to www. ISBN 978-0-415-42383-0 (alk. and ethics in Zhuangzi / Eske Møllgaard. Oxon OX14 4RN Simultaneously published in the USA and Canada by Routledge 270 Madison Ave. Title. NY 10016 Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group.co. — (Routledge studies in Asian religion and philosophy) Includes bibliographical references and index.eBookstore. Nanhua jing. an informa business This edition published in the Taylor & Francis e-Library.First published 2007 by Routledge 2 Park Square. British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data Møllgaard. now known or hereafter invented.C576M66 2007 299. paper) 1. or other means. mechanical.” © 2007 Eske Møllgaard All rights reserved. I.5′1482—dc22 2006100289 ISBN 0–203–94482–8 Master e-book ISBN ISBN10: 0-415-42383-X (hbk) ISBN10: 0-203-94482-8 (ebk) ISBN13: 978-0-415-42383-0 (hbk) ISBN13: 978-0-203-94482-0 (ebk) iv . 2007. Taoist. 2.tandf. 1954– An introduction to Daoist thought : action. p. Milton Park. Abingdon. New York. Eske. BL1900. Philosophy. or in any information storage or retrieval system. language. including photocopying and recording. Zhuangzi. without permission in writing from the publishers.
IN MEMORY OF MY FATHER v .
Der Erde Rund mit Felsen ausgezieret Ist wie die Wolke nicht. Es zeiget sich mit einem goldnen Tage. die Abends sich verlieret. Und die Vollkommenheit ist ohne Klage. (The Earth round adorned with rocks Is not like clouds that disperse at night. ‘Der Herbst’ vi . It shows itself one luminous day. And the completion is without lament.) Friedrich Hölderlin.
CONTENTS Acknowledgements 1 On reading Zhuangzi Can we understand Zhuangzi? 1 What bothers the other? 3 Is Daoist thought philosophy? 5 The religious 9 The ﬁgure of Zhuangzi 11 Zhuangzi’s fundamental ﬁgures of thought The view of the world 14 Life against completion 15 Human life 17 The life of Heaven 20 The Way 22 Two kinds of transcendence 24 Non-understanding 27 The drive towards completion Technique negates the Way 30 The Confucian view of technical action 32 Totalitarianism and strategic thinking 36 The metaphysics of action 39 Form (eidos) and completion (cheng) 43 Unraveling the drive towards completion Care for life 47 From potentiality to actuality 52 In-between Heaven and man 57 The occurrence of the ordinary 61 vii ix 1 2 14 3 30 4 47 .
CONTENTS 5 Saying the unsayable Indicative and logical discourses 67 Saying and disputation 70 The double-question 71 Shifting signiﬁers 72 The intended meaning 74 Language in itself 76 Impromptu words 80 Bungled discourse Suddenly there is nothing 85 Just now something is born 89 Accept “this” for what it is 94 Is Zhuangzi a Sophist? 97 Zhuangzi and Socrates 101 Ethics Confucian concern 105 Mutilation 109 Beyond the will to power 113 The moral law 117 The ethical subject 120 On Zhuangzi’s supposed naturalism 124 Spiritual exercise Loss of self 126 Emotions are like music from empty spaces 130 Techniques of inner training 132 Completion without lament 137 To see the unique 138 Glossary References Index 67 6 85 7 105 8 126 142 149 156 viii .
co. Parts of Chapter 7 appeared in “Zhuangzi’s Religious Ethics. ix . 15(1) (March 2005).” Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy.” Asian Philosophy.uk/journals).co. pp. pp.ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS A small part of Chapter 1 appeared in “Eclipse of Reading: On the ‘Philosophical Turn’ in American Sinology.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion.uk/ journals).” Social Identities 12(1) (2006). Chapter 5 contains some material that appeared in “Dialogue and Impromptu Words. Parts of Chapter 2 and the last section of Chapter 7 appeared in “Zhuangzi’s Notion of Transcendental Life. pp. pp. 71(2) (June 2003). 347–70. 4(2) (Summer 2005). 321–40. 43–58 (http:// tandf. 1–18 (http://tandf.
as 1 . India. perhaps unreasonably so. to be more than bookkeepers of ancient wisdom? What if we want to understand what is said in the entries made in our scholarly works? Here we. says Sloterdijk. Today it is in these disciplines that scholars consider metaphysical propositions such as “you are that” (tat tvam asi).” The orientalists. that “not-knowing is profound. he’s all the more complete. knowing is superﬁcial” – and in their professional capacity “they handle the ‘great sayings’ of the East. avidya. cite the thesis that notknowing. the metaphysical enthusiasm that once characterized Western thought is now largely excluded from the academy. as scholars. One half is like Kafka. and below he is friend with those who are beyond life and death and have no beginning and end. The Zhuangzi Can we understand Zhuangzi? The study of Asian thought occupies a strange position in the postmetaphysical climate of the modern West. but there’s another half as well – thus. As Peter Sloterdijk points out. nevertheless “they can. but it has survived in exile in predominantly philological disciplines like Indology and Sinology. Their day-to-day life as researchers and teachers at the universities may be prosaic. and China. as Zhuangzi says. But what if we aspire. For it seems to be true that. or “the way that can be spoken is not the constant Way (dao ). like trusted Bank employees move gold bars around in the security vaults under the Bahnhofsstraße in Zurich” (Sloterdijk 1993: 218). run up against the limits of scientiﬁc understanding. Elias Canetti Above Zhuangzi wanders with the Creator of things. as a matter of course. is the matter from which reality is made” – or.ON READING ZHUANGZI 1 ON READING ZHUANGZI [Zhuangzi] contains both the very small and the very large. are the “bookkeepers of the ecstasies” imported from Persia.
and therefore it will sound rather hollow. The last laugh (or the last word) is only conceivable in complete abstraction from our historical existence.” if we understand at all. the previous generations of orientalists were prejudiced to an almost comical degree. With some humor Martin Heidegger once remarked that suppose “there could be an explanation and 2 . methodologies do not by themselves deliver truth. this can be seen to be hermeneutically naïve” (1999: 80). In hindsight. it has not been able to free itself from prejudice.” The exemplary texts we study in the human sciences embody “modes of experiences in which a truth announces itself that cannot be veriﬁed by the methodological means of science” (Gadamer 1986a: 1–2). Richard King points out that scholars have “tended to believe that a rigorous and detailed knowledge of the culture. This does not mean that we entirely give up the notion of objectivity that is central to reading in the human sciences. says Gadamer (1986a: 302).AN INTRODUCTION TO DAOIST THOUGHT Hans-Georg Gadamer writes. which were developed in other cultures. and it is not reasonable to expect that progress in our science will give us less to laugh about in the future. King continues. “[i]n the light of Gadamer’s work. Instead of such hollow laughter. contrary to the well-known saying. in the name of which we ask. we should have enough sense of humor to appreciate Gadamer’s point that our prejudices far from being an impediment to understanding are in fact the very source of understanding. but as Gadamer has emphasized. as has been demonstrated with abundant evidence. Since our science is ours. a Western discovery. “the enigmatic statements of profundity and wisdom. for. For understanding is gained through a certain detachment from our prejudices that allows us to play out our prejudices against the other and so reach a more objective point of view. In the human sciences this detachment is codiﬁed in historical and philological methodologies.” but. To suppose that “what Zhuangzi meant” is deposited in the past context and ready to be sifted out by some appropriate methodology only shows an acute lack of hermeneutic imagination that hampers productive research. In regard to Indology. we always “understand differently. For. we are concerned with “the experience of truth that transcends the domain controlled by scientiﬁc method. Sinological methods are helpful tools in understanding ancient Chinese thought. The same holds true in Sinology. In the human sciences. especially in the Far East. This is probably all for the better. language and tradition under consideration would yield the true import of the text. especially because science (Wissenschaft). itself is a Western discovery” (1986b: 77). but a thinker like Zhuangzi cannot be understood within the conﬁnes of a Sinology that subscribes to a naive historical objectivism and has no speculative-hermeneutic dimension. says Gadamer. stand in an ultimately incommensurable relation (nicht überprüfbaren Verhältnis) to what is Western philosophy. the one who laughs last does not laugh best.
just like the modern translator. The dimension of the Universal thus emerges when the two lacks – mine and that of the Other – overlap.” which is not the abstract universal of “global consciousness” but rather an existential. and it is not a deﬁnable “problem. Referring to this “context-free” openness of language precisely where “words fail.” etc.” It is perhaps the mark of philosophy. the Unheimlichkeit or uncanniness internal to any and every space we call home. but he did not know precisely what he knew in knowing this.ON READING ZHUANGZI representation of the poetry of Sophocles in itself and that it fell under the eyes of Sophocles. .” Santner writes: 3 . What bothers the other? It is a well-known but under-appreciated fact of translation that we know that even our best translation is not adequate. Confucius knew that he did not know the full meaning of the word. but we do not know precisely what it is we know when we know this (if we did the deﬁciency could easily be remedied).” . we know that the English word “humanity” does not quite cover the meaning of the Chinese ren . This uncertain and ambiguous knowing is not reducible to a linguistic or conceptual base. Furthermore. he could only ﬁnd this interpretation utterly boring” (Clark 2002: 95). but we do not know exactly what it is we know in knowing this. . too.). not bound by its “speciﬁc context. It would be even more comical to imagine what Zhuangzi would have thought if presented with a historicist reconstruction of “what he said. But Confucius himself was not really sure what the word ren meant. For him. we should rather endeavor to encircle that which eludes their grasp.” For Zhuangzi explicitly says that he himself is not sure if he has really said something with what he has just said. (1997: 50) On the basis of figek’s insight Eric Santner proposes his notion of a “universal-in-becoming. embodied universal based on the experience of “the agitation and turbulence immanent to any construction of identity. the point at which the Other is in itself dislocated. I understand the Other when I become aware of how the very problem that was bothering me (the nature of the Other’s secret) is already bothering the Other itself.” Slavoj figek makes the insightful observation that in trying to understand another culture we should not focus on its speciﬁcity (on the peculiarity of “their customs. For instance. but it is surely where universality and cross-cultural understanding come into play. the word had an uncanny excess of meaning that he could not express.
deﬁne Daoism broadly as the vast corpus of texts collected by self-identifying Daoists in the Daozang . conceptual. spatial. and this split in the other contains the possibility of a “we. that is to say. Daoist thought is not coextensive with Daoism. For if the other is a stranger to herself. Graham says that in reading Zhuangzi we get “the sensation of a man thinking aloud. not just in their content but in the very nature of their thought. (2001: 9) The other. is an eminent example of thought in the emphatic sense I use the term here.AN INTRODUCTION TO DAOIST THOUGHT What makes the Other other is not his or her spatial exteriority with respect to my being but the fact that he or she is strange. is the bearer of an internal alterity. The Zhuangzi. jotting the living thought at the moment of its inception” (1969/1970: 137). and the ﬁrst seven chapters in particular. then the dichotomy between the familiar and the strange. is a stranger. In reading the other this “beyond” is also what bothers us. Precisely in this split in the self and in the other lies the possibility for a concrete universality. against this background. is unsettled. just like the self. Since thought always exceeds its context. the self and the other. linguistic.” one simply has “to identify with its teachings” (2006: 3). the extension of the term “Daoism” is hard to deﬁne. no “individual thoughts. an enigmatic density of desire calling for response beyond any rulegoverned reciprocity. on the other hand.” The split in the other is also the condition for thought. Thought is precisely what does not coincide with its own context (Deleuze and Guattari 1994). What is important is that something bothers the other. The Laozi proclaims in voiceless anonymity.” no “unique insights. is always also an other or a stranger to herself. and not only to me but also to him. secure in its teachings and bothered by nothing: unlike Zhuangzi. the Laozi never interrupts itself to ask “what did I just say?” This unbothered anonymity is even more pronounced in the 4 . If we.or herself. If we. and therefore it necessarily has universal import. what makes the other “other” is her strangeness. then we ﬁnd that this collection includes the Zhuangzi but also the Mozi and the Hanfeizi . the very opposition between “neighbor” and “stranger” begins to lose its force. Furthermore.” no “dialogues. there are. with Russell Kirkland (2004). and since both self and other are bothered by the same thing. deﬁne Daoism narrowly as the so-called “philosophical Daoism” of the Laozi and the Zhuangzi.” and “no discernable issue at stake. there is the possibility of a “we. and temporal differences are not essential. beyond the possibilities inherent in her context. then we ﬁnd that these two “founding” texts of Daoist thought are very different. C. something is beyond the grasp of the other.” In other words. on the other hand. as Hans-Georg Moeller points out. A. In the Laozi. not only to an other but also to herself. texts that today are not considered Daoist by any deﬁnition.
Furthermore. relation. spontaneity.” that is to say. I suggest that no matter how one deﬁnes the scope of the term “Daoist. In light of these considerations. technical philosophy adopts one of three methods in reading Chinese thought. Furthermore. and philosophy itself is about to dissolve into methodologism. and the same holds true for the Western interpreter. is Zhuangzi a relativist? Is he a realist. individuality. The result is that all unique (existential) features are abstracted as the other as well as the self is objectiﬁed in the manner of scientism. and his essential ambiguity cannot survive if it is objectiﬁed as a “problem” with some positive solution. and rites (or ritual). We ask. It is claimed that the West and China rely on opposed conceptual schemes: whereas the West values being. for instance. Not long ago it would have relegated Chinese thought 5 . we homogenize difference within each of the traditions. To be sure. a pragmatist. the Chinese value becoming. these constructions of China as other are all rhetorical constructions that say more about the time and place they were made than about China itself. and deﬁnition? It depends on your point of view.ON READING ZHUANGZI Neiye (Inner Training). more original than the Laozi and the Zhuangzi and the real precursor for later Daoism (Roth 1999.” Zhuangzi – who could not identify himself as a Daoist.” Here the Chinese thinker is subjected to a purely formal questioning that can be applied to any thinker at any time. since no such classiﬁcation existed at his time – will be included. just as it is characteristic of human existence itself. an early manual of self-cultivation that some scholars now consider to be “original Daoism. and if we look for an introduction to Daoist thought in the emphatic sense of this term. and rights (as in human rights). an essential ambiguity may be characteristic of all philosophy. dialectics. as Haun Saussy (2001: 91–117) has shown. freedom. Kirkland 2004). What does it really tell us about Chinese thought when we are told that the Chinese lack notions of objective truth. awareness of difference is important. The ﬁrst method is to read Chinese thought in terms of universal “problems of philosophy. then the text that bears his name must be considered the best place to begin. Generally. All Chinese thinkers are now mere representatives of underlying linguistic and conceptual formations. The second method by which technical philosophy reads Chinese thought emphasizes difference. and it has not been proved that the speciﬁc set of problems that constitutes modern philosophical discourse also constitutes philosophy as such. Is Daoist thought philosophy? We witness today an increasing techniﬁcation and professionalization of philosophy. or an antirationalist? But this formal questioning has little to do with what speciﬁcally motivates a particular thinker. but the construction of contrasting conceptual schemes comes at the price of interpretive reductionism. For the very moment we establish the difference between the two traditions.
“repeating the same structures over and over again in a quasi-obsessive manner” (Faure 2004: 47). and who presents us with a series of striking images – in the ﬁrst chapter alone. not philosophical analysis. This method deconstructs the ﬁrst two methods and reveals how sameness and difference are produced historically and rhetorically. and there is no reason why this particular obsession should be imposed on Zhuangzi. didactic verse. the cicada and the dove. and playing with the inﬁnite complexities of deconstruction. ﬁctitious dialogue. who engages in deconstruction understood as a reading that reveals the rhetorical means by which various comparative projects produce differences. chasing the phantom objects of historical reconstruction. says that his task of deconstruction situates him in “an inﬁnite web of nonhierarchical distinctions to which any node (or particular signiﬁer) provides an entry” (2001: 187). There is another kind of philosophy that is not purely positivistic but accepts the essential ambiguity in metaphysical questioning. and a number of other literary genres we have still not identiﬁed and understood. chases a “phantom object. This proliferation of genres and images suggests that literary reading. and where there is no clear division between philosophy and literature (or philology). upon which it exercises its beneﬁcial parasitic activity. and that the ethical demand to understand the other as other is likewise inﬁnite and inescapable. a philosophy that takes into account what is existentially at stake in reading. and a yak. This kind of philosophy is rather imprecisely called “continental philosophy. we have the darkness of the Northern Ocean.” deconstructive readings oscillate in pious distance before the other. aphorisms.” 6 . song. spiritual exercise. as Gadamer has shown. which. the bird Peng. This is a valuable lesson. deconstruction is an endless response to inﬁnite complexity but never says anything about the thing itself. who employs prose poems. is best suited to bring out the thought of Zhuangzi (Hoffmann 2001). but deconstruction too easily falls back into the bad inﬁnity characteristic of positivistic historical research. the giant gourd and the useless tree. In the present postmodern climate of the Western academy.AN INTRODUCTION TO DAOIST THOUGHT to the densest substantiality without any development towards autonomy. Similar to positivistic historical research. Like construction. The third method technical philosophy adopts in reading Chinese thought is a standardized form of deconstruction that is inspired by but should not be confused with the notion of deconstruction developed by Derrida (which is not a methodology at all). We elude the essential task of reading Zhuangzi by solving philosophical puzzles. constructing contrasting typologies. a weasel. Technical philosophy is a particular ritual performed in the academic world. Haun Saussy. Deconstruction shows that we are all embedded in a web of signiﬁers from which we can never escape. Chinese thought is seen rather as an aesthetic expression liberated from all foundationalism. For Zhuangzi employs what Pascal Quignard (1995) calls “speculative rhetoric. satire.” a mode of thought that cannot be understood by philosophical analysis but only by reading. fables.
and therefore to understand an ancient thinker like Zhuangzi entirely at the level of propositional discourse is to impose an anachronistic view of philosophy on his thought. and this is also true of Zhuangzi. Zhuangzi too has a number of spiritual exercises that express his way of life. In particular. how to treat all things as equal. Continental philosophy does not. philosophical discourse does not have the dominant role it has in modern philosophy. and theoretical discourse is only philosophical to the extent that it justiﬁes and supports such a way of life. This is good advice to heed in reading Zhuangzi. Among the most important are how to contemplate death so we can meet it without fear. and such engagement. continental philosophy has an experience with language (Critchley 2001: 103–4). that something like the way of reading characteristic of continental philosophy will be most appropriate in reading Zhuangzi. even though discourse cannot express this activity” (2002: 5). I suggest. which is the necessary step to attain the universal (cosmic) point of view. and with its origin in the exegesis of religious texts. Whereas most modern philosophy of language has an objectiﬁed (scientiﬁc) view of language. its critique of power and its call for personal transformation. and this limits its heuristic value for our understanding of Zhuangzi.” because in reading ancient philosophy we continually “encounter situations in which philosophical activity continues to be carried out. how to relate to our emotions in such a way that we neither repress them nor indulge in them but let them unfold in a clarity that cannot be disturbed. but perhaps most importantly. the hermeneutic tradition in continental philosophy remains close to the religious experience (which is alien to technical philosophy). in ancient philosophy. then.ON READING ZHUANGZI Continental philosophy offers an abundance of ﬁgures of thought that conceptualize even the most ambiguous phenomena of human experience. as Pierre Hadot points out. Hadot advises that we should not “conﬂate language and cognitive functions. For. entirely heal the split between knowledge and wisdom and remains tied to the idea that philosophy is exhausted in philosophical discourse. is essential if we want to understand Zhuangzi at all. how to analyze the distinction between the inner (nei ) and the outer (wai ) so we know what is important for the spiritual life and what is not. how to know the difference between the realm of man (ren ) and 7 . Continental philosophy is also known for its emancipatory intent. however. and not just detached scholarship. says Hadot. The most immediate expression of the philosophical life is the set of spiritual exercises promoted and practiced by the philosopher. it is ﬁrst of all a question of adopting a way of life. Finally. continental philosophy has a view of language that is radically different from that of analytic philosophy. and in the following I will draw on continental philosophers when I ﬁnd that they can help us understand what is at stake in Zhuangzi. For in Zhuangzi the activity of philosophy goes on beyond discourse in the pursuit of the Way. In ancient philosophy.
230). . The aim of spiritual exercises. and Hadot’s description of the goal of such exercises applies perfectly to Zhuangzi. . As Hadot points out. how to transcend the self and plunge into the inﬁnite.AN INTRODUCTION TO DAOIST THOUGHT the realm of Heaven (tian ). which is the prerequisite for being a true human being. we see that in Zhuangzi spiritual exercise is more important than discourse. In one form or another all these exercises are also found in ancient philosophy in the West. Zhuangzi about the Way). says Hadot. is to “become aware of the splendor of existence” and to perceive each moment of time “as if it were the ﬁrst. from the point of view of philosophical practice the disputes are irrelevant. if we wrongly assume that in Zhuangzi discourse is primary. in various forms. The same spiritual exercise can be justiﬁed after the fact by widely different philosophical discourses. If. how to be aware in the present moment of self-emerging life (sheng ). throughout the various cultural zones of humanity” (2002: 278). Seen in this way. Hadot points out that philosophical practice is relatively independent from philosophical discourse. Therefore Hadot can cite passages from Zhuangzi to exemplify the notions of indifference and transcendence that are so important in ancient philosophy in the West. and we try to make Zhuangzi’s thought conform to the technical requirements of modern philosophy. then we will recognize the similarity between the attitudes adopted by Zhuangzi and those adopted by ourselves or someone we know in our own tradition. above all. then we will avoid the interminable quarrels about epistemological relativism and incommensurability between traditions that plague comparative philosophy. Hadot believes that the forms of life experimented with in ancient Greece and Rome “correspond to constant. universal models which are found. namely to attain the universal (cosmic) perspective. philosophy 8 . Today’s academy is not the place to experiment with such spiritual exercises. Although cautious about making comparative claims. For these disputes make sense only if we consider theoretical discourse in isolation. . the practice of philosophy transcends the oppositions of particular philosophies. “[i]n modern university philosophy. When we see that in ancient philosophy spiritual exercise is the heart of philosophy. Therefore. then we may become entangled in problems of incommensurability between his and our own conceptual schemes. in every civilization. and. on the other hand. in order to describe and justify experiences whose existential density ultimately escapes all attempts at theoreticizing and systematizing. in all the stupefying strangeness of its emergence” (2002: 196. and in India as well. (2002: 275–6) The theoretical discourse of Plato is very different from that of Zhuangzi (Plato talks about the Forms. but the practical goal of their philosophies may be the same.
and so he ultimately goes beyond the tradition of ancient philosophy elaborated by Hadot and enters a realm we can only call the religious. The religious. or a practice to transform our perception and being. the latter consumes in the service of proﬁt. philosophical discourse can also in itself be spiritual exercise. This understanding. There is. however. dialogue is such a discursive practice. is notoriously difﬁcult to deﬁne. In Plato. Zhuangzi’s discourse too is a spiritual exercise in which the reader is invited to take part. however. (1999: 184) 9 . however. and Plato invites the reader of his dialogues to take part in this practice. Grifﬁths (1999: x) provocatively answers that it is a science that is incapable of reading its subject.ON READING ZHUANGZI is obviously no longer a way of life or form of life – unless it be the form of life of a professor of philosophy” (1995: 271). The religious Zhuangzi rejects sage-knowledge (shengzhi ). according to Grifﬁths. and requires the same of its servants. For. This means that even the academic reader – if he or she is able to muster enough hermeneutic imagination. Smith (1998: 281) and deﬁne religion formally as a “disciplinary horizon” projected by scholars of religion. for instance. Today the experimentation that is essential for philosophy takes place outside the university in groups organized around various teachers and traditions. Even worse. For. and requires the same of its acolytes. scholars of religion actually destroy the very traditions they study: “Indologists and anthropologists have done more to destroy traditional Sanskrit learning than ever Christian missionaries could” (Grifﬁths 1999: 185). as Hadot (2002: 175) points out. Instead of discussing the competing deﬁnitions we may follow Jonathan Z. cannot be expressed in a set of propositions (a theory). But here again we face the question: what is this science in the name of which we ask? Paul J. in ancient philosophy philosophical discourse not only justiﬁes a way of life and explains the exercises we must adopt. religious studies and the academy at large has succumbed to “consumerist reading”: The university treats what comes within its grasp with the same unnuanced deadness that McDonald’s and Exxon give to what comes within theirs: the former consumes in the service of witty display. it is expressed rather in the actual practice of reading Zhuangzi as the understanding that ﬁrst allows us to say anything true about Zhuangzi at all. still the possibility that the academic study of Zhuangzi may become more than historical reconstruction and philosophical analysis and become the spiritual exercise that Zhuangzi calls for. and that requires above all the ability to question the science in the name of which we ask – will be able to understand Zhuangzi’s discourse as spiritual exercise.
When Zhuangzi says that the Way (dao ) is more originary than the highest god. that the Way is revealability as such. Unlike Grifﬁths. This is particular important to emphasize today when the so-called “turn to religion” in the academy privileges the position of the Christian revelation. Derrida (1998: 16–21) says that all revelation (Offenbarung) conceals a more originary revealability (Offenbarkeit). In other words. unless it is the other way around. in Derrida’s terms. or religion in the plural. does that not mean. Hent de Vries notes that “relentless historicization and conceptual reduction” and “the conscientious and methodological study of religion” have “undermined the very object of its inquiry” (1999: 1). especially in the ﬁeld of cultural analysis. And yet. may return and recast our conceptual schemes. the properly religious can come into view only if we keep open the possibility that besides the various religions there is religion in the singular. for Zhuangzi. which de Vries thematizes inﬁnitely. the conceptual tools. we ﬁnd ﬁgures of thought in Zhuangzi that can stand side by side with any of the “philosophemes” around which the turn to religion turns. is the religious? We must postpone answers until the following chapters. and not this or that revelation? Or. A distinction must be made between the religious. in more formal terms that owe less to Christianity – but then perhaps owe too much to the Greeks (as if we could only escape the one by ﬂeeing to the other) – is the Way not pure appearance (no-thing) as opposed to the appearance of this or that thing? And is it not precisely the recognition of this difference that. Hent de Vries says that there are embedded in the religious traditions ﬁgures of thought that. however. Levinas’ notion of adieu. and one particular revelation (Christianity) has revealed revealability itself. there may be a genuine humbleness in the turn to religion.AN INTRODUCTION TO DAOIST THOUGHT Perhaps the religious is not that easy to obliterate. Perhaps the turn to and return of religion does not curb the desire that Grifﬁths sees as the bane of the scholars of religion. if we turn to them with proper conceptual seriousness. There may be a sense that philosophy 10 . Derrida further suggests that a “new ‘tolerance’ ” could issue from the respect for this “indecisive oscillation” between revelation and revealability. Where does this leave our science? Like Grifﬁths. de Vries (2002: 236) believes that this nearly obliterated object of inquiry (religion) may return and decisively affect conceptualization in the human sciences. or religion in the singular. Surely. but we can already suggest that it is from this oscillating difference between what appears (revelation) and appearance as such (revealabilty) that Zhuangzi’s religious thought emerges. Borrowing a distinction from Heidegger. to mention just one. and the practices of what they study” (1999: 184). such as. and therefore this particular revelation is more originary than revealability itself. and the various religious traditions. namely “the desire to mention (but never to use) the vocabulary.
“therefore the men in power could not utilize him” (1959: 2144). As a historical person Zhuangzi hardly exists. The ﬁgure of Zhuangzi Zhuangzi ﬂourished in the late fourth century . Fundamentalists and postmodernists agree that truth is generated by and conﬁned to particular practices. he is one of those remarkable people who are liberated from things.ON READING ZHUANGZI (science) should be practiced within the limits of the religious alone – as if the religious placed conceptual boundaries for thought. this remark by Sima Qian should be allowed its full weight. saw in Zhuangzi a man who could not be appropriated by the rulers but would always remain the site of a radical critique of power (Billeter 1996: 876–877). but through that crack in the other that opens because the other is also an other to itself. A science that itself is fragile detects a slight trembling in the other. but his unique and uncanny cognition can be clearly recognized. who himself was a victim of imperial power. or. “strange. Science. extravagant. however. disturbing” (Hadot 2002: 30). Sima Qian. and like Socrates he is known to be atopos. the strangeness of many of the passages in the Zhuangzi 11 . It recognizes that Zhuangzi is unique (du ): “unique he came and went with the spirits of Heaven and Earth” (33/65– 6) (references are to chapter and lines in Zhuangzi yinde). but takes its own historicity into account. not in the light of natural reason. absurd.” “extravagant. Zhuangzi is incomprehensible (33/62–9).145– 86 ) also singles out Zhuangzi’s language as a central characteristic: “His saying surpassed all bounds and followed his whim. but we gather these essential facts about Zhuangzi: he is unique and therefore unclassiﬁable. and he puts forward a critique of power so radical that it cannot be assimilated by the tradition. The early testimony is sparse. The earliest assessment of Zhuangzi is contained in the last chapter of the collection of texts that bears his name. his use of language is astonishing and disconcerting.” and “bizarre” language and unease with his unrestrained freedom and “liberation from things” ( jie yuwu ). is the practice that lets truth emerge from the particular.” To this Sima Qian adds. unclassiﬁable. As Billeter rightly points out. and above all if it becomes what it was originally (and therefore still is essentially): spiritual exercise. In his “biography” of Zhuangzi. worse. in the judgment of these early scholars. This recognition is. and a light (an aura perhaps) appears when the particular passes into the universal without being cancelled out. consumerism. As Jean François Billeter points out. the historian Sima Qian (c. quickly displaced by the disapproval of Zhuangzi’s “absurd. Science can do this if it does not fall into scientism. Ultimately. however.
” How one distinguishes between these two strands depends.” I introduce the quotation with “the Zhuangzi says” as opposed to “Zhuangzi says. but to their being creations of minds that had a sharp sense of the intrinsic strangeness of human existence. however. The ﬁrst seven chapters. The following reading of Zhuangzi is based mainly on the “Inner Chapters. he seems free of them by birthright” (1981: 4). A. and François Jullien (2000: 321) rightly questions if they could fully understand and accept Zhuangzi’s transcendent 12 . in the midst of CentralEuropean bourgeois culture. The Zhuangzi is divided into thirty-three chapters. to their being Chinese or ancient. This edition together with Guo Xiang’s commentary became very inﬂuential among the Chinese literati. In these cases the Zhuangzi is the ﬁrst and best commentary on Zhuangzi. Oscar Wilde read in Zhuangzi a critique of a culture where we are “always trying to be somebody else” and so miss our “own existence” (1969: 223). the “Inner Chapters. (As Kierkegaard pointed out. however.” Some of these texts may well be by Zhuangzi himself. who.AN INTRODUCTION TO DAOIST THOUGHT is not primarily due.) The thirty-three chapters of the Zhuangzi extant today were edited by Guo Xiang (d. In London in the late 1970s. as one might be inclined to think. found consolation in Zhuangzi. Liu 1994. 312). The Chinese literati were. this underlying strangeness for ourselves. (For textual studies of the Zhuangzi. also texts that do not agree with the “Inner Chapters. It is precisely because everything depends on such recognition that anybody who seriously engages Zhuangzi must begin with the claim that Zhuangzi is as yet not understood. The rest of the book contains texts that are consistent with and in many cases develop and elucidate the thought of the “Inner Chapters. that all the passages I use from the later chapters elucidate Zhuangzi’s thought from a position identical with or very close to his own. at least to some extent. (1995: 23–4) Zhuangzi’s essential cognition can be recognized today – differently but just as well as in the past. Roth 1991. on one’s interpretation of Zhuangzi’s thought. see Rand 1983. There are. Martin Buber heard in Zhuangzi a call for the “truthful life” (Herman 1996: 70–1). Graham saw in Zhuangzi a “man so much himself that. and Roth 1993. after the rise and fall of the counterculture. however.” are generally considered to be the work of Zhuangzi himself. tied to their ideology of social and aesthetic harmony. C.) In the ﬁrst decade of the twentieth century. In the midst the chinoiserie of the Victorian period. or rediscovering. especially in times when they had to retreat from their positions of power.” When I quote from the “Outer Chapters” and the “Mixed Chapters. hearing the Gospel does not depend on historical proximity but on being truly provoked by the word. Graham 1990a. with the consequence that we can only grasp their truth by discovering. rather than rebelling against conventional modes of thinking.” I do believe.
ON READING ZHUANGZI freedom. not obscure things that it is permissible to say any old way” (1990: 165). “its inexplicit logos” or “the view with respect to which the book was composed” (Grodin 1994: 43). This judgment. however. The emphasis on harmony and adaptation in recent Western aesthetic-pragmatic interpretations of Zhuangzi is in line with this traditional Chinese view. Zhuangzi expresses simple things that are difﬁcult to say. ﬁrst consider Zhuangzi’s fundamental ﬁgures of thought. and boundless variety of expression. Jean François Billeter says that Guo Xiang’s commentary transformed Zhuangzi’s thought of radical autonomy into an apology for disengagement that served the literati’s “natural conservatism by offering an imaginary counterpart to their servitude” (2002: 133). therefore. and it shows such disdain for our attempts to make sense. In order to discover the conceptual coherence in Zhuangzi. the unity of Zhuangzi’s thought will become apparent. only reﬂects our failure to gain a thematic focus for our reading. Once we collect ourselves and ask the right questions. polymorphic thought. that some scholars declare it beyond uniﬁed comprehension. 13 . who recognized that in order to understand a text we must ﬁrst consider its scopus. Billeter correctly points out that beyond Zhuangzi’s “disconcerting imagination” we ﬁnd “a well determined philosophical position and an intellectual coherence without faults. the central thought of the text. before the speciﬁc textual analysis and the arguments that follow. I will. we should follow the advice of the early interpreters of the Bible. The Zhuangzi is of such immense scope.
Zhuangzi brings to view the world qua world before it is humanized and turned into the world of man (ren ). Novalis What things things is not a thing. which is Zhuangzi’s technical term for humanity fallen into the realm of things. In order to live. Thus. we no longer see the world qua world.AN INTRODUCTION TO DAOIST THOUGHT 2 ZHUANGZI’S FUNDAMENTAL FIGURES OF THOUGHT Wir suchen überall das Unbedingte. technological society. Zhuangzi The view of the world It is a metaphysical tendency in human beings to enclose themselves in a world of their own making and neglect the experience of the world qua world. mankind must “humanize” the world. it was already evident in antiquity: People in antiquity were unfamiliar with modern science. and conventional values. That is what our world is like. in other words transform it. and we neglect the cominginto-being of things when we fabricate our world of things. we fabricate the objects of our worry. social rituals. but. It may be particularly pronounced today in the age of technology. (1995: 258) The world qua world is not an object extended in space – it is not a thing – but the ceaseless coming-into-being of things. and did not live in an industrial. 14 . as Pierre Hadot points out. The neglect of the world through technical mastery is a universal problem. quarrels. yet the ancients didn’t look at the world any more than we usually do. by action as well as by his perception. Such is the human condition. und ﬁnden immer nur Dinge. into an ensemble of things useful for life.
ZHUANGZI’S FUNDAMENTAL FIGURES OF THOUGHT
Zhuangzi’s essential experience is of the moment just when ( fang ) something appears or comes forth (chu ). This coming-into-being is not yet a thing (wu ), but it is also not the absence of things (as when things remain absorbed in a primordial unity). Zhuangzi acknowledges the simple, almost banal fact that there is something rather than nothing, or as Isabelle Robinet says, that “ ‘there is’ world” (‘il y a’ du monde). Zhuangzi’s thought, says Robinet, is entirely oriented towards the “coming of the world” (l’avènement du monde) and “coming into existence” (advenir à l’ex-sistence): the moment when something begins to emerge from nothing (wu ) into being (you ) – or, from “there is not” to “there is” – without as yet being a positive, differentiated, and identiﬁable thing. This moment – Robinet calls it the “birth of beings” and the “origin of the world” – is ceaseless, but it is not a fact in the world, it is “a hole in time, an atemporal forgetfulness” (un trou dans les temps, oubli atemporal ). When we experience this moment of emergence, we feel the force of the spontaneously self-so (ziran ), or the force of nature as self-emerging being (Robinet 1996: 115–16). In order to regain this sense of self-emerging being, Zhuangzi develops his discourse as spiritual exercise, through which, to borrow the words of Hadot, the world then seems to come into being and be born before our eyes. We then perceive the world as a “nature” in the etymological sense of the word: physis, that movement of growth and birth by which things manifest themselves. We experience ourselves as a moment or instant of this movement; this immense event which reaches beyond us, is always already there before us, and is always beyond us. We are born along with the world. (1995: 260) Or, as Zhuangzi says, “Heaven and Earth are born together with us” (2/52). For we too are born of the ceaseless movement of self-emerging life, and in experiencing ourselves as being born of this movement we live engendered by Heaven (tianersheng ).
Life against completion
Normally, however, we do not experience self-emerging life (sheng ), for we are too preoccupied with bringing things to completion (cheng ). Zhuangzi’s most important rhetorical gesture, the opposition between life and completion, captures the human predicament. Life is the spontaneously emerging life generated by Heaven; completion, with connotations of “formation” and “fulﬁllment,” “accomplishment” and “achievement,” is what human beings add to life (yisheng ), when they enclose themselves in a world of their own making. This opposition structures Zhuangzi’s thought on action, ethics, and language: 15
AN INTRODUCTION TO DAOIST THOUGHT
life (sheng) is engendered by Heaven; completion (cheng) is fashioned by man (ren). Technical action – skill ( ji ), method (shu ), and making (wei ) – serves the drive for completion (cheng); non-technical action, or non-action (wuwei ), does not aim at completion, but cares for life ( yangsheng ). Technical language, completed, conclusive, and valid discourse (chengyan ) imposes a completion (cheng) on the world; Zhuangzi’s own saying, in particular his impromptu words (zhiyan ), are exposed to life (sheng) itself.
This opposition between life (sheng) and completion (cheng) must be understood in its full psychological and metaphysical depth. The completion that human beings add to life is a defense against the inevitable (budeyi ) course of life ending in death, and the remarkable acceptance of death in Zhuangzi, which Graham (1981: 23–4) in particular has emphasized, is due to the fact that Zhuangzi is free from what I call the drive towards completion. As Zhuangzi sees it, the real human tragedy is that the very drive that tries to avoid death withdraws from life itself. But what exactly is this drive towards completion, this excess human beings add to life? Here we can take our cue from Eric Santner’s analysis of the Jewish-German philosopher and religious thinker Franz Rosenzweig. At the center of Rosenzweig’s philosophy is the attempt to break with metaphysical thinking and return to the experience of being “in the midst of life.” According to Santner, here “metaphysical thinking” should not only be understood as philosophy (German Idealism) but as a tendency inherent in everyday life itself, namely “a kind of withdrawal from, a kind of fantasmatic defense against, our being in the midst of the ﬂow of life” (2001: 21). Santner explains: We are dealing here with a paradoxical kind of mental energy that constrains by means of excess, that leaves us stuck and paralyzed precisely by way of a certain kind of intensiﬁcation and ampliﬁcation, by a “too much” of pressure that is unable to be assumed, taken up into the ﬂow of living. (2001: 22) Paradoxically, everyday life gives rise to fantasmatic defense structures that “keep us from opening to the temporal ﬂow of life even though they are in some fundamental way immanent to, constitutive of, everyday life” (Santner 2001: 23). Santner says that these defense structures are the 16
ZHUANGZI’S FUNDAMENTAL FIGURES OF THOUGHT
fantasies that effect “social adaptation” and the “the social bond”; they are “the fantasies that underlie our political and ideological captivation, that sustain our psychic entanglement with regimes of power and authority, our psychic attachment to existing social reality” (2001: 24). They are “the fantasies that keep us in the thrall of some sort of exceptional ‘beyond’,” for we are “captured” by social relations and this hinders “our openness to the world, our being in the midst of life” (Santner 2001: 31, 100). This is a psychoanalytic formulation of what Hadot describes as the humanization of the world that results in the neglect of the world qua world. In Zhuangzi’s terms it is the drive towards completion (cheng) that results in the neglect of life (sheng). To this Santner adds the important point that, strangely enough, it is precisely our absorption in the fantasmatic structures of social relations that prevents the ethical experience, or the true encounter with the other. The truly ethical encounter with the other can only happen through an unbinding of the fantasmatic structures so we again inhabit the “midst of life.” “I am suggesting,” writes Santner, “that the task of truly inhabiting the ‘midst of life’ involves the risk of an unbinding or loosening of this fantasy as well as the social bond effectuated in it” (2001: 33). As we will see, precisely such risky unbinding ( jie ) of the drive towards completion (cheng) is at the core of Zhuangzi’s ethics.
