TAKING ZHUANGZI TO THE LAUNDROMAT VI

Shen Dao:  Philosophizing philosophically amounts to living philosophically. Thus, a philosopher is not necessarily philosophical—she or he could just be doing philosophy as one might collect stamps unphilosophically—letting it be an emptiness-filler without examining the implications of the emptiness. And a scholar of our philosophies—a sinologist—might also remain unphilosophical. Being philosophical is a process of self-examination. Studying us without personally engaging with the questions we raise about what it is to be human may be doing philosophy, but it isn’t being philosophical.

Scott:  Exactly. Though from the perspective of Dao we disagree with Socrates’ statement that the unexamined life is not worth living, still, to live in authenticity and freedom some such self-examination is necessary—and that is being philosophical.

Shen Dao:  And why do “we” disagree with Socrates?

Scott:  Because if any life is not worth living than no life is worth living. It’s a comparative valuation, and thus conditional. But from the point of view of Dao, all values are equalized. I make use of Zhuangzi’s paradox in this regard:  “No on lives longer than a dead child and Pengzu died young”. Long life and short are equalized. So too are a happy life and an unhappy one. Flourishing and not-flourishing are similarly equalized. Don’t you agree?

Shen Dao:  “A clump of earth cannot stray from the Dao.” But, by implication, humans can and do. You would equalize straying and not-straying so as to form a oneness.  Zhuang wouldn’t want me to say that I did or didn’t get that, but I think I can say I get it now.

Zhuangzi:  We do stray from Dao, where Dao is a realization of oneness. But oneness implies that there can be no straying, so straying is also not-straying. Not-one is also One. Flourishing and not-flourishing are equalized, but still we do well to flourish. We walk two roads.

Shen Dao: And where Dao is taken as a metaphysical Everything, then clearly nothing in not Dao.

Scott:  Getting back to living philosophically, Socrates also said, “Know thyself”; and that, it seems to me, is what it means to be philosophical. Studying what you guys had to say helps me to do just that. So it’s really not about you at all, but about me; and my most fundamental self-experience is also likely reflective of the human condition generally.

Zz:  It seems logical enough that my self-experience is essentially the same as that of everyone else, but I can’t know for sure. And it’s that which keeps me from making a blanket generalization about the human condition and from prescribing my dao for everyone else. At best we can only suggest, like Socrates, that we engage in self-inquiry so as to discover how that condition manifests in us.

Scott:  So you ask, “Is human life always this bewildering, or am I the only bewildered one?” That’s an invitation for others to examine their own experience without telling them what they will discover.

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