Zhuangzi's Argument Analysis

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It is extremely ironic that in his writings, Zhuangzi often employs language and logical argument to undermine the usefulness of language and logical argument. Setting aside the problem of this possible inconsistency, here I will explain Zhuangzi’s argument regarding truth and human capacity–or lack thereof–to understand it.
Zhuangzi begins by describing a familiar situation: You and I have opposing views on a topic and argue to figure out who is right and who is wrong. Suppose one of us “wins” the debate–that is to say, one of us makes an argument to which the other can give no satisfactory response. Now, Zhuangzi poses the rhetorical question: Is the winner necessarily right and the loser necessarily wrong? Clearly not, as it is entirely
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Or are both of us right and both of us wrong?” We can easily think of situations in which both sides of an argument are wrong (for example, I say hexagons have seven sides while you claim they have five), but how can two opposing viewpoints be right at the same time? Fortunately, we can find such an example in the Zhuangzi itself: The renowned beauties Lady Li and Maoqiang might attract human men, but animals would find them repulsive such that “if fish saw them they would dive deep, if birds saw them they would fly high, and if deer saw them they would cut and run.” By raising the possibility of opposing sides being right at the same time, Zhuangzi emphasizes the importance of perspective. Men, fish, birds, and deer–“which knows beauty rightly?” Just as men and animals might find different things beautiful, so different truths might hold equally true for different people. Here, Zhuangzi goes beyond his initial idea–that we cannot discern truth through argumentation–and extends it to human understanding in general. As creatures limited by the prejudices inherent in our perspectives, we cannot hope to know objective, absolute truth: “Only as I know things myself do I know them.” Humans can understand only relative truths, which hold according to certain perspectives and within certain frameworks, but not absolute truth, or what Zhuangzi refers to as “The…show more content…
First, due to our different and limited perspectives, humans can only know truth that is relative to their perspective. Second, because arguments are ineffective ways of discovering truth, humans cannot teach or learn truth from each other, at least not through language. Therefore, humans cannot fathom absolute truth and are muddled even in their attempts to communicate and impart to each other their knowledge of relative truths–a bleak conclusion indeed! Perhaps we can find some solace in the accomplishment of Butcher Ding, whose prodigious skill derives from intuition of “the Heavenly patterns.” Although his experience is limited to the narrow task of butchery–merely a tiny sliver in the vastness of The Way–it represents some hope of transcending our limitations and grasping the
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