What is most evident in Zhuangzi is dark despair and a pitiless wisdom that at times seems unbearable. It is strange, therefore, that so many scholars ﬁnd in Zhuangzi mainly sunny optimism, playful aestheticism, happy immersion in know-how, and an apparent ability to entertain everyone to no end. In a recent comparative work on Zhuangzi and Kierkegaard, we learn that Zhuangzi’s vision is “remarkably optimistic,” and that Zhuangzi assures us that “[t]hings are ﬁne – and we too are just things among things – just as they are” (Carr and Ivanhoe 2000: 120). One may perhaps have expected that the comparison with Kierkegaard would have precluded this misunderstanding. For Zhuangzi despairs precisely at the fact that we have become things among things and treat each other as things, that is to say, as objects that can be manipulated, mutilated, killed, and discarded. To be sure, Zhuangzi also celebrates our freedom, but as Chen Guying (2005a) rightly points out, Zhuangzi’s “free and easy wandering” must be seen against the background of a “tragic consciousness”. In the Zhuangzi we read the following chilling description of the human condition. Intellectuals are not happy without the permutations of thoughts and ideas. Disputers are not happy without well-ordered arguments. Investigators are not happy without the task of making accusations. All of them are conﬁned by things. . . . Farmers are uneasy without 17
human understanding has become a mere container for the transit of things and does not understand anything beyond this commerce. How sad! (24/33–8) We should easily recognize ourselves in this description. and we feel uneasy without this constant busyness. that is to say. both of which are visible in the outer (wai) realm. Once enclosed in a world of our own making.” When we turn the world into a realm of things (wu). The common people exert themselves diligently when they have occupations from dawn to dusk. is visible. Zhuangzi writes: Once we have received the completed physical form. They rush their physical forms and their natures and are submerged in the thousand things. As long as we identify with this outer body/self we exhaust ourselves in competition with others and in pursuit of imaginary goals. “if we wish to return to the root [the Way]. we do not forget it while we wait for extinction. The body. They all follow the times and change with things. All their life they never turn back. then we are “conﬁned by things” (you yuwu ) like animals in a pen. says Zhuangzi. The Zhuangzi precisely describes what happens when we. obviously. In other words. Human life.AN INTRODUCTION TO DAOIST THOUGHT the busyness of plowing and planting. It is a pervasive theme in the Zhuangzi that human life (renzhisheng ) is a life of misery and a sad delusion. they cannot but act. the various artisans are full of vigor when they exercise their skills with tools and machines. We exhaust ourselves in tiresome labor and do not know where it comes to rest. The Zhuangzi laments: “How sad that human beings are only inns for things! They understand what they encounter [as a thing] and do not understand what they do not encounter [as a thing]” (22/82). will it not be difﬁcult?” (22/10). “Now that we have already become things. the various objects of our concern. Preoccupied with things. we are unable to be happy unless we are engaged with our own thoughts. is tied to our form (xing ). arguments. if their power and inﬂuence do not increase the ambitious are sad. “humanize” the world by transforming it “into an ensemble of ‘things’ useful for life. to our body and self. and technical abilities. we learn timely action and how to change along with things. Is it not lamentable? (2/18–19) 18 .” says the Zhuangzi. as Hadot says. Those who go for power and material things delight in changes – the moment something can be put to use. but the self ( ji ) too is visible in names (ming ) and achievements (gong ). merchants are uneasy without the busyness of buying and selling. Is it not sad? All life we labor and do not see any results. If their money and goods do not accumulate the greedy worry. Cutting into and grinding together with things we rush on to the end like a galloping horse no one can stop.
says Zhuangzi. so what use does he have for knowledge. says Zhuangzi. so what use does he have for glue. which is characteristic of human life. For we know our way around in our world. Such mechanical heartsand-minds. We think that we are awake and with dense. if nothing essentially human is added to life.” is like a great awakening. how can there be human life at all? Zhuangzi answers that 19 . 5/30. says Zhuangzi. decline day by day. swift and deadly in its judgments. Hui Shi . He does not split things up. the sage has the form of a human being. and skill as peddling. so what use does he have for making connections? He has nothing to sell. The sage. and right (shi ) and wrong ( fei ) ﬂy from it like arrows from the crossbow trigger. virtue as making connections. But if the sage does not take part in the commerce of human life how does the sage sustain himself ? The sage. and 6/69). In the view of Zhuangzi. Because human life is a miserable delusion. stubborn conﬁdence we say: “Ah. 6/24. It means. The key point is that for the sage the center of gravity has shifted from human life to the life of Heaven: “How tiny and small is that which categorizes him as a human being. says Zhuangzi. But this absorption in the symbolic order. but the sage does not have the essence (qing ) of a human being. social bonds as glue. In other words. how huge and great is the way he uniquely completes his Heaven” (5/54 –5). and we take it for real. that is a shepherd!” (2/83). until they can hardly be made to recover life (2/11–13). 6/8. he does not issue nor is he affected by value judgments in terms of right and wrong (the deadly arrows from the crossbow).ZHUANGZI’S FUNDAMENTAL FIGURES OF THOUGHT Furthermore. the human heart-and-mind (xin ) has become mechanical. that “human beings do not harm themselves inside with [value judgments in terms of ] good and bad. The sage does not scheme. “receives food from Heaven. 5/5. so what use has he for peddling” (5/52–3). human life is a dream. and that the perfected person views life and death as one unity and is not affected by the transformation of one into the other (2/73. and so in the outer realm the sage “groups together with humans” (5/54). is a defense against the inevitable (budeyi) course of life ending in death. sees “knowledge as a curse. the life beyond “life and death. 6/1. is obviously shocked at Zhuangzi’s proposal and asks: “If human beings do not add to life how can they even maintain themselves [as humans]?” (5/58). Zhuangzi’s friend and interlocutor. He is deprived of nothing. that is to say. so what use does he have for man?” (5/53– 4). but rather always follow the spontaneously self-so ( yinziran ) and not add to life” (5/57–8). there is a ruler! Oh. and therefore he repeats again and again that we must give up our love and lust for human life. This release from human life into the life of Heaven. To be sure. Zhuangzi wants us to overcome this defense mechanism. In the immediately following passage. Zhuangzi elaborates on what it means to be without the essence (qing) of the human. 4/44. Zhuangzi’s sage does not identify with the states and activities that deﬁne human life.
who remarked on how hard it is to strip ourselves of the human.AN INTRODUCTION TO DAOIST THOUGHT the appearance and form of human beings have been given us by the Way and by Heaven. above all he wants us to see through the human form to the ceaseless emergence of life itself. Hadot writes: Doesn’t “stripping off man” mean that the philosopher completely transforms his vision of the universe. when Zhuangzi negates the human. Furthermore. Unfortunately we do not recognize this but get lost in appearances and entangled with things. Look at yourself. the exercise of skill. and even wisdom – and that he is rightly criticized. when Zhuangzi negates human life he at the same time afﬁrms that very life as being engendered by Heaven. logic. Therefore. This tendency to strip ourselves of “the human” is constant throughout the most diverse schools – from Pyrrho.” but in Zhuangzi tian does not mean “nature” in our modern sense of a natural world understood in terms of biological evolution. nor in the seventeenth-century sense of matter extended in space and governed by a set of mechanical laws. for being absorbed in Heaven and neglecting the human. to Aristotle. Zhuangzi wants to liberate human existence from the false values and views we have added to it. transcending the limited viewpoint of what is human. virtue. . 211) The life of Heaven The word tian . . . It is our fate to have the form of a human being. in order. says Zhuangzi to his friend. but the form is merely something outer. then it is not an outlandish proposition but a view shared by many ancient philosophers. where it is not a question of providing information but rather of provoking transformation. and in the process you harm your inner (nei): you “push your spirit (shen ) into the outer realm and wear out your vital essence (qing )” (5/58–60). perhaps. as he was early on. which I translate as “Heaven. who believed that in mystical experience we cease to be “human. it reveals the nudity of existence.” (2002: 113. But Zhuangzi’s meditations on human life are spiritual exercise. It may seem that Zhuangzi totally strips the human subject of all that is quintessentially human – the ability to impose values on the world. you wear yourself out with your sophistic logic and disputation. for whom life according to the mind is super-human. all-too-human. and as far as Plotinus.” is sometimes translated as “nature. to attain a state of simplicity prior to all distinctions. beyond the partial oppositions and false values which human beings add to it. nor in the Christian medieval sense of God’s creation 20 . in order to elevate himself to a superior point of view? Such a perspective is in a way inhuman. In regard to the ancient Greek philosophers. it is not our true being.
The crucial point is that. As Pierre Hadot writes. Zhuangzi wonders: “Is the deep blue of the sky (tian) its true color? Or is it that it is so distant that it reaches no limit?” (1/4–5). that is to say. Zhuangzi says that perfected human beings rely on Heaven’s texture (tianli ) (3/6). “is the movement of Heaven” (15/10).ZHUANGZI’S FUNDAMENTAL FIGURES OF THOUGHT subservient to His purpose. Zhuangzi’s thought is a response to this crisis. Wandering is not a technique or a method. If we must translate tian as “nature” the word should be understood rather in the ancient Greek sense of an alive. should be distinguished from the common experience of heaven and earth (tiandi ). This inner experience of Heaven (tian). physical nature. rest in the potter’s wheel of Heaven (tianjun ) (2/40). Graham (1989: 107–11). For only by breaking with the natural. Here the sky. or the experience of things as things. Victor Mair says that in Zhuangzi “’wandering implies a ‘laid-back’ attitude towards life in which one takes things as they come and ﬂows along with the Tao [Dao] 21 . which is his spiritual exercise par excellence. ceaseless movement of coming-into-being (Collingwood 1960: 3–13). better. the split is the very condition for this experience. Zhuangzi’s experience of wandering (you ). intelligent.” and it is “within ourselves that we can experience the coming-intobeing of reality and the presence of being” (1995: 260). C. prereﬂexive unity with Heaven. but the simple release of human life into its pure coming-into-being. that is to say. do human beings attain the experience of Heaven. on the contrary. according to Zhuangzi. “The life of the sage. the world in general and the world of human beings in particular. and since the vast blue sky above us seems to be inﬁnite. part of physical nature. give us intimations of the transcendent. According to A. that it is the movement of Heaven. which is proper only to animals. In Zhuangzi tian often means “sky” in the concrete sense of the sky above us. comes to represent the inﬁnite (wuqiong ) associated with Heaven. equalize things within the bounds of Heaven (tianni ) (6/90). and ultimately they enter into unity with vast Heaven (ruyu liaotian yi !") (6/82) and live engendered by Heaven (tianersheng ) (6/1). according to ancient Greek philosophy nature ( phusis) is “that movement of growth and birth by which things manifest themselves. but it should be emphasized that for Zhuangzi the split between Heaven and man does not preclude the experience of Heaven. this split between Heaven (tian) and the realm of man (ren) caused a “metaphysical crisis” in the fourth century . of course. draw on their Heavenly mechanism (tianji ) (6/7).” says the Zhuangzi. is precisely this experience of being moved by Heaven. Physical nature can. which is the inner experience of being engendered by Heaven. Heaven is opposed to the realm below Heaven (tianxia ). illuminate things in the light of Heaven (zhaozhi yutian !) (2/29). and “when he [the sage] moves he is moved by Heaven” (15/18). we can transform our human life and experience that this life is moved by Heaven. or. In this sense nature is not an outer object but rather an inner experience.
the person who is wandering is liberated from things. and Heaven engenders life. Similarly. Graham remarks that in Zhuangzi the Way is an “inner experience. does not itself ﬂourish and decay (22/51).” The Way. but it is not itself a being. The Way is the pure self-emergence of beings. it is “nothing less than the universe ﬂowing from its ultimate source (not just the course of its ﬂow. which is the movement of this completion and destruction.AN INTRODUCTION TO DAOIST THOUGHT unconcernedly” (1994: 385). the Way is the absolute. We should follow rather Fukunaga Mitsuji (1946). As Izutsu Toshihiko says. the One. is entirely beyond any distinctions we can draw. that for Zhuangzi the Way is the inner experience of the totality of things after we break out of the conﬁnement of the 22 . beyond being and nonbeing. “the essence of life” (2002: 80). A. says that in Zhuangzi the term you (wandering) is “used rather like the ‘trip’ of psychedelic slang in the 1960s” (1981: 8). Human life is engendered by Heaven. explains. Chen Guying (2005b). Things complete and destruct. it is right here to be participated in absolutely” (1992: 55). C. which is the movement of this ﬂourishing and decay. The Way In Zhuangzi the Way (dao) and Heaven (tian) are closely connected. He can be conscious of himself as a manifestation of the Way. Livia Kohn explains that “one always participates in the Tao [Dao]. but “man alone is in a position to grasp the Way from the inside. but the Way. Wandering ( you) happens when we do experience ourselves as being engendered by Heaven and experience a freedom and joy that is not found within the conﬁnes of human life. but usually we are so immersed in human life that we have no sense of being engendered by Heaven. Far from simply going along with the ﬂow of things and the events of human life. which is precisely what prevents us from experiencing the life of Heaven. A. the Way is the transcendental life that gives life to the living but does not itself live and die. which would be to draw a distinction)” (1989: 188). The Way is. as Isabelle Robinet says. Graham. Like Heaven. who understands Zhuangzi’s wandering in terms of the profound religious experience of surrendering to the chaos of self-emerging life. Like Heaven. Things ﬂourish and decay. so to speak. but the Way. says Graham. entering Heaven and becoming a friend of the Creator of Things. for his part. the Way is an inner experience. For Zhuangzi uses the term you (wandering) in a very precise sense that can only be understood against the background of Zhuangzi’s crucial distinction between human life (renzhisheng ) and the life of Heaven (tianzhisheng ).” it is an “unformulable path” and an “unnamable whole. He can feel and touch within himself the palpitating life of the Absolute as it is actively working there” (1984: 53). the absolute. does not itself complete and destruct (2/35–6). The absolute is the now. C. for his part.
These scholars come close to explaining Zhuangzi’s Way.” Therefore. such as another world . for instance. says Jullien. a continuity of being without ontologically different levels of being. This invisible is rather the diffuse basis of the visible from which the latter ceaselessly actualizes itself. but ultimately the Way is supra-discursive. or by any method in general (22/1–28).ZHUANGZI’S FUNDAMENTAL FIGURES OF THOUGHT completed mind and the objectiﬁed self and attain cosmic consciousness. which instead of ontological levels operates with stages between the not yet actualized and the actualized. the Way (dao) is invisible and escapes the senses. before there were Heaven and Earth. In short. the Way is beyond the continuum that according to Jullien constitutes the totality of the ancient Chinese philosophy of process. argues that unlike the Greek tradition with its difference between being and becoming.” and in reading Chinese texts “we quit Greek ontology for the Chinese conception of the process of the real” (2000: 280–1). In China. “there is no metaphysical rupture between the phenomenal and its foundation. but. reﬂection. The Zhuangzi. It engenders Heaven and Earth. knowing. 23 . from ancient times assuredly existing. Zhuangzi says: The Way is real and true. . it is below the world without being low. It has no action and no form. it is senior to high antiquity without being old. .” they do not imply “an ontological rift” (Jullien 2000: 290–1). that is to say. to accumulate and to disperse (22/51–2). and any discourse on the Way can only be an exercise in saying the unsayable. . It divinizes the ghosts and the highest god. Therefore it is highly questionable if in Zhuangzi. . according to Jullien. in the Chinese tradition “the difference introduced within the real operates between two stages” and there are not different ontological levels of being. it is of the order of the evanescent and not the unintelligible (noeton). the intelligible and the sensible. following. explicitly says that the Way is beyond the dichotomies of full and empty. however. It is above the highest point without being high. although the Chinese stages of the visible and the invisible constitute “an original dialectic that can be seen as parallel to Western ontology. in China the invisible “does not constitute another level. It can be handed down but not received. Rooted in itself. submission. To be sure. root and branch. (6/29–31) It is a widely held opinion among Western scholars that for the ancient Chinese thinkers the real is one homogeneous process. The invisible is indeed beyond the visible but as an extension of it. this invisible lacks metaphysical consistency. The Zhuangzi also explicitly says that the Way cannot be attained through meditation. It can be apprehended but not seen. . François Jullien (2000: 280). it is prior to Heaven and Earth without being longlasting. abiding. founded in itself.
and the outer (wai). for instance. and use. which is under the constraint of time and space. Ikeda Tomohisa (1996: 143–52). and the inner (nei). strictly speaking. in these discussions the Zhuangzi does. the highest attainment of the ancients was to realize that there is “a realm [or state] before there are things” (2/40). name. but Chinese and Japanese scholars often treat it as central to Zhuangzi’s thought. they are all a this as opposed to a that. and so. There is no continuity between these two realms: “what things things. Zhuangzi says that the realm “before there are things. Two kinds of transcendence On November 12. and general insecurity. or the realm of the Way. enter “a higher metaphysical realm” (1998: 236). and the realm of the Way (dao). then it is not thinking of a Platonic form (eidos). strife. distinctions. some followers of Amalric of Bena were burnt at the stake. and this opposition gives rise to disputes.AN INTRODUCTION TO DAOIST THOUGHT as Jullien says. and it is unnecessary to insist with Jullien that Zhuangzi’s conception of the Way “lacks metaphysical consistency. and the ensuing value judgments (2/40–2). or rather as the determination and the ‘topia’ of every entity” (1993: 13). In this way. which transcends beings and forms in time and space.” When the Zhuangzi speaks of the Way as the real (qing ) beyond form.” Zhuangzi’s categorical distinction between the realm of things and the Way makes the transcendence of the Way especially clear. “God is in every thing as the place in which every thing is. or the realm of things. All these facts are relative. Agamben adds that the consequence of this heretical view is that the transcendent “is not a supreme entity above all things.” the Way. is the totality of facts that make up our world as every thing we perceive. places early Daoist thought squarely in the ﬁelds of ontology and metaphysics. 1210. name. The realm before there are things is the Way. the pure transcendent is the taking-place 24 . Western Zhuangzi scholars generally disregard this crucial difference between the realm of things and the Way. and he says that in Laozi and Zhuangzi there are two distinct realms: the realm of things (wu). which “things things” (wuwu ) but is “not a thing” (22/75). color.” namely the Way. is posited at a different level from things. rather. because Amalric had interpreted the claim of the Apostle that “God is all in all” to mean that. Nevertheless.” for borders are only found in the realm of things (22/50–1). is nothing. and sound (13/67). “do not touch upon each other” (6/66–7). as Christoph Harbsmeier says. as Giorgio Agamben writes. In Zhuangzi the realm of things. Zhuangzi makes a categorical if not ontological distinction between the realm of things and the Way. Therefore. the Way “is of the order of the evanescent and not the unintelligible. according to Zhuangzi. including human beings (as things). “has no border with things.
” but it itself is never given as a fact in the world. This beyond is conceived of as static. . Agamben then extrapolates on this idea of transcendence: God or the good or the place does not take place. the orthodox Western kind from Plato’s Forms to Descartes’ cogito. abstract. as Agamben says. which is also the Way. The Zhuangzi calls this radical nothing the “non-existence of nothing” (wuwu ) (22/67). that something can appear and have a face. then. In the ﬁrst kind. There is. differentiated. distinguish between two kinds of transcendence. Robinet writes: In regard to the order to which the undifferentiated and the differentiated pertain. is divine.” This second kind of transcendence eludes the distinction between immanence and transcendence. (1993: 14) We should. This invisible [the radical nothing. the difference is absolute. the being-stone of the stone.” the very fact “[t]hat the world is. It is this second kind of transcendence that Isabelle Robinet has in mind when she says that Zhuangzi’s essential experience is the moment when something begins to emerge from there is not (wu) into there is ( you) without as yet being a positive. their innermost exteriority. The being-worm of the worm. that something can appear” that is “the pure transcendent. Thus precisely its being irreparably in the world is what transcends and exposes every worldly entity. which Robinet renders with “the absence of absence” or “the non-being of non-being. Or. then. transcends the continuum of opposites that deﬁne an immanent process. a genuine ontological difference at work in Zhuangzi between what appears (differentiated things) and appearance as such which does not appear. that goes beyond x as a thing or an object. The possibility of this double mode of being. and absolute. but is the takingplace of the entities.” their “being irreparably in the world. it is the very “taking-place of the entities. For the radical nothing is the ontological precondition for “there is world. .ZHUANGZI’S FUNDAMENTAL FIGURES OF THOUGHT of every thing” (1993: 14). invisible and yet visible (invisible et par 25 . That the world is. . and I suggest that this is the fundamental sense of transcendence in Zhuangzi. and identiﬁable thing. According to Robinet. it is the taking-place of x. the being-such of x.” Robinet says that this radical nothing. the Way] manifests as invisible in the visible. as that which cannot appear and does not appear. transcendence means that there is a realm or an entity y that goes beyond and surpasses x. that there is exteriority and non-latency as the determination and the limit of every thing: this is the good. In the second kind of transcendence. in Zhuangzi there is a wu (nothing) more radical than the wu that is opposed to you (something).
AN INTRODUCTION TO DAOIST THOUGHT là visible). an ontological difference between the event of appearing and that which appears. 27). and so he brings into play the other kind of transcendence. then. Indeed. For it is perhaps natural that someone like Zhuangzi. where there is a y (a Creator) that is beyond and causes x (things). whose essential experience is the awareness of pure coming-into-being – the astonishing fact that the world is – should sometimes retreat from this experience and contemplate how the world comes into being. in the same way as appearance does not appear (l’apparaitre n’apparait pas)” (1996: 141). which transcends things without being some-thing beyond the realm of things. on the immanence of the foundation of the world and not see that the nature of this immanence is to be irreducibly and forever invisible is to stop half-ways. as does Jullien. one of the earliest accounts of Zhuangzi. That is to say. indeed more transcendent than the transcendence of some y in relation to some x: “To insist. but one may also venture a psychological explanation. with the event of appearing independent of this content (le fait d’apparaitre indépendant de ce contenu). As Robinet points out. it is much 26 . Why does Zhuangzi vacillate between these two notions of transcendence? From a historical point of view. Zhuangzi describes the Creator of Transformations as a smith whose forge is heaven and earth (6/59–60). Similarly. that one should not confuse that which appears. the answer is that Zhuangzi joins a wider debate in the fourth century concerning the question of whether or not there is something that causes the changes in nature (Tu 1985: 1–10). 6/71). This conception of Heaven and the Creator of things as anthropomorphic. is a sign of its irreducible immanence. That which is immanent can never become an object of knowing without losing its character of immanence” (1996: 125. which is found in the last chapter of the Zhuangzi itself. Furthermore. The picture of Heaven as a transcendent creator is reinforced when Zhuangzi says that Heaven determines the destiny of things (5/10) and their life-span (6/2). n. Robinet adds the explanatory comment: “and so it does not appear. We have in Zhuangzi. And yet. Zhuangzi says that the Way and Heaven give forms to things (5/56). this ontological difference is not incompatible with immanence – but an immanence more radical. Zhuangzi mentions a Creator of Things (zaowuzhe ) (6/67) and a Creator of Transformations (zaohuazhe ) (6/59). “that which gives birth to the living [Heaven. the ontic content. and that Heaven can punish human beings (5/31. (1996: 125) When Zhuangzi says. The Creator is a kind of Demiurge who fashions the material world. characterizes Zhuangzi as someone who “above wanders with the Creator of things” (33/67). the Way] is not born” (6/42). transcendent causes of things seems incompatible with the idea of the Way and Heaven as the self-emergence of things. The essential form of transcendence in Zhuangzi is the pure appearance of things.
then. for nonunderstanding does not confront and appropriate the object as something that enters the ﬁeld of vision as a thing (23/71). namely the split between the thing as being this or that thing and the thing as beingsuch as it is and indifferent to differences. Not to understand is inner (nei). or knowing and not-knowing: “Is then not to understand to understand? Is then to understand not to understand? Who understands that understanding which is notunderstanding?” (22/61). he argues that a movement that engenders itself can only be ascribed to the soul – the soul that is “older than matter. Plato shares this notion of nature. saw nature (phusis) as a ceaseless self-generating movement of coming-into-being. on the other hand. In other words. not to let this form of transcendence collapse into a simple immanence. The difﬁculty is.” In other words. it is a technical ability. cf. This agrees with the Mohist logicians’ deﬁnition of understanding (Graham 1978: 266). For it is a split in the thing itself that constitutes transcendence. not to objectify pure self-emergence into a principle or a force external to things themselves. Everything here depends on being able to think transcendence without a transcendent object or being. “to conform to what understanding understands is shallow indeed” (22/84). The Greeks. to understand is outer (wai)” (22/60–1).ZHUANGZI’S FUNDAMENTAL FIGURES OF THOUGHT easier to understand transcendence as some y that surpasses and causes x than to tarry with the notion of transcendence as the pure emergence and being-such of x as opposed to x as a thing. to understand is shallow.” For. Zhuangzi himself says: “How do I know that what I call to understand is not not-to-understand? How do I know that what I call not-to-understand is not to understand?” (2/66). The Zhuangzi says that understanding is to connect with ( jie ) the object and then to scheme (mou ) in making use of it. but in Book ten of the Laws. This non-objectifying ﬁeld 27 . on the other hand. the self-engendering movement of nature is now seen as a ﬁrst principle and a ﬁrst cause (Laws 889e–899d. it may also be pointed out that the vacillation between seeing the ceaseless emergence of beings (nature) either as self-generated or as caused by some agent is a universal problematic. as we have noted. The Zhuangzi says that not to understand is the more authentic way of understanding: “Not to understand is profound. Finally. selfgenerating motion is “the source of all motion” and “inﬁnitely superior to all other forms of motion. on the one hand. Zhuangzi’s non-understanding or not-knowing. says Plato. Hadot 2002: 11). to be a universal tendency for transcendence as the pure emergence and being-so of the thing to slip into transcendence as an agency and cause beyond the thing. Furthermore. and. Non-understanding The Zhuangzi radically questions the distinction between understanding (zhi ) and non-understanding (buzhi ). There seems. is like looking awry (ni ).
far from being a deﬁcient state. only when there is non-understanding can there be understanding” (24/109).” to Heidegger. and. just like the ground on which we do not step is the precondition for taking any steps at all. but even as it treads. Zhuangzi’s non-understanding runs counter to the Western tradition from Aristotle. (4/30–2) The understanding that comes from non-understanding cannot be falsiﬁed. What is caused by man is easy to falsify. who in Being and Time (1996: 309) deﬁnes understanding as a fundamental characteristic of our very being-in-the-world. (24/104–5) For Zhuangzi non-understanding has to be retained as the essential element in understanding. Man understands little. like a wingless ﬂight.AN INTRODUCTION TO DAOIST THOUGHT of vision (non-understanding) is the precondition for understanding anything at all. he relies on what he does not understand in order to understand what we call Heaven. who begins his Metaphysics by stating that “all men by nature desire to know. what is caused by Heaven is hard to falsify. True understanding is granted only by non-understanding. it relies on where it does not tread in order to walk far. To understand on the basis of non-understanding is. Friedrich Schlegel recognized that incomprehension. for it is not the result of a method but generated by Heaven. is in fact the productive force in comprehension. And yet. as we will see in the following chapters. in order for understanding to be more than a merely technical procedure and open to Heaven. as the Zhuangzi says. non-understanding is the precondition for understanding anything at all and in particular for understanding Heaven. but you have never heard about ﬂying by having no wings. When we live engendered by Heaven. For Heaven is not a thing and therefore it cannot be connected with ( jie) understanding. with some irony. then “to understand seems like not to understand. You have heard about ﬂying by having wings. To leave no tracks is easy. and authentic saying is granted only by non-saying. The foot treads on the earth. Or. According to this tradition non-understanding is a deﬁciency that indicates a failure to fully actualize one’s human potential. says Zhuangzi. In addressing the criticism of the Athenaeum for being incomprehensible. writes: 28 . the situation is the same in regard to authentic action and saying: authentic action is granted only by non-action. but you have never heard of understanding by having no understanding. but little as it is. You have heard about understanding by having understanding. Schlegel. but not to walk on the ground is difﬁcult.
discloses its possibility.” which is not the opposite of understanding but “its inconceivable ground and ungraspable background. art. Similarly Zhuangzi claims nonunderstanding as the very condition for understanding. What remains is “nonunderstanding. even man’s most precious possession. . the whole world were ever to become wholly comprehensible in earnest. and in particularly for understanding Heaven. says Hamacher. and has furthermore taken it for a methodologically controllable procedure. and preserves it as a possibility. says Hamacher. it would fare badly with you if. .” But. . incomprehensibility is what ﬁrst grants understanding. And isn’t this entire. . . ars. Verily. . unending world constructed by the understanding out of incomprehensibility or chaos? (1971: 268) Werner Hamacher points out that the dominant tradition in the West has interpreted understanding “as techne. an incapacity and an impossibility” at the heart of understanding. Zhuangzi’s discourse is a spiritual exercise that aims to retain this productive element of non-understanding in understanding – and the reader is invited to take part in the exercise. depends in the last analysis. there remains “something uncomprehended and incomprehensible . Yes. as you demand. . but that nonetheless shores up and supports the whole burden and would crumble the moment one subjected it to rational analysis. his inner happiness.” Therefore. “understanding must understand itself from its impossibility” (1996: 2–5).ZHUANGZI’S FUNDAMENTAL FIGURES OF THOUGHT But is incomprehensibility really something so unmitigatedly contemptible and evil? Methinks the salvation of families and nations rests upon it. on some such point of strength that must be left in the dark. . as anybody can easily verify. 29 .
Hufﬁng and pufﬁng he used a lot of energy but saw little result. . embracing a jug he came out to water the garden. Parmenides Do not sacriﬁce yourself for completion. It is in simple but ingenious contraptions like the waterwheel that the essence of human action becomes an object for philosophical reﬂection. On the one hand technique is a continuation of nature with other (human) means (technique is merely a function of unchanging natural laws). that during his travels Zigong . twisted relationship to nature. writes Arnold Gehlen.” Seeing this Zigong says to the man: “There are machines for this that can irrigate a hundred plots of land in one day. nature artiﬁcielle” (1980: 4–5). and by this action it forces the water to run upward against its “nature.” so it can irrigate the ﬁelds. and technique is as enigmatic a phenomenon as the human being itself. Technique constitutes. and technique takes part in this ambivalence. “truly mirrors man – like man himself it is clever. For instance. it bears a complex. Technique.AN INTRODUCTION TO DAOIST THOUGHT 3 THE DRIVE TOWARDS COMPLETION It is not right for what is to be incomplete. the waterwheel is made to rotate by the force of the natural downward ﬂow of the water. one of the leading disciples of Confucius. We are told in the Zhuangzi. as does man himself. sees a gardener watering his plot of land: “through a dug tunnel he entered the well. on the other hand technique goes against nature (technique neutralizes certain natural laws by means of others in order to achieve a goal) (Hösle 1995: 94). You’ll use very little energy and see great results. Wouldn’t you like one?” The gardener asks 30 . . It belongs to the enigmatic nature of man to be a product of nature and at the same time to be able to negate nature. . it represents something intrinsically improbable. The Zhuangzi Technique negates the Way Technical mastery of the world is something speciﬁcally human.
then the pure and simple is impaired. and human beings will no longer be supported by the Way. when the pure and simple is impaired then the spiritual life-force is unsettled. when there are mechanical dealings. when he has recovered from the shock of the encounter. the way of the sages consists in that drive towards completion and wish for great results that is the essence of technical mastery. Zigong is mortiﬁed and has no reply to the gardener. once this ground is impaired. so that completion (cheng). Zigong answers that he is a disciple of Confucius. and skillfulness. The gardener then asks Zigong what he does. This story contains the main points of the critique of technical action that we ﬁnd in the Zhuangzi. after having met the gardener Zigong realizes that the opposite is true: to truly follow the way of the sages. then there is sure to be a mechanical heart. and in using little energy and seeing great results. Having heard this the gardener “puts on an indignant look and says with a laugh”: I have heard from my teacher. In other words. then there is sure to be mechanical dealings. for the gardener. proﬁt. says Zigong. Therefore. mechanical ingenuity. so what leisure do you have to govern the world?” Later. it will impair the pure and simple ground of human existence. and Zigong explains the mechanics of a well-sweep (12/52–5). which ends with the words: “You can’t govern your own self. the 31 . Zigong tells his disciples that he has heard from Confucius that the way of the sages consists in seeking success in one’s affairs. when the mind becomes crafty and mechanical. When your spiritual life-force is unsettled then the Way does not carry you along. (12/55–7) According to the gardener the use of technology has far-reaching consequences. it would be shameful (we would say immoral) to rely on such technical mastery. First. First the Zhuangzi afﬁrms an un-made “ground” as the source of all authentic human action. is unaffected by praise and blame and oblivious to whatever the common opinion may be (12/57–67). then the spiritual life-force becomes unsettled. one must forget all about results. The image of the uncarved block indicates that state of pure potentiality that Zhuangzi wants to retain in human action. A person who is able to do this. This “ground” is here described as being pure and simple. it is out of a sense of shame that I do not act that way. This provokes the gardener to a diatribe against the Confucians.THE DRIVE TOWARDS COMPLETION how it works. Second. Third. It is not that I do not know [about mechanical contraptions]. but is also called the uncarved block ( pu ). when a mechanical heart exists in the breast. the use of mechanical contraptions will cause human beings to have a mechanical mind ( jixin ). However. that if there are mechanical contraptions. seeking completion (cheng) in one’s undertakings.
He says that the moral inﬂuence of the noble man works spontaneously like nature itself. When human beings enclose themselves in a world of their own making.23). they become obsessed with controlling the outer (wai) world. does not end in total closure. The experience of being moved along in this way is the experience of ceaseless self-emerging life (sheng). When the wind blows over the grass. and he exhibits a certain absentmindedness in his dealings with the world of man.AN INTRODUCTION TO DAOIST THOUGHT aim of technical action. In governing a state. and when the individual submits to this force he or she is naturally “carried” to moral 32 . and human action can nourish life ( yangsheng). which is an indication that he has withdrawn from that world and is in contact with the inner or the movement of the Way. For Zhuangzi there is a deep connection between moralism and technical cleverness: both focus on mastering the outer and neglect the inner. The uncarved block is not a static substratum but an active force that moves human beings along together with everything else. and he contemplates the natural ﬂow of water as an image for the ceaselessly emerging and swiftly passing ﬂow of life (Lunyu 9.3). broadly understood as all civilized conduct ranging from a formal greeting to an animal sacriﬁce. where the demands put on others are only an excuse for not facing the demands that are always already placed on oneself. According to Zhuangzi. even moral enjoyment in nature (Lunyu 6. human beings lose touch with this moving ground. the world of man (ren). and morality deteriorates into mere moralism. in transcending the drive for technical mastery. the spontaneous force of the symbolic order comes into play. the grass must bend” (Lunyu 12. Confucius sees that in ritual action. the virtue of the vulgar is like the grass. Confucius wants. and they lose contact with the inner (nei). to rely on the rituals (li). The Confucian view of technical action The Zhuangzi criticizes the Confucians for having a technical view of human action.17) (chapter and section follow Lau 1983). It may be objected that this critique cannot be leveled at Confucius (551–479 ) himself. who is generally suspicious of all artiﬁcial and technical intervention into the natural order of things. and this movement is also named the Way. without the need for techniques or methods to implement it: “the virtue of the noble man is like the wind. In teaching moral conduct Confucius emphasizes a similar nontechnical. when they become preoccupied with governing the world through their technical ingenuity. Therefore. both are fragmented and anxious states. natural and spontaneous movement. and both lose touch with the movement of the Way.19). Confucius ﬁnds aesthetic. Zhuangzi’s sage remains unaffected by the moralistic praise and blame of the outer world of man (ren). The example of the noble man spontaneously instills a sense of shame in the vulgar. ideally at least. They are no longer able to govern themselves. so that they willingly submit and reform themselves (Lunyu 2.
“then ruling the world is as easy as rolling it in your palm” (Mengzi 2A6) (numbering follows Lau 1984). in ritual action human beings act morally and spontaneously at the same time. we can accomplish our will “directly and effortlessly” without “strategies and devices” and without using “coercion or physical forces.11). and therefore it cannot be authentic ethical action. Mencius (371–289 ). without further effort on his part. claims for morality the same non-technical and effortless character that we see in Confucius. Mencius does not claim that the good is actually effective in the world – the endless strife of the Warring States period (403–221 ) would make a mockery of such a claim – but that moral impulses are present in their incipient stage and can be the place from which the saving power arises in a time of brutality. Through ritual. craftiness. According to Confucius. According to Mencius. these moral 33 . in our society. and Mencius could only hope to recover this spontaneity in essence by turning inwards towards human nature (xing ). and therefore it is qualitatively different from technical mastery. where Confucius says that he who knows the explanation of an important sacriﬁce could manage the world as easily as if he had it in the palm of his hand (Lunyu 3. ritual action has a spontaneous dimension. and cunning. it has a passive and spontaneous element as its constitutive part. sees ritual action as a form of technical action. Herbert Fingarette has well described that elusive non-technical dimension of ritual action that Confucius took as the paradigm for all truly moral action.THE DRIVE TOWARDS COMPLETION action. writes Fingarette. there is no accepted convention of slavery” (1972: 12). in Mencius it is the good heartand-mind (xin ) that serves as a similar starting-point. The difference is that whereas in Confucius it is the ritual gesture that spontaneously unfolds our humanity. As Fingarette himself observes: “I cannot effectively go through the ceremony of bequeathing my servant to someone if. for his part. namely the technical ability to function within the context of references that structure a particular culture. To be sure. The performative ritual act does not really function by magic but depends on the cultural setting. Thus.” The participant in ritual “simply wills the end in the proper ritual setting and with the proper ritual gesture and word. a contemporary of Zhuangzi. Zhuangzi. Both Confucius and Mencius have tremendous faith in their own prescriptions – one will. ritual action is natural and unforced. but it cannot be denied that ritual action is a technique. see great results from using little energy – but at the time of Mencius the spontaneous force of the symbolic order had weakened. which is artiﬁcial and forced and relies on skill and cunning. as Zigong says in the Zhuangzi passage discussed above. it depends on a particular setting and a pre-determined goal. Mencius says that when one governs with the heart of compassion. the deed is accomplished” (Fingarette 1972: 3). Where technical mastery is always close to being immoral. According to Mencius human nature naturally tends towards the good.
For. it will be an irresistible force “like streams and rivers bursting their banks. and therefore. Mencius turns things upside down when he claims that speciﬁcally Confucian values – humanity (ren ). at the heart of moral action. is equivalent to being without the source of morality. not authentically ethical. Confucian values are made (wei ). Mencius valiantly defends this idealistic view of the irresistible force of spontaneous moral tendencies in a time that increasingly turned to the technical mastery of humanity and nature. If these moral tendencies are properly attended to and nourished. although it is true that authentic. as Lau translates. then moral action will be “like a ﬁre catching on and a spring gushing forth” (Mengzi 2A6). all human values are a product of prejudice (chengxin ). Zhuangzi shares Mencius’ contempt for the merely technical and his emphasis on the spontaneous dimension in human action. according to Zhuangzi. and he unabashedly afﬁrms 34 . for Mencius. to grow by pulling at them. and they do not sprout naturally in human nature. In this way Mencius tries to retain a dimension of something effortless and natural in the technical action of the sages. and indeed should not control.AN INTRODUCTION TO DAOIST THOUGHT tendencies are part of that dimension of life which human beings cannot. but contrary to Zhuangzi.” in the strongest terms he knows: the clever are without shame. and wisdom (zhi ) – issue from this source. and nobody can hinder it” (Mengzi 7A16). says Zhuangzi. or the sense of what is right ( yi ) (Mengzi 7A7. or his incipient moral tend=encies. ritual (li ). who in regulating the waters “moved them along the path of no resistance” – or. but in this way only destroyed them (Mengzi 2A2). like claiming that one can set out for one’s destination today and arrive yesterday (2/22). need not. Xunzi gives up the earlier Confucian claim that Confucian rituals and values are natural. For. or some particular way of proceeding (xing ). In spite of Mencius’ attempts to show the opposite. according to Zhuangzi. “the clever who make cunning devises and tricks. and yet. Mencius says that he detests the wise (in the sense of the overly or aggressively clever). This is. Mencius denounces the men of mere technical ability. righteousness ( yi ). 2A6). Zhuangzi thinks that Mencius’ ideal is “hopelessly confused” (2/70). ﬂowing in torrents. they are a technical achievement. or calculated. forced.335–230 ) to bite the bullet and resolve the contradiction inherent in the Confucian view of ritual and moral action as at once natural (spontaneous) and man-made (technical). who develops a view of non-technical action. just as he argues for something that is not made. This is the point of Mencius’ story about a man who tried to force his seedlings. which. but if only the wise were like the sage Yu . It was up to Xunzi (c. ethical action issues from a spontaneous source. “guided the water by imposing nothing on it that was against its natural tendency” (1984: 169) – then Mencius would approve of them (Mengzi 4B26). Zhuangzi had already noticed this contradiction.
regulate desires and so strengthen the state.” and that. the basis of Chinese civilization as a whole and Confucian morality in particular. Unlike Confucius. to contemplate things and observe them.9). as a description of human association. and he views them as external restraints just like the marking line and the compass and the square.9). Xunzi does not try to pass off Confucian values as if they sprouted spontaneously in nature. Xunzi has no patience with passive contemplation of nature. or to order things and not let them slip?” (Xunzi 17. to borrow the words of Hans Jonas. generates a ‘nature’ of its own” (1984: 10). The societies that arise out of these crowds must. Xunzi pushes his vision of the total control of the world into the imaginary. of course. would have offended the sensibilities of Confucius. the action that goes against nature and therefore is artiﬁce. If one follows the methods of the Confucians. says Xunzi. the tools with which the craftsman imposes his order on the material (Xunzi 19.” For Xunzi the only truly human action is the action that is the result of conscious effort. of course. using a term that traditionally had negative connotations meaning “artiﬁcial. as François Jullien writes. ritual itself. torrential like the Yellow River and the sea. Unlike Confucius. already knew this.THE DRIVE TOWARDS COMPLETION the supremacy of technical action. “the natural is swallowed up in the sphere of the artiﬁcial. Relying on such artiﬁce. Xunzi drives home this point when he promotes not just human action (wei) but human artiﬁce (wei ). Xunzi describes the rituals as methods or standards.” “counterfeit. Zhuangzi. non-technical dimension of human action.16a). organize themselves according to what is right and proper according to the methods of the Confucians (rushu ) (Xunzi 10. and he celebrates a situation where. If you do not burn them from time to time. For Xunzi the rituals are tools or techniques to laboriously form human nature. there will be no place to store them” (Xunzi 10. can be considered purely as a mechanism” (1995: 66). a word that has connotations of “crowds” and “herds. Xunzi’s technical term for this ability to form groups is qun . Xunzi sees nothing positive in the spontaneous. Unlike Mencius. . and at the same time the total artifact . Correspondingly. Xunzi even foresees that this artiﬁcial production may become a force as overpowering as the very nature it replaces: the goods and commodities “will pile up like hills and mountains. 35 . then goods and commodities will “ﬂow inexhaustibly like a spring.9) (chapter and section follows Knoblock 1988–94). . With Xunzi it becomes clear.” and “false.” As if he had a premonition of the accelerated circulation and “over-production” characteristic of advanced capitalist societies.2). that “[i]n the last analysis. Rhetorically he asks: “What is better. Xunzi decisively breaks with the earlier Confucians when he not only afﬁrms the world of man (ren) but afﬁrms it as an artiﬁcial construction. human beings are able to organize themselves in a uniﬁed group and dominate chaotic and dangerous nature. so they can “can obtain houses and dwell safely” (Xunzi 9.
Xunzi admits that Confucian ritual and moral action essentially is a technical drive towards completion. and here I will brieﬂy consider the Mohists. but it cannot govern man” (Xunzi 19. Xunzi shows no reluctance to subdue and master the world ( pace Max Weber). and the theorists of warfare.AN INTRODUCTION TO DAOIST THOUGHT Those who seek in Confucianism the root of the economic success of industrial East Asian or. For Mozi there is nothing inherently right (yi) about Confucian practices. Zhuangzi had already seen that and criticized the Confucians for being out of touch with ceaseless self-emerging life. It is the completion of life through human action that alone counts. Totalitarianism and strategic thinking From Confucius to Xunzi the Confucians increasingly emphasize the technical side of human action and the completion (cheng) imposed on life (sheng) by man (ren). but it cannot differentiate things. “Heaven is able to give life (sheng) to things. the proper division of labor is that “Heaven and Earth give it life (sheng). had been a student of Confucian practices but became very critical of the contemporary followers of the teaching of Confucius. Earth can support man. the cause of the appeal of Maoism in China. Philosophically Xunzi expresses his will to dominate nature and spontaneously self-emerging life in his valuation of completion (cheng) over life (sheng). To be sure. Xunzi has a wish to dominate nature as strong as any Western thinker – only Xunzi did not have the powerful modern economic and technical means to fulﬁll his wish. Mozi thought that Confucian ritual practice was anachronistic and only showed that the Confucians were unable to meet the exigency of the present time. Xunzi. This drive towards completion is also seen in the other major contemporary schools of thought. for that matter. they are simply a matter of custom. nor does he exhibit that ecological consciousness that has recently been claimed for Confucianism. thought that to be of no consequence. For Xunzi life as such is of little importance – as he points out. A particular practice is right only if it brings proﬁt under the present circumstances. but the sage completes (cheng) it” (27. 36 . Consequently. utility and proﬁt are under the constraints of what is right (yi). need look no further than Xunzi. who ﬂourished in the late ﬁfth century . the Legalists. even grass and plants have life (Xunzi 9.6).16a) – and it is useless to yearn for the experience of life (Xunzi 17. such as their elaborate funeral rituals and long mourning periods. and everything is ordered from the perspective of utility and proﬁt.9). for. Here we have the total mobilization of all natural and human resources for the sake of production. but this moral constraint is largely justiﬁed in terms of the ultimate goal: the wealth and power of the state. In refusing to live with the contradictions inherent in the earlier Confucian world-view. says Xunzi. for his part. Mozi .41).
artiﬁcial reality: “Like the good craftsman. namely that technical mastery of the world will create a second nature in which the primary oppression is felt as freedom. Schwartz. The Mohist is a craftsman who brings forth a new. and the spreading of overreﬁned culture” (1993: 250). sees this as a change in the very notion of truth in ancient China. writes Benjamin Schwartz. Jullien explains that according to the Legalists. The good must be achieved!” (1985: 141–3). says Schwartz. as Heiner Roetz writes. The beginning of argumentative philosophy in China is closely connected with this break with the pre-existing order. Among the Mohists arose the idea that rational discourse in the form of disputation (bian ) is the way of attaining truth. The ultimate goal is the wealth and power of the state. for “the good is nothing pregiven. and the Legalists laid the theoretical foundation for “the all-powerful Chinese state. immanent order of things. and fate. there is no “preexistent. the Mohist creates his truth. the bloody foundation of the state with its physical and psychical means of coercion. the Mohist is an active. as John King Fairbank writes. rightly. rewards and punishments are the “two handles” held by the ruler to govern the state. sees that the primordial ground of the ethical “perishes with the emergence of technique. and he introduces the self-assertion and the drive towards completion that became characteristic of the Legalists and later Confucians like Xunzi. to bestow honor and reward is called favor” (Watson 1963: 30).THE DRIVE TOWARDS COMPLETION and from this perspective the Confucian practice of lavish expenditure in funeral rites is clearly wrong. 37 . The Mohist. The Legalists clearly recognized the essence of the totalitarian aspiration. For Mozi.” which. Mozi also strongly objects to the Confucians’ constant reference to fate (ming ). Unlike the Confucians. goal-oriented individual bent on realizing his project in the world” (Schwartz 1985: 167). the order of Heaven. who relied on their ritual action and their moral sense. the Mohists excelled in argumentation and technical knowledge.” rather order must be achieved by strenuous efforts of the will. Whereas Confucius relied on a pre-existing truth that he could only transmit.280–233 ) tersely explains the use of this most important tool: “To inﬂict mutilation and death on men is called punishment. According to the Legalists. Zhuangzi. is “the greatest of all China’s technological-social achievements” (1985: vi). Hanfeizi (c. The Legalists call for “a regime based on invariant laws and manipulative ‘techniques’ ” (Lewis 1999: 71). for his part. and they promote “a vision of society in which ‘objective’ mechanisms of ‘behavioral’ control become automatic instruments for achieving well-deﬁned sociopolitical goals” (Schwartz 1985: 328). Mozi is the ﬁrst to break with the early Confucian way of dwelling in a world that is already completed by ritual. is “an aggressive activist in every sense” (1985: 158). because such fatalism prevents the creation of a rich and wellordered state.
