Sunday, May 16, 2010

Not-One is Also One, Part 13

by Scott Bradley

Beginning a discussion from Zhuangzi, Chapter 5...

As noted in the last post, A.C. Graham saw the treatment of the relationship between Reality and Humanity in Chapter 6 as a continuation of a discussion in Chapter 5 and an attempt to “resolve the dichotomy” suggested there. We now consider that discussion.

The passage in question is the last (according to Graham’s structuring; Dr. Ziporyn divides it into two sections) in the chapter. Following Dr. Ziporyn’s structuring, the first part of the passage is a relatively direct statement of Zhuangzi’s thought, it being presented without the mediation of another character. The second part is a dialogue between Zhuangzi and his logician friend Hui Shih inspired by a statement made in the first part.

This makes good sense of the two otherwise temporally incongruent sections. It is as if Hui, having heard this teaching at some previous time, brought it up with Zhuangzi who now presents it together with that teaching. Though probably fictional, this would seem to be the ‘story-line’ that Zhuangzi presents us.

The statement at issue occurs in a general discussion of the attributes of the sage and reads:

Since he receives his sustenance from Heaven, what use would he have for the human? He has the physical form of a human being, but not the characteristic inclinations of a human being. Since he shares the human form, he lives among men. Since he is free of their characteristic inclinations, right and wrong cannot get at him. Minute and insignificant, he is just another man among the others. Vast and unmatched, he is alone in perfecting the Heavenly in himself.

One can easily imagine Hui Shih gleefully rubbing his hands together at this wonderful opportunity to demonstrate his heroic power(s) of debate. For hasn’t Zhuangzi with his big words gone too far this time? Thus he asks: Can a human being really be without the characteristic human inclinations? A reasonable question, to be sure.

Graham has essentials of man for characteristic human inclinations. Both would seem to reference something very much native and natural to what it is to be a human being. Other translators prefer something more mundane: human feelings (Cleary), the passions and desires of men (Legge), human affections (Yu-Lan), the feelings of man (Watson). All of these give the essential idea, I think, for what Zhuangzi has in mind are human emotions and desires, all of which are manifest in and manifestations of discriminating judgment, attachment and aversion. However, what he has in mind is presented in a way so as to suggest that these are what is essentially Human. And this is the pivot on which Huizi’s objection turns.

What use would he (the sage) have for the human? Does Zhuangzi then reject the Human in favor of the Heavenly? Is there, in fact, an unbridgeable gap, a ‘dichotomy’, between them?

If we think this is the case, then we have, like Huizi, failed to understand what Zhuangzi meant by the human. You are misunderstanding what I mean by passions and desires, writes Legge in his explanatory rendering. I mean one who does not inflict internal injury on himself with desires and aversions . . . . answers Zhuangzi as rendered by Yu-Lan.

These are the characteristic inclinations of man. But these are the essentials of man in his alienation, not essential man. For is not the sage also a man? The Course gives him this appearance, Heaven gives him this form, so why shouldn’t he be called a human being? Zhuangzi retorts.

The entire argument rests on a failure to understand that there is the human and there is the Human; there is humanity which for unknown reasons has chosen to set itself above and separate from Reality (Heaven) and Humanity which is humanity fulfilled in returning to harmony with Reality. The alienation of humanity is so complete that one can speak of its expression as the essentials of man. And for Huizi, it is so completely a given that he cannot envision a human being otherwise existing.

Zhuangzi does not, therefore, oppose Heaven to the Human. He opposes the human which opposes Heaven to Heaven and would have the human return to the Human where there is no opposition to Reality. As we saw in Chapter Six, humanity has chosen to be not-one but its truest expression is to be one with Reality. And this is realized in the sage who has harmonized with Reality, and thereby become one, and who is able to go still further and realize that even not-one is also one.

Note: At the conclusion of this miniseries, a link will be provided for those interested in downloading or printing the entire document replete with footnotes.

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