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Zhuangzi: only "a fool or a swindler" would prize right over wrong

Tonight we'll be looking at one of the Zhuangzi's most renowned and effective chapters, of which translations are available here and here. From a modern Western point of view, the relativistic, skeptical, and even nihilistic messages of the Zhuangzi can play strangely. When we're told things like "you'd have to be out of your mind to care about right and wrong", our cultural resources bias us toward assuming that the writers must either be endorsing some kind of self-centered hedonism or feeling lost and giving up hope for a meaningful life.

Prizing right over wrong seems like the kind of thing we do when we have hope for a meaningful life, and when we don't want to lapse into self-centered hedonism. But according to many parts of the Zhuangzi, the quest to live well not only guarantees that we won't live well - it also indicates a fundamentally dangerous and unhealthy turn of mind, of which outright violence is only the most extreme expression. (This is why not only fools, but swindlers invest in moral discourse - there is no better way to use people than to appeal to their moralistic side.)

On the Zhuangist view, in order to actually get what good there is to be gotten, our primary concern should be dropping the assumption that right/wrong and good/bad are meaningful or important distinctions. Once we're able to do that, we can begin participating in the anthology's vividly eccentric, "free and easy" style of life - which (so we are promised) satisfies our hopes more than hoping does, and does better by others than doing right does.

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  • A former member
    A former member

    reminds me of the duality of Steppenwolf

    May 28, 2013

  • Brian

    must work

    April 30, 2013

  • Jenny T.

    Omg, I totally need to read this.

    April 12, 2013

  • Brian

    !!!

    April 12, 2013

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