This idea is also evident in the art of warfare that developed between the ﬁfth and the third century . “The great services of the state. The Confucian sage exhibits the same ﬂexible response and total control of the situation as the military commander. as we will see. and requiring no justiﬁcation. This ﬂexibility assures that the dynamism of the situation works to the commander’s advantage. for at its height technical mastery of the world becomes indistinguishable from the Way itself. it was the enacted substance of the state itself. The theory of warfare therefore went far beyond its proper ﬁeld and. something spontaneous. Confucian ritual mastery follows the same logic as Legalist state craft. who explains that the ideal military commander never takes a ﬁxed position but ﬂexibly responds to the movements of the enemy. This is particularly evident in the writings of Sunzi (fourth century ). at every moment. in becoming inhuman. “projected its form of rationalization on reality as a whole” (1995: 25). Sunzi’s picture of the ideal military commander is nearly identical with Mencius’ description of Confucius as the timely sage who never takes any particular position but always falls in with what is right. and offers no clue to its reality” (1995: 33). Insensitive and hence equally pitiless and omnipresent. “the military commander becomes as unfathomable as the great process of the world itself in all its inﬁnity (the Dao) that. “In this way. as Jullien writes. This idea can be formulated as follows: it is possible to reach the Way (dao) through technical mastery. just like the changes of day and night and the seasons follow the logic of nature. As the Chinese Legalists saw it. is bound to be unique. the law they establish is a perfect extension of the Dao and accords with the logic of things: it merely translates the inherent order of nature into social actuality.” writes Jullien. for in both cases it is a question of developing something man-made (rituals or laws) to the point where it appears completely natural. never settling into any particular disposition. 38 . In ancient China warfare was not merely a particular domain of the exercise of state-power. This is the case partly because such pressure creates a long-term habitus that becomes second nature to the individuals subjected to it. From this point of view.AN INTRODUCTION TO DAOIST THOUGHT the whole strength of totalitarian authoritarianism lies in the following in no way paradoxical fact: oppression carried to extremes will no longer be seen as oppression but as its opposite. and.” says the Zuo zhuan . it imposes its constraints on everyone. human law. natural. (1995: 51–2) We should see in this Legalist view a speciﬁc interpretation of a more general idea that became dominant in ancient China. “are sacriﬁce and warfare” (Lewis 1999: 138). takes on the characteristics of natural law. More fundamentally.
and. 39 . As we see. The particular course of life of a being is fated (ming ). To begin to explain this. All early Chinese thinkers recognize that there is a spontaneous movement that emerges sponta sua. and in fact a whole discourse on desire developed in early China. With human desires (yu ) there ﬁrst arises the possibility of a break with this natural development (indicated with /). Graham says that the xing of a thing “is its proper course of development during its process of sheng” (1990b: 10). in this ceaseless stream. adds to life (yisheng ). This heart-and-mind has to exercise conscious exertion in order to stabilize and secure its position in the swift and dangerous ﬂow of things and events. and most of them thought that this movement should be regulated and controlled. a heart-and-mind (xin). The character xing (nature) is formed by adding the “heart” radical to the character for “life. For the human heart-and-mind (xin) may have to go against nature and regulate desires (indicated with > <). What is added to life are socio-ethical structures beginning with moralized human relationships and ending in the culture-state.THE DRIVE TOWARDS COMPLETION The metaphysics of action Ancient Chinese philosophy is characterized by what I call a metaphysics of action.” and it indicates that human nature is at once part of spontaneously self-emerging life and a conscious moment. Value judgments are imposed and techniques are employed in the service of some desired completion (cheng). Xing (nature) is the spontaneous movement and natural development of a being in the movement of life. sheng (life) > xing (nature) > ming (fate) >/ yu (desire) > < xin (mind-heart): shi (right) fei (wrong) > shu or ji (technique) > cheng (completion) Sheng (life) is self-emerging life. in the sense that it goes beyond self-emerging life. it is comparable to Greek phusis as “that movement of growth and birth by which things manifest themselves” (Hadot 1995: 260). These structures are created and maintained by means of various techniques (ritual. as Zhuangzi says. it may be helpful to provide a schematic overview of the terms that enter into the disputes between the various strands of thought in ancient China. desires (yu) occupy a pivotal position in the scheme. Therefore they strive to impose some sort of completion (cheng) on the ceaseless emergence of life. The whole development after the break (/) – from the right and wrong of the mechanical mind to the ﬁnal completion – is metaphysical.
80). This. It was a “ﬂexible wisdom.” or an “imaginary realm” in which they imagine ideal models for “founding a world empire. Whereas the Greek philosophers theoretically set up models (forms. such as phronBsis or prudentia (Yearley 1990). The master-philosophers (Mozi. This exceptional and paradoxical act is at the core of the Chinese metaphysics of action. Hanfeizi. Furthermore. and others) claim that “mastery of change” – “ﬂexibly responding to the needs of the moment” – deﬁne both the ruler as well as the sage (Lewis 1999: 38–40).” or “an encompassing. and in order to get it into full view I will now turn to François Jullien’s analysis of efﬁcacious action in ancient China.” In the texts of the philosophers.” says Lewis. This wisdom (zhi) has been compared to Western notions of practical wisdom. the sage is like a pivot or a hinge that in a “fathomless” and “inexhaustible” way responds adequately to any change. but it should be understood rather in terms of the Chinese philosophers’ attempt to put themselves in the position of the ruler and occupy the “empty” position beyond all particular regulative discourses that regulates these discourses by an exceptional act. depend on how things evolve and strategically let themselves be carried along by the potential (shi ) of a situation (Jullien 2004a: 16).AN INTRODUCTION TO DAOIST THOUGHT theories of naming. the Chinese. adaptive intelligence that combined and regulated particular skills in the service of a higher good” (Lewis 1999: 6. According to Jullien. and they are justiﬁed by the doctrines of the various philosophical schools. In this way the sage slowly weakens the other and secures his own supremacy. “became the double of the king. ideals) as goals and then try to attain these goals in practice through willful acts and the exercise of prudence.” and the master-philosophers claim to be able “to command the state through their wisdom” (1999: 4. it will be recalled. This wisdom was of a very special kind. the ancient Chinese philosophical schools create in their texts “parallel realities. The Chinese philosophers see this higher level. Xunzi. As Mark Edward Lewis has shown. Availing himself of the potential (shi) of the situation. the sage will not only succeed 40 . is precisely the kind of action the Confucian Zigong proposes to the gardener in the story from the Zhuangzi discussed at the beginning of this chapter. for their part. the (ancient) Chinese go about realizing their aims in the world in a way that is fundamentally different from that of the ancient Greeks. 63. laws. “The master. and so on). the master or the sage (who himself was a textual creation) is put in a position that parallels that of the king in the actual polity. For. if one knows how to discern and evaluate the potential of a situation and follow the unfolding of this potential by way of continuous adaptation then one will be able “to produce great effects with very little effort” (Jullien 2004a: 19). 82). Mencius. adaptive. and regulatory intelligence as their own distinctive possession.
THE DRIVE TOWARDS COMPLETION
easily but also inevitably. The sage, who discerns and adapts to the unfolding of the potential of the situation, will without fail gain supremacy, for, Jullien writes, “the potential of the situation makes it impossible that things ‘should be otherwise’ ” (2004a: 27). This idea of the inevitable unfolding of the potential of a situation is as thoroughly metaphysical as, say, Plato’s theory of Forms, it is just that in China the metaphysical ideal, namely the ideal of a completely successful ﬂexible response to the inevitable unfolding of the real, is not placed in some other world that is accessible only to theory but is situated right here in the world of human action and is attainable in practice. In his eagerness to establish a categorical opposition between Western philosophy (metaphysics) and Chinese thought, Jullien fails to notice this crucial point that follows from his own account of efﬁcacious action in China. In the Nicomachean Ethics (Book VI), Aristotle distance himself from Plato’s metaphysics by deﬁning practical reason as reasoning about that which could be otherwise, and he distinguishes it from scientiﬁc theoretical reasoning, which is about the immutable laws of the cosmos and mathematics. According to Aristotle, it is in the area of practical reason, and in this area only, that we deliberate and choose, for it would be senseless to deliberate about what cannot be otherwise. Furthermore, since human action is exposed to contingencies, fortune, and luck, practical deliberation can never rely on an inevitable unfolding of events. Clearly, the Chinese notion of efﬁcacious action, as described by Jullien, is profoundly un-Aristotelian. The Chinese sage is not concerned with things that could be otherwise but with detecting and conforming to the inevitable movement of the real. Therefore in his strategic manipulations of the potential of the situation the Chinese sage has no need for the kind of practical deliberation outlined by Aristotle. How the real can become an object for practical manipulation and strategic action is, of course, very hard to explain, and in trying to do so the Chinese thinkers get entangled in a whole metaphysics of action. How, precisely, is the real inclined to follow our inclinations? Jullien explains that all we need to do is implant “our most selﬁsh ends . . . in the trajectory of things. In this way, left to its immanence, the desired effect is realized” (2004a: 119). But how can a particular selﬁsh wish (that of the sage, the ruler, or the general), as an injunction, inﬁltrate the order of things to the extent that it becomes pervasive, undetectable, and inevitably fulﬁlled? All we have to do, says Jullien, is “to assist whatever happens naturally” (2004a: 90). But, as Jullien himself notes, this idea “borders on or even slips into a contradiction,” and it is this seeming contradiction that “Chinese thought, from one angle or another, strives continually to elucidate” (2004a: 88). In doing so, however, Chinese thought has to posit an act before actuality – a truly metaphysical ﬁgure of thought.
AN INTRODUCTION TO DAOIST THOUGHT
Jullien explains that one has to “assist” the realization of one’s desire at the level of “preactualization,” which contains “the fund of immanence from which an effect will spontaneously ﬂow,” and not at the level of “actualization,” where the effect will necessarily collide with other effects and therefore cannot be totally effective (2004a: 125). But how can action take place if nothing is yet actualized? Jullien says that at the level of preactualization, “there is no such thing as ‘things’ ” (2004a: 130). How can action, even if it is understood as response ( ying ) and transformation (hua ), take place at all if there is no thing to respond to and no thing to transform? Surely, from the point of view of our physical world of cause and effect, that is an impossible proposition, and we are forced to choose between two possibilities: either we, with Jullien, posit a “constant transition of reality,” or we posit a split in the real. Jullien’s own distinction between “preactualization” and “actualization” seems to imply a split in the real. Jullien (2004a: 130), however, is keen to avoid this impression, and therefore he says that the proper terms to use here really are “upstream” (for “preactualization”) and “downstream” (for “actualization”), for these terms imply “pure processivity” without an ontological break. To opt for pure processivity, however, comes at a price. For if there is no break with the logic of processivity, then manipulation (technical action) can be exercised at the very source of becoming, and life itself can be put under human administration. Jullien himself is acutely aware of the terrible consequence of a worldview of pure processivity. He points out that it is precisely because the European tradition posits an ontological split in the real that Europeans tend to conﬁne manipulation to “the scientiﬁc and technological domain,” or the realm of things, and they are reluctant to extend the concept of manipulation to human beings. (As Kant said, human beings must be viewed not just as means but as ends in themselves, that is to say beyond the realm that is open to pure manipulation.) The Chinese, on the other hand, says Jullien, “had no qualms about conceiving of manipulation upstream, in an ongoing process. . . . For Chinese thought, everything constituted a process – everything, including human behavior” (2004a: 137). This dominant Chinese view was, however, contested. Zhuangzi, for his part, argues that by pushing technical action back to the very source of becoming, the efﬁcacious action of sage-wisdom negates life itself. It is precisely in order to avoid the terrible consequences of a philosophy of pure process that Zhuangzi, as we will see, introduces a split in the process of the real and shows that spontaneous self-emerging life is not available for technopolitical manipulation. Before I, in the following chapter, turn to Zhuangzi’s own view of action, I will brieﬂy compare the Chinese notion of cheng (completion) with the Greek notion of eidos (form). This comparison may bring into clearer view the Chinese metaphysics of action, which is based on technical manipulation and the drive towards completion. 42
THE DRIVE TOWARDS COMPLETION
Form (eidos) and completion (cheng)
Greek technB, translated variously as “art,” “craft,” or “skill,” is the knowledge and ability that aims at production, forming, and making. For the Greek philosophers technB occupies a middle position between experience and science (epistBmB). Unlike purely empirical knowledge, craft-knowledge involves reason (logos) and therefore is able to give a clear account of its way of knowing. Plato, therefore, separates the true crafts from what is done by relying on mere practice, knack, or routine. For instance, medicine is technB but pastry baking is not (Gorgias 500e–501a). Plato furthermore distinguishes crafts according to their degree of exactness or precision. Thus in making music the harmonies are found “by the hit and miss of training” but carpentry and building use various measures and therefore these crafts are more accurate (Philebus 56a–c). According to Plato, when the carpenter wants to make a shuttle he looks to “the form” of the shuttle (Cratylus 389b). For Aristotle, to be sure, “the carpenter must keep in close connection with his timber and the potter with his clay, and generally all workmanship and the ultimate movement imparted to matter must be connected with the material concerned,” but Aristotle’s notion of technB is just as idealistic as that of Plato. For Aristotle also maintains that no material part comes from the carpenter to the material, i.e. the wood in which he works, nor does any part of the carpenter’s art exist within what he makes, but the shape and the form are imparted from him to the material by means of the motion he sets up. It is his hands that move the tools, his tools that move the material; it is his knowledge of his art, and his soul, in which is the form, that moves his hands or any other part of him with a motion of some deﬁnite kind, a motion varying with the varying nature of the object made. (Generation of Animals 730b5-20) In both Plato and Aristotle it is the form (eidos) that is grasped by the logos that is operative in technB. It is the knowledge of the form that moves the hand of the carpenter and is imposed on matter. The Greek philosophers’ understanding of technB presupposes their interpretation of emerging nature ( phusis) in terms of form (eidos). As Heidegger points out, we do not ﬁnd this emphasis on form (eidos) in the pre-Socratics; it is only with Plato and Aristotle that we have that metaphysical interpretation of nature ( phusis), and consequently of technB, which “imitates nature,” in terms of eidos that became decisive for the later tradition. “What remains decisive,” says Heidegger, “is not the fact in itself that phusis was characterized as idea,” for it is natural that what emerges appears to human beings in 43
we have an even more pronounced neglect of self-emerging life than in the metaphysical tradition of the West. the common people) without any direct contact with this material itself has its origin in the Confucians’ highly idealistic view of their own effect. The Chinese philosopher is superior to the manual laborers. Mencius says. that “the places where the noble man passes are transformed (hua)” (Mengzi 7. in Xunzi. Xunzi’s notion of transformation (hua) as an inexplicable change brought about in the material basis (human nature.6b).A13). as we have seen. on the one hand and completion (cheng) on the other. those who know the cause and the “why” are superior to the men of mere experience: “the master-workers in each craft are more honorable and know in a truer sense and are wiser than the 44 . the substance of what is transformed. According to Xunzi. because his regulatory intelligence can bring the task of organizing the culture-state to completion (cheng). the noble man concentrates on the Way (Xunzi 21.AN INTRODUCTION TO DAOIST THOUGHT some form. who could be said to represent the culmination of the drive towards completion in ancient China. Xunzi admits that the noble man is not as good as artisans when it comes to using tools. For. the transition from the original raw material to the ordered ﬂourishing of society is brought about by a mysterious transformation (hua ) through which the material basis simply beautiﬁes itself but does not change in its substance. In Ancient Greece the opposition was between self-emerging nature ( phusis) and matter (hulB) on the one hand and the form (eidos) on the other. or the raw material. Thus the Confucian division of labor: the artisan concentrates on his tools. “but that the idea rises up as the sole and deﬁnitive interpretation of Being” (2000: 194). For Confucius the noble man is like the wind that makes the grass (the common people) bend (Lunyu 12.3). According to Aristotle. But the imposition of completion (cheng) on life is just as metaphysical – in the sense that it goes beyond and so neglects selfemerging life – as the imposition of form (eidos) on nature and matter. Xunzi uses the analogy of a potter to explain that a society regulated by proper ritual (the vessel) is formed purely from the artiﬁce of the potter (the sage) and not from anything inherent in human nature (the clay) itself. Xunzi totally disregards life (sheng) and emphasizes artiﬁce (wei) and completion (cheng). In fact.19). The Greek philosopher is superior to the manual worker because he has scientiﬁc knowledge (epistBmB) and contemplates the form (eidos). The Confucian is not an artisan who works with his own hands but the overseer of production. In ancient China the opposition was between self-emerging life (sheng) and the uncarved block ( pu). contributes nothing to the ﬁnal product (Roetz 1984: 330–1). As if by magic the Confucian potter is able to form the pot (the socio-ethical order) without touching the clay (the common people). but in supervising others he is superior to everyone else (Xunzi 8. for the material basis.
and technical skill transcends itself into a second nature where great deeds are 45 .” For Xunzi the distance is pragmatic: “human nature is what I am not able to make (wei) but which nevertheless can be transformed (hua)” (Xunzi 8. matter is below. his “city of words. .THE DRIVE TOWARDS COMPLETION manual workers. therefore. We are familiar with Plato’s Republic. it is signiﬁcant that both Aristotle and Xunzi argue that it is because the given (matter and human nature) is deﬁcient that it seeks completion (in form and culture).” but not with the “imaginary counterstate” constructed by the Chinese master-philosophers. the Chinese drive towards completion (cheng) is practical. for it is not defective. curve and measuring line?” (9/5). because they know the causes of things that are done. The decisive point is. that in the tradition of Greek idealism “the ideas stand at the top and gleam in the light of attentiveness. This brief comparison should be enough to make it clear that to say that the Greeks are theoretical and the Chinese are pragmatic is only half of the story. matter is productive exactly because it is defective and desires form: “The form cannot desire itself. in Aristotle matter remains subsumed under form. But we are not familiar with the Chinese metaphysics of the perfect act. the plumbline arises because things are not straight. the ﬂexible and timely action of the sage. Xunzi argues that the press-frame comes into being because the wood is warped. which obviously may provide ideological support for a great deal of violence. as the female desires the male and the ugly the beautiful” (Physics 192a20-25). and that their experience and knowledge comes rather through the medium of action.” The manual workers. a shadow. as ﬁre burns” (Metaphysics 981a30-981b5).3b). what desires form is matter. . Finally. We know. To be sure. Similarly. both the Greek and the Chinese philosopher keep their distance to self-emerging life. as Peter Sloterdijk writes. but act without knowing what they do. on the other hand. In this act. when he says that the early Chinese philosophers do not generally adopt the theoretical gaze that dominates in Greek thought.11). To this kind of argument. In spite of this important difference. pragmatic coping becomes absolute mastery. that the Chinese focus on action generates its own metaphysics. however. the Greek view of the form (eidos) is theoretical (epistemological). a mere reﬂection of the idea. “are like certain lifeless things which act indeed. the Chinese subsume skill (shu or ji) under general regulatory sage-knowledge (shengzhi) that aims at completion. For Aristotle the distance is epistemological: “matter is unknowable in itself. the material that is transformed by technB or artiﬁce (wei). According to Aristotle. The Greeks subsume technB under scientiﬁc knowledge (epistBmB) that aims at the form. Billeter (1984) is right. and because human nature is evil it must submit to rulers and ritual (Xunzi 23. . We are familiar with the tradition of metaphysics that begins with the theoretical view of the forms. In spite of the fact that he tries to give some account of matter (hulB) itself. the Zhuangzi answers: “Could it really be in the nature of clay and wood to wish to ﬁt the compass and square. an impurity” (1988: 104).
46 . a connection between these two facts. Zhuangzi is the only major thinker in early China who is entirely beyond the technical. sees that this metaphysical.) Zhuangzi is the important exception to Jullien’s generalization that strategic thinking and manipulation were “the Chinese way” (1995: 69). We will now turn to Zhuangzi’s remarkable unraveling ( jie ) of the drive towards completion. (There is. for his part. he is also the single example in early China of a major thinker who does not fall into that strategic. and manipulative thinking that gradually gained dominance in the Warring States period. For Zhuangzi there is no continuity but a radical break between technical action (wei) and the Way. techno-pragmatic drive towards completion destroys life. technical. Just as Zhuangzi is the one exception to the rule that all early Chinese thinkers are concerned with ruling the world (politics). of course. Zhuangzi. Sage-knowledge (shengzhi ) represents precisely that limit situation where all resistance to skill-mastery is eliminated and technical action becomes as natural as nature itself.AN INTRODUCTION TO DAOIST THOUGHT accomplished effortlessly. In the sage-knowledge of the Chinese master-philosophers the technical rules supreme.
But they are very close to that nothing which alone makes it possible for something to be useful – that is. Zhuangzi insists that a non-technical way of action is open to human beings. Zhuangzi Care for life Faced with the increasing emphasis on technical action and the accelerating drive towards completion (cheng) in the Warring States period. so that it nourishes life or cares for life (yangsheng ) in its very movement and avoids the decline of humanity into the world of man (ren). and if prolonging human life becomes our main concern then we forget the source 47 . then the knife is bound to have more than enough space for its vast wandering. This non-technical way of action is not aimed at completion but carried by the ceaseless ﬂow of life (sheng).’ but ‘To him. more insane.’ which would have made the hammering even bolder. That is why after nineteen years the edge of the knife is as if it just came from the grindstone. according to Zhuangzi. at the same time. for. and if you like. to do nothing – not in such a way that someone could say ‘Hammering is nothing to him. When you insert what has no thickness in where there are spaces. This is what Kafka was after with his desire “to hammer a table together with painstaking craftsmanship and. to the Tao. more determined. more real.” Walter Benjamin Between those joints there are spaces and the edge of the knife has no thickness. the desire for immortality is just another example of our identiﬁcation with our outer form. For Zhuangzi care for life does not mean care for biological life. hammering is real hammering and at the same time nothing. or human life (renzhisheng). Zhuangzi does not advocate techniques to ensure longevity or immortality.UNRAVELING THE DRIVE TOWARDS COMPLETION 4 UNRAVELING THE DRIVE TOWARDS COMPLETION Perhaps these studies had amounted to nothing.
of course. Zhuangzi. does not imply that we should not care for human life. who performs his task of cutting up an ox as if it were a dance. The Chinese literati used Zhuangzi as consolation in their unpredictable fortunes under a totalitarian state. or the life of Heaven? To answer this question let us turn to Zhuangzi’s celebrated story of the masterful Cook Ding . then the limits are no longer a constraint but an expression of one’s spiritual freedom (Guo 1982: 115–16). much like it is envisioned by our New Age philosophies. he would probably have approved of these ways of caring for one’s life. Mou 1963: 205–8). We should bear in mind. and if he had seen how popular taijiquan and qigong exercises have become in the West. that people of the world think that caring for their form ( yangxing ) is sufﬁcient to preserve life” (19/3). in the pursuit of knowledge and fame. that there is always considerable pressure on human beings to imagine that their limited human life is in fact the life of Heaven. where his knee pushed. Some important modern Chinese scholars follow a similar interpretation (Tang 1973: 355–64. wherever his shoulder leaned. it means to care for the inner experience of the ceaseless. through some kind of inner training. Zhuangzi advises that we do not exhaust our life (wusheng ). But our human life is not the life of Heaven. 630–60) both explain that in Zhuangzi to care for life (yangheng) means to stay within the conﬁnes of one’s allotted place and the limits of one’s allotted life. which will dangerously entangle us in the outer (wai) world of man (ren). We should strive rather. and for Zhuangzi the higher aim is to care for the life of Heaven. 48 .AN INTRODUCTION TO DAOIST THOUGHT that generates human life. to preserve our body (baoshen ) and complete our (human) life (quansheng ). Therefore the Zhuangzi says. he calls rather for the unraveling of the very center of power and submission. The commentators Guo Xiang and Cheng Xuanying ( ﬂ. that is to say. self-generating life of Heaven. however. “How sad. Zhuangzi himself was not at all interested in such consolation and escapism. Zhuangzi certainly wants us to take care of our psycho-physical well-being. where his foot stepped. In Zhuangzi to care for life is not to care for some form in the outer realm. Whatever his hand touched. that is to say. The Chinese literati held a similar view of Zhuangzi. The idea is that if one coincides with one’s limits. How is it possible to care for transcendental life. If we do not make this crucial distinction we will fall into the common misunderstanding that Zhuangzi seeks to live in safe harmony with the social and natural order. live out our full span of years (3/1–2). the modern Western subject uses Eastern philosophies to escape the pressures of the relentless and equally unpredictable changes of modern risk societies. our limited human life.
namely the kind of action that cares for transcendental life. Lord Wenhui is unable to see beyond Cook Ding’s outer skill – which admittedly is dazzling – and only after Cook Ding’s explanation does he see that the cook’s action is qualitatively different from skill mastery. Through this rhetorical move Zhuangzi indicates that to understand the action that cares for life we must give up the common view that human action is necessarily aimed at mastery through skill. without any continuity between the two pictures (it is either one or the other and never both). Skilled technical action pertains to human life (we do x in order to get y) but not to the Way. which goes beyond skill” (3/4–5). but instead he gets from the cook a lesson in caring for life ( yangsheng). in my opinion. but whether a person cares for the life of Heaven – or the Way that is the ceaseless self-emergence of life – is not so easily determined from the outside. note that Cook Ding does not say that that he is fond of our (human) life (wusheng). Lord Wenhui expects to learn about skill ( ji). the zips! and zaps! of the slicing knife all hit the note and combined in the dance of “The Mulberry Grove” and hit the rhythm of “The Fox Head” song. and then back again. I have learned how to care for life ( yangsheng)” (3/12). for this care is a matter of inner experience. but. it is decisive for our understanding of the whole story how we understand the phrase jinhuji . In a sudden reversal of view the outer display of Cook Ding’s superior skill mastery turns into an entirely different conﬁguration. Just as the experience of the Way. This happens in much the same way that the well-known drawing of two meeting faces suddenly ﬂips into a picture of a vase. it is incompatible with the rhetorical structure of the passage and with Zhuangzi’s thought in general. Lord Wenhui exclaims: “Excellent! From hearing the words of the cook. namely the movement of the Way or care for transcendental life.” or do we take it to mean that the Way “goes beyond (or transcends) skill”? The ﬁrst reading is grammatically possible. That a person is skillful is readily observed from the outer behavior. for that is what is within his horizon of understanding. or the life of Heaven. “That which I am fond of is the Way. Do we take it to mean that the Way “proceeds from skill. which is the experience of the life of Heaven. Second. (3/3–4) When Lord Wenhui sees the cook’s performance he exclaims: “Oh. or the life of Heaven. First. The whole point of the story is precisely this reversal: what looks like technical mastery 49 . At the end of the cook’s explanation. the force of the argument of the story of Cook Ding depends on a complete conversion of view.UNRAVELING THE DRIVE TOWARDS COMPLETION Swish! The ﬂesh would fall from the bone. presupposes a religious conversion. excellent! That skill should attain such heights!” But Cook Ding answers. but of the Way. This conversion of view is directly related to the turn from the outer (wai) to the inner (nei).
For Zhuangzi only a total break with the perspective of technical mastery brings to view the action that cares for transcendental life. it is nothing objective or outer (it has no form) but refers to the inner experience of the ceaseless coming-into-being of things. where I looked there was nothing but oxen. Ivanhoe 1993. such readings remain within the perspective of Lord Wenhui. Since it is not an objective order one can adapt 50 . I follow what is inherently so. and he often ﬂatly denies such training can lead to the Way. This becomes clear when we read how Cook Ding explains his way of action: When I ﬁrst began to cut up oxen. Some scholars take Zhuangzi’s Way (dao) to be a form of skilled coping with the world (Hansen 1992. before he attained his outstanding level of mastery.AN INTRODUCTION TO DAOIST THOUGHT suddenly ﬂips into a picture of authentic action without any continuity between the two pictures. Zhuangzi is a religious thinker and not just a transmitter of the instructions in meditation manuals. or the life of Heaven. perhaps something like contemporary inner training (neiye). Yearley 1996). I strike at the big hollows. We should not. Zhuangzi is here addressing one of the most urgent and difﬁcult questions of religious thought. guide the knife through the great cavities. others see it in some important way to be connected with skill-mastery and claim that there is continuity between skill mastery and Zhuangzi’s idea of care for life (Cai 1985. or the life of Heaven. jump to the conclusion that this is Zhuangzi’s central point. Like the Way the inherently so is not a thing. In my opinion. These days I meet it with the spirit and do not look with the eyes. In my skill [with the knife] I have never passed through where the meat adheres to the bone and how much less a big bone. Zhuangzi is highly ironic when he describes inner training. Cook Ding explains further: I rely on Heaven’s texture. and we cannot expect his explication to be transparent to a quick reading eager to draw its conclusions. Eno 1996). Furthermore. namely the relation between human life and transcendental life. (3/5–6) Apparently Cook Ding went through some process of learning. the spontaneously self-so (ziran) that is also Heaven’s texture. (3/6–7) The point to emphasize here is that Heaven’s texture (tianli ) and the inherently so (guran ) do not refer to an objective and normative order in the outer (wai) world. however. Three years later I never saw a whole ox. The senses know where to stop and the spirit moves as it pleases. and what makes Zhuangzi a religious thinker is precisely the philosophical weight of his rhetorical gestures and the ﬁgures of thought he employs.
But techniques and methods pertain only to human life. are drawn only in the realm of man (ren). It is in this realm that Lord Wenhui so conﬁdently can say. or. a method. there is a ruler! Oh. (3/7–10) Cook Ding’s knife is really extraordinary. Therefore in the following and most crucial passage of the story Zhuangzi deconstructs the image of skillful cutting. that it has philosophical signiﬁcance. That is why after nineteen years the edge of the knife is as if it just came from the grindstone. but the point of the story is not that he is a good or even an extraordinarily good cook. non-technical action. Cook Ding says: A good cook changes his knife once a year because he hacks. however sharp. As is often the case. Like wandering and non-action. It is crucial to see that Zhuangzi’s image of this non-knife is not just literary hyperbole. and the edge of the knife is as if it just came from the grindstone. How then did the unraveling happen? Zhuangzi cannot say how it happened. is bound to have some thickness. Now I have had this knife for nineteen years and have cut up several thousand oxen. and they cannot go beyond their 51 . that is to say. A mediocre cook changes his knife once a month because he smashes. “Ah. same word) precisely these distinctions that deﬁne human life and releases his action into the life of Heaven. Cook Ding’s knife is strictly speaking no knife at all.UNRAVELING THE DRIVE TOWARDS COMPLETION to more or less skillfully. All these technical distinctions between good and bad. for all technical action depends on the distinctions that structure the realm of man (ren). Between those joints there are spaces and the edge of the knife has no thickness. right and wrong. at the most crucial points in his argument Zhuangzi resorts to a rhetorical gesture in order to indicate what cannot be said directly. by which we can pass from human life to the life of Heaven. And what is it that cannot be said directly? Cook Ding is certainly not a bad cook. perhaps it is a non-knife in the same way that Cook Ding’s action is non-action. It is a knife whose edge “has no thickness. in fact they deﬁne that life. then the knife is bound to have more than enough space for its vast wandering. then there would be a technical procedure. that is a shepherd!” (2/83) or “That’s a cook!” The point is not that Cook Ding “cuts apart” ( jie ) better than any other cook but that he “unravels” ( jie. this unraveling is not a technical accomplishment.” Since the edge of any actual knife. When you insert what has no thickness in where there are spaces. the outer symbolic order where we with a false sense of conﬁdence (for it is really a dream) say. it takes no skill to follow the inherently so. For if he could explain how the transcendence happened. skill and clumsiness. “Ah there is a cook of superior skill!” But Cook Ding has transcended the realm of man (ren).
An ontological difference comes into play. For human action now transcends technical doing (wei) and is recognized as being engendered by Heaven. becomes transparent. but the problem is that this movement from the uncarved block to the vessels – the fall into the technical – limits or even (as in Xunzi) negates potentiality. but when human beings are in the grip of the drive towards completion. it is made into vessels” (pusan ze weiqi ) (Laozi 28). Like the knife. and we get a glimpse of life beyond the form: the transcendental life that is an inner experience for Cook Ding. The uncarved block (pu ) is the pure potentiality of life.AN INTRODUCTION TO DAOIST THOUGHT proper ﬁeld of application. So for good reasons Zhuangzi does not and cannot spell it out for us how Cook Ding comes to care for transcendental life. for it is action that mediates between the two – that does not negate potentiality but retains potentiality in actuality. Cook Ding’s action dissolves in “its vast wandering. Even the celebrated “ﬂow experience” that occurs at the height of skill mastery is entirely inscribed in human life and the horizon of technical action. On this understanding of the movement from potentiality to actuality the saying must be read as does Kah Kyung Cho: “when the uncarved block splits itself then it becomes vessels” (Cho 1987: 326. According to Laozi and Zhuangzi. We will now look closer at this remarkable form of action that transcends technical action and the drive towards completion. The vessels (qi ) are useful things brought into actuality through making or doing (wei). the outer form of the action. in so far as it is generated by Heaven. then their every act and every word limits their originary potentiality. is potentially ceaseless and inﬁnite life. It is the ontological fate of human beings to transform life into things. A saying from the Laozi can exemplify what Zhuangzi has in mind: “When the uncarved block is split up. The ﬂow experience occurs when skills are evenly matched with a speciﬁc set of goals. From potentiality to actuality For Zhuangzi human life. and he suggests that it is possible to ﬁnd a way of passing from potentiality to actuality – a way of action. And yet he indicates it by rhetorical means. In such a setting skill mastery may be perfected to a point where is seems perfectly spontaneous (Csikszentmihalyi 1991) – but it remains in its setting. my 52 . it would be better if the uncarved block splits itself up and in sacriﬁcing its pure potentiality to not be split retains this potentiality in its movement “into” actuality (the vessels). In the end all that is left are names (ming) and objects (shi ). For the transition happens the moment the knife become a non-knife and the action non-action.” This is the moment of care for transcendental life. It is as if Cook Ding’s whole performance. and the cutting itself – dazzling as it is in the outer world – becomes nothing. action (wei) and accomplishments (gong ). Zhuangzi wants to avoid this closure.
the movement from potentiality to actuality in which pure potentiality is preserved. in passing into actuality.” Aristotle calls this passing of potentiality into actuality. is given up. or what Aristotle also calls im-potentiality (adunamia). in which potentiality is not altered or destroyed but preserved in actuality “the gift of the self to itself and to actuality. it is sovereignly capable of its own im-potentiality [impotenza]. but an inner. In order to explain potentiality in itself as an effective mode. giving itself to itself ” (1998: 44–7). it is capable of the act in not realizing it. to turn potentiality back upon itself in order to give itself to itself. to fulﬁll it. the second is the potentiality not to do or be. The different translations hinge on the reading of the word wei. which can mean either “to make” or “to become. the way of being of the Dao itself. In authentic action the block of potentiality splits itself up as it passes into actuality. that on the second reading. im-potentiality. on the contrary. Agamben calls it “perfect potentiality” and says that “an act is sovereign when it realizes itself by simply taking away its own potentiality not to be. In inauthentic action the uncarved block is carved up by man and made into an object.” But how can something exist without passing into actuality? Agamben explains that the potentiality that exists “maintains itself in relation to actuality in the form of its suspension. 53 . the emergence of the vessel is seen as the possibility inherent in the uncarved wood itself. Aristotle distinguishes between two states of the potential: one where it immediately passes into actuality and one where it does not pass over into actuality. the potentiality to not do or be. as Agamben points out. perhaps even necessary development.” The decisive point is. it is helpful to consider Giorgio Agamben’s analysis of the relationship between potentiality (dunamis) and act (energeia) in Aristotle. The ﬁrst is the potentiality to do or be. Now. For the same is potential as much with respect to being as to not being” (Agamben 1998: 45). as Cho points out.” Following Avicenna. but it can be given as a gift instead of simply being left behind. The transition from the uncarved wood to the vessel is then no longer a transformation imposed by force from the outside. Aristotle writes: “What is potential can both be and not be. letting itself be. But how is it possible to retain pure potentiality in the act that brings something into actuality? To fully appreciate what is at stake in Zhuangzi’s notion of authentic action. Or as Agamben says: “To set im-potentiality aside is not to destroy it but.” To be sure.UNRAVELING THE DRIVE TOWARDS COMPLETION italics). it gives up its pure potentiality to not be split in the movement of the Way (dao). the potentiality that exists “is precisely the potentiality that can not pass over into actuality. (1987: 326) These two readings of the sentence from Laozi show the difference between inauthentic and authentic action.
Glenn Gould is. that. In the ﬁrst case the passing from potentiality to actuality is through technical action. that is to say. and because of this supplement the completion does not entirely reach closure but remains open to the facticity of life. so to speak. then. the only one who can not not-play. the passage to action can only come about by transporting (Aristotle says “saving”) in the act its own power to not-be. as Agamben explains. The passing of the potentiality to do or be into actual doing or being is through technical action. is potentiality itself. and directing his potentiality not only to the act but to his own impotence. the uncarved block ( pu). whereas the object of the potential to not do or be. perfect potentiality (the potential to not-play). the passing of the potentiality to not do or not be into doing and being is through non-technical action. for it retains something that in principle cannot be mastered in its “mastery. In this way. but rather his potential to not-play. by the same token.AN INTRODUCTION TO DAOIST THOUGHT Another way of expressing this is to say that the potentiality to do or be has as its object a determinate activity (do this or be that). authentic action breaks with the closure in praxis. his mastery conserves and exercises in the act not his potential to play (this is the position of irony that afﬁrms the superiority of the positive potentiality over the act). Or. (1993: 35) For understanding Zhuangzi. with his potential to not-play. but which. however. authentic action (non-technical mastery that is really non-mastery. The unmastered is given as a supplement to what is completed through technical mastery. retained. or action that is non-action) “conserves and exercises in the act” pure. which cannot be actualized through technical action but only through the gift in which potentiality returns to itself. While his ability simply negates and abandons his potential to not-play. nourishes life ( yangsheng) in the act in which it gives itself up and in which it is. he plays. as Zhuangzi emphasizes. in the second case we have a potentiality for potentiality. In Zhuangzi only the act that retains this perfect potentiality is the authentic act. Authentic action not only realizes the potential to do or be but also the potential to not do or be: pure potentiality is retained in the very passing from potentiality to actuality. cannot be passed from potentiality to actuality. perfect potentiality. is the supreme power. 54 .” namely the original simplicity. as Xunzi correctly saw. the crucial distinction is this: technical action simply negates potentiality. cannot be made (wei). If every power is equally the power to be and the power to not-be. Only a power that is capable of both power and impotence. This means that. even though every pianist necessarily has the potential to play and the potential to not-play.
all parts of his technical action. As Jullien says. At stake in the cook’s action is an entirely different movement. or beyond the action that is a movement from the potentiality to do to the actual doing of something. It will be noted that Zhuangzi’s view of authentic action is opposed to the strategic manipulation promoted. better. according to Zhuangzi. it is rather to nourish life ( yangsheng). these philosophers suggest that our own ends can be inserted into and become indistinguishable from the unfolding of the real. it is rather the continued retention of that which is necessarily given up in action (wei). at least momentarily. and. all is now one process. This move cancels out the difference between pre-actuality (potentiality) and actuality. says Zhuangzi. authentic action is his retained potentiality to not act that nourishes life ( yangsheng) precisely because it cannot be brought to completion (cheng). By way of contrast to the story of Cook Ding. does not push action (the realm of actuality) back into pure potentiality (pre-actuality). it cuts with its pure potential to not cut. These three are examples of highly accomplished individuals who.” It is as if the knife has not yet cut. unlike Cook Ding.” it goes beyond the technical ability to bring something into completion. in so far as it can be actualized. can never be dulled. are in effect. But the constitutive part of his sovereign. and so inevitably be moved to completion. but. the edge of his knife “is as if it just came from the grindstone. Zhuangzi. the cook is cutting: his hand and his knife. his skill ( ji). they had no real accomplishment. that is to say. we have Zhuangzi’s story about the two musicians Zhao Wen and Master Kuang and Zhuangzi’s friend. namely the movement of the Way (dao). On the contrary. the sophist Hui Shi. and so Hui Shi “ended up in the darkness of logic.UNRAVELING THE DRIVE TOWARDS COMPLETION We saw exactly this structure in the story of Cook Ding. all had their particular “completion” or “achievement” (2/44). by most other early Chinese philosophers. with 55 . namely the potential to not act (wuwei).” and Zhao Wen’s son ended up with his father’s “strings. are not able to retain pure potentiality in their action. or. and in Chapter 3 I remarked on the terrible consequences of this picture of human action. But care for life ( yangsheng) is not really an object or an aim. These three men. To attain his “aim” the cook retains his pure potentiality to not-cut in the midst of his activity: even after nineteen years of cutting. he pushes pure potentiality (pre-actuality) into the realm of action (actuality). to nourish the selfemergence of life that is not brought about by human action (wei). but in such a way that the split between potentiality and actuality is never closed. which.” or knowledge. for in that case it would fall under technical action. for his part. his intentionality. The cook’s action “goes beyond skill. for they only cultivated the technical aspect of action. in one form or another. To be sure. This non-closure is the gift of the self to the self in authentic action. and so it does not enclose the cook in the realm of man (ren). All we have to do is to push human action back to the level of “pre-actuality” or pure potentiality. The “aim” of this movement is not some doing (wei) or some thing (wu).
not yet committed. in authentic understanding the potentiality to not-understand passes into understanding. “The bordered” are things. The unbordered (the Way) is what borders (things). the unlimited) passes into action (the bordered. nor does it refer to some magical action that effortlessly brings about great results (this is the Confucian ideal of action through transformation). and “the unbordered” is the Way. and in authentic saying the potentiality to not-say passes into saying. and therefore at the height of skill-mastery all life (sheng) dries up. which in forming sacriﬁce some of the potentialities of music. who. Pang Pu (1995). human action declines when it is unable to retain pure potentiality. frames his comprehensive account of wuwei in ancient China with of the story of Cook Ding. avoids closure in praxis. but it should be emphasized that in Zhuangzi non-action does not imply going along with things in conformity with the natural or social order of things. or the Way. the limited).AN INTRODUCTION TO DAOIST THOUGHT his father’s technical ability and not with his father’s ability to not-play. take as a model Glenn Gould. and in this sense the unbordered “passes into” the bordered and liberates the bordered from its borders in the very movement that borders.” For in Zhuangzi authentic action does not mean that no action is taken. plays “with his potential to not-play. perhaps better. and nourishes life. !") (22/51). and then he 56 . Therefore we can say that when the Way (the unbordered) things things. for as the Zhuangzi says with an enigmatic but crucial formulation: “the bordering of the unbordered is the unbordering of the bordered” (buji zhi ji. In the same way. The two realms are categorically distinct: one has borders the other has none (22/50–1). or as Graham says: Systems of knowledge are partial and temporary like styles on the zither. but most scholars agree that this story presents a vivid picture of non-action. Take as a model Chao Wen [Zhao Wen] not playing the zither. The technical term wuwei (non-action) does not occur in the story of Cook Ding. for instance. which cannot be transmitted. And yet the two realms do interact. Surely Cook Ding’s action exempliﬁes non-action (wuwei). and by their very excellence make schools fossilise in decline. (1981: 55) Or. According to Zhuangzi there is a radical break between the realm of things and the realm of no-thing. when the Way “borders. ji zhi bujizhe ye . Zhuangzi ﬁrst posits two distinct ontological levels (things and the Way).” then things (the bordered) become no-thing (unbordered). that is to say. as Agamben says. with all his potentialities intact. According to Zhuangzi. The decisive characteristic of Cook Ding’s authentic action is precisely that he cuts by not-cutting and so retains all his potentialities intact. in authentic action the potentiality to not-act (the unbordered.
Strictly speaking. “whenever I come to a complicated spot. In-between Heaven and man When the potentiality to not-act passes into action. saying and nonsaying – is impossible. I see where it will be difﬁcult to handle. The theme of being “in-between” is pervasive in Zhuangzi: human beings exist in-between Heaven and man. the action (wei) characteristic of man (ren) does not entirely dissolve. as the Zhuangzi says. and the borders of things are unraveled ( jie). that is to say. and slow down my movement” (3/10). Cook Ding follows “what is inherently so. to have one foot in Heaven and the other in the realm of man.UNRAVELING THE DRIVE TOWARDS COMPLETION asks us “to proceed at two levels at once” (liangxing ). the human hand and the cook’s knife are still applied in the cutting: “with the slightest movement of the knife: plop! It is already unraveled like a clod of earth crumbling to the ground” (3/10–11). the redeeming clumsiness of human beings releases them from the world of man and makes possible an openness to Heaven. the transition between the Way and things – and between action and non-action. At one point Zhuangzi jokingly suggests that he would prefer “to dwell in-between worthiness and worthlessness” (20/5). for things are the constructed objects of human action. focus my gaze. to situate ourselves in-between the two levels. and understanding – receives the gift of non-closure. to become the very movement of the ontological difference between the Way and things. But it is through this capacity for doing what one is incapable of doing that the realm of things (wu) – which is the realm of man (ren). Zhuangzi does not simply negate the moment of man (ren) but advocates the perfection of the speciﬁcally human ability to live in-between the two realms of man (ren) and Heaven (tian). The very skillfulness of human beings encloses them in a world of their own. understanding and non-understanding. that is to say. authentic saying is in-between saying something and saying nothing. This idea of being “in-between” is summed up in the important image of “walking two ways at once” (liangxing). better. speech. authentic understanding is in-between understanding and nonunderstanding. the world of man. A moment of intentionality – the intentional action characteristic of the realm of man (ren) – is retained in what may otherwise appear to be a total surrender to Heaven (tian). authentic use is in-between the useful and the useless. To be sure.” but as he says. Where technical mastery 57 . “to be able to do what one is not able to do” (neng suobuneng ) (22/83). The Zhuangzi describes this state of being “in-between” in terms of skillfulness (qiao ) and clumsiness (zhuo ). or. Zhuangzi does not say that human action can become one with the processivity of Heaven. Furthermore. it implies. on the contrary his view of authentic action presupposes that there is a break between Heaven and man. I cautiously restrain myself. authentic action is in-between acting and not acting.
AN INTRODUCTION TO DAOIST THOUGHT solidiﬁes and completes the world that is structured by man’s concerns. the sage is clumsy in the realm of man (man) and seems dull and stupid. for he could hit the smallest target. Only the complete human being (quanren ). namely that the complete human being is skilled in the outer realm of man (ren). or ji) in the realm 58 . We saw precisely this suspension of technical action in the story of Cook Ding. In other words. The sage. qiao. it is only the skill that suspends itself as skill that is skill in regard to Heaven. The text resists the strong desire in Chinese thought to harmonize opposing terms by exhausting all possible structural permutations of the opposition. The opposition between skillfulness and clumsiness is linked to the opposition between the inner (nei) and the outer (wai).” Due to his disregard for the outer (wai). Here it is said that the famous archer Yi “was skilled at hitting the smallest target. for he could not avoid fame. and it will not call a perfected person skilled (gong. but clumsy in making sure others did not praise him. The word “good” (liang) – the word that Mencius uses to distinguish good. the complete human being is skilled in regard to Heaven. you become unsettled and incapable of taking care of the inner. unconcerned with bringing anything to completion. It is not that the sage can skillfully manipulate Heaven. that is to say.” Just like the sage. It is signiﬁcant that the passage does not say what we would expect it to say. for Heaven is precisely the realm that cannot be manipulated. or the Way. is able to be “skillful in regard to Heaven and good in regard to man.” This emotional agitation is a sign that we have lost touch with the inner: “Whoever gives weight to the outside will be clumsy inside” (19/22–6).” That is to say. unlike the sage. innate knowledge from knowledge that is the product of skilled deliberation (Mengzi 7A15) – is used instead of the word “skilled” (gong or qiao). when the stakes are gold you get ﬂustered. on the contrary. and we forget the inner: “When the stakes are a piece of tile you are skillful. he allowed names or reputation (ming) to cluster around him and so tie him to the realm of man (ren). but the skillful withdrawal from the realm of man is skill in regard to Heaven. she is good (liang ) and not clumsy (zhuo) in regard to man (ren). or the outer. The sage is skilled in regard to Heaven precisely because he is not tied to the world of man (ren) (he has no name and no accomplishments). since the realm of man is the only realm where skill applies. but. If you are absorbed in the world of man. says the passage. The higher the stakes are in the world of man the more involved we become in the outer. The theme of clumsiness and skill receives a more dialectical elaboration in the story of Archer Yi (23/72–4). but he was clumsy (zhuo) in regard to the realm of Heaven. when the stakes are belt buckles you get fearful. she skillfully withdraws from the realm of man. clumsiness breaks down these structures and reveals the pure facticity of life. “is skilled (gong) in regard to Heaven but clumsy (zhuo) in regard to man. Archer Yi was skilled (gong ) in the realm of man (ren).
and from this 59 . In the Zhuangzi the perfection of humanity implies that human beings. As explained. in the third row. The logic of Zhuangzi’s position can be seen from the following schema. The schema clearly illustrates. As can be seen. if we isolate the element of man (ren) and negate it. the symbol is absent. The Zhuangzi does not suggest that we return to the unmediated spontaneity that is characteristic of animals. that in the Zhuangzi skill can only pass over into the realm of Heaven through its own suspension. the realm of man (ren). where it is said that “only the animal is able to be animal. and it does not imply an animal-like unity with the world. he hates man’s ‘Heaven. on the one hand. What interests us here is the changing status of S. S only has its full sense in the top row. through the interplay of skill (qiao) (technical action) and clumsiness (zhuo) (the break with technical action). ﬁrst. where C stands for clumsy (zhuo) and S stands for skillful (gong or qiao). then “what is left as Heaven’s is the purely animal. the realm of Heaven (tian). because in relation to Heaven its usual signiﬁcation is suspended. and. If the element of man falls out. and that the perfected person lives beyond skill mastery. to do so would be to lose our humanity. This is a clear indication that in Zhuangzi skill in the normal sense pertains to the realm of man only and not to Heaven. on the other hand. and. As Graham correctly points out. The perfected human being lives in a dialectical relationship with. Most importantly. This decisive point is emphasized at the end of the story of Archer Yi. properly situate themselves in-between man (ren) and Heaven (tian).’ and even more he hates the question ‘am I Heaven or man?’ ” (23/73–4). we would expect S under man (ren). only the animal is able to be Heaven. in the text the term that marks the absence of S is the word “good” (liang). The complete human being hates Heaven.UNRAVELING THE DRIVE TOWARDS COMPLETION of man. following the structure of the argument. the remaining Heaven is merely the spontaneous naturalness of an animal. Heaven (tian) C $ $ man (ren) S C (Archer Yi) (the sage) (the complete human being) This schema represents the three possible modes of existence for a being that neither coincides with Heaven nor with the world of its own making: the dialectic between S and C testiﬁes to human existence in-between Heaven and man. second. where. In the second and third rows S is barred. that none of the perfected human beings (the sage and the complete human being) are deﬁned in terms of the skill of man.
makes a human being just as mechanical as a millipede that marvelously moves its many legs by relying on its natural impulses (17/55). To use the image of the uncarved block ( pu): it is not the block in itself but the splitting of the block that is the site of redemption. as Graham suggests. The mechanical mind ( jixin). then their actions are just as mechanical as the natural. instinctive actions of animals.” Heaven (tian) and man (ren) are no longer objective orders under which the subject is subsumed. Or to put it another way. both of which reduce us to the state of animals. live “in-between” the world of its own making and the world qua world.” and declares that “someone in whom neither Heaven nor man is victor over the other. a question of shifting back and forth between the two realms but of remaining in authentic presence in-between Heaven and man. and all that remains is the realm of man (ren). as Georges Bataille says.AN INTRODUCTION TO DAOIST THOUGHT point of view it is wrong to prefer Heaven” (1981: 106). In this “in-between. they have unraveled as things (wu) and become nothing. Graham says that Zhuangzi does not expect to live in a permanent ecstasy moving like a sleepwalker guided by Heaven. this is what is meant by the Genuine Man. Mencius tries to gloss over the crisis by postulating continuity between Heaven and man’s innermost impulses.” (1989: 196) This is correct. they too are no longer open to the experience of Heaven. and. The spontaneous and natural action Zhuangzi has in mind is as far removed from the instinctive action characteristic of animals as it is from the technical action of the realm of man (ren). Zhuangzi does not want to return to a primordial unity with Heaven. for Zhuangzi. Therefore the Zhuangzi can say that for the perfected person ”there 60 . the mind entirely conditioned by its technical capacity. except that for Zhuangzi it is not. Xunzi tries to avoid the crisis by militantly promoting the part of man (ren). When human beings are totally absorbed in the world of their own making. like animals. Conversely. then we have the situation where human beings are totally enclosed in a world of their own making. for him the fall away from this primordial unity is the very unbinding ( jie) that liberates us from an objectiﬁed cosmic order and its correlative social order. the animal. the metaphysical crisis where Heaven parts from man is itself the site of the redemption. lives in the world “like water in water” (1992: 25). he recognizes that one must be sometimes “of Heaven’s party” and sometimes “of man’s party. The naturalness of an animal lacks the openness to the world qua world that as potentiality deﬁnes human beings. for his part. On the contrary. as human beings do. The animal does not. Zhuangzi. if the element of Heaven (tian) falls out. tarries unﬂinchingly in the midst of the crisis.
and came to completion in the destined. Here gu (the native) is the same as guran (the inherently so) which Cook Ding follows. as Confucius wrongly thinks. I do not know why I am like this. (19/52–3) Confucius asks: “what do you mean by ‘begin with the native. In this “in-between” where the objectivity of Heaven and man unravels. Confucius thinks the swimmer has some marvelous ability. his nature (xing ). This misplaced rescue operation is of course a joke on the Confucians. but. Graham says that gu in this sense means “the 61 . Like Lord Wen Hui. for any achievement is inscribed in the technical and motivated by the drive towards completion. it is no achievement at all. who are obsessively concerned with saving people who are perfectly capable of taking care of themselves. Zhuangzi’s Confucius sees a man swimming in the turbulent waters beneath a high waterfall and.UNRAVELING THE DRIVE TOWARDS COMPLETION has never begun to be Heaven and never begun to be man” (25/17). namely the pure coming-into-being of things. That is how I tread the waters. like Cook Ding. and come to completion in the destined’?” The swimmer continues to answer in the same impassive and inscrutable manner: I was born on dry land and feel at home on dry land – that is native. thinking that the man wants to kill himself. grow up with my nature. and yet that is how I am – that is destined. we live beyond the drive for completion. Cook Ding made this point. Confucius then asks the swimmer about his extraordinary ability in the waters. the swimmer answers that there is no extraordinary skill involved at all: I began with the native. (19/53–4) The swimmer is not really. who thought Cook Ding exhibited extraordinary skill. I follow the way of the water and do not impose myself upon it. performing some marvelous act. he is just staying with the native (gu ). and it is also well exempliﬁed in the story of the swimmer. sends his disciples to the rescue. I grew up in the water and feel at home in the water – that is my nature. I go under together with the whirlpool and issue forth together with the well-spring. But after a while the man comes out of the waters and wanders (you) around singing on the shore. I grew up with my nature. The occurrence of the ordinary The life lived beyond the drive for completion and in-between heaven and man is nothing extraordinary. and the destined (ming ).
however. or the fact that we are in each moment born together with the world. This is at once the most ordinary and the most uncanny experience.AN INTRODUCTION TO DAOIST THOUGHT qualities which a thing has to start with” or “the original” (1989: 124). they all point to the experience of the pure facticity of life. but this is the most difﬁcult of all” (4/53). To care for life (yangsheng) is precisely to care for this spontaneous movement by which life (sheng) completes itself through one’s being. Cook Ding says that when the cognitive faculties come to an end then shen begins to function (3/6). As Michael Crandell points out. beginning with the native (gu). live” and is similar to Greek phusis. the whole movement. a word that. it is rather a phenomenological description of our coming-to-the-world. which is derived from nascor. There is nothing magical about acknowledging life. Awareness of life arises in cooks and cicada catchers. and it is fated or destined (ming). “I am born.” But if coming-intobeing cannot be known.” (1990b: 7) Xing.” which comes from phuD “I grow. destiny is not an objective end to which we passively submit. Therefore. Furthermore. says Zhuangzi. the notions of the native. wheelwrights and woodworkers. “the course in which life completes its development if sufﬁciently nourished and not obstructed or injured from the outside” (1989: 124). and therefore it is incomprehensible. Therefore the swimmer says: “I do not know why I am like this. and yet that is how I am. In the story of the swimmer. but rather. as Graham points out.” This. then life (sheng) emerges in its super-natural and extra-ordinary simplicity beyond the horizon of the drive towards completion. nature. “be born. as Graham puts it. In this sense gu is closely linked with xing (nature).” and Latin natura. and coming to completion in the destined (ming). or a primordial unity with nature. does not indicate a ﬁxed identity. Pure coming-into-being does not appear in the outer world and so it cannot be known. is the most difﬁcult task: “nothing is as good as fulﬁlling your destiny. “nature. but when we are no longer in the grip of the view from the outside. swimmers 62 . it can be acknowledged in that state of authentic presence or awareness Zhuangzi calls shen (spirit). This movement is engendered by Heaven. then. does not imply progress and completion in a particular way of self-fashioning. For Zhuangzi. is derived from sheng . then this should be understood in something like the sense of Nietzsche’s injunction to “become who you are. developing with nature (xing). when the swimmer says that he “comes to completion in the destined” (cheng huming ). in the Inner Chapters the notion of ming (the destined) can best be rendered with “the way things are” (1983: 123). and Graham explains that in philosophical literature the word shen indicates “that supremely lucid awareness which excites a shudder of numinous awe” (1989: 101). When it is viewed from the outside (wai) – the view of Lord Wen Hui and Confucius – this sheer givenness and facticity of ordinary life is experienced as something supernatural and extraordinary. and the destined do not imply that one ﬁts into an objective normative order.
In the Lunyu we learn that Confucius is not invariably for or against anything. when he ought to stay.” it is not even a particularly noteworthy or exciting experience. To begin an orderly performance is a matter of wisdom. no drive for completion. and we experience the temporality of a life lived beyond the drive towards completion. I look around at ease and content. or what he calls “the ensemble of great completions” ( jidacheng ). it is because of his timeliness that Confucius surpassed all the other sages. the Zhuangzi is not at all interested in “unusual powers” (1981: 19). but in a timely fashion he “falls in with what is right” (Lunyu 4. when he ought to take his time. It reﬂects rather a mind that has come to rest in the dullness that is the mood in which the Way is apprehended. The shaking of the jade tubes is the completion of an orderly performance. he would stay. when at the end of his cutting he says: “I stand there holding the knife in my hand. is not a “peak-experience. Therefore Mencius praises Confucius as “the timely one among the sages” (sheng zhi shizhe !) and he explains that Confucius “when he ought to be quick.UNRAVELING THE DRIVE TOWARDS COMPLETION and ferrymen. no ecstatic experience of “ﬂow. As Graham notes. [it is like in making music when] the bronze bells sound and the jade tubes are shaken. According to Mencius. and that this knack for timely action does not depend on rules or principles but transcends all restriction in terms of allowable (ke ) and unallowable (buke ) (Lunyu 18. he would take ofﬁce” (5. and Mencius envisions in the ﬁgure of the timely sage a complete grasp and control of the real aimed at completion. Wisdom may be likened to skill.10). forgers and fundraisers. It is like shooting an arrow from beyond a hundred paces. (Mengzi 5B1) 63 . and then wipe off the cleaver and put it away” (2/11).” no extraordinary skill is employed. To bring an orderly performance to its end is a matter of sageliness. Mencius writes: In Confucius we have what is called “the ensemble of great completions.” As for the ensemble of great completions. no mastery. It is this dull ease and satisfaction Cook Ding expresses. only life itself. The sound of the bronze bells is the beginning of an orderly performance. This dullness is one example of the “blandness” ( fadeur) that Jullien (2004b) identiﬁes as a key ﬁgure of thought in Chinese philosophy and art. There is no marvelous performance. and the experience of life.8). This dull mood reﬂects the cook’s ability to stay with the fact that nothing special is happening at all. that it hits the center is not due to your strength. sageliness may be likened to strength. That it reaches the target is due to your strength. Zhuangzi’s temporality beyond the drive for completion is best highlighted in contrast to the Confucian notion of timeliness. the life generated by Heaven. he would take his time. he would be quick.B1). In this spacious dullness our sense of time is transformed. and when he ought to take ofﬁce.
For the subject the moment is a state of pure availability without any sense of project or even “existence” in Heidegger’s sense of ex-static standing-out in the full range of one’s possibilities and towards the ﬁnal possibility/impossibility of death. Jullien describes the moment as an occurrence (occurrence). and completes (cheng) in the destined.” The Confucian progression outlines a particular program of education. Confucius sums up his program of learning as follows: “aroused by the poems. In his essay on the notion of time in China. Mencius says that Confucius’ wisdom is a kind of technical skill (qiao). it is a form of regulatory wisdom that brings things completion. Second. and the completion is entirely inscribed in the realm of man (literature. It simply indicates the inexplicable experience of being engendered by selfemerging life. François Jullien makes a distinction between time as occurrence and time as occasion. for in making oneself available to the demands of the moment one also gains access to the opportunity of the moment. music). no self-fashioning. no socialization. The abstract notion of time in the West. divides time into past. for his part. does not rely on technical skill or practical wisdom in any form. which the sage can exploit. The completion imposed by Confucius and the completion experienced by the swimmer in Zhuangzi are totally different. but the Chinese moment (shi) has no beginning and end. abstract movement from past through the present into the future. The main point here. and as an occasion (occasion). According to Jullien this Confucian moment is. As his ﬁrst example of this Chinese “moment” Jullien takes the passage where Mencius describes Confucius as the timely sage. as 64 . is that Zhuangzi notion of time is entirely different from the temporality of Mencius’ timely sage. or the fruit of the ﬂow of time to which the sage is available. a moment of availability (disponibilité): Confucius is not restrained by a principle but open to the demands of the moment. In terms of the present essay (and very close to Jullien’s own description): as occurrence the moment is part of the ﬂow of life (sheng). Cook Ding. rituals. Corresponding to these two features of the moment. however. present. ﬁrst. Jullien argues that whereas in the West time is conceived as a homogeneous. says Jullien. involves no program of learning. and self-fashioning. Confucius is entirely in the grip of the drive towards completion (cheng). Furthermore. and future.AN INTRODUCTION TO DAOIST THOUGHT Mencius’ picture of Confucius as the timely sage is diametrically opposed to Zhuangzi’s picture of authentic action. and completed (cheng) in music” (8. The swimmer’s sequence. or the ﬂow of time objectiﬁed in a particular conﬁguration. in China time is understood as a seasonal process of concrete and ever new moments (shi ). and no completion in the realm of man. Cook Ding’s action nourishes life (sheng). on the other hand. grows up in nature. it is a moment of opportunity (opportunité). In the Zhuangzi the swimmer says that he “begins with the native. the sage of the moment (shi). or as Jullien translates. socialization. established in the rituals.8).
in Jullien’s terminology. or simply unbinding ( jie ) as in the story of Cook Ding.” or. That is to say. According to Mencius. they cannot but act” (24/37–8). The occasion. but they should have known better. When Laozi died some of his disciples mourned him by “doubling their emotions. that it in fact implies a notion of time that is quite different from Jullien’s moment (shi). Zhuangzi says that “those who cannot unbind themselves are bound by things” (6/53). was always living in the pure occurrence of life: 65 . the completion (cheng) imposed by Confucius’ timeliness is an abstraction beyond the ﬂow of occurring moments. The supreme ensemble of great completions ( jidacheng) that Mencius ascribes to Confucius is. This supreme occasion is secure beyond all occurrence and so metaphysical. For their Master. Zhuangzi’s moment is always occurrence and never objectiﬁes into an occasion. again unlike Mencius. Confucius’ timeliness (shi) progresses like a piece of ritual music with a clear sense of beginning and end. on another reading. Zhuangzi does not view time as a ritually marked progression from beginning to completion. so there is nothing to take advantage of and nothing to hope for. They added to life ( yisheng). we will see. Surely. Zhuangzi does not view time as a pro-ject aimed at a coming ﬁnal completion. the occasion to trump all occasions. If we look more closely at Mencius’ description of Confucius as the timely sage. psychologically they did not remain with the occurrence but added something artiﬁcial (ritual) to ﬁt the occasion. According to Zhuangzi the knack for timeliness (shi) is merely the temporality of technical mastery and radically different from the temporality of the Way. The Zhuangzi explicitly denounces the timely action of those who appropriate the moment for their own use: “those who go for power and material things delight in changes – the moment something can be put to use. Furthermore. is that which “the sage and the strategist constantly exploits” (2001: 117–23). Zhuangzi’s notion of the unbinding of the gods (di zhi xuanjie !). implies precisely the unbinding of any occasion that can be manipulated by man and a surrender to the pure occurrence of life. and in fact Mencius has his own notion of messianic time: Mencius expects that the time is near when a new timely sage will appear and complete the Confucian project (Mengzi 2B13). In Jullien’s terms. Unlike Mencius. however. Zhuangzi tells a story about Laozi. “turning away from the real” (3/17). and it is hard to see that this ritual marking of time is less abstract than the Western progression of past. and future. and. Mencius clearly views timely action in terms of a pro-ject (it is like an arrow that ﬂies towards its target). says Jullien. present. Laozi. and to explain his notion of the unbinding of time as occasion. For Zhuangzi the occurrence of time never runs into an occasion.UNRAVELING THE DRIVE TOWARDS COMPLETION occasion the moment has taken form as some completion (cheng) that can be manipulated. Zhuangzi’s notion of time differs on every point from the Mencian notion of time.
just when he happened to go (shiqu). his action was that movement. it is prompted by the moment just when ( fang) something appears (chu). the Master was timely. 66 . Shi means that something happens. that is to say. The Master’s coming and going was of this nature. the Master’s coming and going is impromptu. Then sorrow and happiness cannot affect you. The timely sage proceeds from occasion to occasion. the acts of the Master were pure occurrence. in the sense that it just reaches its point of appearance or cominginto-being (its destination or destiny) with natural ease and as if by chance. and they never became an occasion for any thing or event to take form. every occasion – and he is not able to unbind himself (zijie ). or. In short. on the other hand. that is to say. better. Like Zhuangzi’s own words. but by everything that is the case. Laozi exempliﬁes the temporality of a life lived beyond the drive towards completion. His every action was at one with the moment just when an incipient movement emerged. Mencius’ Confucius.AN INTRODUCTION TO DAOIST THOUGHT Just when he happened to come (shilai). For. and here the word shi (in the phrases shilai and shiqu ) is signiﬁcant.” (3/18–19) It is crucial to distinguish Zhuangzi’s description of Laozi from Mencius’ description of Confucius as the timely sage. He is bound by things – not only the bells and drums of ritual. This is what the ancients called “the unbinding of the gods. immediately turns the pure occurrence of life into an occasion for his own mastery. Be at home in the moment and dwell in going along. uncaused and spontaneously. unlike the tears of his followers. the Master followed along.
In particular Zhuangzi tries to attain the experience of language in itself. which is understood by all humans just as the language of birds is understood by those born on Sunday. Here there is no time for discussing generalities and giving reasons – and there is certainly no time for polemics and dispute – the lesson is given on the spot and must be understood on the spot. the Master’s words “must remain 67 . as Jullien points out. To highlight the view of language that Zhuangzi shares with the Confucians. The background for understanding Zhuangzi’s view of language is twofold: early Confucian discourse and the logic of disputation (bian ) fashioned by the later Mohists. But this also means. says Jullien.8).SAYING THE UNSAYABLE 5 SAYING THE UNSAYABLE [ The language of the messianic world] is the idea of prose itself. that is to say. I take my point of departure in François Jullien’s analyses of Confucius’ use of language. Jullien (2000: 196) says that early Confucian discourse is “indicative” rather than a dialogical or dialectical unfolding of logos. but language as a phenomenon that eludes all objectiﬁcation. is there really a distinction or is there no distinction? Zhuangzi Indicative and logical discourses Zhuangzi has no philosophy of language as we know it from modern analytic philosophy but a profound experience with language. Mohist disputation had the most immediate and obvious impact on Zhuangzi. Walter Benjamin If saying is considered to be different from the sound of baby birds. that “the path of dialogue is deﬁnitely barred” (2000: 198). In indicative discourse the unsaid is more important than what is said. but the inﬂuence of Confucian discourse on Zhuangzi runs deeper. Thus the Master indicates one corner of the whole and leaves it to the disciple to orient himself and ﬁnd the other three (Analects 7. In order to be effective. not language as a thing with a useful signifying function.
However. The aim of this indicative discourse is to regulate conduct and ultimately to regulate the whole socio-ethical sphere. the moment of enunciation is more important than the propositional content of the discourse. Therefore. On the right occasion the indicative word “reveals the bottomless depths of things instead of passing through the mediation of a theoretical construction (which. Indeed nothing is more difﬁcult to grasp than the globality of the obvious. Zhuangzi’s language is quite close to Confucius’ indicative saying. failed speech is not speech that lacks content but words that have no effect and reveal “their uselessness when they have missed their mark” (Jullien 2000: 203). both Confucius and Zhuangzi detest empty disputation. therefore. and neither of them developed a logic of dialogue.” and it is. the effectiveness of indicative speech depends on its “opportune intervention. Furthermore.AN INTRODUCTION TO DAOIST THOUGHT inchoate. no longer itself. in comparison would seem endless)” (Jullien 2000: 238). Furthermore. Correspondingly. we are always overwhelmed by it and thus incapable of isolating it in order to become conscious of it. by treating it as an indication. Zhuangzi frees language from 68 . The decisive difference between Zhuangzi and Confucius’ views of language is that for Zhuangzi language is not a tool of regulation. their richness comes from their implicitness” (2000: 200). must merely begin to say. and both Confucius and Zhuangzi value the unsaid. over elaborate dialogue and completed discourse. For Confucius. and it is full (illuminating and regulating) precisely because it is empty of content. so to speak. “a matter less of content than occasion” (Jullien 2000: 203). (Jullien 2000: 238–9) The discourse of the Master is empty of speciﬁc content. As Jullien writes. “it is precisely in saying nothing in particular that he [the sage] says what needs to be said and abides within globality” (2000: 243–4). As a tool of regulation language is objectiﬁed and it is. Disputation should be avoided and when the order of things is established and functions spontaneously discourse can cease altogether. In both Zhuangzi’s impromptu words and in Confucius’ indicative saying. allows for a glimpse of its source of immanence. the smallest detail attains a strategic importance: Confucian discourse does not attempt to transcend the particular through deﬁnition (by raising it to its universal essence through abstraction) but. In both cases it is by saying nothing in particular that saying reveals the real. For the words of the Master have nothing more to communicate than the regulation they incarnate. discourse is a tool of regulation and should not be used frivolously – one should not become fascinated with the tool and forget the aim. or the beginning-to-say. because this regulation is continuously revealed everywhere and at all times. Thus once it succeeds in illuminating its source and connects us to the totality (of Heaven and the Sage).
“projects the vision of a universal knowledge organized in four disciplines. They begin. It is now rational discourse. and among some of the later Mohists this interest in argumentative discourse culminates in a corpus of writing from around 300 that contains their canons of the logic of argumentation. Zhuangzi clearly sees that this new technical language increasingly abstracts itself from the moment of enunciation. and therefore it cannot be treated as necessary (bi ) (Graham 1978: 330–1). therefore. that lays the foundation for the new social order. Zhuangzi shows that there is a kind of saying. The Mohists. and if. and in their canons of disputation there is no need for the category of life (sheng) as a spontaneous force that can be cultivated or 69 . This “comprehensive summa of Mohist disputation. To be sure. the Mohists seek a total grasp of the real not unlike that of Western science. Later Confucians could only see Zhuangzi’s discourse as extravagant and excessive.SAYING THE UNSAYABLE its regulatory function. scientiﬁc investigations. and informed by an intense concern for universal fairness. The intention is clear. an achievement quite without parallel in Chinese philosophy” (1978: 45). to craft their logic of necessary relations in new theories of naming and disputation. words that miss the mark (measured against their regulative potential) are useless. but Confucius himself may have been less judgmental and more appreciative of Zhuangzi’s most remarkable achievement. and encloses itself in completed and conclusive discourse (chengyan ) (Graham 1978: 344). of how to act” (1989: 137). The spirit of the canons is utilitarian. the speciﬁc moment in the ﬂow of life (sheng) when what is said is said. In early Confucian discourse the truth of a statement largely depends on the proper conditions (ritual and hierarchical) for the felicitous exchange of words. namely his impromptu words. Parallel to the increasing emphasis on the technical side of human action in the Warring States period. the Mohists introduce an unprecedented techniﬁcation of language. that self-emerges and ﬂourishes spontaneously like all phenomena of nature. The Mohist logicians are entirely preoccupied with completion (cheng) at the level of discourse. Zhuangzi says that authentic saying is lost in rhetorical ﬂourishes (2/25–6). like Confucius. The writings of the later Mohists constitute a break with Confucian discourse. then for Zhuangzi it is precisely those useless words that regulate nothing that ﬁrst reveal the real.” says Graham. however. and not the oblique indications of the Master. but whereas for Confucius speech must be used sparingly and ultimately only silence can unify us with the spontaneous regulation of Heaven. realize that there is no logical but only performative force in Confucian discourse. knowledge of names. and ethical theory. of how to connect them. and Graham characterizes their ethical theory as “beautifully simple. for Confucius. Mozi himself was already much more argumentative than Confucius. complete and consistent. of objects. Therefore Zhuangzi does not share Confucius’ unease with the proliferation of discourse.
is the prejudiced mind (Guo 1982: 61). When he overhears himself speak and takes on language as a personal exercise. both use language as a tool for regulation. 153). only characteristic of the language of disputation (bian) that takes the binary terms shi (right) and fei (wrong) as the basis for its operation. Although the discourse of the later Mohists is opposed to the discourse of the Confucians. the Mohist deﬁnition of sheng (life) “excludes from consideration all vital tendencies which can be nourished or thwarted. however. It is only that what it says is not ﬁxed. Zhuangzi breaks with this collective monologue and brings to view language itself before it falls into the propositional function and the name (ming)– object (shi) relation. The completed mind (chengxin).AN INTRODUCTION TO DAOIST THOUGHT neglected. where each side “afﬁrms what the other denies and denies what the other afﬁrms” (2/26). as Hans-Georg Möller says. Saying and disputation Zhuangzi makes a critical distinction between saying ( yan ) and disputation (bian ). This objectiﬁed language is not an expression of a unique consciousness. As a tool of regulation. Is there really saying then? Or has there never been saying? If saying is considered to be different from the sound of baby birds. then he is in command of his world and he can craft a new social order. This closure in discourse is. as the commentator Cheng Xuanying explains. has its own characteristics. which Zhuangzi explains as follows: Saying ( yan) is not just the blowing of air. The Confucian wants to rectify names (zhengming ) so that affairs will be successful and reach completion (cheng) (Analects 13. Once the Mohist logician has determined the necessary relations between names and objects. As Graham points out. is the basis for disputation. saying says something. yan (saying). a “collective monologue” (1994: x–xi. but. is there really a distinction or is there no distinction? (2/23–4) Zhuangzi is clear about the limitations of disputation (bian). Zhuangzi regarded this neglect of life (sheng) as the greatest danger. but he is much more hesitant about making deﬁnite claims about the nature of language or 70 . language is objectiﬁed in names (ming) that belong to the outer (wai) realm no less so than the objects (shi) to which they ﬁt. however. In disputation there is no chance for mutual agreement.3). and it is in response to this techniﬁcation of language in disputation (bian) that Zhuangzi develops his own saying (yan ) as exposure to selfemerging life. Language in the broader sense.” and so it “makes nonsense” of the idea of care for life ( yangsheng) (1978: 281). which. paradigmatically the disputes between the Confucians and the Mohists.
disputation is a purely technical procedure and entirely inscribed in the world of man (ren). The mystery of language. and it reduces the question of what is genuine and real to the truth value of propositions. or the ceaseless coming-into-being that is life (sheng). how did disputation come to obscure authentic saying? In Zhuangzi’s view. namely the world. as coming-into-being. When the Way is concealed.SAYING THE UNSAYABLE saying ( yan). when. Whereas authentic saying. is concealed in the petty achievements associated with the drive for completion (cheng) in the realm of man (ren). The aim of Zhuangzi’s saying is to bring language itself out of this concealment and let it self-emerge like all phenomena of nature.” a development that culminated in “Aristotle’s proposition according to which logos as assertion is what can be true or false” (2000: 199). but for Zhuangzi language ( yan) is an unknown in which he himself is deeply and inextricably involved. is that language or saying always hovers in-between saying something and saying nothing and so maintains an indeterminacy and openness in relation to that which it speaks about. The reason is that disputation is merely a technique with obvious uses and limitations. and not as a function of propositional discourse. when saying is concealed then there is right and wrong (2/24–6). Disputation (bian) obscures this movement. Therefore Zhuangzi regards disputation as the decline of saying. Heidegger argues that originally the Greeks understood truth as unconcealment (alBtheia). Disputation. and therefore the Way and saying decline together as disputation arises. At once sad and incredulous he asks: “How is saying (yan) hidden so there is right (shi) and wrong ( fei)? . which is constantly exhibited in the Zhuangzi. says Zhuangzi. for Zhuangzi saying (yan) partakes in the movement of the Way. . disputation merely names objects. or the referential context of our world. then there is true and false. How can saying (yan) exist and not be permissible?” (2/25). The Way. on the other hand. We ﬁnd a similar shift in the view of language in ancient Greece. “logos as assertion becomes the locus of truth in the sense of correctness. denies itself this productive indeterminacy by deeming saying either right or wrong. is exposed in-between the realms of man (ren) and Heaven (tian). In other words. In a parallel development saying is concealed in the rhetorical ﬂourishes characteristic of the empty techniques of disputation. We have just seen a prominent example in the passage where Zhuangzi asks if there is a difference between saying (yan) and the chirping of birds: “Is there really saying then? Or has 71 . The double-question That Zhuangzi shuns propositional truth is especially noticeable in his frequent rhetorical use of the double-question. Similarly. . the problem is that the discourse of disputation takes the proposition to be the essence of language. as Heidegger writes. like authentic action. only saying is exposed to the world qua world. or phusis itself. According to Zhuangzi.
writes Agamben. to that of the announcement. the intimation of Being without any predicate. But clearly Zhuangzi does not expect such a clear-cut answer. as we will see. on the contrary. all subjective appearance. which do not impose value judgments on the world. Authentic saying is the saying that is awake to the fact that fundamentally nothing is ﬁxed in language. the Skeptic displaces language from the register of the proposition. the emotional state (the pathos) that goes with Zhuangzi’s impromptu words is the objective emotion of joy (le ) that is puriﬁed of all subjective sentiments and therefore totally open to the experience of the world. and becomes the pure announcement of appearance. For the double-question suspends the discourse of disputation. As the adverb adoxastDs speciﬁes.AN INTRODUCTION TO DAOIST THOUGHT there never been saying? . pathos is puriﬁed of all doxa. . in uttering this expression. but this is not a deﬁciency of language (yan).” Furthermore. This suspension is similar to the epokhB of the Greek Skeptics. it is precisely because signiﬁcation is indeterminate that authentic saying is possible. Shifting signiﬁers According to Zhuangzi. to borrow Agamben’s words. the Skeptic says the phenomenon and announces the affect without any opinion [apaggellei to pathos adoxastDs]” (Agamben 1999a: 256). but are rather.” language is transformed into the angel of the phenomenon. Maintaining itself in the epokhB of the “no more than. and it opens a space between afﬁrmation and negation in which the phenomenon can announce itself. is there really a distinction or is there no distinction?” On grammatical grounds Christoph Harbsmeier argues that the expected answer to the last question is “No!” (1981: 149–50). the pure announcement of its passion. According to Sextus Empiricus. “the most important thing is that. denotes the experience of epokhB. In this way. which predicates nothing of nothing. which predicates something of something (legein ti kata tinos). (1999a: 257) Zhuangzi’s double-question has a similar function and similar metaphysical implications. saying as “the pure announcement of appearance. “passion” here indicates nothing subjective. as Agamben points out. Zhuangzi takes the shifters 72 . Therefore. “no more than” – it is no more so than it is not so – which. The main function of Zhuangzi’s double-questions – is it so? or is it not so? – is to suspend propositional discourse and open up a space between afﬁrmation and negation in which saying (yan) is able to speak the world. and Zhuangzi’s double-question corresponds to the expression ou mallon. . what saying (yan) says is never ﬁxed and settled (ding ). This is also characteristic of Zhuangzi’s impromptu words.
shifters are “empty” signs. Here the pronoun “I” is the paradigmatic term.” That is to say. he is interested in what Benveniste calls “language taken on as an exercise by an individual. In one of his most dazzling passages. But precisely for these reasons.” In the moment of saying “I” the speaker takes on language as a whole. Zhuangzi is not interested in language as a system of references. Since they refer to no “reality. Zhuangzi shows how these shifters suspend propositional discourse – which for Zhuangzi is a derivative (fallen) language – and infect discourse as a whole. as characteristic of all language if viewed properly. According to Émile Benveniste shifters pertain to the unique instances of the actualization of discourse rather than to the syntax of language. and Benveniste says that this sign “is linked to the exercise of language (langage) and declare the speaker as such. “I” (wo) and “that other” (bi). shifters do not refer to an outside reality at all. then. since shifters do not assert anything.SAYING THE UNSAYABLE “this” (shi ) and “that” (bi ). says Benveniste. to reﬂect the essence of all language. In these moments language is not a system of references but an exercise in saying what is concealed in the propositional discourse of disputation (bian). or the collective monologue of ﬁtting names and objects. they refer rather to the present moment of saying. and so again potentially open to the world in what Zhuangzi calls luminosity (ming ). There is no doubt that Zhuangzi saw these characteristics of the shifters “this” (shi) and “that” (bi). to bring about “the conversion of language (langage) into discourse (discours). In fact. shows that there is a profound difference between “language as a system of signs and language taken on as an exercise by an individual” (1974: 251–7). In a passage Graham takes to be related to the “Inner Chapters. In Zhuangzi language becomes “full” in the unique moments of authentic saying.” says Benveniste. To understand Zhuangzi on this point. they “are not subject to the requirements of truth. in which the enunciation of the word (not its signiﬁcation) announces the world. Whereas names refer to constant and objective entities that endure in time. language as a system of references is converted into language that a subject can appropriate precisely because the shifters are anonymous and – for the moment at least – open to use by anyone. shifters refer to no stable object: each “this” and each “that” has its own proper reference uniquely posed in the moment of enunciation. not ﬁxed. Unlike the Mohist logicians.” the Zhuangzi explicitly describes language in general as a collection of shifters. or “I” (wu ) and “that other” (bi). 73 . which I will discuss in the following chapter. says Benveniste. The function of shifters. and they become “full” every time someone appropriates them in a moment of saying. the shifters are always available to everyone.” It is precisely by being empty of ﬁxed signiﬁcation that language can be taken on as an exercise by an individual. it may be helpful to recall the linguistic features of shifters.” and since they have no necessary reference they cannot be misused. so it becomes shifting. For the function of the shifters is.
in each moment of speaking we are always “here” or “there” (in this or that room).AN INTRODUCTION TO DAOIST THOUGHT or shifting signiﬁers (yishi ). then we may announce the world. or the phenomenon in its totality) from these shifting positions. The passage says that we “avail ourselves of right and wrong. a hostage (zhi ). it means that we must forget propositional language. here the expression deyi (to get the intended meaning) is a pun and implies. regulate them. and that.’ and thus to ‘have no intentions’” (Möller 2000: 496). presumably because they are the essence of language itself and so cannot be an object of language. In other words. and no matter how thorough we are in our signifying. even to the toilet.” or as it is said in “On the Equality of Things.” we put ourselves “in charge of right and wrong. Usually this is taken to mean that one should forget language and obtain the intended meaning (yi). or. is an example of shifting signiﬁers. the problem is that we regulate and control language. The problem is that we appropriate these shifting signiﬁers. and the trap is forgotten once we have got the ﬁsh. The Zhuangzi says that in the same way as the ﬁsh is in the ﬁsh-trap. empty like the shifters. on the contrary. It is said that one cannot know and speak about these shifting signiﬁers. the self objectiﬁes itself in its own reiﬁed language. But. the problem is not that language is no more than shifting signiﬁers. As long as we do not become attached to a particular way of signifying. that both language and the intended meaning should be forgotten: “de yi does not literally mean to ‘get the meaning’ but rather to ‘get what is intended’ and therefore to be ‘perfectly content. In other words. then there is a system of names (ming) and objects (shi). but. the intended meaning (yi ) is in language (yan). and language is forgotten once we have got the intended meaning (26/48–9). we go to all the rooms. Nevertheless. but just let language (yan) be as it is in itself. it is not a question of forgetting language in order to grasp some unmediated intention. and the self ( ji) becomes a substance.” (2/11) Once we have appropriated language in this way. Furthermore. as Hans-Georg Möller has convincingly argued. a particular way of proceeding (xing ). From the point of view of Zhuangzi. and impose them on others. and regard that as ﬁxed (ding). on another reading. and it forces others to recognize this objectiﬁcation as the model and measure ( jie ) for right and wrong (23/62–4). says the passage. we only address the thing itself (the house. not that one should obtain an intended meaning unmediated by language. an analogy is provided: when we inspect a house. The intended meaning When Zhuangzi says that we must forget language (wangyan ). The Zhuangzi in fact rejects intentionality altogether – the perfected person “causes people’s intentions (yi) to disappear” (21/5) and “casts intentions to the sheep” (24/96) – because for Zhuangzi intention (yi) is the beginning of the formation of the completed mind (chengxin) and 74 .
given minimal play. but can never express the real (qing). we see that the intended meaning ( yi) is not what is aimed at: ontologically the intended meaning is at the same level as writing and other objectiﬁed language and separated from the real. another kind of language that is capable of saying the real. In other words. the kind of objectiﬁed language that can never touch the real (qing). propositional language ﬁt for a technical manual. What he means is that this sense of the real cannot be explained in objectiﬁed.SAYING THE UNSAYABLE therefore it should be rejected. becomes absurd and. no doubt. After this explanation. for Zhuangzi the intended meaning ( yi) is not. color. For we only get (de) a person who has forgotten language by speaking with him or her. as the commentator Cheng Xuanying says. which respond to the real in precisely the same way the wheelwright senses and responds to the wheel. as in the story of Cook Ding. That language is Zhuangzi’s impromptu words. It is this sense of the real that the wheelwright says he cannot explain in language (yan) and cannot transmit to his son. that is to say. The story of the wheelwright who says that he cannot put his knack or feel for his craft into language or words (yan) (13/68–74) is also often taken to show that the Zhuangzi rejects language. and sound. “meanings ﬂuctuate but right themselves in the spontaneous ﬂow of discourse” (1981: 26). in the instrumental sense. and this getting (de) is not of the same order as getting (de) some thing – whether it be a ﬁsh or an intended meaning – it is rather as if we could only catch the ﬁsh by letting it swim away or get the intended meaning by suspending all intentionality. In short. the intended meaning must be given up. namely the real (qing). is beyond positive. The passage preceding the story of the wheelwright explains that it is a mistake to think that the Way is found in writing. however. for the value of writing depends on the spoken words. empirical veriﬁcation and cannot be transmitted in language ( yan) (13/64–8). Here. and what the intended meaning pursues. for his part. a joke. again. closely tracks the real (qing) in his work – he “senses it in the hand and responds from the heart” (13/72). whether it be a manual of craft-knowledge or of moral self-cultivation. For in Zhuangzi’s impromptu words. name. form. we only get to forget language in language. Here we get the full ironic twist of the word de in the passage. or as the preceding passage says. As Liu Shaojin (1989: 141–2) points out. There is. better. the whole idea of getting (de). Or. or at least. such as the words of the sages that the Duke is reading. The wheelwright. as Graham says. meaning dissolves in the intentionless moment of enunciation that 75 . the story of the wheelwright then begins with Duke Huan sitting reading the words of the sages. For technical language speaks only of things (wu). quite on the contrary. The ﬁsh-trap passage ends by expressing the desire to get (de ) a person who has forgotten language ( yan) and speak with him. The value of spoken words in turn depends on the intended meaning (yi). a “wonderful principle” that has to be attained.
