Xunzi:  By “our pitiful moral addiction” I assume you mean my own desire to see human society well-ordered and harmonious?

Zhuangzi:  Not at all. As I said, the desire for self- and collective-flourishing is entirely natural. It’s not your desire for that, but your equation of chaos and disharmony with evil that’s problematical. That leads you to extremes of exclusion and excessively coercive solutions to human failings.

Scott:  And what is the “good” that opposes your designated evil, and where does it come from?

Xunzi:  The perfected sage-kings of old created the paths of ritual, music and righteousness, and the empire was in complete harmony. That’s the good that we must teach the people if we want that harmony to rule once again. And those who do not follow it, but bring disharmony and chaos to the empire, must be dealt with severely and without mercy.

Zz:  I rest my case.

Scott:  Forgive me, but as someone completely foreign to your culture and time, this appeal to mythological sage-kings and their golden age strikes me as pure fantasy. You have no historical proof of their existence or of the nature of their rule. It’s a castle built of sand—below the tideline. It’s really no different than the various fundamentalist moralities that seek to dominate us all in my own times.

Xunzi:  It is not fantasy; it has been faithfully recorded in the Odes, Documents and the Spring and Autumn Annuls. By them we can learn the ways of the sage-kings.

Scott:  Just as in my own times the Torah, New Testament, and Quran are each one taken as the embodiments of unquestionable truth, though each one contradicts the others, and are themselves interpreted in numerous mutually contradictory ways.

Xunzi:  I cannot speak for your culture and times, but only for my own; and this Dao of the Sage-Kings was the right and proper one for the Chinese people of my time.

Zz:  Then your good and evil are not universal, but culturally relative. That’s a great improvement! But unless we understand that, even as we apply it, it still leads to narrow-mindedness and totalitarianism.

Xunzi:  It is harmony and order that is the good, and disharmony and chaos that is evil—that is the universal good. Different times and cultures call for different means for the realization of the good.

Scott:  There is both harmony and disharmony and order and chaos in absolutely everything. Without the one there cannot be the other. Understanding this breaks the fetters of our addiction to a fixed morality and enables us to open into openness and unfixedness. We can then embrace and affirm all things as they are even as we work to further the self-flourishing of them all.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *