BY NATURE WARPED V

Zhuangzi: I’m glad I mentioned Mencius; he might help us out of this argument—or at least shift it to a less contentious level. Xun says that human nature is evil; Mencius says it’s inherently good; and Scott, I think, is going to disagree with you both, even though you have said he agrees with Mencius. Scott?

Scott:  I am. Human nature is neither good nor evil, but simply what Nature has wrought. As such, it is Nature; and Nature is beyond good and evil. Once again, we do not call the lion evil because it kills and eats the gazelle. We might be tempted to do so, because we empathize with the gazelle, but we suspend our normal moral discrimination in this regard.

Zz:  There is good and evil in humanity—lots of both, but that judgment is a purely human judgment, and all “Daoism” wishes to do is to let that be informed by the view from Dao—or Nature, if you prefer. It’s simply letting everything “bask in the broad daylight of Heaven”.

Xunzi:  As I have said, you know a great deal about Heaven, but very little about humanity. What good is all this “basking in Heaven” when it comes to actually governing humanity in its waywardness?

Zz:  Well, for one thing, it might make you less eager to apply the five punishments and to . . .

Scott:  Remind me what the five punishments are?

Zz:  Tattooing, cutting off noses, feet and balls, and death. If we understand that our opinions on what is good and what is evil are not cast in stone, and that good and evil are always all tangled up with each other, so that every act, whether good or evil, has a myriad of causes and reasons that we cannot fathom, then we will be less inclined to punish others as if we had some kind of divine wisdom. And, as I was about to say, we would be less inclined to punish and suppress those who disagree with our dao, but rather, would see value in a diversity of daos.

Xunzi:  A diversity of daos just leads to chaos. There is only one road, one true Dao of the ancients, and only a fool tries to walk two roads at once.

Scott: We have once again reached an impasse—but Zhuangzi and I are obliged to “foolishly” walk both the road of allowing the “rightness” of your opinion and the road of our own opinions. But I would like to also make the point that all that Daoism “knows” of Heaven is that it knows nothing of Heaven. And it is that that informs our dealings with others. You, on the other hand, know the one true Dao, and that, being an absolute, is equivalent to saying you know Heaven.

Zz: Knowing beyond all doubt what is good and what is evil is one of the greatest sources of evil to be found in the world.

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