for speciﬁc human languages easily fall into the dead objectivity of the subject–object relation. like music perhaps. but in language as such.” Zhuangzi shows that if we do not use language to construct our world but listen to language and let it pass. Like the sound of the wind blowing through trees and hollow rocks. even mystical. Benjamin begins with the claim that language and world are not separate: the world expresses itself in language. which obscures the magic and spiritual nature of the world. is a rather romantic. was searching for a language that is not just a tool for conveying a speciﬁc meaning content but able to express the Absolute. language in its pure potential to notsignify. for one. be strictly distinguished from Zhuangzi’s experience with language. This. In this way. but it is also not language exhausted in its signifying function. of course. Language in itself When Zhuangzi asks if saying ( yan). before it is appropriated in a particular discourse. he wants to draw our attention to the existence of language as such: language that is not mere sound but also not exhausted in meaningful propositions. then sound emerges as the “ground” of language. language that exists in-between saying something and saying nothing. which. They should. But we do ﬁnd similar views of language in Western philosophy. There are passages in the Zhuangzi that simply reﬂect the general tendency in classical Chinese to have the meaning of words cluster together according to sound (Akatsuka 1974–7: 57). and it has little to do with the current view of language in linguistics and philosophy. in which language is not the senseless chirping of birds. This is the language Zhuangzi constantly tries to bring into play in “On The Equality of Things. It is rather language as simply existing. In these passages meaning also yields to sound but without revealing language itself. even if it does say something. not in particular propositions. before it is sunk into the sea of meaning. is different from the chirping of birds. language signiﬁes nothing beyond the moment of enunciation – but a slight trembling remains after the wind has blown away to indicate the presence of the world: “Have you not seen the leaves that quiver with tingling reverberations?” (2/7–8) (Mair 1994: 12). for it is still language ( yan).AN INTRODUCTION TO DAOIST THOUGHT announces the world. For Benjamin the urgent task is to translate this absolute language into speciﬁc human languages. is also linked to the experience of pure language – and 76 . Benjamin says that only if we return to a life in pure language will we become blissful (selig) – a word with connotations in the same register as Zhuangzi joy (le). language that expresses neither the sayable nor the unsayable but only itself. view of language. Zhuangzi speaks what the wheelwright must leave unspoken. Walter Benjamin. as we will see. therefore. and as the signifying function of language withdraws into sound a sense of the world is awakened.
while listening to someone else talking or talking himself. in this pure language “all information. we attain what Billeter calls “vision” in which we are able to simply perceive language as: language appears to someone who. paradoxically. “What is remarkable. suspends his intentionality and transforms himself into a spectator of what is happening: he sees someone else speaking. when Zhuangzi invites us “to become aware of the underlying arbitrary nature of language at the very moment when we are employing it – and of its narrow limits. we must “suspend intentionality” and “practice standstill. he gets a view of “language itself ” before it sinks into the sea of meaning and is appropriated in the endless disputes between the philosophers. as expressionless and creative Word. he perceives the words being uttered as if they were the twittering of birds. (Billeter 1998: 21–2) When Zhuangzi suspends his intentionality and “sees” himself speaking.” then he did not pursue some theory of language but the experience of language in itself. Benjamin says that this pure language “is understood by all humans just as the language of birds is understood by those born on Sunday” (Agamben 1999b: 48). “makes us even more inclined to let language do what it wills. François Billeter says that when Zhuangzi began “to ponder over the essence of language. all sense.” For in order to observe language rather than use it.” Furthermore. he sees himself listening or speaking. and as if echoing Zhuangzi’s saying about the chirping of birds. As we will see. but with the observation of what in fact happens when we speak – a much more difﬁcult feat. This is the intentionless experience of language that Zhuangzi also describes. and all intention ﬁnally encounter a stratum in which they are destined to be extinguished” (Benjamin 1969: 80). that which is meant in all languages. or with abstract speculation. says Billeter. As Billeter says. but exists no longer for him. he hears them resonate in a world where objects no longer have a name and will soon cease to have distinct identities.” that is to say not “allow ourselves to roam far beyond the frontiers of language” but “stay close to it and observe it near to” (1998: 27). he beholds strange scenes in which the twitterings produced by others have the appearance of implying a reference to some deﬁned reality that exists for them. to let it come into being and to act of its own accord” (1998: 31–2). This does not mean that Zhuangzi rejects language.” then this.SAYING THE UNSAYABLE he explains that this pure language “no longer means or expresses anything but is. precisely this ability to let language be as it is 77 . “is that he [Zhuangzi] did not answer the question with an explanatory myth. Having left intentionality.” writes Billeter. In this suspension of intentionality.
he would not be cold. he would not be frightened” (2/71–2). but Wittgenstein suggests that it may be expressed in “language itself. that alone is able to say the unsayable. In his “Lecture on Ethics. is also the ethical experience.” A second example of the ethical.” Wittgenstein says that his ethical experience “par excellence” is when “I wonder at the existence of the world.” For there is the possibility that if we see – “as it were in a ﬂash of light. as opposed to how and what things are.” what I mean is rather something like “I am wondering at the sky whatever it is” (Wittgenstein 1993: 42).” says Wittgenstein. as Wittgenstein says. “it shows itself. however. the Way. and Heaven) should not be taken as a factual statements. “common ground” in such expressions.AN INTRODUCTION TO DAOIST THOUGHT “in itself ” and let it self-emerge at its own accord is the essential feature of Zhuangzi’s impromptu words. The “family resemblance” between these expressions for the ethical (the absolute) suggests that there may be. is “the experience of feeling absolutely safe. Zhuangzi gives expression to the experience of the moment just when things appear. For Wittgenstein. though it is not any proposition in language. It makes sense to say “I wonder at the sky being blue” as opposed to being cloudy. The experience that the world is. not beyond language but in “language itself ”: “Now I am tempted to say that the right expression in language for the miracle of the existence of the world. Like Wittgenstein. “the verbal expression which we give to these experiences is nonsense!” – and not just nonsense in a relative sense (in which case a more correct expression may be found). Zhuangzi is aware that expressions of the absolute. “There is indeed something unsayable. is the existence of language itself ” (Wittgenstein 1993: 43–4).” by which he means “the state of mind in which one is inclined to say ‘I am safe. and not a proposition in language. 44).” In this experience Wittgenstein is “inclined to use such phrases as ‘how extraordinary that anything should exist’ or ‘how extraordinary that the world should exist’.” (Wittgenstein 1993: 41. Zhuangzi explicitly says that as a proposition the expression “the myriad things are one with 78 . nothing can injure me whatever happens’ ” (1993: 41).” then the ethical shows itself. and he describes the feeling of being absolutely safe that comes to the perfected human being: “If the great marches blazed.” as Wittgenstein says – that “our words will only express facts” but the ethical is “supernatural. Here I will emphasize that it is language itself. if the great rivers froze. but in the radical sense that “their nonsensicality was their very essence. if sudden thunder split the mountains and whirlwinds beat the seas. The mystical is that the world is. he would not be hot. ethical experience (the experience of the world qua world. but when I say “I wonder at the existence of the world. says Wittgenstein. as opposed to what or how the world is. it is the mystical” (1984: 85). The absolute (the ethical) cannot be expressed in meaningful propositions. It is interesting to note that Zhuangzi expresses his essential experience in similar terms.
The second is to give language provisional value: words may be used but only as skillful means (upAya). as factual statements these propositions fall into the endless fragmentation characteristic of the realm of things. Second. This clearly is not Zhuangzi’s option. express the true suchness of reality. the whole point is that the words themselves are tools and devoid of meaning. words are never objectiﬁed as meaningless tools but allowed the full range of their expressibility. There are two reasons why this cannot be the case. or encounter-dialogues. and the question is how to get from the relative to the absolute. “every word is the Dharma. we could say that the opposite is also true. in the koans. namely impromptu words. as it is in Zhuangzi. However. Nevertheless. or language in itself freed from its useful signifying function. the Chan/Zen koans are techniques and their vocabulary is technical. as it happens in the koan. on the other hand. or for their performative force (as opposed to their descriptive value).” In this view. In both Zhuangzi and Chan Buddhism the world speaks itself in a language that does not itself propose anything but merely announces what comes into being. Just like any other phenomenon. In both cases the opposite is true – or. Zhuangzi does not use language in the same way as the Chan/Zen Buddhists. precisely when speciﬁc meaning content is suspended – for the suspension of the speciﬁc gives free range to the possible. as Faure writes. language is a function of the “whole substance of the Buddhanature. language itself as a unique phenomenon that comes into 79 . and so they cannot express the absolute. ultimately any words. it is often said that Chan/Zen teachings are beyond words. in which words are also tools. the One and the saying “all is one” make two. First. One is to give up speech altogether and enter silence. In this regard Chan/Zen discourse is perhaps closer to Confucius’ indicative discourse. and from here on not even the most clever mathematician could keep track of the fragmentation (2/53–4). and just as Zhuangzi is often said to negate language. The third Chan/Zen attitude to language is to claim that words. Like Mahayana Buddhism in general. For Zhuangzi expressions for the experience of the Way or Heaven cannot be propositions in language. even as. in the Buddhist case it is not. and two and one make three. In Zhuangzi. as we have seen. Language pertains to what is relative. Following Bernard Faure’s exposition (1992).SAYING THE UNSAYABLE me” contradicts itself in the saying. better. says Zhuangzi. For. as Faure emphasizes. Zhuangzi’s language is sometimes compared to the language of Chan/ Zen. In other words. to speak with Chan/Zen. we can identify three distinct Chan/Zen attitudes to language. Zhuangzi. Chan/ Zen operates with two levels of meaning: relative and absolute truth. they must be another kind of language. shuns all technical discourse. or.” This view of language is close to Zhuangzi’s impromptu words that coincide with the bounds of Heaven (tianni). namely tools of regulation. It has been suggested that Zhuangzi’s language is similar to the highly ritualized and technical language of encounter-dialogues.
coincide with the bounds of Heaven (tianni ). just like the metaphors. says Zhuangzi. It is said that in using metaphors one “relies on the outside in order to discuss the matter. Furthermore. words – for example. Laozi. when he observes that in both Chan/ Zen and Daoism “language cannot express the absolute. this is also true of Zhuangzi’s impromptu words. Zhuangzi’s ﬁgurative language acts as a go-between that negotiates between the entrenched positions. . and impromptu words (zhiyan ) (Mair 1994: 278). Impromptu words. for they share an identical nature” (2004: 170). As we will see shortly.AN INTRODUCTION TO DAOIST THOUGHT play. Such mediating language is necessary. Like many other books of ancient Chinese philosophy. Zhuangzi sees in this hesitation between sound and meaning the essence of all authentic saying. says the Zhuangzi. and so they transcend and equalize (qi ) or harmonize (he ) all particular eristic discourses: “impromptu words come forth day after day and harmonize 80 . and the Madman of Chu . . yet it cannot not express it. refers to quotations from the ancients. they are spoken entirely beyond the closure of disputation. serve to loosen up entrenched positions rather than fortify them. the well-known voices of the past are often presented in a humorous way and not as authorities. It is where Chan/Zen interfaces with poetry that we ﬁnd the closest parallels with Zhuangzi. In Zhuangzi. Faure quotes Valéry’s words. Faure says that in Chan/Zen poetry words become “reality speaking of itself . As explained above. quotations (zhongyan ). and the two decline together in propositional discourse. The second kind of saying. rather language is subsumed under the homogenizing force of the absolute. for Zhuangzi the Way and authentic saying are one. Impromptu words The Zhuangzi identiﬁes three kinds of saying (yan): metaphors (yuyan ). Metaphors presumably refer to the ﬁgurative language and the various ﬁctitious or traditional tales in the Zhuangzi. and from the various traditions of folk lore. for here language truly returns to itself in Buddhist discourse. such as Confucius. but it is always already said in language itself. those uttered by a master” (1992: 167).” just like a father uses a go-between to arrange a marriage for his son. therefore. the Zhuangzi abounds in such sayings. “the poem is a prolonged hesitation between sound and meaning. however. The unsayable cannot be expressed in a proposition in language. Impromptu words do not just soften entrenched positions. because it is characteristic of people that “they consider right that which agrees with themselves. Faure is correct. spontaneous speech in response to things” (1992: 171). they consider wrong that which differs from themselves” (27/2–3). so they.” and he adds that “[t]his is also true of certain. if not all. quotations.
differentiate rather than equalize and so fall away from the universal point of view of Heaven. a just beginning to say that never reaches completion in the said. in so far as they say something. Zhuangzi recognizes that even impromptu words. they are not useful. bungled discourse. the view of Zhuangzi scholars has not been clouded by the positivistic view of language characteristic of analytic philosophy. you have never once not spoken” (27/6). “if you do not speak all life. But for Zhuangzi it is never as simple as that. as we will see in the next chapter. In the West we have to move beyond the horizon of a positivistic philosophy of language to ﬁnd some.SAYING THE UNSAYABLE within the bounds of Heaven. self-interruption that undermines the drive towards completed discourse. Especially when you are asked about the Way. for these words hover in-between saying something and saying nothing. and elaborate explanations may be mere chatter. in fact they cannot be used but can only be allowed to self-emerge: “Let them follow with extensive abundance. In the East. silence may be the best answer. perhaps unavoidably impressionistic accounts of Zhuangzi’s impromptu words (Wu 1988. and. and precisely therefore they are able to speak the inherently so of the world before it has been differentiated in the language of disputation. however. adopts a number of ways of saying the unsayable: stammering. and the very demarcation between saying and not-saying is immediately called into question. forgetting that lets intentions dissolve into presence. Some relate these accounts to the description of the metaphors. “saying does not say anything. Yearley 2005). both of which highlight Zhuangzi’s unique language. Zhuangzi. Chinese and Japanese scholars generally take seriously the accounts of Zhuangzi found in the last chapter in the Zhuangzi and in Sima Qian’s “biography” of Zhuangzi. then it is equalized” (27/5). silence may protect and preserve existential truth. on the other hand. and in this way live out their years” (27/5). Zhuangzi’s impromptu words indicate an experience with language and not a theory of language. if you speak all life you have never once spoken”. then obviously there is no problem: “if you do not speak. This may explain why some Western Zhuangzi scholars who are keenly interested in Zhuangzi’s philosophy of language show no or little interest in his impromptu words. on the other hand. and impromptu words found in the Zhuangzi. If one does not speak. On the other hand. Zhuangzi’s impromptu words are his most important way to say the unsayable. On the one hand. quotations. Jullien 2000: 326–32. and they try to show how this view of language is intimately related to Zhuangzi’s thought.” But impromptu words are not tools of harmonization. We may put forward propositions and spin theories endlessly without saying anything that makes a difference existentially. The problem for Zhuangzi is that no language that is at all meaningful is able to avoid distinguishing (bian ) and thus engaging in the very activity that is the essence of disputation (bian ). especially as it is 81 .
it is the spontaneous self-so (ziran ) of the thing itself. elle s’expose). from another perspective it is not so. “accept ‘this’ for what it is” (yinshi ). For the impromptu word speaks without imposing its own “it is so” (ran) on the inherently so (guran) of the world. How is it not so? Not being so lies in not being so. the brilliant disputer Hui Shi. and therefore it cannot be disputed – for both negation and afﬁrmation would situate it in a register where it does not belong. the Zhuangzi ﬁrst points out that in disputation our afﬁrmations and denials have no other foundation than the perspective from which they are being asserted. which is afﬁrmed by us when we. and therefore it cannot be captured in the name–object relation that founds the discourse of disputation. The two friends are wandering ( you) across the Hao river. Like the Way. Yang 1991). the inherently so is not entirely beyond and opposed to all language.” Zhuangzi’s impromptu words are a kind of poetry according to Paul Celan’s well-known deﬁnition: “Poetry does not impose itself. How is it so? Being so lies in being so. as Zhuangzi says. This afﬁrmation is an afﬁrmation beyond the dichotomy between afﬁrmation and negation. How is it not afﬁrmed? Not being afﬁrmed lies in our not afﬁrming. This inherent “it is so” (ran ) is not stamped on the thing by us. At the end of the magniﬁcent “Autumn ﬂoods” chapter we ﬁnd an exchange between Zhuangzi and his friend. From one perspective it is so. This is. it exposes itself ” (La poésie ne s’impose plus. but it does not lie beyond saying (yan).AN INTRODUCTION TO DAOIST THOUGHT expressed in the “Inner Chapters” (Kimura 1981. it is rather an awareness of this fact and then the ability to look beyond it. the right approach to take. again like the Way. No thing is not so. and so the inherently so shows itself. as they cross the Hao river. things inherently have that which is afﬁrmed. Being without the shelter of a propositional “it is so. From one perspective it is afﬁrmed. or what Zhuangzi calls the inherently so (guran ). How is it afﬁrmed? Afﬁrmation lies in our afﬁrming. it seems to me. The crucial point is that for Zhuangzi the inherently so of the world lies beyond designation (wei ) and disputation (bian). no thing is not afﬁrmed” (27/8). The Zhuangzi says: “things inherently have that which is so. from another perspective it is denied. For beyond the assertion of evaluative judgments in disputation lies the real. But. The act of afﬁrming is the sole ground of any afﬁrmation. This short dialogue shows us the precise function of Zhuangzi’s impromptu words. the inherently so is not a thing. In explaining the impromptu words. when Zhuangzi makes the following impromptu remark: 82 . (27/6–8) This is not a postmodern or neo-pragmatic celebration of the fact that our afﬁrmations and denials have no foundation.
Such was the joy Zhuangzi felt in crossing the Hao river with his friend. it is rather an attempt to say the unsayable: the experience of living a life generated by Heaven. Hui Shi’s question itself presupposes the knowledge it questions. how do you know the joy of ﬁsh?” Zhuangzi. Hui Shi. that is the joy of ﬁsh!” (17/88). so certainly I do not know you. Hui Shi’s argumentation is irrefutable. 83 .” When Zhuangzi adds. When Zhuangzi says that the ﬁsh “come out” (chu). but the All.” But this argument is only too easy for the disputer to refuse: “I am not you. Zhuangzi realizes this. In other words. But it is precisely this desire for complete or valid discourse (chengyan) that prevents Hui Shi from understanding Zhuangzi’s impromptu words. and therefore he abruptly suspends the technical discourse of disputation. the very moment when something emerges from “there is not” to “there is. “[ j]oy has its roots in that profound tendency of living beings which impels them to love that which makes them exist. Zhuangzi’s saying is not simply a proposition with reference to the ﬁsh. knew the joy of ﬁsh: “You asked me already knowing that I knew it” (17/90). after that reduction. so it holds true that you do not know the joy of ﬁsh” (17/88– 90). Zhuangzi takes up Hui Shi’s initial proposition (“You are not a ﬁsh. It is the kind of joy that the Zhuangzi calls heavenly joy (tianle ) (13/13).SAYING THE UNSAYABLE “The minnows come out and swim around so at ease. name the surpassing ease of a life generated by Heaven. and of which they are integral parts” (1998: 242). Zhuangzi points out that Hui Shi’s proposition as a proposition presupposes something. we hear the voice of the skeptic: “You are not a ﬁsh. Wandering ( you) can be mere traveling or an excursion. how do you know that I do not know the joy of ﬁsh. It is this authentic sense of wandering Zhuangzi is alluding to when he says the minnows “swim around so at ease. which is not his but belongs to everybody and nobody in that moment of crossing the river. breaks the enchantment of the moment and the word. and. it is the same word you that is used both for Zhuangzi’s “wandering” and for the “swimming around” of the ﬁsh. who for the moment plays by the rules of disputation. it is complete or whole (quan ). Pierre Hadot explains that according to ancient philosophy.” In fact. and this means not only their own structure and unity. You surely are not a ﬁsh. “that is the joy of ﬁsh!”. He reduces Zhuangzi’s words to factual propositions with a clear reference in the outer (wai) world. and asks that they follow the dispute back to its root. however. This joy is similar to the joy the Stoics deﬁned as “the good ﬂowing of life” (euroia biou). how do you know the joy of ﬁsh?”) and clearly marks it as a proposition (in the text it is marked off with the quotation marker yunzhe ). it holds true. then he is indicating pure coming-into-being. Zhuangzi. then this is not a protocol-sentence meant to record some fact of the matter. or it can. responds: “You are not me. namely the fact that Hui Shi already knew that he. without which they would be nothing. the statement names rather Zhuangzi’s own joy (le). as in Zhuangzi. literally.
His skeptical propositions are parasitic on this fundamental acknowledgement. 84 . the moment when what was said was said.AN INTRODUCTION TO DAOIST THOUGHT The knowledge presupposed here cannot be propositional knowledge. It must be our always already acknowledged sense of selfemerging life – here the moment just when the ﬁsh emerge together with Zhuangzi’s impromptu words. and understood without immediately being deemed right or wrong – as a friend would understand our words as we walk. Zhuangzi wants Hui Shi to return to the very moment of enunciation. For Hui Shi did know the moment of self-emerging life. say. he did know wandering and the life engendered by Heaven. for Zhuangzi claims this knowledge as the presupposition for all propositional knowledge. and his technical argumentation can only negate it. across the Hao river.
Zhuangzi Suddenly there is nothing Sometimes A. Graham’s wavering view of Zhuangzi stems from the unresolved opposition between reason and spontaneity (un-reason) that drives Graham’s scholarship and philosophy. a writer Graham read with interest (see Graham 1985) – and sometimes he sees him as a rather mediocre disputer (bianzhe ). for it is absolutely necessary. Friedrich Schlegel Now I for my part have just designated something. his answers 85 . . and yet I do not know if what I have designated really is designated or if in fact it is not designated. .BUNGLED DISCOURSE 6 BUNGLED DISCOURSE Socratic irony is the only involuntary and yet completely deliberate dissimulation. . Graham explicitly states his predicament: Throughout [the Canons] one sees the Mohist trying to extract from Chuang-tzu’s [Zhuangzi’s] many-sided language propositions he can put in a refutable form. Graham sees Zhuangzi as a man of the “impossible” – to borrow Michel Leiris’ characterization of Georges Bataille. It is a very good sign when the harmonious bores are at a loss about how they should react to this continuous self-parody. C. and yet it is also the most lawful. In Graham’s scholarship the rationalistic tendency is exempliﬁed in his work on the Mohist Canons and the anti-rationalistic tendency in his work on Zhuangzi. for by its means one transcends oneself. when they ﬂuctuate endlessly between belief and disbelief until they get dizzy and take what is meant as a joke seriously and what is meant seriously as a joke. Disputers of the Tao. In his last major work. To the extent that he succeeds. It is the freest of all licenses.
There is not yet begun to be a beginning. then one is not different from the other! At any rate. Zhuangzi’s discourse is here squarely within the ﬁeld of contemporary disputation (bian). and yet I do not know if what I have designated really is designated. In the ﬁrst place both have a beginning. In his argument Zhuangzi is picking out points in common between oxen and non-oxen which distinguish them both from a still remaining Other. Now I for my part have just designated something. but I do not know if it belongs or does not belong to the category of a [propositional] “this” (shi). There is a beginning. to incorporate this remainder into the totality? (Graham 1981: 55–6) 86 . There is not yet begun to be nothing. Suddenly there is nothing and yet I do not know if “there is nothing” really is something or nothing. Zhuangzi objects to this logic and argues “that analysis always leaves an overlooked remainder. (2/47–51) According to Graham. there may be [authentic] saying here. There is something. (1989: 186) Ultimately Graham’s sympathies undoubtedly were with Zhuangzi. There is not yet begun to be that not yet begun to be nothing.AN INTRODUCTION TO DAOIST THOUGHT are just to Chuang-tzu. so that having distinguished the alternatives we ought to be able to recover the totality by adding non-oxen to oxen. “According to the current logic. If belonging to a category and not belonging to a category together make a category.” According to Graham.” writes Graham. but in his rationalistic mood Graham would proceed in exactly the same fashion as the Mohist. or if in fact it is not designated. He would extract from Zhuangzi’s “many-sided language” propositions that are refutable in terms of contemporary disputation – even as he recognized that the Mohist’s attempt to refute Zhuangzi through disputation (bian) somehow missed the point. But whether one is satisﬁed or repelled by his attempt to pin down Chuang-tzu’s insights might serve anyone as a test of how rationalistic or anti-rationalistic his ultimate sympathies are. Can we continue. please let me try to say it. Consider the following passage from “On the Equality of Things”: Now. which excludes from them whatever preceded the beginning of things. There is not yet begun to be that not yet begun to be beginning. There is nothing. “an object either is an ox or is not. by negating and adding. and that the whole cannot be recovered by putting the parts together again” (1981: 55).
” and he asks. for instance. and it is hard to say if that is what he has in mind. Similarly. but such reconstructions are always uncertain. we only end up in inﬁnite regress. I suggest therefore that we do not immediately assimilate the passage to a meta-discourse on language but ﬁrst 87 . reconstructs the argumentative background for the passage entirely differently. says Graham. what there is. “can we arrive at the totality by adding Nothing to Something?” Again the answer is no. in contrast with ‘nothing’. for: What preceded things is that in which they “had not yet begun to have a beginning. Zhuangzi is here experimenting with the kind of metaphysical discourse that pretends to speak about something outside any particular perspective.” (Graham 1981: 56) Both arguments. we are driven to a further negation. “are no doubt intended to lead to an inﬁnite regress. Chad Hansen. who also reads Zhuangzi against the background of contemporary disputation. In explaining the passage. for having added Nothing to Something. and Zhuangzi is questioning if such language really says anything. does not mention the Mohists’ stock examples of oxen and non-oxen. what there is not. According to Hansen. According to Hansen (1992: 289–91). Graham assimilates Zhuangzi’s words to a reconstructed background discourse.” (1981: 56) In trying to recover through analysis the whole that was broken up in analysis. Zhuangzi. and again we have to negate: “There had not yet begun to be that ‘not yet having begun to be without something’. such discourse is characteristic of Mencius.” But again we are speaking retrospectively as though there were already things to be present or absent.” Finally. however. Graham concludes.BUNGLED DISCOURSE No. The vast difference in Graham’s and Hansen’s reconstructions of the argumentative background for the passage suggests that the passage resists interpretation in terms of ancient Chinese disputation. “There had not yet begun to be that ‘not yet having begun having a beginning’. I have still to add a remainder which “has not yet begun to be without something. Zhuangzi argues that it is “also common to oxen and non-oxen that they are ‘something’. Graham writes that Zhuangzi “concludes with the simpler point that as soon as we introduce Nothing as the remainder we contradict ourselves by saying ‘There is’ even of what there is not. Graham continues. Nothing” (1981: 56). or disputation (bian).” But in saying this retrospectively we speak as though things were somehow present before they began.
For here Zhuangzi does not argue about language. Graham does admit that the passage “is highly elliptical. “in disputation there remains something that is not seen” (2/58). But instead of pursuing a rhetorical analysis of the effects Zhuangzi’s text produces. To understand Zhuangzi’s discourse. The positive turn in the 88 . These background presuppositions can. but one must also situate them in the ‘living praxis from which they emanated. “rather than deploring these ancient authors’ failures to measure up to the modern standard of the systematic philosophical treatise. Graham is drawn in the other direction: “in Chinese as in other philosophy a gap in the argument which hinders understanding (as distinct from a ﬂaw in the argument which we do understand) can generally be ﬁlled by exploring implicit questions and presuppositions in the background” (1981: 55). the unknown that withdraws in every act of designating. In order to overcome this blindness in disputation we need to have an entirely different experience with language. From this mistaken perspective the ancient texts will often look incoherent and lacking in their argumentation.” In discourse as spiritual exercise the propositional element is less important than bringing about a transformation in oneself and the interlocutor (Davidson 1995: 19–20). it is necessary to realize that ancient philosophy is essentially spiritual exercise. and we do not arrive at the whole. however.’ ” Especially important here is the oral dimension of ancient philosophy. Hadot points to the “ontological value of the spoken word.AN INTRODUCTION TO DAOIST THOUGHT pay attention to the rhetorical thrust of Zhuangzi’s own text. For in referring to or pointing at the unity of nothing and something we necessarily exclude something else. then we will tend to focus on the rational coherence of the propositions of the ancient texts. like modern philosophy. Even as we put the ﬁnal two pieces (“nothing” and “something”) together the puzzle is not complete. Arnold Davidson explains. Since Graham here conﬁnes Zhuangzi to the ﬁeld of disputation. namely the hidden ground of this designation. he sees only the negative thrust of Zhuangzi’s argument. As Zhuangzi says. Pierre Hadot points out that if we mistakenly assume that ancient philosophy. According to Zhuangzi disputation always leaves out a remainder that cannot be recuperated through disputation. be reconstructed in very different ways.” Hadot “realized that in order to understand and explain these apparent defects. and therefore modern scholars are prone to ﬁll in perceived gaps in the ancient texts with their own constructed arguments. one must not only analyze the structure of these ancient philosophical texts. But. is primarily philosophical discourse. and it is possible that he [Zhuangzi] intends his effect of making the mind ﬂy off in a new direction at every re-reading” (1981: 55). he has an experience with language. Graham is surely correct in saying that for Zhuangzi analysis is unable to recapture the whole that is broken up in analysis. as we have just seen.” which is not to transmit information but “to produce a certain psychic effect in the reader or listener.
” that is to say. this is bungled discourse. and a banality that can easily be refuted. cannot capture no-thing but vacillates at its limit before the unknown: “Now I for my part have just designated (wei ) something. and consequently it cannot be referred to as this or that category. this apparent clumsiness in designation. disputation necessarily cannot see it – namely the pure “there is.” that is to say. is when Zhuangzi says: “Suddenly there is nothing and yet I do not know if ‘there is nothing’ really is something or nothing. Zhuangzi transforms disputation into a peculiar literary style. the key terms of disputation. there is simply “there is” or pure appearance – shows itself where the logic of referential language comes to its end. As the Mohist logicians pointed out. the pure self-emergence of being. and instead use luminosity (ming ) (2/26–7). between assigning the phenomenon to this or that category. is itself an indication that something beyond designation has shown itself: the pure facticity of the “there is” (you) – “there is nothing. and yet I do not know if what I have designated really is designated or if in fact it is not designated. before any man-made categories are imposed on the real. But Zhuangzi has revealed what is always already presupposed in disputation – and since it is presupposed.” But this vacillation. Nothing is not some-thing. and yet “there is” (you) nothing. in which the phenomenon can announce itself without being designated. in so far as it designates. Just now something is born According to Zhuangzi disputation leads to interminable conﬂicts – each side “afﬁrm what the other denies and deny what the other afﬁrms” (2/26) – and the only cure for eristic dispute is to give up using right (shi) and wrong ( fei). There are no gaps in the dialogue except those that are necessary according to its own logic. From the point of view of the technical discourse of disputation. to reject disputation through disputation involves a performative contradiction (Graham 1978: 445–6).” where the propositional content of the discourse is less important than the “psychic effect” it produces and the transformation at which it aims (Davidson 1995: 20). Zhuangzi’s double-question keeps open a space between afﬁrmation and negation. so it cannot be designated and pointed out.BUNGLED DISCOURSE argument. Categories (lei ) – which in the Chinese case are more “explanatory” than “logical” (Harbsmeier 1998: 228) – endlessly appropriate things without ever getting to the thing itself. for an outright negation would still keep him within the ﬁeld of disputation. Zhuangzi does not simply negate disputation. which is not the logic of discourse but what we may call the logic of life. Language. In this short dialogue with himself Zhuangzi performs what Hadot calls an “exercise of authentic presence. where the very rules the discourse is 89 .” Logically nothing (wu) cannot be. and the moment with real conceptual weight.
So far Zhuangzi has put forward a nice little theory of the nature and effects of the language of disputation. words such as “I” and “you. then we cannot see [that other]. For Zhuangzi. so the game seems to go on.AN INTRODUCTION TO DAOIST THOUGHT supposed to follow are suspended. but the following interpretation is possible. however. it can only be known or recognized as other by another subject. and therefore we get the uncanny feeling that at any moment any move is possible. The other cannot see itself as other (it cannot see itself from its own position). This proposition can be construed in various ways.” “this” and “that. In concluding this ﬁrst part of his argument for using luminosity. no thing is not this (shi )” (2/27). In this moment of suspension Zhuangzi breaks the closure of completed (cheng) discourse and regains the experience of life (sheng).” which can only be understood with reference to the position from which they are spoken. that their very existence as disputers presupposes that there is someone to recognize them as other. Zhuangzi lets his 90 .e. inherent in being attached to the relative positions of “this here” and “that other. Absorbed in their fragmented points of views. and that the two positions are constituted together. The ﬁrst proposition in Zhuangzi’s argument is: “No thing is not that (bi ). Zhuangzi’s argument for the use of luminosity (ming) is itself a paradigmatic example of his bungled discourse: the exercise and experience with language that transcends propositional discourse and discloses luminosity. for Zhuangzi this shifting signiﬁcation is characteristic not only of the shifters but of all language as a system of references. the disputers seek to annihilate each other in disputation (“each afﬁrms what the other denies and denies what the other afﬁrms”). But just as he has proposed his theory that “this” and “that” are born together ( fangsheng ). any particular thing can be “that” or “this. ultimately a moral blindness.e. it is not only the shifting signiﬁcation of the terms “this” and “that” that is interesting. each of them depends on the other for recognition of themselves as other. As Zhuangzi says in another context. and they fail to see that they depend on each other. We can readily understand this in terms of the linguistic notion of “shifters”.’ This is the theory that ‘this here’ and ‘that other’ are born together” (2/27–8). Zhuangzi afﬁrms the interdependence of the opposing points of view: “Therefore I say.’ and likewise ‘this here’ depends upon ‘that other. But since neither of the two parties can see themselves as other. that other]” (2/27).” As explained in Chapter 5.” “here” and “there. Only by entering the scene of disputation does each party become aware of the other as other. Depending on the point of view. i. but we are not sure if its rules are still in effect. then we can know it [i. more important is a certain blind spot. ‘that other’ comes out from ‘this here. With his literary genius Zhuangzi confuses the language game of disputation just enough. but from the position of this here (shi). if there were no other (bi) there would be no self (wo ) (2/14).” Zhuangzi writes: “From the position of that other (bi).
calls “the bondage of technique” ( jixi ) (12/42). as Graham sometimes will have us believe.” “hard or soft.” “more or less. judgments in terms of “having or lacking. This debate over the relativity of terms resonates in Zhuangzi’s discourse. does not always remain true to his own insight.” are not relative but absolute. who claim that all propositions. and therefore they are without any 91 . just now it is denied. Zhuangzi does not join the Sophists in showing.” “elder or younger. just now it dies. are relative. just now it is afﬁrmed. including value judgments. and the Mohist logicians certainly had the technical ability to deal with arguments of this type. refers to a paradox of Hui Shi. on the other hand. share the position of the Sophists.” “dead or alive. The basic terms of disputation. it relies on a sophism. but it is important to note that Zhuangzi does not. (2/28) It is especially in moments like this that we get that sensation. According to the logicians. In these cases. Graham. the logicians make a distinction between judgments that are relative and those that are not relative. however. According to Graham. impromptu mode that suspends the logic of the discourse at the propositional level. with reference to the Sophists. The argument Graham constructs on behalf of Zhuangzi is weak. Zhuangzi writes: But then. Zhuangzi is free of what the Zhuangzi. just now it is denied. through disputation. peculiar to reading “On the Equality of Things.” “by interplay become relative” ( jiao defang ).” and from this paradox he concludes “that any statement will remain inadmissible at the moment when it has just become admissible” (1981: 52). just now it is born. Graham thinks that Zhuangzi is still playing by the rules of contemporary disputation.” “proved” and “not proved. “the two sides break decisively” (liang juesheng ) (Graham 1978: 338–41).” which Graham describes as “the sensation of a man thinking aloud. of thought which is not yet systematic but ‘existential’ if you like the word” (1969/1970: 137). such as “right” and “wrong. that all judgments are mutually relative (xiangfang ). says Graham. In defending the conclusive nature of disputation (bian) against the Sophists. jotting the living thought at the moment of its inception. For him the arguments of the Sophists as well as the counter-arguments of the Mohist logicians are mere technicalities that can be advanced by anyone at any time. just now it is born. just now it is afﬁrmed. a thing is simultaneously alive and dead.BUNGLED DISCOURSE discourse slip into a rhythmic. Zhuangzi “tries to discredit disputation by the objection that at any moment of change both alternatives will be admissible. the Canons say. “the sun is simultaneously at noon and declining.” “departing or approaching.” Zhuangzi. where one must either afﬁrm (shi) or deny ( fei) a proposition – in the stock example: either it is an ox or it is not an ox. just now it dies. In the present case.
the moment of enunciation. and return language to itself as an impromptu indication of pure appearance. Zhuangzi suspends the logic of his argument. “just at the moment when”) of the word. On the spur of the moment. is not the logic of the proposition but what we may call the logic of life. but read it in the context of the philosophical and rhetorical thrust of Zhuangzi’s own discourse. which is beyond the grasp of the disputers. which also contains the phrase fangsheng and suggests that the moment of birth is the moment of death. in the middle of discourse. but existentially he posits authentic presence against philosophy as mere discourse. sophistical arguments to Zhuangzi. By playing with the word fang . just now it is afﬁrmed” ( fangke fangbuke. now alive now dead. where the proposition is always understood within the horizon of the existential moment of enunciation. then we see that the shift from a logical sequence of propositions to a sequence of free association and play with words is strictly logical. namely the moment “just when something is born” ( fangsheng). just now it is born” ( fangsheng fangsi. “just now it is born. ). a thinker of indisputable depth. existential connotations (“just now”. however. Therefore. but an attempt to free language from its objectiﬁcation in completed and valid discourse. As long as we do not too hastily assimilate Zhuangzi’s argument to contemporary disputation. Zhuangzi shows us something that cannot be articulated in discourse. just now it dies. Zhuangzi immediately suspends any logical connotations that may be invested in the term and he foregrounds the temporal. of the words of a friend is no small matter – it introduces the lacking other into the discourse. now afﬁrmed now denied). and repeating it in only loosely connected sequences (now this now that. and prompted by his own use of the phrase fangsheng (born together). just now it dies. when he plays on the technical use of the word fang . From this association Zhuangzi goes on to say. because he was just reminded of the words of his friend Hui Shi. just now it is denied.AN INTRODUCTION TO DAOIST THOUGHT existential force. Zhuangzi’s logic. And when the friend’s words are about life and death. the Sophist Hui Shi. Zhuangzi does not advance a proposition. and. ). it also implicitly introduces the 92 . Zhuangzi is reminded of one of the paradoxes of his friend. that the moment of death is the moment of birth. fangsi fangsheng . fangbuke fangke . just now it is denied. and he extends this temporality of pure emergence to include propositional discourse: “just now it is afﬁrmed. There is no need to ascribe weak. and with this shift from propositional discourse to the sheer joy of the moment of playing with the word fang – a word which also means “just in the moment when” – Zhuangzi afﬁrms the sovereignty of his own discourse and points to the elusive experience of pure appearance in the present moment. To be reminded. conversely. a unique moment in the ceaseless transformations of life: the moment one thought passes into another and Zhuangzi forgot what he wanted to say. This is not sophistry.
the problem lies with technical discourse that aims at completion and regulation. as Zhuangzi would say. says Graham. This precisely describes a discourse that avoids completion (cheng) and remains open to the ﬂow of life (sheng). and where clumsiness (zhuo) pertains both to authentic action and to authentic saying. stammering. That Graham insists on explaining Zhuangzi’s move entirely at the level of logical argumentation (Zhuangzi “objects”. temporal discourse with all its productive “deﬁciencies” (forgetting. one day. or conclusive and valid discourse will necessarily enclose us in a world of our own making. For Zhuangzi. transient existence and not the discourse of disputation (bian) that pins down knowledge that holds by necessity. because here Zhuangzi’s discourse. Zhuangzi’s bungled discourse. It is now the discourse of authentic saying (yan) that speaks of passing.” If one neglects the rhythm of Zhuangzi’s discourse. or. where the opposition between life (sheng) and completion (cheng) is a central theme. These are moments of bungled or clumsy (zhuo) discourse. to which it always already belongs but shelters itself from in its own completion. his discourse shifts and slips as he is reminded of things and new thoughts ﬂash across his mind. places him outside the language game of disputation (bian). being reminded. Zhuangzi’s clumsy discourse indicates indifference to completion in the realm of man (ren) and openness to the life of Heaven. in comparison with the technical discourse of the logicians. of course. and he rightly emphasizes “the extraordinary rhythmic energy” of Zhuangzi’s writing: Zhuangzi “ﬁnds the imagery and rhythm to convey. exhibits lack of skill and seems unable to realize its aim. and this central rhetorical feature of Zhuangzi’s discourse must be read back into our explication of Zhuangzi’s argument. any spontaneously emerging process of thinking which he senses is orienting him in the direction of the Way. then one “falsiﬁes the pace and shifts and stress of his thinking” (1981: 33). interrupting oneself. return to the transformations of things. It is crucial to understand the systematic signiﬁcance of these moments in Zhuangzi. and so on).BUNGLED DISCOURSE big Other of philosophy as discourse: it intimates that. 93 . “generalizes” and “concludes”) is all the more surprising since Graham better than most understands the philosophical signiﬁcance of Zhuangzi’s literary style. Completed (cheng) and whole (quan). Graham says that Zhuangzi is “a poet who changes course as new insights explode. In this moment Zhuangzi’s discourse becomes radically temporal and so marked by the “deﬁciencies” characteristic of temporal existence: Zhuangzi forgets what he was about to say. otherwise we may take what is meant as a joke seriously and take what is meant seriously as a joke. Just like the clumsiness of Zhuangzi’s sage. this discourse will come to an end. elliptical even when most logical” (1989: 178). where propositional discourse is interrupted and yields to existential. of course. slipping and shifting. not knowing what was said. but it is perfectly consistent with Zhuangzi’s own thought.
