Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Tao Books - Liberation As Affirmation

Scott Bradley

I have just finished Ge Ling Shang's Liberation As Affirmation: The Religiosity of Zhuangzi and Nietzsche (Suny Series in Chinese Philosophy and Culture) and this brings me to that place where I presume to make a final critique.

On the negative side, I have already mentioned that some parts, particularly in the important foundational beginning, seem to have escaped the editor's scrutiny; not only is the grammar sometimes so poor as to render meaning obscure, but there are also times, irrespective of grammar, when meaning is opaque beyond my powers (at any rate) to decipher with any degree of confidence. For instance, though I have attempted an interpretation, I still do not understand what he means by "Dao throughs as one", a pivotal concept in his overall argument.

That does it for the negative. I found the book very helpful and insightful overall. I admit that this is largely a result of discovering that we agree in so many ways and because the affirmation of a scholar is encouraging.

Most importantly, and still more subjectively, I will presume to say that Ge seems to have really "got it" in terms of the spirit and intent of Zhuangzi. This is, in my experience, a rarity. Most translators and commentators, though perhaps quite knowledgeable about the Zhuangzi, do not seem to have made that spiritually appreciative connection with it that takes their understanding to that next, not quite definable, level. This, I suppose, is understandable. Scholarship is largely defined by its supposedly objective, and therefore un-involved, analysis. Yet, the nature of the subject, a spiritual transcendence that sets reason on its ear, requires a spiritually sensitive appreciation in order to be truly 'understood". One need only consider the numerous peculiar interpretations of wu wei to get the sense of this necessity.

I'll close with a one of Ge's partial summations of the Zhuangzian vision:
Everything, every moment in this world and this life, body, instinct, chaos, contradiction, appearance, all condemned and marginalized in the history of conventional philosophy and religion, should be affirmed and celebrated as sacred and divine.
Zhuangzi's call is ultimately to an affirmation of the human experience in its totality.

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

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