RE-SEEING THE WORLD II

ZHUANGZIAN PERSECTIVISM

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We have saved a most important aspect of Zhuangzi’s critique of reason, his perspectivism, for consideration in the context of his implied methodology of imaginative meditation, specifically, the envisioning of new, broadening and mind-opening perspectives with a view to a transformative recontextualization. His perspectivism and its application are knit together in one piece.

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He begins by critiquing the bifurcating terms “this” and “that”. These were much in use among the debaters of his time, the Confucians and especially the Later Mohists. We needn’t concern ourselves with the specific doctrines that led to the use of these categories, however, since the one thing they both had in common was the one that Zhuangzi sought to overturn. This was their belief that “this” (which also means “right”) must negate “that” (which also means “wrong”). Our differences of opinion must mean that one of us is right and the other wrong. Zhuangzi did not concern himself with the validity of the content of their respective points of view—that would have been to enter the debate at their level. Instead, he questioned the validity of their premise that there was one “right” dao, and thus that differing daos must oppose and therefore negate each other.

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“Thus, we have the competing rights and wrongs of the Confucians and Mohists who affirm what the other negates and negate what the other affirms. But if we want to affirm what they both negate (that both can be right) and negate what they both affirm (that one must be right and the other wrong) then nothing works so well as shining the light of the obvious upon them” (2:16).

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