” “[logically] follows from. “criterion. when Zhuangzi says: “you follow right (shi). then it becomes clear that we cannot simply understand Zhuangzi’s use of yin in terms of the technical use of yin in the contemporary canons of disputation. Graham says that Zhuangzi “sees it as the lesson of disputation that one is entitled to afﬁrm or deny anything of anything” (1981: 53). but he clearly prefers the 94 . you follow right” (2/28–9). just now it is denied. for to negate it would be to remain within the ﬁeld of afﬁrmation and negation. just now it is born.AN INTRODUCTION TO DAOIST THOUGHT Accept “this” for what it is Zhuangzi’s bungled discourse – “ just now it is born. when we go by a criterion. The question is what precisely Zhuangzi means by yin (to follow). as we have seen. but they also insist that going by the criterion (yin) is not an arbitrary procedure. Just as he did with the word fang.” “reason.” The Mohist logicians are aware that with the criterion (yin) we make distinctions according to usage and convention. you follow wrong. Zhuangzi thinks that since our judgments depend on our chosen criterion ( yin). as a noun. Zhuangzi is aware of the technical use of yin. existential moment of enunciation. our way of proceeding (xing ) becomes binding. If we read Zhuangzi’s proposition “you follow (yin) right. once we have chosen to follow a criterion. you follow wrong.” “is due to. just now it dies. “criterion. just now it is afﬁrmed. For. you follow wrong. According to Graham. as a noun. First. just now it dies.” or as in the Mohist Canons.” or. we must proceed according to category or kind (lei ). you follow wrong ( fei). Zhuangzi releases the word yin from its technical use in disputation and frees it into the whole range of its expressibility. you follow right” in its rhetorical context. “cause. It is not that Zhuangzi negates the technical use of yin. In the Canons of the later Mohists the word yin means “take as a criterion.” as an antonym to bi (that). But this is rather the lesson a Sophist would draw from disputation. just now it is afﬁrmed” – continues seamlessly. As a verb the word yin means “to follow [upon something]. to the evaluative use meaning “right” as opposed to fei (wrong).” and. Here Zhuangzi shifts from the demonstrative use of shi meaning “this. he suspends its logical force and brings out the temporal connotations of the term. which is the ﬁeld of disputation. Zhuangzi deliberately lets his discourse slip into a rhythmic. impromptu mode that suspends the logic of propositional discourse and foregrounds the temporal. just now it is denied. they are arbitrary. The word yin is rich in connotations and divergent but related meanings. In this way the logicians ﬁx the criterion (zhiyin ) in other to separate ways (of argumentation) (biedao ) (Graham 1978: 346). second.” with more logical force it means “to rely on” or “depend on. and this shallow view is not that of Zhuangzi. but in appropriating the term in his own rhetorical context.” Zhuangzi plays on all registers of the word (and so makes translation nearly impossible).” as a loose temporal connective “thereupon.
the moment just when something appears – dawns beyond the closure of disputation. a thing cannot be deemed to be this or that – not even provisionally and relatively – it is only after the thing has appeared that it can be 95 . is again dissolved in the inﬁnite play of meanings we call language. when one realizes that in these few loosely connected sentences Zhuangzi quotes his friend Hui Shi. on the other hand. however. accepting ‘this’ for what it is” (2/29). we make “provisional and relative” distinctions. which Graham renders with “ ‘This’ according to what you go by. it is the rigid weishi that gets us into trouble. In Zhuangzi the technical terminology of disputation. has a passion for the real. “ﬂuid distinctions varying with circumstances” and from “temporary standpoints. In the moment of its appearance.BUNGLED DISCOURSE temporal rather than the logical connotations of the word (“thereupon” and “to follow. it is a “ﬂuid” and “provisional” way of making distinctions. 201). says Graham. and he wants to bring to view the inherently so of things in the moment just when something appears. but it is still inscribed in the technical discourse of disputation (bian). On Graham’s reading.e. One gets a sense of the philosophical complexity and existential depth of Zhuangzi’s play with words. I follow Victor Mair’s translation of the phrase yinshi . judges from “ﬁxed positions” and makes “rigid distinctions. According to Graham. relying on the Mohist logicians’ deﬁnition of yin (criterion). wrote what he wrote. With the yinshi. for Zhuangzi it is all right to use the ﬂuid yinshi. makes a technical distinction between the phrases yinshi.” The weishi. Zhuangzi. Graham claims that Zhuangzi. the road of right and wrong. Zhuangzi’s discourse is just a more pragmatic way of using right (shi) and wrong ( fei). the moment just when ( fang ) he.” and weishi . or disputation] but illuminates it in the light of Heaven. Zhuangzi. “accepting ‘this’ for what it is” (Mair 1994: 15). suspends the logical force of the criterion ( yin ) of the Mohist logicians – so that it is no longer a question of logical stricture but of following the temporal unfolding of language – and at the same time shows how he himself transcends both the position of the Sophists and the position of the Mohist logicians by afﬁrming the existential moment. alludes to the technical discussion about what is relative ( fang ). so painstakingly crafted by the Mohist logicians and so frivolously used by the Sophists. Zhuangzi can conclude this part of his argument: “Therefore the sage does not take that road [i. aesthetic-pragmatic relation to the world. After the break with disputation. in which luminosity (ming ) – the view of the pure selfemergence of beings. Graham’s interpretation gives license to read Zhuangzi in terms of a relativistic.” it deems that something is “permanently” so (Graham 1989: 197. and the logic of discourse yields to the temporality of existence. In an exemplary way this presents Zhuangzi’s exercise and experience with language.” rather than “to be contingent upon” and “criterion”). then. which Graham translates “ ‘This’ which deems” (1989: 190).
on the other hand. As Graham points out. there is in Shakespeare a passage that mocks scholastic logic in a way that corresponds to the way Zhuangzi mocks 96 . a parody of an argument. Above all. Both right (shi) and wrong ( fei) become one inexhaustible [responding]. In luminosity we do not afﬁrm or negate this or that thing – for no thing (wu) has as yet appeared – but afﬁrm the very self-emerging of things by simply responding ( ying ) to their appearance: “Only when the pivot attains the center of its circle can it respond inexhaustibly. The distance between Zhuangzi’s saying (yan) and disputation (bian) is as vast as the distance between the language in Shakespeare and medieval scholastic logic. it is called the pivot of the Way.” Both “that other” and “this here” (ci ) unites right (shi) and wrong ( fei). is characteristic of the perfected human being. It is these moments of clumsy discourse that have conceptual weight in “On the Equality of Things” and not the relatively weak arguments Graham reconstructs on behalf of Zhuangzi. and an exhibition of the kind of clumsiness (zhuo) that. ‘nothing is better than using luminosity (ming)’ ” (2/31). Therefore I say. Therefore Zhuangzi concludes: “This” (shi) is also “that” (bi). and “to refer” ( ju ) is explained as “to present the analog for the object” (Graham 1978: 285–6). releases language into the full range of its expressivity. which entirely transforms the blind and violent relation to the world characteristic of disputation. The ability of language to generate wholes of meaning was hardly considered by the Mohist logicians. Indeed. But are there really “that” and “this”? Or are there really no “that” and “this”? When neither “that” nor “this” attains its counterpart (ou ). for the logicians language is a “stream of references”. The moment it appears the thing is not yet a namable thing. sometimes elusive wholes of meaning. and “that” is also “this. Zhuangzi. it is a transcendent point of view that can only be announced by the double question.AN INTRODUCTION TO DAOIST THOUGHT deemed to be this or that thing. it should be clear that Zhuangzi language (yan) is on a qualitatively different level to the rather impoverished language employed by the Mohist logicians. each of which by a name (the analog for the object) picks out one object from another. This acceptance is beyond the dichotomy between acceptance and denial. who were hardly aware of the sentence except as a string of names (Graham 1989: 150). and he conjures sometimes striking. and yet it can be accepted as the “this” it is in the unfolding of its self-emergence. according to Zhuangzi. The logicians crafted one to one referential relations between names (ming) and objects (shi): in the Canons language or saying ( yan) is deﬁned as “to emit references” (chuju ). (2/29–31) Such pivotal afﬁrmation is luminosity (ming). The entire passage on luminosity (ming) is at once a serious argument.
BUNGLED DISCOURSE contemporary theories of naming.” or the phenomenon as it self-emerges. I like it well. one points to the “white” and not to the “horse.” is used to indicate “a restriction in the way a thing is considered. in respect of itself. it pleaseth me well. in pointing to a white horse.” The presupposition is that “the rich concreteness of the real can be approached only by isolating some one of its inﬁnite aspects” (Shirley 1992: 26). but in respect that it is a shepherd’s life.” This is how the Sophists “afﬁrm what is not afﬁrmed.” And if you can point to the white horse without pointing out the horse. and treat as so what is not so. Now in respect that it is in the ﬁelds. In respect that it is solitary. as Samuel Shirley points out.” or “in respect of. is a possible experience. it is naught. but in respect that it is not in the court. however. This presupposition is shared by the ancient Chinese logicians. then it may seem as if Zhuangzi’s arguments at times are close to falling into sophistry. This is clear from a passage in “On the Equality of Things. holds the exact opposite presupposition. and so the Sophist can claim that “a white horse is not a horse. it is a very vile life. and the combination cannot be identical with one of its constituents.” which is attributed to the Sophist Gongsun Long (c. In As You Like It Touchstone is asked how he likes a shepherd’s life.” then pointing out the white horse is not pointing out the “white horse” but just the “white. the seeing of a thing in a certain perspective. shepherd. The Sophist claims that if. the term quatenus. and he answers: Truly.” where Zhuangzi has a short discussion on the proposition “a white horse is not a horse. “in so far as. and through their surpassing use of language they reveal the limitation of this logic: they show that within the scope of a language that is able to evoke wholes of meaning. Is Zhuangzi a Sophist? If it is clear that Zhuangzi’s language differs fundamentally from the language of the Mohist logicians. For both Zhuangzi and Shakespeare the language of logical stricture breaks up our experience of life as a whole. For him the “rich concreteness of the real. who use their “criterion” ( yin) to isolate and name the real precisely “in so far as” it has a particular quality (the horse is white in so far as its hair is white). In fact. the language of logic becomes a joke. it is tedious. then “white” and “horse” must be two different objects.” and it is their reason for claiming that they can separate 97 . Zhuangzi’s bungled discourse is totally different from the artful disputation of the Sophists. but in respect that it is private. it is a good life. Zhuangzi. (Shirley 1992: 26) In medieval logic.320–250 ). and the logic of naming only prevents this experience.
namely the whole before and beyond difference. (2/31–3) Again a serious argument is made – and a joke. but it can be revealed in the luminosity (ming) of bungled discourse – to explain that what is pointed out is not what 98 . it is of the same kind (lei) as other similar objects we call “horse. it cannot even be intended. the “intended import” (1998: 192).” but he is still pointing something out and so making a distinction. Heaven and Earth are one “the pointed out. For the Mohist logicians this is a disturbing and unacceptable result. The word zhi means “ﬁnger.” and. says Zhuangzi.” or mutually pervasive terms such as “white” and “horse. with Harbsmeier. Consequently. that the Sophist may point out that “the pointed out” (zhi) is not “the pointed out. We have seen how Zhuangzi suspends the logical force of the criterion ( yin) used by the Mohist logicians.” the thousand things are one horse. Zhuangzi too objects to the Sophist splitting up the real. which.” “as if they are hanging in space. and Zhuangzi also refuses to take part in the language games of the Sophists. or. then the horse is not only “horse” but also “white” (in respect to this part of it). and they quickly put a stop to the sophistry. ﬁrst. Instead Zhuangzi again displays his bungled discourse: To use “the pointed out” (zhi) to explain that “the pointed out” is not “the pointed out” is not as good as using what is not “the pointed out” to explain that “the pointed out” is not “the pointed out. but he refutes the Sophist in an entirely different fashion. because. the Sophist remains within the dichotomy of meaning and reference that founds his positivistic view of language.” Zhuangzi says. then. the common-sense view that a white horse is a horse is logically sound. uses “the pointed out” (zhi) “to explain that ‘the pointed out’ is not ‘the pointed out’. if we take the part of the horse that is white as criterion (yin). it is better to use what is not “the pointed out” – namely the phenomenon as it self-emerges as a unique whole.” or as a verb “to point out. according to Zhuangzi always leaves out a remainder. The confusion only arises because the Sophist does not know how to use the technical terms kind (lei) and criterion ( yin). and especially to see that the joke is the argument.” and as a noun it is used in the technical discourse on naming for.AN INTRODUCTION TO DAOIST THOUGHT “hard” and “white.” It is as if the real cannot resist the wordplay of the Sophist. The Sophist. to put it another way. and the difﬁculty is to see what is meant seriously and what is meant as a joke. Therefore.” To use a horse to explain that a horse is not a horse is not as good as using what is not a horse to explain that a horse is not a horse. “what is pointed out” (1989: 91). which cannot be pointed out. second. as Graham translates. They explain that a “white horse” really is a “horse”. Or.
then you call it a horse” (25/60–1). For in the luminosity of bungled discourse it becomes clear that it is precisely by not being pointed out that the object stands out by itself as it is. and then for him what the rest of us call a horse would not be a horse” (Graham 1981: 53). I understood the conduct of humanity and righteousness.” For the Mohists there is a logic of naming that neither the Sophists nor Zhuangzi can escape: “the essential point is that a common name is given to objects which are like each other” so that naming can “proceed” (xing) logically according to the real differences in the world (Graham 1978: 447–8). The theories of naming based on referring ( ju) and pointing out (zhi) conceal this pure self-emergence of the thing. Zhuangzi’s proposition.” 99 . whether it is used in the defense of common sense (the Mohist logicians) or to confound common sense (the Sophists). The Zhuangzi puts it admirably in a less technical context: “If you point out (zhi) the various parts of a horse. I combined “same” and “different.” separated “hard” and “white. “Heaven and Earth are one ‘the pointed out’. In the “Autumn Floods” chapter the Sophist Gongsun Long says of himself: When I was young. he suspends and transcends the whole discourse of disputation.BUNGLED DISCOURSE is pointed out. but the difference between the creatures remains. the thousand things are one horse” – unfortunately it needs to be pointed out – is also a joke. but that the phenomenon as a whole always already stands there before us before all deeming. name something else ‘horse’. Is it reasonable to assume that a thinker of Zhuangzi’s depth would seriously propose such shallow arguments? We know from Graham himself that the Mohist logicians had no difﬁculty in refuting the type of argument Graham ascribes to Zhuangzi. The logicians point out. he had only to pick something else as the meaning of the word. There is no need to ascribe arguments to Zhuangzi that the logicians can easily refute. then the horse will elude you. Zhuangzi’s saying is as far from the empty word play of the Sophists as it is from the crafted necessities of the Mohist logicians – and it is perhaps especially devastating for the Sophists. writes Graham. says Graham. I studied the Way of the former kings. Zhuangzi argues. But if the horse is tethered in front of you and stands there with all its parts. But if the play with names. that the Sophist is “wasting his time” arguing that “a white horse is not a horse. When I grew up. “that the difference between X and Y is not abolished by a change of naming. You can call dogs ‘cranes’. breaks down – in a joke for instance – then there is the possibility of acknowledging the self-emergence of things.” For. Here the point is not what we call it. Graham does not quite get the joke. at least momentarily. since “all disputation starts from arbitrary acts of naming. For Zhuangzi does not argue for or against the coherence of the theories of naming. and therefore he misses the point of Zhuangzi’s argument.
Just as Socrates reminded the Greek Sophists that love of wisdom is not the same as dazzling displays of argumentation. or if it is my knowledge that is not as good as his. In the Socratic dialogue. which in Zhuangzi is the functional equivalent of Socratic irony – the sort of irony where. for instance. Similarly. as Schlegel says. and exhausted the disputation (bian) of the many. guilelessly open and deeply hidden” (1971: 265). I considered myself extremely successful. I do not know if it is my discourse that is not up to the level of his. For Socrates knowledge is self-knowledge. Pierre Hadot points out that according to Socrates “[d]oing philosophy no longer meant. and afﬁrmed what is not afﬁrmed.AN INTRODUCTION TO DAOIST THOUGHT considered so what is not so. did not yield a new sense of unity to replace the sense of being at home with and dwelling in humanity (ren) that was lost together with the traditional ethos. (17/66–7) This picture of the Sophist ﬁts the Greek case as well as the Chinese. “everything should be playful and serious. but this moment is too often missed. as the Sophists had it. or sophia. because we have the feeling that we are not what we ought to be” (2002: 29). (17/67–8) But just as there is no method (methodos as a way of technical mastery) that could lead one to understand the ironic logos of Socrates. in ancient China Zhuangzi was the rock against which the shallow technicalities of disputation shattered. Gongsun Long ﬁrst studied the traditional ethos but gradually reﬂected himself out of it. acquiring knowledge. Reﬂection. Zhuangzi is not interested in acquiring know-how. I made trouble for the knowledge of the hundred schools. that a white horse is a horse) and by his superior skill in argumentation cause general confusion among the disputers (bianzhe). May I ask what method to adopt. Now I cannot even open my mouth. technical skills. “knowledge is not a prefabricated object. or a ﬁnished content which can be directly transmitted by writing or by just any discourse” (2002: 26– 7). It is the moment of bungled discourse. In bewilderment I marvel at it. This is precisely where Zhuangzi decisively breaks with the 100 . however. There is. know-how. For both Zhuangzi’s bungled discourse and Socrates’ irony surpass merely technical mastery of language and eristic disputation. there is no method ( fang ) to adopt if one wants to follow Zhuangzi in his bungled discourse. Gongsun Long says: Now I have heard the saying of Zhuangzi. however a moment “just when” (also fang ) it is possible to follow Zhuangzi. it meant questioning ourselves. The Sophist is only able to deny what is commonly afﬁrmed (to deny. writes Hadot. or completed discourse or knowledge.
BUNGLED DISCOURSE empty disputation techniques and the relativism of the Sophists. since he already agrees with you.” Can people like that be called sages? (12/41–2) The answer is no. then other people will certainly be in the dark. how can he set it straight? If I have somebody who agrees with me set the matter straight. The disputers have a saying: “separate ‘hard’ and ‘white’ as if they are hanging in space. and I do not win over you. The Zhuangzi says: There are people who master the Way as if [all things were] mutually relative (xiangfang). Perhaps it could also be the realization of our own pragmatic-relativist New Sophists – should they ever encounter Zhuangzi. Precisely this is Gongsun Long’s realization in encountering Zhuangzi. Those who are in the bondage of technique think they master the Way. since he already agrees with both of us. that neither you nor I nor a third person are able to come to mutual recognition [of the fact of the matter]. says the Zhuangzi. are you really right (shi). and you do not win over me. and treat as so what is not so. how can he set it straight? If I have somebody that differs with both of us set the matter straight. since he already differs with both of us. they afﬁrm what is not afﬁrmed. Zhuangzi and Socrates Towards the end of “On the Equality of Things” it becomes apparent that Zhuangzi has no recourse to dialogue to overcome disagreement at the level of disputation (bian). For. and am I really wrong ( fei)? If I win over you. the way of the Sophists is the “bondage of technique” ( jixi) (12/42). am I really right and are you really wrong? Is one of us right and one of us wrong? Or are both of us right and both of us wrong? Since you and I cannot come to a mutual recognition [of the fact of the matter]. If you win over me. Whom shall I have to set the matter straight? If I have somebody who agrees with you set the matter straight. Suppose you and I have a dispute (bian). but in fact they master nothing but their petty methods and theories. since he already agrees with me. how can he set it straight? Since this is the case. should we wait for yet another person? (2/84–90) 101 . how can he set it straight? If I have somebody who agrees with both of us set the matter straight.
by modifying the entrenched positions. it was a spiritual exercise which demanded that the interlocutors undergo an askBsis. namely the common concern for shared understanding that both parties submit to in the dialogue. but a joint effort on the part of two interlocutors in accord with the rational demands of reasonable discourse. One way. is to oppose Thrasymachus “with a parallel speech about the blessings of the just life. those of opposing parties but are advanced by the same entity. in which the more skillful person imposes his point of view.” was necessary for those who wanted to take part in the political life of the city. and then we do. This way of persuasion is guided by the desire to seek agreement. just as in Zhuangzi’s dispute (bian).” For Plato the “ethics of dialogue” was not a purely logical exercise. Plato’s “spiritual exercise par excellence. by seeking agreement with each other. Unlike Socrates. Therefore Plato develops his own dialectic. which originated in the Socratic dialogue. the debate would consist of a simple opposition of speeches without any real dialogue. or in Greek dialektikB technB. Zhuangzi does not envision a situation where the differing points of view are played out against each other and. for the arbitration has already taken place in the dialogue itself (even if it may in the end be inconclusive). is when “we investigate the question. Socrates explains to Glaucon that there are two ways to persuade Thrasymachus that what he says is not true. or the logos. the art of strife or dispute. In this case there is no need to call in a third party to arbitrate. Glaucon agrees with Socrates that the second method is to be preferred. In the eyes of Plato it was also a dangerous art. as we’ve been doing. or eristikB technB. for mutual recognition (xiangzhi ) of the fact of the matter is simply not possible in disputation (bian). the pros and cons are not. mastery of dialectic. and then he replies.AN INTRODUCTION TO DAOIST THOUGHT The answer is. open up a common horizon of understanding. “the art of dialogue. (Hadot 2002: 62–3) 102 . and therefore the two sides must call in a third party to arbitrate the matter. that there is no need to wait for yet another person to adjudicate the dispute. Instead. In the ﬁrst book of the Republic. we ourselves can be both jury and advocate at once” (Republic 348b). after Thrasymachus has enumerated the blessings of the unjust life. “we’d have to count and measure the good things mentioned on each side.” After this exchange of speeches. for dialogue could decline into mere eristic dispute. of course. At the time of Plato. which is not merely a technical procedure but spiritual exercise – indeed. It was not a matter of a combat between two individuals. The second way to persuade Thrasymachus. and we’d need a jury to decide the case” (Republic 348a). as Hadot says. says Socrates. as in the ﬁrst case (and in Zhuangzi’s case). says Socrates. In this case. and this method is in fact Plato’s dialectical procedure. or self-transformation.
The Socratic dialogue and Plato’s dialectic are spiritual exercise, but they also embody, as Gadamer says, “the logos of science” (Logos der Wissenschaft). As spiritual exercise the authentic dialogue is never a purely technical achievement; as the logos of science it can never be entirely without technical mastery. As spiritual exercise the dialogue, as Gadamer says, “is distinguished from all disputation technique,” but as the logos of science the dialogue “is speech that exhibits the facts of the matter in a logical sequence ( folgerichtig sachaufweisende Rede)” (1991: 20). In other words, Plato’s dialectic is technical, but in a positive sense as opposed to the negative dialectic of the Sophists, which “does not present the reality itself but seeks out what speaks for it and what speaks against it” (Gadamer 1991: 18). In the Platonic dialogue, the eidos, the form, transcends the differing points of view. Hadot explains the eidos as that which exceeds philosophical discourse but can be approached through philosophy as spiritual exercise. The forms, says Hadot, are “inexpressible in language and inaccessible to any deﬁnition. One experiences them, or shows them in the dialogue and in desire; but nothing can be said about them.” For Plato, says Hadot, philosophical discourse is in the end “incapable of expressing that which is essential” (2002: 75–6). Gadamer ties the notion of eidos closer to logos in the sense of “language and the understanding of language,” but both Gadamer and Hadot agree that for Plato philosophy is an endless experiment with saying the unsayable. In fact, according to Gadamer, all philosophy worthy of the name has a pronounced “difﬁculty in expressing itself ” (Sprachnot). In ancient China the Mohist logicians deﬁned disputation (bian) as a “struggle,” or a “quarrel” (zheng ), between opposing parties, where one point of view must necessarily “win over” or “conquer” (sheng ) the other (Graham 1978: 318 –19). Zhuangzi is correct when he describes disputation (bian) as battle between two mutually exclusive points of view. Like Plato, Zhuangzi sees that eristic dispute is an ethical problem and that spiritual exercise is necessary to remedy the situation. Therefore Zhuangzi develops his impromptu words and bungled discourse as forms of discourse as spiritual exercise. Like Plato’s dialogues, these discourses are exercises in saying the unsayable – in Plato the Form (eidos); in Zhuangzi the Way (dao) – and Zhuangzi must surely be included among those genuine philosophers who, as Gadamer says, suffer from a pronounced “difﬁculty in expressing themselves.” The decisive difference between Zhuangzi and Socrates in regard to language is that the Socratic dialogue conforms to the rational requirements of positive dialectic, in other words, it retains the technical moment of discourse in surpassing it – and this move is, of course, itself the essence of dialectic. Zhuangzi, for his part, breaks with the technical discourse of disputation (bian) by suspending its logic in his surpassing saying ( yan). In Greek philosophy language and logic combined in substantial dialogues, which in the case of Plato are literary masterpieces. In China substantial 103
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language and logic did not combine. The Mohist logicians developed a sort of logic, but they had only an impoverished notion of language. Zhuangzi, on the other hand, had a surpassing language, but he did not integrate it with the logic of disputation (bian), which he, not without justiﬁcation, saw as being incapable of grasping that logic of life which his own saying ( yan) followed. Harbsmeier suggests that Zhuangzi’s “not-knowing” is comparable to the famous “I am aware that I do not know” attributed to Socrates. For, according to Harbsmeier, Zhuangzi’s not-knowing is “the product of an advanced piece of scientiﬁc theorizing. Zhuangzi thought that our knowledge, however well founded empirically and theoretically, is ultimately uncertain” (1993: 23–6). The decisive point is, however, that Zhuangzi does not integrate the moment of not-knowing into a procedure that becomes technical in the positive sense of Platonic dialectic. In Plato, as Gadamer says, it is a question of “pure self-abandonment to the facts of the matter” (reinen Hingegebenheit an die Sache) (1991: 39); for Zhuangzi it is, as Graham says, ultimately a question of “surrender to the incomprehensible” (1981: 19). Therefore we will not ﬁnd in Zhuangzi a language (yan) that conforms to the requirements of logic in the way the logos of science does. We have instead Zhuangzi’s bungled discourse and impromptu words.
Whatever singularity, which wants to appropriate belonging itself, its own being-in-language, and thus rejects all identity and every condition of belonging, is the principal enemy of the State. Wherever these singularities peacefully demonstrate their being in common there will be a Tiananmen, and, sooner or later, the tanks will appear. Giorgio Agamben I have never yet known sage knowledge (shengzhi) that did not become the wedges in cangues, and humanity and righteousness that did not become the pegs in the hole of the shackles. The Zhuangzi
Zhuangzi has long been admired for his philosophical depth and perhaps even more for his unsurpassed literary style. In regard to ethics, however, the general consensus is that Zhuangzi has little to offer. It is often assumed that no genuine ethical point of view can be found in Zhuangzi, and that Zhuangzi is an amoralist if not outright immoral. The great twelfth century Confucian Zhu Xi said that “Laozi still wanted to do something, but Zhuangzi did not want to do anything at all. He even said that he knew what to do but just did not want to do it.” Because Zhuangzi was perceived as someone who shrinks from the task of imposing a moral order on the world, he, as Wing-tsit Chan points out, “was so much rejected by Chinese thinkers that since the ﬁfth century, his doctrines have never been propagated by any outstanding scholar” (1963: 178–9). Several modern Western scholars also see in Zhuangzi an ethical relativist or an amoralist. Robert Eno, for example, argues that for Zhuangzi “butchering people might provide much the same spiritual spontaneity as the dao of butchering oxen – as many a samurai might testify” (1996: 142), and Chad Hansen (1992: 290) 105
” According to Mencius the sage rulers were constantly concerned with organizing and protecting the social realm and teaching the common people proper human relationships. On the one hand there are the concerns of everyday life about poverty and other hardships. According to Confucius. Recognizing the limitations of positive morality. Zhuangzi’s ethics is above all aimed at transcending the violence that characterizes human interaction. and therefore they had no time for physical labor: “when the concern ( you) of the sages for the people is like 106 . the very victims of the Confucian concern with socioethical order.B4). On the other hand there are the more lofty concerns of the Confucian. The concern of the noble man is that the sage ruler Shun . “became a model for the empire. “is something to be concerned about!” (Mengzi 4.” says Mencius emphatically. on the contrary. it is this lofty sense of concern that distinguishes “those who labor with their minds” from “those who work with their physical strength. and one of the few. and with great irony. The Confucians distinguish between two kinds of concerns. and Horkheimer). but he does not have common worries and apprehensions. but in Mencius the lofty sense of concern is more directly linked with a concern for the empire (tianxia) and political power. a human being like himself. but Zhuangzi was the ﬁrst. By a religious ethics I mean an ethics that transcends positive morality. The dark side of Western rationality has often been pointed out (one needs only mention Nietzsche. Concern ( you ) was the hallmark of the committed Confucian scholarofﬁcial and today still informs the self-understanding of many Chinese intellectuals. these are petty concerns (Lunyu 6.32). I will argue. this lofty sense of concern immediately translates into the benevolent exercise of state power.11). Mencius says that the noble man is concerned ( you) all of his life. Mencius says that a ruler who is “concerned about the empire” is sure to come to rule the whole world and not just one state among others (Mengzi 1. In the idealistic political philosophy of Mencius. the exercise of prudence. ends such as utility.AN INTRODUCTION TO DAOIST THOUGHT says that Zhuangzi is unable to censure even the worst atrocities (such as the Nazi exterminations) beyond saying “it happened”. even a certain conception of humanism. and social harmony.” whereas he himself remains “a common fellow.B28). Zhuangzi gives voice to his ethical point of view through a number of mutilated characters. This does not mean that Zhuangzi is indifferent to human beings.” “This. like Christian ethics. On the contrary. in the Chinese tradition to provide a truly radical critique of Confucian concern. that we have in the Zhuangzi a profoundly religious ethics that is as yet little understood. who is “concerned about the Way not about poverty” (Lunyu 15. propriety. In the Chinese tradition concern ( you) may be considered the functional equivalent of rationality in the Western tradition. Adorno. Furthermore. Foucault. Mencius also distinguishes between these two kinds of concern.
The Xunzi opens with chapters on learning and selfcultivation. castration. who always appeared when the world of human beings was threatened by brutish nature. Therefore the Zhuangzi does not tire of pointing to the pettiness of Confucian concern in view of the life engendered by Heaven: “what the [Confucian] man of humanity is concerned ( you) about. cutting of the nose. Mencius wants to oppose his opponents. who. Yan Hui . Mencius explicitly says that when he argues against competing doctrines. and he wants to make their teachings cease and banish their doctrines (Mengzi 3. Yang Zhu and Mozi. but it continues with chapters on “the regulations of a king. In Xunzi the concern for the state is so overriding that it justiﬁes the most cruel punishments.3). With Xunzi Confucian concern becomes even more focused on the wealth and power of the state. Zhuangzi regards the Confucian’s obsessive concern with the world of man (ren) as a particularly pernicious expression of the drive towards completion that encloses human beings in a world of their own making and makes an experience of Heaven impossible.B9). Thus Xunzi argues against the view that since the good societies of antiquity did not employ corporal punishments but relied on more humane ritualistic and symbolic measures. amputation of the feet. then it is not because he is fond of disputation (bian) but out of a lofty apprehension for the state of the world (tianxia) only matched by Confucius himself. Zhuangzi’s critique of Confucian concern is most poignantly expressed in a dialogue between Confucius and his favorite disciple. and also the death penalty (Xunzi 18. global concern of the Confucian. Zhuangzi’s Confucius gives his diagnosis of this disturbed state: “Now we do not wish to mix up the Way. with proper Confucian eagerness and concern. “how could they have leisure to plow the ﬁelds?” Mencius leaves no doubt that the lofty concern of the Confucians is far above the petty concerns of everyday life: “he who makes it his concern that a hundred mou ﬁeld is not managed is a mere peasant” (Mengzi 3.” and “what the committed scholar toils over” is insigniﬁcant compared to the inﬁnite self-emergence of things (17/13).ETHICS this. The concerns of everyday life are petty and must be subordinated under the higher concern of the ruler. No.” “enriching the state. When you are 107 . the practical concerns of the ruler are still limited and must in turn be subordinated under the superior. then it is fragmented. then you are agitated. Like the sage kings of old. wants to set out to reform a brutal ruler. In the light of this lofty concern.” asks Mencius. It is this self-assumed global concern that gives Confucian discourse its harshness and disregard for other points of view. a well-ordered society must rely on punishing mutilations such as black-branding. When it is fragmented. If it is mixed up. contemporary rulers should also avoid cruel punishments. Mencius relegates his opponents to the realm of wild beasts. says Xunzi.A4).” “the principles of warfare. In Confucian discourse different levels of concern justify the social order.” and on “strengthening the state” (Knoblock 1988–94).
who think they can inﬂuence the tyrants. are utterly self-deceived. According to Zhuangzi. who experienced ﬁrst-hand how the moralists provide the justiﬁcation. ﬁrst made it exist in themselves. Confucius prescribes to Yan Hui the fasting of the heart-and-mind (xinzhai ). If that which they made exist in themselves was not yet settled. at the end of the dialogue. with the ancients it was different: The perfected people of old.AN INTRODUCTION TO DAOIST THOUGHT agitated then you are concerned ( you)” (4/4). The massacred lie staring at each other. As Zhuangzi’s Confucius points out. The moralists. and only then did they make it exist in others. then the shift from perfectionism to moralism occurs: the self is no longer properly brought into question. Zhuangzi sees that when the Confucians project their concern onto the world. for in their disturbed state nothing real exists in themselves that could possibly be a counter-weight to the force of unbridled power. what leisure did they have to confront the conduct of a tyrant? (4/4–5) Accordingly. and morality becomes a mere technique in the service of power. On an even more somber note. The fasting of the heart-andmind is the proper cure for Confucian concern. and yet the Confucians and the Mohists begin to put on airs and roll up their sleeves among the shackled. In the present age the executed are piled up on top of each other. In a later text collected in the Zhuangzi. The shackled in cangues [are so crowded together that they] bump into each other. tells Yan Hui that knowledge is an evil tool (xiongqi ) (4/6–7). the “wedges” and “pegs” in the cangues and shackles. in the same dialogue. Here Zhuangzi has in mind the sage-knowledge (shengzhi ) with which the Confucians propose to rule the empire. Confucian concern is the symptom of disorder rather than its cure. Confucius. Ah! How extreme is their shamelessness and their having no sense of disgrace. Zhuangzi presents a genealogy of Confucian moral sentiment: far from being a distinctive and noble sentiment. It is too bad! I have never yet known sage knowledge (shengzhi) that did not become the 108 . Zhuangzi’s denouncement of sage-knowledge could only have been seen as prophetic by his immediate followers. for it stills the fragmented and anxious efforts that bind us to the realm of man (ren) and restores the sanity and unity of the Way. Confucian concern originates in the disturbed or agitated state that results from the mix-up and fragmentation of the Way. we get a snapshot of the conditions that prevailed soon after the completion of the Chinese imperial state. without which statepower would not hold.
only weeks after the massacre of the students at Tiananmen Square. They have continually been intimidated but are not 109 . Concretely this violated life shows up in the Zhuangzi in the form of mutilated persons: the mutilated criminals. for he has left life and death behind. if only because of its persistence even to this day. Gu Mu “presents both Chinese tradition and the current regime as enlightened. and humanity and righteousness that did not become the pegs in the hole of the shackles. For someone with a foot cut off is not restrained by laws and regulations. Theodore de Bary recounts how the Chinese government.” and in his keynote speech the scholar Gu Mu explained how Chinese traditional culture. The same tension between Confucian moralistic pretensions and the political realities is also evident in China today. The convict in iron chains will climb high up without fear. punished by the state.” writes de Bary. must be regarded as one of the great achievements in human history. which he claims to be essentially Confucian. which. because he treats blame and praise as outer. In his “marvelous cultural ballet. Whether this dating is correct or not. progressive. in the view of Zhuangzi this unprecedented achievement or completion (cheng) violates life (sheng). Mutilation Confucian moralism and Legalist state-craft combined to create the traditional Chinese state. (11/25–8) Graham dates this text to the time of the civil war which followed the death of the ﬁrst Emperor of the Qin in 210 . Secretary General Jiang Zemin. and open to the world. could ensure harmony and prosperity for the state and counteract Western inﬂuence. celebrated the birthday of Confucius in a building next to the square itself. Here the leader of the Communist Party. However. while still relying on the Confucian values of harmony and social discipline as the criteria for excluding decadent libertarian inﬂuences from the West – screening out the ‘spiritual pollution’ already identiﬁed as responsible for the alleged unbridled disorders of T’ien an men” (1991: 107–8). return as exemplary characters to haunt the moralizers. Graham rightly notes that the author of this text “views the usurpation of the state as a crime which puts morality in the service of the victor.” and that one notices here “something of that vicious contempt for moralists which emerges in periods when the contrast between moral pretensions and political realities has become insupportable” (1981: 197–9).ETHICS wedges in cangues. “spent two hours recollecting fondly his own Confucian upbringing. In The Trouble with Confucianism Wm.
Confucius. The mutilated answers Confucius: I just did not understand the affairs of the world and was careless in using my body. is much more important than any outer sign of wholeness. and he changes his mind and invites the 110 . Zhuangzi himself tells two stories of mutilated persons from the state of Lu . For if the mutilated was not able to preserve his body. as being heaven and earth. perceived the unity of things. the mutilated take on the characteristics of Zhuangzi’s perfected person: they are unaffected by praise and blame of others. who did not change with life and death. in short. Having forgot about the others they then become people of Heaven. and the moralists are not able to shame them. and therefore he denies instruction to the mutilated. the moralist. Master. Now I have come here. (23/76–7) The irony is that the very punishment that marks the criminal as an outcast from the world of man (ren) transports the mutilated person to the realm of Heaven (tian). Accordingly. the mutilated embody the power that pertains to everything that is heterogeneous in relation to the realm of man (ren). and regardless of circumstances. After he has heard what the mutilated has to say. Shushan the Toeless . where Confucius had been police commissioner. and that is what I seek to keep whole (quan). writes Zhuangzi. of course. a man from Lu with a chopped foot. they have become a people of Heaven (tianren ). that in itself. then. In the other and longer story. How could I know you would be like this? (5/25–7) Shushan the Toeless is a perfected person in Zhuangzi’s sense: he is portrayed as being clumsy in the outer (wai) world (he does “not understand the affairs of the world”) but able to preserve the inner (nei). Confucius realizes that he has been crude (lou ). for the moralist. is a sign of moral deﬁciency. and I considered you. which. and therefore I lost my foot. Now heaven covers everybody. Zhuangzi says that once a man from Lu with a chopped off foot. who attracted just as many followers as Confucius. is only able to see the outer. and they have forgotten about the others.” Because Shushan has been unable to preserve his body whole (quan). Far from being weakened by the punishment.AN INTRODUCTION TO DAOIST THOUGHT ashamed. for I still preserve something that is more precious than the foot. “came walking on his heels to see Confucius. they do not cling to life nor fear death. There was. and the earth supports everybody. and “looked at the loss of his foot as casting off some soil” (5/1–8). Confucius refuses to teach him. and in fact Confucius himself acknowledged that there was something unique (du) about this mutilated person.
he entirely encloses himself in a world of his own making. has gone to seek instruction from Laozi. “could we not just have him consider life and death as one strand and consider allowable (ke) and unallowable (buke) as a single string. By “seeking bizarre and deceptive fame” the moralist shows himself to be caught up in the outer (wai) world of man (ren) and incapable of preserving the inner (nei) unity of the Way. then there is no longer a saving power to remove the shackles of your own selffashioning. and Confucius can only say to his followers: “Exert yourselves my disciples! That toeless had his foot chopped off. That is Heaven’s punishment (tianxing ). where ﬁlial piety demands that a person preserves his or her body in the same state it was received from the parents: whole and complete. could the Confucian moralist not be set free by absorbing a bit of Daoism? No. Laozi. and therefore he has put himself beyond saving. and so he attains ultimate freedom and realizes that no judgment imposed by man (ren) is ever completely binding. Doesn’t he know that the perfected person considers this as putting shackles on himself? (5/29–30) Here the reversal is complete: it is really the moralist not the mutilated criminal that is punished – only the moralist has shackled himself. says the mutilated – and this radical stance above all shows Zhuangzi’s hand – for when “Heaven has punished him. who now realizes that Confucius is far from the perfect Master he had expected. on the other hand. and he asks him: In his attempt to become a perfected person.ETHICS mutilated in to be instructed. which was a moral imperative for the Confucians – not the inner wholeness attained by the mutilated. The Confucian. and for him there is no way out. is obsessively concerned with the world of man (ren). But the mutilated has already left. and free him from his shackles?” In other words. For. when you neglect the other of the world of man (ren). Confucius has not quite got there has he? Why then does he so urgently teach his disciples? He seems to be seeking bizarre and deceptive fame. says Zhuangzi. suggests that perhaps the moralist could still be saved. Meanwhile Shushan the Toeless. however. How much more should people [like you] whose virtue is whole [pursue learning]!” (5/28–9). how can he be set free?” (5/30–1). The complete body was the 111 . In Zhuangzi the mutilated criminal is expelled from the community of man (ren) but by the same token transported to the boundless realm of Heaven (tian). He says. and still he was seeking learning in order to mend his former bad ways. In rejecting that the wholeness of the body is a sign of virtue. But the ﬂaw is with the moralist: he can only see outer wholeness (quan) – the preservation of the physical body. Zhuangzi strikes at the very root of the Confucian moral world-view.
When Gaozi suggests that to make human nature humane and just is like making cups and bowls out of the willow tree. it is unlikely that a person who is ﬁlial will defy his superiors and “start a rebellion” (Lunyu 1. in order to be moral one must keep one’s body of virtue whole and make it complete. Only now am I sure of being spared. to teach this would bring disaster to morality. a duty that could only be considered entirely fulﬁlled near death. “it shows in his face.2). When he was seriously ill Teng Tzu [Zengzi] summoned his disciples and said. As if approaching a deep abyss. As if walking on thin ice. Confucius’ disciple Zengzi movingly gives expression to the anxiety that accompanied this fundamental duty to preserve the body whole. For Mencius. In fear and trembling.AN INTRODUCTION TO DAOIST THOUGHT Confucian emblem of virtue. that is the completion of the moral life. Lau 1983: 69) In Mencius this idea of preserving the body whole becomes an image for the inner development of the “body” of virtue. The ﬁrst sprouts of virtue are inner. That is to say. but these sprouts must develop and show in the body and be displayed in the outer world in a completed pattern (7A24). my young friends. the human heart inherently has four sprouts of virtue: a compassionate pain that naturally grows into humanity (ren). (Lunyu 8. The Odes say. According to Mencius. a sense of shame that is the beginning of righteousness ( yi). Human beings have these sprouts of virtue. Mencius objects that this suggests that one must also “mutilate a man to make him humane and just” (Mengzi 6A1). For Mencius virtue. “he who has these four sprouts and yet says he is not capable [of developing them]. for it is the whole body of virtue. it ﬁlls his back and spreads out in his four limbs. just as they have four limbs. even if Mencius and Zhuangzi both focus on the inner. and his four limbs are understood without words” (7A21). from its ﬁrst emergence to its full expression. and an innate sense of right and wrong that is the beginning of wisdom (zhi). he is a man who mutilates himself ” (Mengzi 2A6). a sense of deference that is the sprout of ritual decorum (li). like the body. As Confucius says. “Take a look at my hands. and. 112 . Mencius is entirely in the grip of the drive towards completion. the body of virtue is not just a metaphor.3. Take a look at my feet. for the physical body reaches its completion through moral development: virtue creates a “harmonious and fresh” appearance in the noble man. from the point of view of Zhuangzi. is a wholeness that has to be preserved and nourished but not forced to grow and twisted into form. it was the root of the socio-ethical order. and ﬁlial piety was not only a duty towards parents. says Mencius. According to Mencius. Therefore.
and therefore Zhuangzi adopts a “tao-attitude. opens a crack in the socio-ethical order through which we can see the real. With its principles and rules morality is “blinding us to the heart of moral experience” (Cua 1977: 313). who looks ugly and startling to people. On Cua’s reading. the mutilation. According to Zhuangzi. in the sense of ceasing to care for. namely the uniqueness engendered by the life of Heaven (3/13). We give to the person “the status of equality. “we forgot. Therefore. “It is as if. Like the Western notion of forgiveness. and here we should begin to think of Kant and Christian ethics. in spite of the wrongful deed. the tao-attitude preserves the import of the distinction [wrong was done] in the light of an ideal perspective. for Zhuangzi the mutilated outer form is far from being defective (as the moralist thinks).” which suggests no norms to the moral agent but is rather “an ideal orientation or perspective for conducting moral thinking” (Cua 1977: 317). as a moral agent. then it means to adopt a certain attitude in which the moral experience far from being abolished ﬁrst really comes to view. his deed and are now ready to enter into a relationship with him as a moral agent qua moral agent” (1977: 318). so to speak. when Zhuangzi asks us to forget morality. As in the Bible. Zhuangzi’s view of ethics comes close to the Christian and Kantian moral pictures. says that the mutilated or deformed person. the very mutilation of the outer form is a sign that there is something unique about that person. for his part. Here what is transcended is not the distinction but the normal focus on the notion of blame that commonly attends the judgement of wrong-doing. is in fact “equal to Heaven” (6/74). As we have seen. (Cua 1977: 317) When we embrace the wrong-doer in forgiveness or in the tao-attitude. According to Antonio Cua. the misﬁt ( jiren ) (6/74) is equal to Heaven precisely because he or she does not ﬁt into the human realm. Beyond the will to power In the stories of the mutilated Zhuangzi situates authentic ethics in a realm of freedom beyond the positive law. Cua’s claim that a certain kind of concern for morality can in fact obscure the ethical experience agrees with Zhuangzi’s critique of Confucian concern ( you). with its emphasis on forgiveness and not treating the other as a thing.” or a “meta-moral attitude.” for the tao-attitude involves “an attitude of taking men as persons rather than things” (Cua 1977: 318).ETHICS Zhuangzi. on the contrary. it is precisely because of his concern that Confucius is unable to give the mutilated person equal status as a moral 113 . In Zhuangzi. it is stone rejected by man that lays the foundation for the kingdom of Heaven.” says Cua. then we accept him or her as a person and so.
when Hui Shi is afraid that Zhuangzi will take his place as chief minister. Graham. Several Chinese scholars subsume Zhuangzi’s thought under the category of the aesthetic. when he takes Zhuangzi’s “tao-attitude” to be a kind of perceptual intuition of doing the right thing in particular situations and contexts (Cua 1977: 314). Because of the dominance of the aesthetic in the postmodern sensibility and the emphasis on situational perception in neo-Aristotelian ethics. But for Zhuangzi the truly ethical question is not how to adapt oneself to changing situations but how to constitute oneself as an ethical subject according to a certain law. This view is mistaken for at least two reasons. according to A. When a ruler offers him a high position.AN INTRODUCTION TO DAOIST THOUGHT agent. but they present a picture of Zhuangzi that. These stories may only be legend. Zhuangzi is not arguing against a morality of principle but against Confucian morality. several Western scholars also attribute an aesthetic world-view to Zhuangzi. Cua is also right when he describes Zhuangzi’s ethical point of view in terms of Christian forgiveness and Kantian equality. All life should be viewed as an esthetic panorama” (1983: 136).” according to Zhuangzi. then Zhuangzi’s “tao-attitude” becomes aesthetizied and not ethical in the more strict and substantial sense we require of a genuinely religious ethics. Yearley. Li Zehou. unreservedly claims that “Zhuangzi’s philosophy is aesthetics” (1985: 178). For Zhuangzi the realm of man (ren) is totally dominated by power. First. will get the greatest reward (32/22–6). and when a self-satisﬁed diplomat tells Zhuangzi how well he is rewarded by his ruler. A recurrent theme in these stories is Zhuangzi’s disdain for power. is “unmistakably” connected with the Zhuangzi of the “Inner Chapters” (1981: 115). only a properly constituted subject can transcend the principle of power that dominates human beings – moral principles and aesthetic coping are entirely ineffective in this regard. which itself is largely context dependent and relies on the kind of perceptual intuition described by Cua. Zhuangzi points out that the lower one stoops in serving the powerful the more rewards one will reap: one who licks the ruler’s hemorrhoids. I disagree with Cua. Therefore the modern opposition between a morality of principles and an ethics of situational perception is not helpful in explaining what is at stake in Zhuangzi’s ethics. for instance. Zhuangzi tells his friend that the position is worth nothing more than a rotting rat (17/84 –7). if this situational responding to changing events is understood as a kind of aesthetic perception. C. Only with death will the regime of domination of one person over the other 114 . Zhuangzi says that he would rather drag himself through the mud (17/81– 4). says Zhuangzi. however. for instance. Lee H. The Zhuangzi contains a numbers of stories about Zhuangzi himself. As we saw in the dialogue about “the fasting of the heart-and-mind. argues that Zhuangzi recommends that we “ought to deal with everything the way you deal with esthetic objects. Second. The attraction of the aesthetic as an explanatory category among Chinese scholars is due in part to the lack of a proper thematization of the category of the religious.
