Monday, May 20, 2013

Selections from Xunzi IV

Scott Bradley


All quotes are from Xunzi: Basic Writings; Burton Watson (Columbia Univ. Press, 2003).


DEBATING MILITARY AFFAIRS (Section 15)

"[B]e as careful about the end as you are about the beginning and the end and the beginning will be alike." (Exit strategy? Who needs it?)

"These four emperors and two kings marched through the world with their soldiers of benevolence and righteousness." (Onward Christian soldiers . . .)


A DISCUSSION OF HEAVEN (Section 17)

"[He] who can distinguish between the activities of Heaven and those of mankind is worthy to be called the highest type of man." (Curiously, this exact sentiment is offered by Zhuangzi as a proposition to deconstruct. He concludes he can't figure out where Heaven begins and humanity leaves off. Xunzi seems to be fearful that the spirit expressed in wu wei, natural, non-imposed activity, will lead to inaction, which is not the case. The only resolution that I can see to the 'problem' is to understand both how that everything human is heavenly (natural) and how that some human activities are more natural than others. Self-destructive activities are natural in that they happen, but they are not the activities which nature 'intends'. "Not-one is also One.")

"Only the sage does not seek to understand Heaven." (In this, I think Zhuangzi would agree. Xunzi mistakenly believes that 'Daoism' does not.)

"[O]rder and disorder are not due to the heavens." (Xunzi recognizes the responsibility of humanity for its own predicaments.)

Quoting the Odes: "If you have no faults of conduct, why be distressed at what others say?" (Why be distressed even if you do? The first is easy; the second hard. The first is delusional; the second honest.)

"Is it better to exalt Heaven and think of it / Or to nourish its creatures and regulate them? . . . Is it better to long for the source from which things are born / Or to possess the means to bring them to completion? Hence, if you set aside what belongs to man and long for what belongs to Heaven, you mistake the nature of things." (Xunzi makes a good case against 'pie in the sky when you die', but from a Zhuangzian perspective, the dichotomy is a false one. Heaven is man. Xunzi erects a straw man because he has failed to understand Daoism.)

"The ten thousand beings are only one corner of the Way. One species of being is only one corner of the ten thousand beings. The stupid man is only one corner of one species. He himself believes that he understands the Way, though of course he does not." (Well said, but poorly applied!)

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