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Additional Comments to Passage 6:5 in the Zhuangzi



Here again, Zhuangzi raises a position to tentatively consider, and then undermines it [Cf. 2:14].   In this case, the position under consideration is a sort of platitude maintaining the traditional hierarchical and pre-ordered concept of the cosmos, where each being has its determined role.   Zhuangzi demolishes this view from within, by first accepting it.   If both Heaven and Man have a role, and each should stick to this role, what would those roles be?   Heaven is for Zhuangzi the Heavenly, the spontaneous skylike aspect of things, which is by definition what is done by no agent, hence whatever precedes any agent, hence the process of coming-to-be, of generation per se.   It is the unknowable "where they sprout from" considered in previous chapters.   Man's role would then be that of knowing consciousness relating to this unknowable source and process of generation.   He would have to use what he understands to nourish this process of coming-to-be, which by definition precedes his understanding, since his being, and the being of his consciousness, depend on the unknown and non-knowing Heavenly process of generation.   It would be great if things were that simple—we could live out our years peacefully.   But unfortunately the very roles we are supposed to follow here contain a reference to knowing and its limits, and this problematizes even our knowing of what the roles are, who the players are.   As in Chapter Two, our knowledge is relative to what it depends on to hit its mark: its defining position, its indexical definition of what counts as "this" as opposed to "that," and hence of "right" as opposed to "wrong" or for that matter, "Heaven" as opposed to "Man."   We cannot know what is Heaven and what is Man in any absolute or universally applicable sense, and hence to prescribe that we follow our Human role in relation to the Heavenly process of creation is useless.  There simply can be no "Genuine knowledge" in that sense.   Zhuangzi tells us, instead, that Genuine Knowledge cannot mean true and justified knowledge of real facts, but instead should be used as a term to describe the state of the mind of the Genuine Human Being.   Who is the Genuine Human Being, and how would we know?   Don't the same problems about Genuine Knowledge apply also to the definition of the Genuine Human Being?   Isn't it also perspectival?   Doesn't this just push the problem back one level?   Yes.   Zhuangzi, from this point forward, offers merely a description, of what the Genuine Human Being appears to be from Zhuangzi's own perspective.   He is no longer trying to argue for his vision of the Genuine Human Being, or of Genuine Knowledge, over any other.   Hence he says, again and again, "What I call a Genuine man is…."   It is a description of how things look from where he stands, not an argument trying to prove that this is the only way things should look from everywhere.    But Zhuangzi also wants to show how moving in the opposite direction, away from the clear knowing and definition and following of pre-defined roles, toward the Radiance of Drift and Doubt, the Illumination of the Obvious, the confusion over roles and knowing and identities, can bring with it a solution to some of the problems that objective knowing was initially designed to solve.   See "Zhuangzi as Philosopher" on the support webpage.

 



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