Therefore Yao did not possess others. For he who possesses others is weary. shamefully acknowledges his pettiness (5/13–24). the idea is there: for in refusing to leave together with the mutilated the minister commits “a sin against the spirit” (Billeter 1996: 861). (20/21–2) 115 . In this story a mutilated person (a punished criminal) and a prime minister are both studying with the same spiritual teacher. The ruler is spotted by a certain Yiliao from south of the market !. and wander unique together with the Way in the land of vast emptiness. power is a burden. According to Zhuangzi. and that it is not an apology for being apolitical. Billeter comments that although the word “equality” is not used in the passage. who asks him why he looks so concerned. And yet he cannot escape from worrying.ETHICS come to an end. In a dream a skull tells Zhuangzi that in the after-life there is no ruler and no subjects. and those who carry this burden either become brutes or they free themselves from it. like Confucius in the dialogue with Shushan the Toeless. Zhuangzi forcefully proclaims that domination is not fatality. and he indicates that there could be a place of equality beyond the dehumanizing power relations: “Throughout his work. Billeter refers to a passage in the Zhuangzi. In response the ruler enumerates all his duties: he has studied the way of the former kings. get rid of your concern. which he says is comparable to some of the most striking stories in the New Testament. Zhuangzi goes to “its very principle” (son principe même) (1996: 865). says Billeter. In his critique of power. and he insists that the mutilated step aside for his superior. I wish you would throw off your weariness. and that the minister has shown himself to be a man of no integrity. Zhuangzi shows how power is rooted at the level of intersubjective relations and of consciousness itself. At the end of the dialogue the minister. that other relations than those of power of some over others are possible. the minister refuses to leave at the same time as the mutilated. for at any moment things could go wrong. The Zhuangzi tells a story about the ruler of Lu. Jean François Billeter argues that the critique of power we ﬁnd in the Zhuangzi goes far deeper than a simple rejection. who has a concerned look (you youse ). and that they conform to the very essence of human subjectivity” (Billeter 1996: 875–6). and that the joy of being free from the domination of power is greater than that of the most powerful ruler alive (18/22–9). Every time the teaching is over. The mutilated points out to the minister that according to the teaching of their common master there is no such thing as difference in rank. he follows the rites and is constantly busy with his tasks. he who is being possessed by others is concerned. says Billeter. nor was be being possessed by others. Confucius’ home-state. Yiliao tells the ruler that concern (you) pertains to power itself and the only cure for this kind of worry is to rid oneself of power.
and this critique comes close to the Gospels when they teach the total negation of the realm of power. Paradoxically. furthermore. which says that “in intersubjective relations. Billeter writes: To exercise a beneﬁcial action on others. any inﬂuence whatsoever and. . paradoxically. even to convert and transform them.” Billeter says that he is inclined to take this law 116 . it is through this renunciation that we gain true power to help others. (1996: 871. psychological. it is the beings totally deprived of such intentions who have real power over others. Zhuangzi sees the regime of power as a regime of willing. (2002: 219) As we will see. any power over the other. and. .” When we are liberated from the regime of willing we realize “non-power” (non-pouvoir). even spiritual. Hadot explains that we can act effectively upon other people only when we do not try to act upon them – when. is to liberate him or her from the subjugation to his or her own willing. 877–8) Billeter’s analysis of Zhuangzi’s non-willing corresponds to Hadot’s analysis of the gentleness Marcus Aurelius advises we use in our relations with others. ethics begins with a critique of the connection between Confucian concern and power. to make him or her free to will or not to will. and even religious: salvation consists in refusing to dominate and be dominated. this negation is not escapism but a call for the transformation and redemption of humanity. that is. as in the Gospels. on the emotional or the intellectual level. The real signiﬁcance of the passage is philosophical. towards ourselves and others. Zhuangzi incorporates precisely such transformative gentleness into his moral law. sometimes that of nonintentionality. we renounce our power to inﬂuence others. and the task is to become “free to will or not will. It is this pure gentleness and delicacy which have the power to make people change their minds. any ascendancy. In Zhuangzi.AN INTRODUCTION TO DAOIST THOUGHT As Billeter (1996: 866) points out. surely. Because in the end the only deﬁnitive help that one human being can bring another human being. we avoid all violence. Billeter is correct when he sees in non-willing an ethical law of equality. we have here not just an unrealistic invitation to renounce all practical involvement with running a state. But only non-willing can induce non-willing. it is necessary to have forgotten the very idea of such an action. According to Billeter. In Zhuangzi. . nobody can hope to cause a transformation in others if he does not accept to be transformed himself as well. to make prevail in him or herself sometimes the state of intentionality.
however. is that in applying the golden rule the moral agent incorporates a “formal. Roetz 1993: 131). which Confucius. abstract procedure into ethical reasoning. if we do not accept that he equally acts on us” (Billeter 1996: 877). through a conversion. Billeter writes: [Zhuangzi] has also shown that our subjectivity. It takes on. then they become the basis for humane government. has argued that we do ﬁnd in the Confucian moral picture something that. Furthermore. the problem with the Confucian notion of humanity (ren) is that it is deﬁned in terms of feelings such as love towards parents. and even despotism. could serve as a principle that may anchor Confucian morality and prevent it from drifting into ambiguity and eventual decline into the immoral. (1996: 877) We will now see how Zhuangzi formulates his own moral law.” and not to some ambiguous notion of virtue (1993: 134–5). Heiner Roetz. can have access to a condition that liberates it from the desire to exercise power over others and the temptation to submit oneself to the power of others. According to the Confucians. however.ETHICS as universal. The moral law From the Kantian point of view. in response to a question about humanity (ren). from a Kantian point of view. On this point his thought has not only a philosophic signiﬁcance. This equality is based on a law inherent in the interactions between human subjectivities: “a law according to which we cannot act on another. The Kantian would point out. an eminent religious signiﬁcance. The principle in question is no other than the age-old golden rule. Here it does not matter that Kant himself says that the golden rule is “trivial” and that it cannot serve 117 . when such feelings are extended and in their application properly supplemented with wisdom and a sense of the right. which is designed to negate the will to power that dominates all human relations.2. and that Zhuangzi here “recognizes in his own way the essential equality of all human beings” (1996: 875). Confucius links the maxim to his central notion of reciprocity (shu ) (Lunyu 15. nepotism. virtually. There is no doubt that this principle is central to Confucius’ moral picture. that there is nothing in this picture that in principle can prevent Confucian morality from degenerating into favoritism. formulates as follows: “What you do not wish done to yourself do not do to others” (Lunyu 12. and so live and collaborate with him. merely strategic use of reason. however.24). for Confucius repeats the same maxim when he is asked for a saying that could guide one’s entire conduct and not just one’s response to a particular situation. What is decisive for Roetz.” so that now “the moral nature of an action relates to its generalizability.
Mencius’ maxim presupposes a notion of the good. On closer inspection. Do not will what you do not will. There was no opposition in their hearts. This means that Confucius’ golden rule is unable to immediately determine the will. to do what we do and to will what we will presupposes that we ﬁrst establish ourselves in our “greater part. from the Kantian point of view.” and they ask each other: Who can be with others in not being with others. and so they became friends. We see that just as in the case of Confucius. according to Kant. do for others in not doing for others. Zhuangzi provides his own universal maxim that totally breaks with these Confucian maxims and is more compatible with the Kantian moral picture. my italics). For. sex and power. even if he does not consider the limitations of his own maxim. Roetz 1993: 146). the endless approximation to the goal through self-cultivation falls away and the moral law takes effect immediately. which is the desire for humanity and the good. In Mencius. Three of Zhuangzi’s ﬁctitious characters are “sitting together as friends. Most importantly. and the good is not determined by the maxim itself. however. 269–71. Now. do not desire what you would not desire. D. we ﬁnd that the Mencian maxim is probably not intended to be entirely formal. Who can ascend to Heaven. at least in this moment in Mencius. potentially pathological content. is the mark of the moral law. Zhuangzi’s “moral imperative” says: “Do for others in not doing for others” (6/61). that it in fact has positive. That is all” (Lau 1984: II. Mencius says: “Do not do what you do not do. and forget themselves and others in [the experience of ] life without end? The three men looked at each other and smiled. roam in the inﬁnite. The important point is that Confucius proposes a maxim that could be a candidate for such a principle.). This is all” (Mengzi 7A17. C. the golden rule presupposes a concept of the good and the self-cultivation of the moral subject who is to apply the rule (Roetz 1993: 137f. wander ( you) in the mists. and not the desire for ﬁne food. Mencius’ maxim promises immediate translation of willing into acting and obtaining – a spontaneity that is also characteristic of the moral will in Kant. (6/60–2) 118 . Lau’s translation takes account of this implication in the Mencian maxim: “Do not do what you would not do. Roetz takes this task upon himself and discusses several of the objections to the golden rule: the equality implied in the golden rule can easily decline into the hierarchical reciprocity characteristic of ancient societies.AN INTRODUCTION TO DAOIST THOUGHT “as a standard or principle” (1964: 97). the rule could become a simple devise of prudence. according to Mencius. and so. The context in which this maxim is put forward contains a number of signiﬁcant features. the very ability that.” or in our true desire. In this regard Mencius’ striking formulation of his own universal moral maxim is perhaps closer to the Kantian intention.
it is because the Confucian is not willing to engage in an equal relationship with the other. When he returns and reports what he has seen to Confucius. it is important that Zhuangzi’s moral imperative is voiced in an atmosphere of intimate friendship ( you ). as Billeter says.” “low. Only with death do the demands of the superego end.” “shallow. For the Confucians.” and “only with death does his road come to an end” (Lunyu 8. then it is clear that this maxim is not open to the criticism that can be leveled against Confucius’ golden rule. Friendship embodies the transformative gentleness of Zhuangzi’s moral law. Confucius’ disciple Zigong sees this. where the subject is constantly worried in its endless progress to meet demands that are really of its own making but which it itself can never fulﬁll. For the Confucian “the burden is heavy. Zhuangzi’s maxim cannot be interpreted in terms of hierarchical 119 . but is left only with the bad taste of always falling short of it. for his part.19). when Confucius realizes that in comparison with the transcendence of the three friends he himself is crude (lou). which was based on hierarchical relations and even on a fundamental inequality. For the moralist never tastes the freedom of the ethical experience (so eloquently described by the three friends).” and “mean” (all connotations of the word lou) is the feeling that arises in the moralist when confronted with the truly ethical point of view. then we recall that the same feeling of being crude impressed itself on Confucius when he refused to teach Shushan the Toeless. and it is the relation the Confucians found most difﬁcult to accommodate in their moral picture. be open to the possibility of being inﬂuenced by the other. makes Confucius one of “Heaven’s condemned.ETHICS After some time. First. and the road is long. and such people cannot be bothered with the rituals. Confucius now realizes that it was crude (lou) of him to have sent Zigong to observe the unusual funeral in the ﬁrst place (6/62–71). that he does not attain genuine ethical consciousness. It is this condition that. that is to say. Confucius. Second. one of the three friends dies.” Furthermore. Friendship is a relation of equality. outside the world of man (ren). From Zhuangzi’s point of view. and he is shocked.” If we now turn to Zhuangzi’s maxim.7).” and as such he is one of “Heaven’s condemned. When the wind blows on the grass. wanders “inside the square. “do for each other in not doing for each other” (xiangwei yu wuxiangwei ). and in deﬁance of all proper ritual decorum the remaining two friends sing and play music right next to and in plain view of the corpse. he exclaims: “What kind of people are they!?” Confucius answers that they are the kind of people that are outside the square ( fang zhiwai ). in the view of Zhuangzi. The Confucian moral subject remains within the morality of the superego. and. namely from the cultivated noble man to the common people: “The virtue of the noble man is like the wind. In Zhuangzi the feeling of being “crude. the virtue of the common people is like the grass. moral inﬂuence goes in one way only. it must bend” (Lunyu 12.” for he “takes humanity as a burden for himself.
Zhuangzi’s three friends. roam in the inﬁnite. When somebody asks if one should “repay hatred with kindness. for their part. or ego. but Confucius also subscribes to the more legalistic idea of retribution (bao ). for as a form of non-action (wuwei) it transcends all technical action (wei). unlike the Mencian maxim.” Confucius answers no. for. It is of course only the properly educated Confucian who is able to repay justly in this way. unlike the golden rule. Confucius’ central notion of reciprocity (shu) is based on empathy. are able to “be with others in not being with others” and “do for others in not doing for others. This does not mean. Furthermore. It is particularly signiﬁcant that Zhuangzi’s maxim breaks with the idea of reciprocity that is fundamental to Chinese culture and to Confucianism in particular. for it suspends all reciprocal relations. however. As we saw. it cannot fall into merely strategic action. one should “repay hatred with justice.3). For Zhuangzi friendship is not. and kindness with kindness” (Lunyu 14. free for the moral law. it is not a social bond at all. namely the relation between friends. Zhuangzi’s authentic subject is situated in-between the realms of 120 . and forget themselves and others in [the experience of] life without end.34). but Heaven expects nothing from human life. and only this experience assures that there is no opposition (towards the other) in one’s heart (moni yuxin !).” and they “ascend to Heaven.AN INTRODUCTION TO DAOIST THOUGHT reciprocity. The experience of the non-reciprocal relation between human life and the life of Heaven mediates a new non-reciprocal relation in human life. “only the humane person can love and hate people” (Lunyu 4. for Zhuangzi the ethical subject is not constituted by its reciprocal relation to the other (the self–other dichotomy falls way).” That is to say. based on trust. that Zhuangzi’s ethical subject is therefore entirely inscribed in the realm of Heaven (tian). wander in the mists. Zhuangzi’s maxim does not presuppose a concept of the good. In Billeter’s terms. as it is for Mencius. Zhuangzi’s maxim expresses that non-willing that alone sets the other free to will or not will. It is constituted rather by the experience of the life engendered by Heaven. The ethical subject Who is the ethical subject in Zhuangzi? Clearly it is not the subject. Confucian education is essentially learning how to reciprocate properly. as Confucius says. which suspends the socio-ethical law (the three friends are “outside the square”) and mediates a non-reciprocal and truly ethical relationship to the other. that is to say. The relation between human life and the life of Heaven is non-reciprocal: human life is engendered by Heaven. for nothing is imposed on the other. Zhuangzi’s maxim makes no reference to a will or desire for a presupposed good. The three friends are friends solely because they experience themselves engendered by Heaven. and. the wo and the ji – in Kantian terms the pathological subject – inscribed in the realm of man (ren).
or our freedom. According to Zhuangzi. Allison takes Kant’s notion of Gesinnung not in an ontological. But this choice. Here too there is a signiﬁcant parallel to Kant. is not morality but the abandonment to the hidden essence of my life (die Hingabe an das verborgene Wesen meines Lebens)” (Chang 1982: 179). not between the pathological and the pure will but between the pathological and the freedom to choose between the pathological and the pure will (Zupaniii 2000: 21–2). ﬁrst at the most fundamental level choose the ability to choose.” or as a maxim “that provides a direction or orientation for the moral life of the agent viewed as a whole” (1990: 140–1). will decline into moralism and technicalities. to be authentically ethical we must.” Zhuangzi’s authentic and free subject – in Kant’s terms the autonomous subject – is split or divided between Heaven and man. Zhuangzi’s perfected person is free to be either in the realm of Heaven or in the realm of man. there is nothing that resembles a Kantian regulative idea. then it cannot be claimed that Gesinnung is itself chosen. and we 121 . This fundamental choice to be situated in-between Heaven and man is the paradoxical choice of our own fate and nature. of course. and precisely therefore open to the experience of Heaven. the choice between right and wrong. Now. what needs to exist before the moral choice between right and wrong is the freedom to be either generated by man (ren) or by Heaven (tian). Therefore the Zhuangzi says that to be a ﬁne person has nothing to do with positive morality (humanity and righteousness) but only with “trusting in the reality of one’s nature and destiny” (ren qi xingming zhiqing !"#) (8/29–30). Allison observes.” To remove this seeming incoherence. as Henry E. of course. paradoxically. In short.ETHICS Heaven and man. something needs to exist and be settled in us before we begin to think about ordering the world. doctrine of a timeless act of self-constitution. For Kant the Gesinnung is “the ultimate subjective ground of the adoption of maxims” (1934: 20). if not totally incoherent. “free to will or not to will. moral action. in Kant’s terms the freedom to be pathological or pure. again. in much the same way as Kant’s moral subject is divided. in Billeter’s terms. metaphysical sense but in a moral sense as a regulative idea for “the general orientation of the will. It will decline into what Zhuangzi calls the mechanical mind ( jixin) from which judgments issue like deadly arrows. In other words. Or. as so. otherwise the result will only be more violence. as Tsung-tung Chang translates: “What I call good. cannot be a choice in the normal sense for it is the presupposition for all choosing. and it is presupposed before all choices of positive morality – even Mencius’ choice to establish himself in humanity and righteousness. In Zhuangzi. What needs to exist is ﬁrst of all the ethical subject that is constituted by the split between Heaven and man. or in Billeter’s terms the freedom to will or not will – or. Kant says that the Gesinnung itself is something chosen. and so.” The incoherence is that “if choice presupposes Gesinnung. Without this choice of oneself at the deepest existential level. Kant seems “to afﬁrm a paradoxical.
In the course of a Lacanian reading of Kant’s moral philosophy. Only the choice to situate oneself in-between Heaven and man breaks with mechanical action (whether by nature or by culture) and makes possible the freedom to will or not will that is the presupposition for the ethical. whereas in Kant. he also introduces what he calls the echte Triebfeder. the mind that can only do what it is programmed to do. that is to say it is deﬁned negatively as being independent of all empirical motivation. a fact “of which we are a priori conscious. the moral will does not have an “incentive” (Triebfeder) in the pathological sense. We must conclude with Zupaniii that it is precisely from the absence of the incentive. For the moral will is deﬁned in terms of autonomy. Alenka Zupaniii explains that the Gesinnung is chosen “from an entirely empty place. The millipede that moves its many legs by relying on its Heavenly mechanism (tianji ) (17/55) is just as mechanical as human beings who rely on their mechanical mind ( jixin). or what Kant calls “pure practical reason. The moral will must have its source in a non-empirical motivation. Here there seems to be a decisive difference between Kant and Zhuangzi. This genuine object-drive of the will is itself deﬁned precisely in terms of pure form as an absence of any Triebfeder. For both total immersion in the realm of Heaven and total immersion in the realm of man eclipses the ethical. Still. following Billeter. the object drive.” of pure practical reason. or blind spot in-between man (ren) and Heaven (tian). that nothing is more obscure in Kant than the status of the moral will. which is not itself ethical but the sine qua non of ethical action. the “genuine drive. says Zupaniii. that in Kant the very absence of pathological motivation “must at a certain point begin to function as an incentive”: the 122 . everything depends on the good will. (Zupaniii 2000: 18) The point is. an “act of spontaneity of the subject.” or as he writes. Similarly. But have we not said. In neither case does the ethical come into play. it is hard to see what could be the motivation or drive for the moral will.” by.” and the “empty place” from which this act issues is “the blind spot that sustains the difference between phenomena and noumena” (2000: 37–9). that the moral will springs into action: Now even if Kant makes a point of stressing that the ethical act is distinguished by its lack of any Triebfeder.” But how is such a pure motivation possible? Kant says that it is a “fact of reason. as Kant says. It is well-known. as Kant says. even if it be granted that no example could be found in which it has been followed exactly” (1985: 48). of course.AN INTRODUCTION TO DAOIST THOUGHT must interpret Kant’s paradoxical choice of Gesinnung differently if we are to see the structural similarity with Zhuangzi. we may say that in Zhuangzi the ethical subject chooses itself spontaneously from the empty space. however. that for Zhuangzi the fundamental ethical state is a state of not-willing. if.
ETHICS very emptiness of the form of the moral law itself becomes a material drive or motivation. Similarly. the paradox can be explained without recourse to this presupposition. surely.” Zupaniii concludes: The crucial point here is that freedom is not incompatible with the fact that “I couldn’t do anything else. for Zhuangzi non-action is the transformative gentleness that eliminates opposition to the other and effectuates friendship between human beings. does not Zhuangzi’s immersion in the native.” and that I was “carried along by the stream of natural necessity. it is at the very moment when the subject is conscious of being carried along by the stream of natural necessity that she also becomes aware of her freedom. says Zupaniii. so. contradict Kant’s transcendental freedom and perhaps even the fundamental freedom in wandering (you) postulated by Zhuangzi himself? Here again we see a structural similarity between Zhuangzi and Kant. (2000: 27–8) 123 . but. we can see the connection with Zhuangzi’s non-action (wuwei). it is rather the highest and most ethical form of action. This. a “revolution” in our disposition (Zupaniii 2000: 15. Nevertheless. for they may all be determined by some pathological motive. As Zupaniii says. But just in the moment when the subject sees that it is not free but totally determined. for Zhuangzi all technical action or doing (wei) is without foundation in a properly ethical subjectivity – what Kant called Gesinnung. is “the real ‘miracle’ involved in ethics.” Paradoxically.” then Kant says. all non-moral imperatives – are technical. and the fated. as Kant says. 11). All one can say here is that from their different points of view both Zhuangzi and Kant indicate the existence of a willing that must remain a mystery. fortunately. it would be merely technical and. not moral. Finally.” and it requires. As explained above. natural causality. As is well known. How this non-action can be practically effective is just as mysterious as how Kant’s pure practical reason can become effective. as moral agents we must necessarily consider ourselves free agents.” It is as if there is a “crack” in the Other. when it “appears to be nothing but an automaton. Kant says that none of our actions are really free. the natural. and it is in this crack that Kant “situates the autonomy and freedom of the subject. Here. For Kant. for if the moral will did not remain a mystery. and therefore we have no freedom. For non-action is not the absence of action. It is in explaining this paradox that Kant sometimes suggests that freedom presupposes that it is possible to act from the position of the noumenal. all hypothetical imperatives – that is to say. “and yet it is precisely in this situation that you are freer than you know. Kant impresses upon us that we are entirely embedded in the causal ﬂow of nature. that is to say.
and therefore animals cannot wander (you). Zhuangzi ﬁnds freedom in awareness of necessity.AN INTRODUCTION TO DAOIST THOUGHT In the same way. that Zhuangzi’s freedom is not attained by some imaginary transcendence of the necessities of the human condition. then the highest human perfection is essentially the same as the animal’s natural unity with nature. the initial 124 . Like Kant. ﬁrst. human beings are no longer mere things (wu) but companions of the Way that things things. and Zhuangzi does not suggest that human beings must exercise themselves in order to attain a natural spontaneity that already belongs to animals. and the fated is at the same time the experience of wandering ( you). Wandering (you) is not the experience of natural well-being. which Zhuangzi calls wandering (you). One may be inclined to agree with these critics when one learns that in Zhuangzi it is the same Heavenly mechanism (tianji) that motivates animals. why do human beings have to exercise themselves in order to attain a naturalness that animals have naturally? The answer is. If that really is the case. and the perfected human being (see 17/53– 60 and 6/7). and then we should criticize Zhuangzi for his regressive naturalism. It is correct. we should ask. when Billeter (1993: 558) says. we can say that in Zhuangzi the experience of the native. Conversely. do not experience transcendental life. This experience has nothing to do with the animal’s unity with nature. On Zhuangzi’s supposed naturalism Zhuangzi’s awareness of necessity should be strictly distinguished from any naturalism. and that for Zhuangzi there is no freedom except in the awareness of necessity in the midst of our own activity. on the other hand. but awareness of necessity is not the same as conformity to necessity. we could also ask Zhuangzi: why is our mechanical mind ( jixin) with its marvelous ability to maintain human beings in the world not just as natural as the feet of the millipede? Does not the mechanical mind also get its motivation from the Heavenly mechanism? Again. namely the life of Heaven. or the Way that things things (wuwu) but is not itself a thing (22/75). On the contrary. Animals. and as such they experience the ceaseless self-emergence of life. and that the ultimate wish of the Daoist is to be motivated by the same instinctive spontaneity that pertains to animals. that in so far as they are things (wu) human beings and animals are motivated by the same Heavenly mechanism. awareness of necessity opens up a crack in both the cosmic and the social order. which animals too surely experience. In this freedom. Critics of Daoism tell us that the highest perfection of the Daoist sage is a regression to an animal-like unity with nature. Furthermore. and this awareness is their freedom. The crucial difference is that human beings can become aware that they are moved by the Way. such as snakes and the millipedes. but the experience of that which makes all natural being possible. nature.
Second. To be released into transcendental life is rather like an act of grace. and perhaps I may remark in passing that the best answer to Hui Shi’s skeptical question – “you are not a ﬁsh. in so far as it is a thing. This is the motivation behind Zhuangzi’s wandering ( you) and his impromptu words about the joy of ﬁsh. otherwise we will see Zhuangzi falling back on natural. and (iii) transcendental drives that come into play when the self has been fundamentally transformed by reﬂective drives. I agree with Yearley that it is important to posit a transcendental drive as the highest motivating force in Zhuangzi. This is the motivation behind Mohist disputation and Confucian sage-knowledge. gets its motivation from the Heavenly mechanism. there is a motivation that springs neither from technical deliberation nor from a natural inclination but from the experience of being engendered by the life of Heaven. the mechanical mind is not aware that the Way motivates its deliberations. but the deliberate actions for which he takes credit. the mechanical mind is mechanical precisely because it does not have that awareness. This is the motivation behind a millipede moving its legs and the swimming around of ﬁsh. In Zhuangzi the transcendental drive – what I call the life engendered by Heaven – is not the result of human reﬂection transforming human dispositions. These two kinds of motivation are essentially the same. for both affect things as things without any awareness of being engendered as things. We cannot give birth to ourselves – no matter how much we reﬂect. too Aristotelian. We must distinguish between three different kinds of motivation in Zhuangzi. (ii) reﬂective drives that reﬂect on and transform dispositional drives. Yearley (1996: 153 –5) identiﬁes three “drives” in Zhuangzi: (i) dispositional drives where certain stimuli in our biological nature or social word trigger a speciﬁc response. derive from Heaven” (1981: 106). But just like the animal is not aware that the Way motivates its action. however. there is the inherent natural motivation of a natural being to maintain itself and express itself as the natural being it is. from which value judgments issue and ensure human dominance of their world.ETHICS answer is yes the mechanical mind. to be born again (gengsheng ) (19/5). “[i]n the last resort not only the spontaneous in man. how do you know the joy of ﬁsh?” – really is this: “it is precisely because I am not a ﬁsh (a thing) that I can know the joy of ﬁsh.” Lee H. Our ﬁrst birth was into human life. there is the thoroughly technical and mechanical motivation characteristic of the mechanical mind ( jixin). Third. or the Way. 125 . Zhuangzi likens this motivation to a crossbow trigger. says the Zhuangzi. Graham correctly points out that according to Zhuangzi. instinctive drives. our second birth will be into the life of Heaven. It is. First. Yearley’s approach to Zhuangzi is. In fact. This motivation is transcendental in the sense that it does not spring from our natural being but from an awareness of the coming-into-being of this natural being.
opens with a parody of the classical Chinese scene of instruction.12). for these are the conditions that ensure that the word of the Master can be passed on to the disciple. (2/1–2) 126 . Therefore. however. Zhuangzi Loss of self “On the Equality of Things. maintains his posture and position.” Zhuangzi’s most brilliant essay. as it is paradigmatically exempliﬁed in the exchanges between Confucius and his disciples. but the Master (Confucius) and the disciple always maintain their proper postures and their relative positions. The disciple. slowly exhaling – falling apart as if he has lost the counterpart of himself. Maurice Merleau-Ponty With the clarity of morning light he could see the unique. for proper posture and position were part of that particular stylization of the self that was the very foundation for the truth of Confucian discourse. and can the mind really become like dead ashes? The one who is leaning on the armrest now is not the one who was leaning on the armrest before. then that is not just a minor point of etiquette. These exchanges take place in an atmosphere that is often intimate and at times full of humor (Harbsmeier 1990). he “stands in attention before the Master” and asks: What is this!? Can the body really become like withered wood. when Zhuangzi has Master Ziqi from the south wall ! “sitting leaning on his armrest.AN INTRODUCTION TO DAOIST THOUGHT 8 SPIRITUAL EXERCISE True philosophy consists in relearning to look at the world.” then this amounts to the total collapse of the conditions which made meaningful discourse possible in the traditional scene of instruction. looking up at the sky. When it is said in the Lunyu that one should not sit on a mat that is not straight (Lunyu 10.
suggests that Zhuangzi had a certain nostalgia for early Confucian learning.” the self as “completion-formation” (cheng).SPIRITUAL EXERCISE By using the particle ju in his question “what is this!?” (hejuhu ). the disciple reveals the location of the scene of instruction.” in particular the division between self and other (1990: 155. for this particle is peculiar to the areas of Qi and Lu . Because he saw these limitations in Confucian learning Zhuangzi has the traditional scene of instruction fall apart. and the self that “originates division. for Zhuangzi Confucian learning is entirely inscribed in the realm of man (ren). the heartland of Confucian learning (Wang 1988: 42). Yan! Just now I lost my self. as we have seen. the whole Confucian project of learning aimed at completion (cheng) that Zhuangzi ridicules. Nevertheless. Zhuangzi says that the perfected person has no self ( ji ) (1/21–2). Indeed. and Graham speculates that for Zhuangzi “Confucius was a father-ﬁgure whose blessing the rebellious son liked to imagine would have been granted in the end” (1981: 18). Guo Moruo (1954) thought that Zhuangzi may have been afﬁliated with the school of Confucius’ disciple Yan Hui. “Counterpart” is Graham’s translation of ou (Mair translates “soul”. then. written slightly differently. after he has fallen apart. Kuang-ming Wu points out that in the Zhuangzi the wo “quite consistently means objectiﬁable self. occurs again later in the chapter. for “this” is the counterpart of 127 . 185). and his generally equally tender portrayals of Confucius (even as he shows him to be crude). it aims at completion (cheng) and therefore it fails to nurture life (sheng). The word ou. is the same person as before. and he transforms Master Ziqi into a mouthpiece for his own teaching. the Master answers: It is sure good that you ask. Mohist. (2/3–4) The pipes of man (renlai ) refer to the various forms of learning in the realm of man (ren): Confucian. or you may hear the pipes of the Earth but not yet the pipes of Heaven. For Zhuangzi the transition from hearing the pipes of man to hearing the pipes of Earth and Heaven requires the loss of self. In this case clearly “counterpart” is a good rendering of ou (Mair and Watson both translate “opposites”). Did you know that? You may hear the pipes of man but not yet the pipes of the Earth. if the Master. Watson has “companion”). where it is said that “when neither ‘that other’ (bi) nor ‘this here’ (shi) attains their ou. To the disciple’s question. and therefore it neglects the experience of Heaven (tian). Master Ziqi has not only lost his self (wo). and so on. Zhuangzi’s humorous and intimate description of the Confucian scene of instruction (even as he has it fall apart). It is. it is called the pivot of the Way” (2/30–1). he has also lost his counterpart (ou ).” or “the self identiﬁable as a particular something. and Master Ziqi says he has lost his self (wo ).
this means that the perfected person has transcended the self (the wo or the ji) as an entity constituted by its opposition to an other (bi) and inscribed in the outer (wai) realm of man (ren) as a name. are overlapping terms. he no longer identiﬁes with his objectiﬁed. the human symptom par excellence.” where the infant sees its own specular image and identiﬁes with this image. whether the counterpart (ou) refers to the other of the objectiﬁed self (the ji or the wo) or to the other of authentic being. the mental illness of man” (1991: 16). with the term ou having the broader scope. we can understand ou as “counterpart” in two ways: either as the counterpart. it follows that when you lose the other (bi) you also lose the objectiﬁed self ( ji or wo). it is rather an object and. nameable self (4/28–9). the ego is formed by a process of identiﬁcation in the “mirror stage. identiﬁable. Lacan’s distinction between ego (moi) and subject (sujet) is suggestive in explicating Zhuangzi at this point. Authentic being. or recognizable (by others) as an identity or even an object” (1990: 155). At the heart of the subject. or a hollow tree that only sounds when the wind blows through it. According to Lacan (2006). At any rate. or the other (bi). is the subject of the 128 . Wu adds that a name may be such an objectiﬁed counterpart to the authentic self. Lacan goes as far as saying that the ego “is structured exactly like a symptom. that the ou and the ji. the result of the loss of the “counterpart” remains the same. the ego is not the center of the subject. on the other hand. of the self (the ji or the wo) – Zhuangzi says that “if there is no other. When Zhuangzi says that the perfected person has no self ( ji) and no name (1/21–2). for it is totally Other – like a bell that only rings when it is struck. there is no self ” (2/14) – or as the inauthentic counterpart to authentic being. it is a product of misunderstanding (méconnaissance). The name “Hui” functions exactly in this way in the dialogue where Confucius suggests to Yan Hui that he tries the exercise of “fasting of heart and mind. whereas the infant’s own sense of its uncoordinated body is fragmented. Still. for this dichotomy constitutes inauthentic being. it is only a privileged symptom. The loss of this whole construct is the loss of the “counterpart” (ou).AN INTRODUCTION TO DAOIST THOUGHT “that” and visa versa. The decisive point is that the counterpart (ou) is our being in so far as it is inscribed in the social and symbolic order. For since the objectiﬁed self is constituted by the self–other split. for it is by identifying with its counterpart that the subject becomes alienated from itself.” After the spiritual exercise Yan Hui reports that there is no longer any “Hui. and objectiﬁable as ‘self’ (in one’s self-consciousness). then. furthermore. We may conclude. Wu suggests that the ou is “the [authentic] self’s counterpart that is recognizable. or the wo. has no other. For Lacan. In the second case. The subject (sujet).” that is to say. then. on the other hand. the ou comprises both the self (the ji or the wo) and its other (bi). This primary identiﬁcation with the counterpart gestalt forms the ego. and so the whole construct that forms the counterpart to authentic being. because the image is whole.
Zhuangzi would agree with Lacan that the ego (the objectiﬁed self. and Zhuangzi has his own therapies such as the “fasting of the heart and mind” (xinzhai) and “sitting in forgetfulness” (zuowang ). For the word ou. is outside the object” (Lacan 1991: 194). When the objectiﬁed self formed through learning and self-fashioning is lost. or the objectiﬁed self inscribed in the realm of man (ren). nameable thing but is the spontaneous force of the Other of the realm of man (ren). those that follow sing out wouu. a snifﬁng and a sucking. it is called the wind. namely Heaven (tian). When the ﬁerce gale has died down. a whistling and a wailing. Those ahead sing out aiee. Master Ziqi gives a rhapsodic description of this experience: When the Great Clod [the Earth] exhales. which withdraw cathexis from the objectiﬁed self and so make possible the emergence of the real self. it is that dimension of a human being that cannot be objectiﬁed. According to Lacan. When it arises then ten thousand hollows howl furiously – haven’t you heard their howling? The ragged crags of mountain forests. like basins and bowls. or that dimension of existence that cannot be objectiﬁed as an identiﬁable. we ﬁnd in Zhuangzi something like Lacan’s view that the ego is formed through identiﬁcation with the counterpart as total Gestalt. Furthermore. then the pipes of the Earth (dilai ) are heard. – Have you not seen them swaying and creaking? (2/4–8) This music of the Earth is precisely what is neglected in the music and rituals of the Confucians: the jade bells and drums in the “ensemble of great completions” Mencius ascribes to Confucius. and the true ground of human existence is revealed. or the ou). the ji. psychoanalytic treatment has the aim of breaking the identiﬁcation with the ego and letting the subject emerge. According to Zhuangzi. “body. the hollows and holes of big trees a hundred span around are like noses. a screeching and a moaning. Zhuangzi saw in the Confucian’s identiﬁcation with this completed form in the outside (wai) the origin of the objectiﬁed self as counterpart (the wo. in a whirlwind there is the great ensemble.” that is to say. the ji or the wo) is a kind of mental illness. There is a splashing a hissing. it is “what in the development of objectivation.” can be read as shen . In a light breeze there is a small ensemble. the personal representative of authentic being in the outer (wai) world. “counterpart.” or “oneself (in person). like mouths and ears. like puddles. But this is only when nothing arises. 129 .SPIRITUAL EXERCISE unconscious. the part of the self that can be perceived by others (or perceived by oneself in the mirror). like mortars and pools. then all the hollows are empty. and Zhuangzi’s praise of mutilated persons and his valuation of the incomplete over the complete are aimed at undermining this identiﬁcation with the whole body (shen).
or life (sheng) itself. indulgence – they are like music that comes from empty spaces. This uniqueness of each phenomenon generated by Heaven (tian) dawns only after all things are equalized (qi) by the pipes of the Earth. Emotions are like music from empty spaces When the self is well lost the spontaneous self-articulation of the world appears. yet all it does is elicit the natural propensities of the hollows themselves. another name for Heaven or the Way. “When Heaven engenders something. and nobody knows from where they sprout. our very self (wo or ji) that depends for its existence on the other (bi) is part of the same unfolding of phenomena and ultimately caused by the True Ruler (zhenjun ). nameable content and the subject remains empty and hollow. This is the uniqueness (du) engendered by Heaven. the aiee and the wouu. After the pipes of the Earth we hear the pipes of Heaven (tianlai ). and ears. which “blow at all things in different ways” and so “make each be itself. Or. the discourse has no identiﬁable. mouths. a sense of autonomy and uniqueness dawns. What need is there for something else to stimulate them?” (1994: 12). frivolity. like mushrooms that form from vapor. (2/13–14) The self-emergence of moods and emotions is part of the pure appearance (chu) of phenomena engendered by Heaven. And yet. Day and night they alternate before us. For as the wind blows nothing is formed and completed.AN INTRODUCTION TO DAOIST THOUGHT authentic existence is not such an outer completion (cheng) but pure coming-into-being. then the world is seen afresh: beyond difference each thing shines forth in its uniqueness as it is engendered by Heaven. are equalized by the pipes of the Earth. In Zhuangzi the sounds of nature – a nature with noses. Zhuangzi says: 130 .” there is no “agitator” (2/8–9). are the only way authentic being can articulate itself without objectifying itself in a self ( ji) or counterpart (ou). sluggishness. Indeed. as Mair translates: “the myriad sounds produced by the blowing of the wind are different.” says Zhuangzi. for the wind blows equally through the human form – the howling and wailing. worries and sighs. authentic being is wholly a response to the Other (the wind) and at the same time its own unique articulation. sorrow and happiness.” each phenomenon “chooses for itself. Zhuangzi writes: Pleasure and anger. “it makes it unique (du)” (3/13). Paradoxically. from this void emerges a fuller sense of being: when the self that is only itself by virtue of the other falls away. vacillation. and we realize that our moods and emotions arise and change spontaneously just like self-emerging life (sheng) itself. When man-made distinctions. the pipes of man.
the essence deﬁned “relates to naming. unlike in Aristotle. or without that which essentially deﬁnes human beings. The emotion associated with the experience of the real (qing). but the experience of being engendered by Heaven and the Way is precisely the experience of reality (qing) that “confronts us as a fact” regardless of how we name or describe it. then he uses the word in what Graham calls its general usage and not in the technical sense. and the True Ruler. whose test of knowledge (zhi) is to see if one can describe (mao ) the thing after one has passed beyond (guo ) the facticity of the appearance of the thing – “having passed the thing one is able to describe it” (Graham 1978: 267) – Hui Shi passes over the reality (qing) of the situation in order to describe it. In this sense qing means “reality” or “the facts” in contrast to names or reputation (ming) (which may not correspond to the facts). qing refers to the essential deﬁnition of a thing. The reality (qing) of the moment of wandering above the Hao river is characterized by its facticity. For instance. the qing of something “is what confronts us as fact. and Graham suggest that in technical usage qing is equivalent to “essence. For Zhuangzi the experience of the reality (qing) of the Way is genuine and true (zhen) precisely because it is not a nameable form (xing) (6/29). not to being” (1990b: 63). If we recall the moment Zhuangzi and Hui Shi wander across the Hao river. there is no self (wo). Zhuangzi’s impromptu words do not describe this reality. the Way. Surely this is quite true. as pure selfemerging appearance. describe. that is to say. Zhuangzi says that it is better to be without the essence (qing) of a human being. the fact that we are 131 . but we do not see its form. It has reality (qing) but no form (xing). then we may say that this moment has reality (qing). But when Zhuangzi uses qing to describe Heaven.SPIRITUAL EXERCISE If there is no other (bi). Zhuangzi sometimes use the word qing in the technical sense to indicate the essence of something. and the True Ruler have no deﬁnable essence. With his skeptical remarks. the Way. For Zhuangzi. For here the world appears to Zhuangzi as it is in itself. says Graham. namely evaluative judgments and likes and dislikes (5/55–60). or try to alter or disguise it” (1989: 99). It seems that there is a True Ruler but we just do not see its trace. That it can set [the self] in motion is certain. Heaven. As explained above. if there is no self there is no other to be had. and yet I do not know what acts as a cause for it [the self constituted as self/other]. says Graham. Hui Shi tries to describe the situation. but it also has emotional content. As a technical term. but like the Mohist logicians. qing is the true or genuine (zhen ) in contrast to false or artiﬁcial (wei ). irrespective of how we name. (2/14–16) What is this reality (qing ) that Zhuangzi ascribes to the True Ruler? In general usage.” although. they announce and acknowledge it.
shared the king’s bed. as discourse. and ate the meats of grain-fed animals. Techniques of inner training Zhuangzi’s essay “On the Equality of Things” does not present us with a theory of equalizing (qi). rather. Yet fools think they are awake and self-assured assume they know: that’s a ruler. Only after we wake up do we know it is a dream. even for those who accept it as wisdom. likes. A little earlier in the same essay Zhuangzi has an equally magniﬁcent meditation on the dream-like quality of life. who weeps in a dream goes hunting at dawn. and Zhuangzi may seem to be overly pessimistic. At the moment we dream. But when she came to the palace. but let them unfold naturally like music. In a celebrated passage Zhuangzi dreams that he is a butterﬂy. But the passage does not simply express Zhuangzi’s state of mind or his philosophy of life. When the state of Jin ﬁrst got her. Meditating on death Zhuangzi says. The Zhuangzi advises that we neither indulge in nor repress our desires. perhaps too hard. it is rather itself. How do I know that to ﬁnd pleasure in life is not a delusion? How do I know that when we abhor death we are not like those who lost their way when young and do not know how to return home? Pretty Li was the daughter of the border guard of Ai. Zhuangzi engaged in spiritual exercise that aims at recapturing the heavenly joy that is lost as we cling to our human life and live only by resisting death. her tears wet her dress. In the midst of a dream we may even interpret a dream. we do not know it is a dream.AN INTRODUCTION TO DAOIST THOUGHT engendered by Heaven. and dislikes (24/2–3). How secure they are! (2/81–3) 132 . How do I know that the dead do not regret that they ever prayed for life? (2/79–81) This may seem a hard teaching. It shows. the desires ( yu). is not desire ( yu) but heavenly joy (tianle). In this way the egoistic emotions of man (ren) will be transformed into the joy of being engendered by Heaven. This joy may be called an objective emotion as opposed to the subjective emotions. he does not know if he is Zhuangzi dreaming he is a butterﬂy or a butterﬂy dreaming it is Zhuangzi (2/94–6). then she regretted her tears. a spiritual exercise in equalizing things. And only after the great awakening do we know that this is a great dream. Who banquets in a dream weeps in the morning. and when he wakes up. that’s a shepherd. which draw us away precisely from the real (qing).
