This exercise of imagining a cosmos without moral judgment is in fact one of the recontextualizations we are attempting to now justify. Imagine a universe without humanity; do moral judgments apply in such a place? Was there good and evil in the Jurassic Age? Even now, is there good and evil on Uranus? In this way we broaden our perspective, see the world from a non-anthropocentric point of view. But we are, of course, human and as such we exercise our faculty for moral discrimination. Only now it is informed by a relativizing “higher” view. This is Zhuangzi’s “walking two roads” at once. The many ways in which this informs our behavior we will consider anon; here, we simply wish to make the point that Daoism is thereby able to embrace all that obtains to the human experience, including the faculty of reason.


This recontextualizing perspective also allows us to understand that human beings are what human beings do, and if we are to affirm humanity unconditionally, then we must also be able to transcend our moral judgments concerning its behavior. Zhuangzi addresses the misuse of reason, not its use; but even this misuse is affirmable in as much as it is an expression of humanity as it naturally manifests. Much in the world strikes us as dysfunctional—the “savagery” of the survival of the fittest, the useless but dangerous appendix, and the evolution of a creature, the human being, as a self-aware “god that shits”, and thus fearful of its own mortality—but all of it is ultimately affirmable. His critique can thus both affirm humanity as it is and suggest a way that might prove more conducive to human flourishing.

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