“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).


What is “obvious” to Zhuangzi, in the light of their being equally expressions of Nature and thus in that sense on a par with the chirping of baby birds, is that they are both right and both wrong. Their mutual this-ing and that-ing, moreover, cancels out that of the other and this renders them both an affirmable “This”. The chirping of a sparrow is as affirmable as the scream of a hawk. All expressions are affirmable. But here we already have made use of a broadening perspective to recontextualize ourselves so as to see the world in a different way. This speaks to that level at which all things can be deemed as of equal value. Zhuangzi is fully aware of how difficult this perspective is to envision, given how counter-habitual it is. That it is even more difficult to realize in experience once envisioned speaks to our bondage to the ideas of right and wrong, truth and falsity. Yet, these are precisely the bonds from which he would release us—not by means of their annihilation, but by their mutual affirmability.

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