Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Shenzi X

Scott Bradley

They began by equalizing all things . . . . They knew that each thing had something acceptable and something unacceptable about it and declared, 'To make a choice is to lose the all-pervading; when one thing is taught, something else is blocked out. But the Dao excludes nothing.
(Zhuangzi 33; Ziporyn)
We were looking at how different these statements are from those of Zhuangzi, despite their apparent similarity.

Zhuangzi, for instance, also tells us that all things are both acceptable and unacceptable, but this is because these determinations are merely perspectival; it says nothing about the things themselves. They are so according to one's point of view, not because of actual qualities within them. Shenzi, on the other hand, appears to believe that these qualities actually exist within the things themselves. This corresponds to his apparent belief in a metaphysical entity, Dao. Though he would abandon all knowledge (as the following interpretative analysis tells us), it is his supposed knowledge that leads him to do so. Shenzi does not participate in Zhuangzi's liberating sense of ambiguity, of not-knowing, but rather knows the qualities of things, and knows the equalizing One that unites them.

Thus, Shenzi suggests we attempt a kind of quietist neutrality in our interface with the world. Make no choices, initiate no activity, be inert. Zhuangzi, by contrast, calls for complete engagement in the world, albeit within the purview of a radically different point of view (perspective), the view from Dao. Because all things are both affirmable and unaffirmable, he suggests that we affirm them all. Shenzi negates all things; Zhuangzi affirms them.

Zhuangzi calls this perspective the Pivot or Hinge of the Dao. The view from Dao is like being in the center of a circle, at the pivot point where one is able swing about so as to view all things (opinions) with equanimity. The equalization of all things leads to our affirming them, whereas for Shenzi, it leads to negating them.

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

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