Monday, May 17, 2010

Not-One is Also One, Part 14

by Scott Bradley

Continuing with the discussion from Zhuangzi, Chapter 5...

It is of immense importance to recognize what Zhuangzi considers the ultimate expression of human alienation. Affirming some things as right and negating others as wrong are what I call the characteristic inclinations. Value judgments lie at the heart of humanities’ opposition to Reality. How ever much this pronouncement might offend our sensibilities, it is nearly universally represented in the world’s religions and religious philosophies.

A Buddhist, Hindu or Taoist would recognize its validity immediately, whether realized in practice or not. Someone of the Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition, however, might think otherwise. But the very doctrine of the “Fall” hinges on this concept, for it was when Adam and Eve partook of “the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil” that the alienation of humanity from its Source first occurred. Prior to this they lived in innocent spontaneity in paradise.
The passage continues:
What I call being free of them means not allowing likes and dislikes to damage you internally, instead making it your constant practice to follow along with the way each thing is of itself, going by whatever it affirms as right, without trying to add anything to the process of life.
What are likes and dislikes and how do they damage one internally?

To discriminate between things (actual things, events, and even opinions) is to set up a self over-against others. It is to exercise a discriminating consciousness which is the very source of not-oneness. From the perspective of the human, the source of all dualism is self-identity, for an individuated self is mutually generated with and by other. Without self there is no other. Without other there is not self. Subject gives birth to object and object gives birth to subject. And what is self if not itself a self-other phenomenon?

As Kierkegaard says: “The self is a relation which relates itself to itself.” Self consists of two poles opposed whereby it is self-aware. Self sees itself. Self talks to itself. Indeed, is not all thought a dialogue? Self is the source of dualism, is itself dualism. If wholeness is wholesomeness, if unity is completeness, how could such an internal divide be other than harmful? For this reason, no-self is philosophical Taoism’s prescription for human alienation from Reality and from its own being. The alternative is to be like Huizi who treats (his) spirit like a stranger.

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.


  1. on the one hand, self awareness is detrimental, but on the other it is beneficial. without self awareness, self-initiated change would be impossible. we would be subject to whatever environment we happen to be in at the time and blown about by the strong will of others. also, saying something is detrimental is also black-and-white thinking, and you pointed out earlier what the zhuangzi says about that. in fact, you can't even say that black-and-white thinking is wrong because A. it's not, and B. it shows black-and-white thinking to say such!

    apologies for not commenting as much as i normally do, but i simply can't find time in the day to read long articles, as i usually only have 10 minutes to pop by every now and again, and also a lot of the times i don't have much to comment on when it comes to scott's work. i have to admit that i don't understand your main point much of the time, probably because like i said i only have 10 minutes to quickly go over these posts, so again i apologize!

  2. I DO understand your point about length. Scott has granted me permission to take these huge essays and cut them up into blog posts. Lately, I've put more effort into finding natural breaks in his stream of thought, but some passages shouldn't be parsed just to make them fit.

    My material tends to be far shorter. However, I've had over 5 years to perfect my blogging style. Scott is very new to this medium as should be apparent by the fact that I'm posting (formatting) all of his work.

  3. yep! :) what i do read of scott's work i like, i just don't have time to read it all! also, your blog posts are more conversational which is easier for me to follow. reading scott is a little bit like reading philosophy works- i have to stop after each sentence and work out the meaning, and then sometimes read it again for clarity.


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