Scott:  Would it be permissible for me to ask Shenzi how he reconciled his proto-Daoism with his proto-Legalism?

Zhuangzi:  I suppose. Let’s see how that goes.

Shen Dao:  Well, the most important part of my answer might be found in the prefix “proto-”.  I was neither a Daoist nor a Legalist, as I think you know. It’s not just that those designations came later, but also that I can’t take responsibility for what others made of my teachings. Because I understood the need for law doesn’t mean that the extremes of Shang and Han Feizi are what I intended. And because I taught going with the flow doesn’t mean that I advocated for the anarchy that some later espoused. Nor are the externality of law and internality of going with the flow mutually exclusive. How did I reconcile them? I felt no need to do so.

Scott:  We might say that you walked two roads.

Shen Dao:  You may if you wish.

Scott:  One thing I find curious in the Tianxia’s representation of your philosophy is how the author seems to think you actually embodied your own teachings—as if you actually were like a feather twirling in the breeze. For my part, I think that unlikely.

Shen Dao:  Do any of us actually live what we preach? At best, we only approximate our ideals. Did Zhuang fully embody his own teachings?

Scott:  He won’t tell me, though I think his philosophy implies he did not. If he did, he’d be a sage; but his sages are always only fictional and fantastic.

Zz:  Isn’t it best to let Scott figure it out for himself? But yes, truth be said, I have to agree with those who say that sages are a plague. But then if there are no true sages, then the plague arises from the desires of those who invent them.

Scott:  But there are those who claim to be sages.

Zz:  And they are those who are best avoided—unless you want to find solace in religion.


  1. This post especially stroke a chord. I’m 63 now and having “spent a significant part of my adult life” (how silly that even sounds now within a new context of life, all mysterious), as a dogmatic Judea Christian believer, chasing almost every new ” dynamic” teacher that arose, I no longer desire to seek a sage or be one. Thanks Scott.

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