Friday, June 21, 2013

Not-One Is Also One V (Revisited)

Scott Bradley
Original post date: May 11, 2010


Continuing with the discussion from Zhuangzi, Chapter 6...

Let us assume then that we now ‘know’ what Heaven does. What does man do? We smile as we realize how much more complicated it is to examine man than Heaven. The complexity of the Human is expressed in Legge’s parenthetic use of ought to.

Unlike Reality, the Human is capable of being (in a cognitive and attitudinal sense) other than it is. Humanity is capable of deliberate (as opposed to spontaneous) activity wherein the ‘understanding consciousness’ assumes a control over life. What it cannot control (death), becomes its hated enemy.

To live in such disharmony with Reality is, however, not to understand what man does — it is not the utmost knowledge. This “preliminary formulation” speaks of the human in harmony, not disharmony. It is the human doing what it ‘ought’ rather than what it ought not. Given our ‘fallen’ state, our propensity to chose the ‘ought not’ of deliberate control, however, we can only understand what man does (as ‘ought to’) in the context of what he does as ‘ought not’.

(All this talk of ‘ought to’ and ‘ought not to’ begs a clarification, namely, that it should not be thought that the True Man, the person living in the spontaneity of Reality, has arrived at that state through the application of ‘ought to’ or that he lives under the lash of moral obligation. Spontaneity is the very opposite of this. It is the non-deliberate and natural expression of one’s nature.)

Looking again at Reality as the givens of our existence in contrast to the Human it seems clear that the question of free-will rears its monstrous head. For though Zhuangzi does not raise the issue himself, it is very much implied in the given statement. If Reality is what is unavoidable and the Human is, in some sense, other than this, then there is in the Human that which is a matter of choice. Humanity can choose how it relates to the givens of existence.

In the context of Zhuangzi’s thought as a whole, that choice presents itself as between harmony through affirmation of what Is or disharmony through confrontation with what Is. Fortunately for this commentator, who has neither the capacity nor desire to discuss the question of free-will, Zhuangzi obviates the need for the discussion and the distinctions it would require in his deconstruction of the statement itself.

In the end, it matters not at all whether one has free-will or not; living in spontaneity one lives whatever Is and that suffices to silence every unanswerable question. Even how one arrives at spontaneity cannot be asked or answered since this is an ‘end’ which knows no ‘means’. In the end, isn’t this Zhuangzi’s very point in presenting the statement, stirring it up into a meaningless muddle, and then describing for us the Genuine Human Being who lives the Genuine Knowledge without a clue as to where the Heavenly and the Human begin or end?

You can check out Scott's writings on Zhuangzi here.

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