UNDER HEAVEN LXIX

I previously alluded to Zhuangzi’s indebtedness to Huizi for his discursive method. This form of logical argument attempted to undermined the realist position with regard to “names”—words. The Later Mohists made much of logical argument to demonstrate the validity of their claims, and this required that words actually correspond to reality. Huizi took them to task. His ten known paradoxes, all found in the Tianxia, were intended to show that names make distinctions that don’t actually exist in the world. “Hui Shi argues that distinctions are not in the world.” (Hansen; A Daoist Theory of Chinese Thought, p 262)

Much of Zhuangzi’s argument in the second chapter, “Equalizing Assessments of Things”, builds on this observation. All distinctions are shown to be ultimately transcendable; they can all be united to form a oneness.

But whereas Huizi stopped at demonstrating the limitations of reason, Zhuangzi suggested that we then go where reason cannot go. He suggested we take a leap. But unlike Kierkegaard’s “leap of faith” that has a propositional truth as its object (Jesus is God) Zhuangzi’s leap is into life itself. This is what it means to “add nothing to the process of life” and not “take one’s mind as one’s teacher”. Raw, unmediated life is our most fundamental teacher. It does not simply teach us about life, but invites us to live it in a way that is in harmony with its fundamental self-affirmation.

This is not irrational, but most rational. Nor is it rationalism, for though it completely affirms reason within its limits, it also acknowledges and embraces an experience—life—that reason cannot explain.

What does it mean to leap into life? It means to say, Yes, (thank you). Life is affirmation—an affirmation that requires no “reason” to self-affirm. Thus when Zhuangzi says, “Because my life is good, so also is my death good” this is not primarily a reasoned conclusion. It is an expression of the pre-cognitive self-affirmation of life.

Because we live in our minds and do take reason as our teacher, the deconstruction of language can become the springboard into a more organic, mystical experience of life. But this latter is not the negation of the former. Think on! This Zhuangzi did when he wrote the Inner Chapters.

Similarly, we can embrace Huizi as Zhuangzi’s springboard into his own philosophy.

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