Robert Allinson’s philosophical analysis (1989) of Zhuangzi in terms of various notions of relativism. as we have seen. But to no longer make differences is to discover that all things. even those which seem disgusting to us. (Davidson 1995: 14–15) This is also a perfect description of Zhuangzi’s exercise of “equalizing things” (qiwu ). The Zhuangzi also mentions exercises that were part of contemporary inner training (neiye). The dream passages are spiritual exercises designed to release us from our attachment to the world of our own making where we conﬁdently pronounce: “That’s a ruler! That’s a shepherd!” The passages on dreams are not theoretical propositions but practical exercises meant to unravel ( jie) our reality. and Zhuangzi’s impromptu words are also discourse as spiritual exercise. the exercise in saying the unsayable. and sitting in forgetfulness (zuowang). Zhuangzi’s bungled discourse is a spiritual exercise that equalizes oppositions and prejudices in disputation and opens up the view of luminosity (ming). which equalizes some of our most fundamental distinctions – such as life/death. This is the meaning of the apparently pessimistic declarations. wandering ( you). ﬁrst of all. as explained above. 133 . awake/dreaming – and in doing so opens up the experience of being engendered by Heaven. Pierre Hadot points out that texts of ancient philosophy are often spiritual exercises and do not directly reﬂect the personal views of the author. to renounce attributing to certain things a false value. such as guarding one’s unity (shouqiyi ) (11/39) and nourishing one’s vital breath ( yang qiqi ) (19/11). For instance. Zhuangzi’s spiritual exercises include care for life ( yangsheng). but remains indifferent before things. Similarly. misses the much simpler but decisive point of the dream passages. namely.SPIRITUAL EXERCISE These passages on dreams do not address epistemological questions of relativism and the difference between dream and reality. and the question arises how Zhuangzi views techniques of inner training. corresponds to magnanimity of the soul [grandeur d’âme]. . have an equal value if one measures them according to the scale of universal Nature. even as he tries to clarify the transformative impact of Zhuangzi’s text. passages that at ﬁrst seem to be an expression of gloomy pessimism may in fact be attempts “to dispel the false conventional judgments of value that people express concerning objects” and to render us “indifferent before indifferent things. measured only according to human scale. .” Hadot explains: No longer to make differences is therefore. This inner attitude by which the soul does not make differences. that is. fasting of the heart and mind (xinchai). looks at things with the same vision that Nature looks at them .
however. Roth argues that Zhuangzi is part of a tradition of “Daoists” who “followed a regimen of inner cultivation ﬁrst enunciated in Inward Training” (1999: 174). Unify your vision. And the heavenly harmony will arrive. wants to be liberated from things ( jieyuwu). Roth quotes the following passage from the Zhuangzi as an example of “inner cultivation techniques. As a literary genre. Zhuangzi. The Neiye is a series of rhymed verses. the Neiye text is radically different from the Zhuangzi.” This is correct. The Zhuangzi is so different from the Neiye in style that there is no doubt that here we have a different kind of text altogether – and the difference is not just stylistic. it is a very restricted literary form designed to help memorize technical knowledge. it wants to control things for its own ends. to gain power over them” (2002: 126). In other words. In the Neiye.” The character Wearcoat says to the character Gnaw Gap: You must align your body. Russell Kirkland (2004: 47–8) points out that unlike the Zhuangzi the Neiye is focused on speciﬁc physiological or “biospiritual” practices by which one can appropriate the dao (the Way). Wearcoat sings: 134 . for his part. indeed. which I have taken from Mair’s translation (1994: 213). The inner power will beautify you. already suggest playful ﬁction and not dogmatic transmission of knowledge. signiﬁcantly. nothing like Zhuangzi’s notion of wandering (you). The passage concludes with Wearcoat expressing in song his approval of Gnaw Gap nodding off during instructions on inner training. Zhuangzi’s spiritual exercise par excellence. You will see things with the eyes of a newborn calf And will not seek out their precedents. As a technical manual the Neiye has a thoroughly technical comportment to things. is to be found in the Neiye (Kirkland 1997: 82). but the text continues: “Before Wearcoat had ﬁnished speaking. (Roth 1999: 158) Roth comments that “[a]lthough this advice is written in verse of an irregular meter. and. and here the text explicitly mocks Wearcoat’s instructions on inner training. Gather in your knowledge. writes Michael Puett.AN INTRODUCTION TO DAOIST THOUGHT Harold D. And the numinous will enter its lodging place. nevertheless its wording is quite close to that of Inward Training. “the goal of the superior man is to unify and control things (shiwu) and.” The names of these two characters. And the way will reside in you. Gnaw Gap had already fallen fast asleep. which is here understood as a “force”. with lines of mostly four characters. Unify your attention.
the song is entirely consistent with its immediate textual context. therefore. reﬂection. as is the case with all the methods of the Daoists? (1983: 74) 135 . it was not to the Zhuangzi but rather to the teachings of the Neiye that they looked for practical guidance (Kirkland 2004: 39. can they become objects of a transmissible teaching. you can’t consult with him. but for Zhuangzi this is the fateful fall into the technical. The way of Inner Training is also a way of doing and making (wei). even if Zhuangzi seems to reject inner training. and no road to follow. nor by any method whatsoever. however. submission. He veriﬁes his real knowledge. But doesn’t insist on his own reasoning. or are they something given naturally. later Daoists did refer back to Zhuangzi as the source for many of their practices. no method. can be attained through making (wei) and even artiﬁce (wei). and it is no coincidence that Mencius directly adopts parts of the technical vocabulary of the Neiye (Kirkland 2004: 42). For Zhuangzi there is no way or method that leads to the Way. if there are practical exercises. The way (dao) of the Confucians. Many later Daoists. on the other hand. Obscure and dim.SPIRITUAL EXERCISE His form is like a withered carcass. on the contrary. and. were dissatisﬁed with a teaching that gives them no-thing. In fact. In his mindlessness. or. Both the Confucian and the Neiye reduce the Way to a method. 44). and it is much closer to the tone and content of the Zhuangzi. Nevertheless. His mind is like dead ashes. a sudden and inexplicable act of grace? Is training necessary. the Way cannot be obtained or possessed at all (22/1–28). The chapter in which the exchange between Wearcoat and Gnaw Gap is found tells us that the Way cannot be attained through meditation. is it necessary simply to abandon all effort? Moreover. in this regard no different from the way of the Confucians. and Isabelle Robinet argues that the teaching of Zhuangzi is not opposed to the practices of religious Daoism. The core teaching of the Zhuangzi is supposed to reveal this fact and so initiate a conversion in our acting and saying from the technical to the non-technical. Robinet addresses the central question as follows: There is another question on which at ﬁrst sight the attitude of Zhuangzi and that of the Daoists seem to differ: is the state of notknowing or the ecstasy of the saint the result of practical exercises and effort. knowing. abiding. In particular. What kind of man is he? (Mair 1994: 214) This song is very different in tone and content from Wearcoat’s initial instruction. or following.
ﬁrst rebukes various ways of self-cultivation. Zhuangzi “represents the ‘rejection’. The Neiye. and various other forms of psycho-physical exercises (15/1–6). that he sees it necessary to transcend. transmits information on inner training. without cause or effort. the passage proposes that we rest (xiuxiu ) in a state of natural tranquility and clarity that matches Heaven’s integrity. and experience ourselves as engendered by Heaven. but that his every movement is generated by Heaven: “The life of the sage is the movement of Heaven” (15/10).AN INTRODUCTION TO DAOIST THOUGHT In the light of the present discussion. and in that role he is always invoked by the masters as the one who justiﬁes their practices by going beyond them” (Robinet 1997: 33). which does not mean that he does not move at all. The symbol for this kind of rest is water that is naturally placid when not disturbed (15/9–17). however. breathing exercises. The shift from the technical to the non-technical happens in Zhuangzi’s bungled discourse. The sage is in this state of rest. because only technical knowledge is transmissible. says Robinet. impromptu words. no doubt. and ritual in the service of the state.” Zhuangzi. In regard to Zhuangzi’s attitude towards inner training. which consists of a single passage.” For the later Daoists. Zhuangzi’s discourse unravels the bondage of technique ( jixi). But this rather ambiguous praise overlooks the fact that all technique aims at completion. jubilant advocate of the results of these practices and the voice constantly reminding Taoists [Daoists] that they must go beyond them. has a more dialectical answer. it rejects the Confucian practice of humanness. the ‘forgetting’ of these practices because he is the culmination that signals their abolition. in a released detachment from the realm of man (ren). I would venture a clear-cut answer: for Zhuangzi knowledge of the Way is not transmissible. such as the practice of withdrawing from society and going into nature in order to practice non-action (wuwei). says the Zhuangzi. the decisive point is that in Zhuangzi the text itself is a spiritual exercise in which the merely technical is surpassed in the rhetorical dimension of the text. on the other hand. but the text itself does not do any work. nothing would be more sadly ironic than the accomplishments of the Masters of the Daoist Church. but it also distances itself from forms of self-cultivation that we may call Daoist. we can rest in natural simplicity. and Zhuangzi’s freedom is not the result of toiling in such bondage. Instead of these forms of self-cultivation. and “when [the sage] moves he is moved by Heaven” (15/18). may be named “to be with god” (tongdi ) 136 . Robinet. A short chapter in the Zhuangzi. This experience. and the Way is precisely what surpasses technique. In other words. righteousness. and it is an act of grace in the sense that it happens suddenly and unexpectedly. She writes that the “mystical experience” of Zhuangzi is “the result of practicing the very exercises that he questions. and for Zhuangzi all completion (cheng) is a melancholic fact – and melancholic precisely because it is factual – and for Zhuangzi. As one would expect. “is both the glorious. and wandering.
where each thing has no value in itself but only in relation to something else: human being in relation to animal. either inner or outer. and day (7/16). including Liezi himself. man in contrast with woman. relatives in contrast with strangers. the argumentation of the Mohist logicians. the Legalists wanted to regulate it with rewards and punishments. Here a sense of the unique (du) is regained. and in this sober mood he returns home. long life or short life – he can predict the year. and therefore they miss the sense of the life engendered by Heaven. who becomes completely intoxicated when he sees a shaman. who knows if people will live or die. week. month. He cooked for his wife and fed the pigs as if he were feeding people. Liezi is eventually brought back from his intoxication with technique and completion. Liezi goes about his tasks without a desire for completion (cheng) but inwardly uniﬁed in the Way. the Neiye wanted to control it through biospiritual techniques. attains that unique (du) 137 . but which the various Master-philosophers saw as deﬁcient and in need of completion: the Confucians wanted to order it with ritual. another means to gain control over life in its totality and complete (cheng) it according to the perspective of man (ren). and the techniques of the heart-and-mind of contemporary inner training. For Liezi has withdrawn from the outer (wai) world with its network of relations.” Liezi has equalized things and released things from the structures of differences by which man (ren) imposes his perspective on the world. the Mohists wanted to render it logically consistent. “I” as opposed to “other. like a clod in his shape. Zhuangzi leads us out of our intoxication with planning and ordering the world and back to everyday life in the kitchen and among the pigs. In this regard there is no difference between the predictive knowledge of the shaman. uniﬁed to the end of his life. For Zhuangzi the shaman’s calculating knowledge is just another technique. the sage-knowledge and methods of the Confucians. No technique. And so each thing. noble in relation to base. They are all driven by a desire for achievement and completion. have misfortune or good fortune. he took his stand. can bring us to this state of being. In carrying out his tasks he was not on intimate terms with anyone. (7/30–1) Liezi now lives the life that Zhuangzi defended. From the carved and polished [the reﬁned culture of completion] he returned to the uncarved block.SPIRITUAL EXERCISE (15/19). Unique. Sealed off from confusion. Completion without lament Zhuangzi tells a story of Liezi . For three years he did not go out.
the life beyond living and dying. telling him that he would never be able to teach others what is good while he himself danced attendance on kings in their courts” (Diogenes Laertius 1925: 477). says Zhuangzi. To see the unique Chan Buddhism owes much to Zhuangzi.” Zhuangzi. attain the clarity of morning light (Mair 1994: 57). Apart from the striking similarity of these descriptions. and therefore a completion beyond the drive towards completion. such is the life of man. “because he had heard an Indian reproach Anaxarchus. nothing you would not destroy. In other words. but both used indifference as a spiritual exercise. for his part. and it is said he bathed a pig with indifference. nothing you would not complete (cheng). Pyrrho was fond of citing Homer’s line “As leaves on trees. Pyrrho is said to have “lived piously with his sister. and after we have equalized things and transcended the drive towards completion? Only life.AN INTRODUCTION TO DAOIST THOUGHT being that is engendered by Heaven but denied in the intimacy of the network of human relations emphasized by the Confucians. This view of the unique is Zhuangzi’s true legacy to the Chinese tradition and to the world at large. but before the Chinese could fully draw on Zhuangzi’s view of the unique to develop their understanding of the Mahayana. Sometimes he went to the market to sell chicken or pigs.” Pyrrho held that the ethical life is incompatible with involvement in politics. then “there is nothing you would not take leave of. says that when we live engendered by Heaven. avoided the “bondage of technique. In his critique of the Confucians Zhuangzi makes a similar point. it is not a calm imposed on chaos. Zhuangzi and Pyrrho are also comparable in other ways. What then is left after we have relinquished our sophistry and moralism. Huayan Buddhism completed the Siniﬁcation of Indian Buddhist metaphysics. but rather the calm inherent in chaos (life) itself. they ﬁrst had to transform Indian Buddhist metaphysics. In this completion beyond the drive for completion we will. too” (Hadot 2002: 112). and Zhuangzi. The Huayan masters used the Chinese distinction between principle (li ) and phenomena (shi ) to describe the ontological difference drawn in Buddhist metaphysics between true suchness (zhenru ).” Zhuangzi names this “calm chaos” (yingning ) and explains that it is the calm that is completed (cheng) only through chaos (6/42–3). or the 138 . Neither of them proposed a theory of indifference. nothing you would not welcome. It was said of Pyrrho that he “escaped from the servitude of the sophists” and lost the “bonds of trickery and specious craft” (Diogenes Laertius 1925: 479). Both Zhuangzi and Pyrrho overcame the word-play of the Sophists. He did housekeeping with indifference. who was a midwife. and then we will be able to see the unique ( jiandu ) (6/40–1). For like Liezi. Pierre Hadot en passant compares Zhuangzi’s description of the way of life of Liezi with the indifference characteristic of Pyrrho. for his part.
A case in point is Giorgio Agamben. verum. bonum seu perfectum. Where the Huayan speaks of the “abundant ﬂourishing” in the realm of non-obstruction between phenomena. or perfect. Here the Buddhist ontological difference is transformed: phenomena are no longer appropriated by principle (emptiness/true suchness) but selfemerge spontaneously. where distinct lines of cause and result are isolated. as expressed in the twelve-linked chain of dependent origination.” According to 139 . expressing their “true thusness” without cause as pure self-emergence: there is “an abundant ﬂourishing of the ten thousand appearances. the beam is not a plank). “whatever entity is one. The concept of conditioned co-arising. the Zhuangzi says that in the Way “the myriad things cannot help but ﬂourish” (22/33). good. that the unique life engendered by Heaven (the pipes of Heaven) emerges beyond difference (the pipes of man) and sameness (the pipes of Earth). is it uniquely a beam (Fazang 508a5–26). In so far as they are constituted by their difference all phenomena are empty (kong) – they are different and precisely therefore the same. In the fourth realm of non-obstruction between phenomenon and phenomenon (shishi wuai ) the traditional Buddhist notion of causation is transformed. but the fourth realm is the creation of the Huayan school. true. or empty (kong ). and the relative. who at the limit of Western metaphysics wrests a new meaning from the transcendentals of scholastic philosophy: quodlibet ens est unum. It is difﬁcult to translate Zhuangzi’s notion of the unique into the metaphysical (philosophical) tradition of the West without doing violence to our most fundamental concepts. The Huayan Master Fazang (643–712) uses the metaphor of a house to explain “causation” in this realm of non-obstruction between phenomena.” and the phenomenal world displays its wondrous existence (miaoyou ). as distinct from the plank. Phenomena now ﬂower spontaneously. the realm of principle (li ). Fazang’s point is that no phenomenon has full and “wondrous” existence as long as it is deﬁned by its difference to other phenomena (e. The Huayan school thematizes this ontological difference between principle and phenomena in terms of four dharma realms ( fajie ): the realm of phenomena (shi ). Only when the phenomenon is seen beyond difference (and so beyond sameness) is it properly itself: only if the beam is not a beam. and the realm of non-obstruction of phenomenon and phenomenon (Chengguan 672c12–13). This thought is easily comparable to Zhuangzi’s central thought. The ﬁrst three realms elaborate the ontological difference in traditional Mahayana Buddhist terms. gives way to the Huayan notions of dharma realm causation ( fajie yuanqi !) and nature origination (xingqi ).SPIRITUAL EXERCISE Buddha nature. interdependent existence of all phenomena. Both the Huayan and the Zhuangzi point to the cognition of the ceaseless self-emergence of unique beings beyond difference and sameness.g. the realm of non-obstruction of principle and phenomena.
(1993: 38) In Zhuangzi this irreparable character of the unique is represented by mutilated persons: injured and rejected by the realm of man (ren). (The sense of exposure is hardly found in the Huayan. It is true. In other words. Precisely because it is indifferent to difference. the relationship between unique things as they arise according to their own manner is one of ease. the unique is accompanied by a sense of total exposure. In Zhuangzi this space of ease is the space of wandering ( you). the unique phenomenon can freely display its qualities. indifferently. says Agamben. constitutes difference” (Agamben 1993: 19). absolutely abandoned. they are exposed to Heaven. In placing together Agamben’s reading of the quodlibet (whatever). the pipes of Heaven makes each thing be itself and articulate itself fully as it is. this sense of ontological ease is found in the realm of non-obstruction (wuai ) between phenomenon and phenomenon. the glow at its edges. and so “the myriad things cannot help but ﬂourish. Agamben’s “whatever” is “the thing with all its properties.” Second. Agamben uses the halo to explain “the becoming singular of that which is perfect”: “The halo is this supplement added to perfection – something like the vibration of that which is perfect. which after all remains a philosophy of totality.) The fourth characteristic of the unique is the light that accompanies its rising forth. In the Huayan school phenomena display their “wondrous existence”. and Zhuangzi’s notion of seeing the unique ( jiandu). however. Agamben says that the “unrepresentable space” of “the coming to itself of each singularity” is a space of “ease” (1993: 25). that they are precisely and only their thus . and in Zhuangzi.” 140 .” for the Latin libet indicates a relation to the will and to desire (1993: 1). First. that in their being-thus they are absolutely exposed.AN INTRODUCTION TO DAOIST THOUGHT Agamben.” but literally quodlibet ens means “being such that it always matters. The being that emerges engendered from its own manner has no man-made shelters. the unique emerges beyond sameness and difference. it is indifferent in regard to differences but irreducible itself. we see a certain family resemblance between these formulations of the notion of the unique. and uniqueness is unthinkable apart from this fundamental vulnerability. but irreparable also means that for them there is literally no shelter possible. none of which. and in the Huayan. the Huayan notion of non-obstruction between phenomenon and phenomenon. Agamben calls this utter exposure of the unique the “irreparable”: Irreparable means that these things are consigned without remedy to their being-thus. the “whatever” is indifferent to differences and precisely therefore uniquely desirable. what is unthought in this traditional enumeration is the adjective quodlibet (whatever). . Third. that this quodlibet is correctly understood as “it does not matter which. .
but a perfection that contains a tiny displacement (as if the “thus” never quite coincides with itself ). which. and yet he knows that luminosity is born from darkness (zhaozhao sheng yu mingming ) (22/30). to make itself whatever” (Agamben 1993: 55–6). In the Huayan. The halo is the “imperceptible trembling of the ﬁnite that makes its limits indeterminate and allows it to blend. 141 . when phenonena blend with ease (rong ) in the realm of non-obstruction of phenomena they glow (another connotation of rong) as each shines forth in its own unique being (Dushun 654a25–7). Zhuangzi has his luminosity (ming). Zhuangzi says that the Way that cannot be walked upon (budao zhidao ) is only seen in a shaded light (baoguan ) (2/62).SPIRITUAL EXERCISE The “whatever” as the pure “being-thus” is the state of perfection. is the light that issues from the very split between light and darkness. in the light of the present interpretation of Zhuangzi.
settled du unique fajie yuanqi ! dharma realm causation fang just now. prejudice chengyan completed.GLOSSARY GLOSSARY Terms and expressions bao repay. deny buzhi not know. disputation bianzhe disputer biedao separate ways (of argumentation) budao zhidao the Way that cannot be walked upon budeyi inevitable buji zhi ji. that other bian distinguish bian dispute. retribution baoguang shaded light baoshen preserve the body bi necessary bi that. ji zhi bujizhe ye . !" the bordering of the unbordered is the unbordering of the bordered buke unallowable. conclusive or valid discourse chu come forth. not to understand cheng complete. completion cheng huming come to completion in what is destined chengxin completed mind. appear chuju emit references ci this here dao the Way de get deyi get the intended meaning di zhi xuanjie ! the unbinding of the gods dilai pipes of the earth ding ﬁxed. just when. method 142 .
fangsi fangsheng . unbind jie model. just now it is born. just now it dies. afﬁrm kong empty le joy lei category. just now it is denied. just now it is afﬁrmed fangsheng born together fangsheng fangsi. just now it is afﬁrmed. kind li principle li ritual liang good liang juesheng the two sides break decisively liangxing to proceed at two levels at once lou crude mao describe miaoyou wondrous existence 143 . fangbuke fangke . just now it is born fei wrong gengsheng born again gong accomplishments gong skilled gu the native guo pass beyond guran inherently so he harmonize hejuhu what is this!? hua transformation ji self ji skill. technique jiandu see the unique jiao defang by interplay become relative jidacheng ensemble of great completions jie connect with jie unravel. just now it dies.GLOSSARY fang relative fang zhiwai outside the square fangke fangbuke. just now it is denied. measure jie yuwu liberated from things jinhuji go beyond skill jiren a misﬁt jixi the bondage of technique jixin mechanical mind ju refer ke allowable.
reality qiwu equalize things quan whole. it is made into vessels qi equalize qi vessel. glow rushu methods of the Confucians ruyu liaotian !" enter into unity with vast Heaven shen body. to conquer sheng zhi shizhe ! the timely one among the sages shengzhi sage-knowledge shi moment. live. timeliness shi phenomena 144 . the destined ming luminosity ming name.GLOSSARY ming fate. man as opposed to Heaven ren qi xingming zhiqing !"# trust in the reality of one’s nature and destiny renlai pipes of man renzhisheng human life rong blend (with ease). reputation moni yuxin ! there is no opposition (towards the other) in one’s heart mou scheme nei inner neiye inner training neng suobuneng be able to do what one is not able to do ni look awry ou counterpart ou counterpart pu uncarved block pusan ze weiqi !" when the uncarved block is split up. oneself (in person) shen spirit sheng life. tool qiao skill qigong (system of breathing and physical exercises) qing vital essence qing essence. complete. valid or true (argument) quanren complete human being quansheng complete our (human) life qun form groups ran it is so ren humanity ren human beings. born sheng win over. the real. timely.
this here. do (for somebody) wei designate weishi “This” which deems wo self wu self wu thing wu nothing. act. there is not wuai non-obstruction wuqiong inﬁnite wusheng our (human) life wuwei non-action wuwu to thing things wuwu non-existence of nothing xiang fang mutually relative xiangwei yu wuxiangwei do for each other in not doing for each other 145 . false wei make. the (human) world tianxing Heaven’s punishment tianzhisheng the life of Heaven tongdi be with god wai outer wangyan forget language wei artiﬁce. right (as opposed to wrong) shilai just when he happened to come shiqu just when he happened to go shishi wuai non-obstruction between phenomenon and phenomenon shouqiyi guarding one’s unity shu reciprocity shu method.GLOSSARY shi objects. technique taijiquan (martial arts system) tian Heaven tiandi heaven and earth tianersheng live engendered by Heaven tianji Heavenly mechanism tianjun the potter’s wheel of Heaven tianlai pipes of Heaven tianle heavenly joy tianli Heaven’s texture tianni the bounds of Heaven tianren people of Heaven tianxia below Heaven. concrete particulars shi the potential of a situation shi this.
GLOSSARY xiangzhi mutual recognition xin heart-and-mind xing form xing human nature. genuine zheng struggle. quarrel zhengming rectify names zhenjun True Ruler zhenru true suchness zhi substance. the pointed out 146 . friendship you there is (something) you wander you youse have a concerned look you yuwu be conﬁned by things yu desire yunzhe (quotation marker) yuyan metaphors zaohuazhe Creator of Transformations zaowuzhe Creator of Things zhaozhao sheng yu mingming !! luminosity is born from darkness zhaozhi yutian ! illuminate things in the light of Heaven zhen true. nature xing proceed xingqi nature origination xinzhai fasting of the heart-and-mind xiongqi evil tool xiuxiu rest yan saying. intended meaning yi right. criterion ying respond yingning calm chaos yinshi accept “this” for what it is yinziran follow the spontaneously self-so yisheng add to life yishi shifting signiﬁers you concern you friend. nourish life yangxing care for one’s form yi intention. hostage zhi point out. language yang qiqi nourish one’s vital breath yangsheng care for life. righteousness yin follow.
GLOSSARY zhi know. understand. recognize zhiyan impromptu words zhiyin ﬁx the criterion zhongyan quotations zhuo clumsiness ziran spontaneously self-so zijie unbind oneself zuowang sit in forgetfulness Names Archer Yi Chan Cheng Xuanying Confucius Cook Ding Daozang Fazang Gaozi Gongsun Long Guo Xiang Hanfeizi Huayan Hui Shi Laozi Liezi Lu Madman of Chu Mencius Mozi Qi Qin Shun Shushan the Toeless Sima Qian Sunzi Xunzi Yan Hui Yang Zhu Yao Yiliao from south of the market Yu Zengzi ! 147 .
GLOSSARY Zhu Xi Zhuangzi Zigong Ziqi from the south wall Zuo zhuan ! 148 .
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nourish life ( yangsheng). 98 Celan. 64 authentic presence 60. on practical reasoning 41. 39 Adorno. on potentiality 53–56. 141. on technB 43 authentic action 50. 22 Cheng. Wing-tsit 105 Chan/Zen 79–80. 12 bungled discourse 90. 72–73. 70. 121 allowable (ke)/unallowable (buke) 111 Amalric of Bena 24 appear. 100 calm chaos ( yingning) 138 care for life. 74. Tsung-tung 121 Chen. 82 Chan. and reciprocity (shu) 120. 140. 131. 92. Xuanying 48. 83. on transcendence 24–25 Allinson. 85 be with god (tongdi) 136 Benjamin.INDEX INDEX accept “this” for what it is (yinshi) 82. come forth (chu) 15. 53–57. Heaven’s condemned 119. 56. 83. on ritual (li) 32–33. on matter (hulB) 45. Guying 17. 92. 44–46. E. 92 authentic saying 57. 121. and 156 . 25–26. ensemble of great completions ( jidacheng) 63. 70. on language 71. 34. 131 Archer Yi 58–59 Aristotle 28. T. 70. 13. regulatory intelligence 44. 73 Billeter. 75 Cho. 72. P. J. 95. 119. 19. golden rule 117–118. kind (lei) 89. 95–96. R. 31. body 111–112. 80. 93. 89. 93 Avicenna 53 Bataille. beyond drive for completion 138. scene of instruction 126 Confucius 3. 106 Agamben. being crude (lou) 110. 69. 89. 133 Allison. 47–52. W. G. glow (rong) 141 born again (gengsheng) 125 Buber. F. M. 64. 113–114. 95 accomplishments (gong) 18. 55. on potentiality 53. 119. make (wei) 16. and swimmer 61–62. 130 appearance 10. 119. G. 33. 129. concern ( you) 105–109. discourse 67–69. compared with form (eidos) 43–46. on Zhuangzi’s critique of power 115–117 blend. completed discourse (chengyan) 16. 120. 62. completed mind (chengxin) 70. imaginary 31. 94. 93. 80. 122. 138 Chang. 52–55. H. 52 act. 97–98. 123 add to life (yisheng) 15. 124. 16. 57. 11. on experience of language 77. 133 care for one’s form ( yangxing) 48 category. complete in the destined (cheng huming) 62. Kah Kyung 52–53 complete human being (quanren) 58–59 completion (cheng) 16. on concern ( you) 106. on manual workers 44–45. 137. 76–77 Benveniste. see also life (sheng) conﬁned by things ( you yuwu) 18 Confucian 44. 90. 60. É. 62. 66.
129. 62. T. religious 106 Fairbank. 127. on coherence of ancient texts 88. K. enter into unity with vast Heaven (ruyu liaotian yi) 21. A. on “stripping of man” 20 Hamacher. 105–106 Harbsmeier. J. 24. 103. 63. 139. Heavenly mechanism (tianji) 21. J. M. and joy (le) 132 De Vries. H. bounds of Heaven (tianni) 21. 20. 131 Foucault. M. 128. 122. on gentleness towards others 116. 103. heaven and earth (tiandi) 21. on Zhuangzi’s discourse 85–101. see also life (sheng) Heidegger. 56 Graham. A. 61. 127–130 Crandell. and reality (qing) 131. 80. situational perception 114. 138 essence (qing) 19 ethics: and aesthetics 114. destiny (ming) 39. C. 33 ﬁsh-trap 74–75 ﬂexible response 40–41. G. 10. 65. C. 125 do what one is not able to do (neng suobuneng) 57 double question 71–72. 109. 75. A. 21. H. and naturalism 124 Daozang 4 Davidson. 87. Christian 113. Hanfeizi (the book) 4 Hansen. 16. 75 counterpart (ou) 96.INDEX technical action 32–33. Kantian 113. 21. 79–80 Fazang 139 Fingarette. 39 Heaven (tian) 20–21. P. 136. 88 De Bary. Wm. 89 Duke Huan 75 efﬁcacious action 40–42 emotions 130–132 empty (kong) 139 Eno. 64. 127. P. 72. 29 Hanfeizi 37. C. ethical subject 120–124. 33. illuminate things in the light of Heaven (zhaozhi yutian) 21. 129. 18. potter’s wheel of Heaven (tianjun) 21. 12. as timely sage 38. 85–101. J. R. 6. 17. 104 Grifﬁths. A. 2–3. 103–104 Gaozi 112 Gehlen. 71 157 . 37 fasting of the heart-and-mind (xinzhai) 108. 58. 10 designate (wei) 82. 28. 67. 55–56. 106 friendship ( you) 119 Fukunaga Mitsuji 22 Gadamer. on spiritual exercise 7–9. 9–10 guarding one’s unity (shouqiyi) 133 Gu Mu 109 Guo Moruo 127 Guo Xiang 12. 60. 124–125. M. below Heaven (tianxia) 21. 10 dharma realm ( fajie) 139. 2. 57. people of Heaven (tianren) 110. 26. 22. 56. 4. 61. 61–62 Faure. on indifference 133. on joy 83. 62. 45–46 ﬂow experience 52 follow ( yin) 94–95 forgetting language (wangyan) 74–75 form (xing) 18. 89 desire ( yu) 39. Heaven and man (ren) 57–61. 125. dharma realm causation ( fajie yuanqi) 139 disputation (bian) 37. 114. 28.-G. B. 138. 79. 113–114 Daoism deﬁned 4. 105 equalize (qi) 80–81. H. 30 Gongsun Long 97–101 good (liang) 58 Gould. 48 Hadot. 50. 62 Creator of Things (zaowuzhe) 26 Creator of Transformations (zaohuazhe) 26 Cua. 116. engenders the unique (du) 130. 104 harmonize (he) 80 heart-and-mind (xin) 19. on Mohist canons 69–70. W. Heaven’s punishment (tianxing) 111. on seeing the world 14. 6. 63–66 connect with ( jie) 27 Cook Ding 48–52. 131. Heaven’s texture (tianli) 21. 98. 69–71. on Socrates 100. 133. 133 fate. principles vs. 132–133. moral law 117–120. 109 Derrida. 43. 73. 130. on dialogue in Plato 102. pipes of Heaven (tianlai) 130.
48. 134 Kohn. 45–46 method (shu or fang) 16. E. 120. 63. 95–96. 62. 57. 47. 63. on Gesinnung 121–122. 75. 61. on criterion ( yin) 94.INDEX Horkheimer. 21. 139. 98. M. Zehou 114 liberated from things ( jie yuwu) 11. 135. 66. 89. experience of 7. 119. L. 127. 22. 137–138 life (sheng) 32. 55. 132 Jullien. 10 Lewis. Tomohisa 24 impromptu words (zhiyan) 16. 53 Lau. awareness of 62–63. D. 35 joy (le) 72. J. 76–80 Laozi 24. Laozi (the book) 4. on concern ( you) 106–107. 50. 95. on efﬁcacious action 40–42. 64. 71. 121 Mozi 36. 76–77. on Chinese process philosophy 23–24. 34. 19 inﬁnite (wuqiong) 21 inherently so (guran) 50. 105. 39. Toshihiko 22 Jonas. 76. 137 Leiris. 128–129 language: exercise with 73. F. 72. R. 95. R. Mozi (the book) 4. and Sophists 98. 95. 132–137 intended meaning ( yi) 74–76 it is so (ran) 82 Izutsu. 95 inner (nei)/outer (wai) 20. 121. on human nature (xing) 33–34. H. 67. 109. 141 Madman of Chu 80 Mair. 4. engendered by Heaven (tianersheng) 15. 104. 95 Marcus Aurelius 116 Master Kuang 55 mechanical mind ( jixin) 31. temporality of 63–66. of Heaven (tianzhisheng) 20–22. 49. 131. 70. 82. 80–84 in-between Heaven and man (ren) 57–61 inevitable (budeyi) 16. on ritual (li) 36–37 mutilation 109–113. 129. 120. 88–89. 55. 93. 125. 27. canons 69. 42. 106 Huayan 139–141 Hui Shi 19. transcendental 50. 137. 44. 74 moralism 32. 137. 42. 47–48. 61. C. M. and Zhuangzi 85–86. Kirkland. 60. 111. logic of 89. 95. emitting references (chuju) 96. 81. 99. 80. our life (wusheng) 48. 52 Liu. 92. 12. 60 metaphysics of action 39–42. 98. M. 78. 83. 89. on timely sage 63–65 metaphysical crisis 21. 62 luminosity (ming) 73. 56. 65–66. 17 King. above Hao river 82–84. 125. Shaojin 75 looking awry (ni) 27 Lord Wenhui 49. 49. 24. 52. 60. on time in China 64–65 just when ( fang) 15. on technical action 33–34. on Confucian discourse 67–68. 100 misﬁt ( jiren) 113 Mohist logicians 27. against completion (cheng) 15–17. 91. 70. 2. 121. 85 Levinas. 90. 93. 124–125 Mencius 58.-G. 58. V. 130. paradox 91–92 humans/animals 59–60. 22. 113. 124–125 Ikeda. 97. on “body” of virtue 112. heavenly joy (tianle) 83. on the relative ( fang) 91. 89. 110–111 inner training (neiye) 50. 100 Kant. 124. 107. H. see also disputation (bian) Möller [Moeller]. 134 Liezi. 50. 35. on moral will 122–123 Kierkegaard. 114. 133. 12. 136. 22 Lacan. 32. 120. 122. 121. 112. 115. S. I. 21. on fate (ming) 37. and desire ( yu) 132. 95. human life (renzhisheng) 17–20. complete our (human) life (quansheng) 48. 131. on golden rule 117–118. 31–32. 140 mutual recognition (xiangzhi) 101–102 mutually relative (xiangfang) 91 158 . 84. 92. 118 Legalists 37–38. 109. in itself 67. 40 Li. 104. 37–38. on freedom 123–124. 113. 137. 51. 4. E. 108–114. 125. moral maxim 118. 138.
55. 117–118 Rosenzweig. 11 self ( ji or wo) 18. 101. 61–62 nature origination (xingqi) 139 Neiye 5. H. 74. reality (qing) 24. 70. 120. 75 religion. and form (eidos) 43–44 nature (xing) 39. 6 quotations (zhongyan) 80 real. 120–122. and skill/clumsiness 58–59 sage-knowledge (shengzhi) 9. 131–132. F. 56. 50. 9. 113. 62. 45 Smith. 137 Nicomachean Ethics 41 Nietzsche. J. P. 103–104. 64. 96. H. 82. 16–17 Saussy. Chinese and Western compared 45–46. 9 Socrates 11. 56–57 outside the square ( fang zhiwai) 119 Pang Pu 56 perfected human being: absolutely safe 78. and clumsiness (zhuo) 57–59 Sloterdijk. 82 native (gu) 61–62 naturalism 124–125 nature ( phusis) 21. 97–101. 55. 96 Robinet. 58. B. and Zhuangzi 101–104 Sophists 91. P. 27. 1. 60. and True Ruler (zhenjun) 130–131 Sextus Empiricus 72 shaded light (baoguan) 141 Shakespeare. 131. 40–41. 96–97. Z. 37 science (Wissenschaft) 1–3. 81 sitting in forgetfulness (zuowang) 129. 133 skill ( ji. 28. 52. 52. 22. H. R. 3–4. and non-saying 28. 51. 90 Shirley. as mutilated criminal 110 philosophy: Chinese 40–41. 45. 5. 99. W. S. 95. 74. 94. clumsy (zhuo) 96. 74. D. 6 saying ( yan): and disputation (bian) 70–71. an evil tool 108. 16 Roth. 96–97 shifters 72–74. 134–135 right (shi)/wrong ( fei) 19. 134 Pyrrho 138 Quignard. loss of 126–130. qiao. and manual labor 44–45. follow the spontaneously self-so ( yinziran) 19 Stoics 83 Sunzi 38 swimmer 61–62 159 . 94. 106 non-action (wuwei) 16. motivation behind 125. 100 Schwartz. 70. 139 pipes of man (renlai) 127. E. F. on craft knowledge 43. 91. the religious 9–11 respond (ying) 42. M. I. and objects (shi) 52. 75. 81 scheme (mou) 27 Schlegel. 120. 121 sage 19. 41. 57. on appearance 25–26. 95. 139 Plato 8. 93. 123. technical 46 Santner. 97 Shun 106 Shushan the Toeless 110–111 Sima Qian 11. and other 90. or gong) 16. 136 non-existence of nothing (wuwu) 25 non-obstruction between phenomena (shishi wuai) 139 non-understanding (buzhi) 27–29 nourish one’s vital breath ( yang qiqi) 133 ontological difference 25–26. 52. 100. 21. 28.INDEX names (ming) 18. on Zhuangzi and later Daoists 135–136 Roetz. on coming-into-being 15. 56. Western 5–9 pipes of the Earth (dilai) 129–130. 49. proceed at two levels at once (liangxing) 57 Puett. 138 spirit (shen) 20. 37. 62 spontaneously self-so (ziran) 15. on dialogue 102–103 point out (zhi) 98–99 potential of a situation (shi) 40–41 potentiality/actuality 52–57 prejudice (chengxin) 34 preserve the body (baoshen) 48 principle (li)/phenomena (shi) 139 proceed (xing) 34. 89. in-between Heaven and man (ren) 59–61.
equalize (qi). unbordered 56 Weber. 134. 56 thought in the emphatic sense 4–5 three friends 118–119 timely action 45. unbind oneself (zijie) 66. and inner training (neiye) 50. Confucian view of 32–36. 54. 3 Zuo zhuan 38 Zupaniii. 51. luminosity (ming). language. 9. M. and dullness 63. cannot be walked upon 141. 136. and methods 135. 63–66 totalitarianism 37–38 transcendence 24–27 transformation (hua) 42 True Ruler (zhenjun) 130–131 true suchness (zhenru) 139 unbind. on transformation (hua) 44 Yan Hui 107–108. as unique (du) 11. 132. perfected human being. bungled discourse. how to read 2. 80 vessels (qi) 52 vital essence (qing) 20 wandering ( you) 21–22. 60 understanding the other 3–4 unique (du) 110. unravel ( jie) 17. 32. Greek technB 43. non-understanding (buzhi). non-action (wuwei). 122–123 160 . O. 51. care for life ( yangsheng). 54. Zhuangzi (the book) 4. 128 Yang Zhu 107 Yearly. H. 125 Yiliao from south of the market 115 Yu 34 Zengzi 112 Zhao Wen 55 Zhu Xi 105 Zhuangzi: acceptance of death 16. 89 things/no-thing 24. 78 wondrous existence (miaoyou) 139 Wu. not a thing 24. discourse as spiritual exercise 9. 38 there is ( you)/there is not (wu) 15. 83–84. 83. not a Sophist 91. 49–50. 46. 60–61. 130. Kuang-ming 127. completion (cheng) over life (sheng) 36. chapter divisions 12. 136. 48. stripping of “man” (ren) 20. 140 Way (dao) 10. see the unique ( jiandu) 138–141 useful/useless 57 Valéry. saying ( yan). liberated from things ( jie yuwu). 60. 114. rhetorical dimension 6. 25. forgetting language (wangyan). 136. disputation (bian). 119 Ziqi from the south wall 126–129 figek. L. S. see also authentic action. 137–138. and reality (qing) 131. not a “Daoist” 5. unbind ( jie). bondage of technique ( jixi) 91. 133. 22–24. 56–57. on destiny (ming) 62. authentic saying. 56. early testimony about 11. self ( ji or wo). and saying ( yan) 71. on technical action 34–36. 42. 40. 36 wheelwright 75–76 Wilde. 113. analogy of potter 44. 57. impromptu words (zhiyan). just when ( fang). 127. 52. dark despair 17. beyond technique 30–32. 52. 61. ethics.INDEX technique 37. 132–133. 138. A. wandering ( you). 75. 46. L. 7. 65. completion (cheng). 44. Way (dao) Zigong 30–31. double question. and later Daoists 135–136. authentic presence. negates the Way (dao) 30–32. unbinding of the gods (di zhi xuanjie) 65–66 uncarved block ( pu) 31–32. and inherently so (guran) 82. on dreams 132–133. intended meaning ( yi). 133. 44. 128 Xunzi 45. P. 29. life (sheng). concern ( you) for the state 107. joy (le). 11–13. Heaven (tian). on methods of the Confucians (rushu) 35. 45. 123–125. 101. 33. 12 Wittgenstein. things things (wuwu) 24.
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