2 Ways to Know Everything; A View on Distinction and Nondistinction

This is the picture that made me think more about distinction.
This is the picture that made me think more about distinction.

        I was “happily” reading my calculus textbook, reading about the arc length integral, when I saw this picture of circles with inscribed polygons approximating their respective circles. I quickly took a picture, sent it to Yang, and told him that the picture shows the relationship between nondistinction and infinite distinction.

        Zhuangzi wrote that assigning attributes, or distinguishing, is like turning the circle into a square. The circle is considered to be boundless in having no corners and is meant to be a representation of nature. So by distinguishing nature, one becomes bound to their perceptions of nature.

The Effect of Infinite Distinction

        Yet, what the picture shows is the effect of infinite distinctions on nature. Through assigning an infinite amount of attributes, one can come to an unbounded perspective of nature (and an unbound mind). By complexity or simplicity, one can singularly come to unboundness. This is strange, considering that the two are total opposites but come to the same end. But it does make sense because one ideal has to have another, opposite one. Note that regular distinction isn’t in the discussion because it surely won’t lead to sagehood or unboundness.

Which one: Nondistinction or Infinite Distinction?

        People usually say, about nondistinction, that it is impractical but agreeable. I spoke to my philosophy professor about this topic and he asked me for the reason why nondistinction is the way to go instead of distinction. I didn’t know the answer and I’m not sure if I know it now. But, my intuition tells me that, between nondistinction and infinite distinction, simplicity and complexity, that the former’s path is less long than the latter’s path (similar to ignorance or omniscience; which one takes more to attain fully). This is not to say that nondistinction is easier, but rather both are very difficult yet nondistinction seems more practical, given the alternative. At least western thinkers know how they can come to unboundness, by infinite distinction.


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Julius Ho

I attend the University of California, Berkeley, Law School. Before that, I attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and majored in philosophy. I can be considered taoist, and I've been boxing since middle school. I contribute to taopracticed.wordpress.com and straight2boxing.com.

2 thoughts on “2 Ways to Know Everything; A View on Distinction and Nondistinction”

  1. So glad to have found this. In taoism, might it not be the balance of yang-powered distinction (universalism) with yin-bilateral flowing nondistinction; which would transpose nondistinction to co-arising nondistinction? Anyway, wondering if you are familiar with Buckminster Fuller’s Synergetics. You remind me of his passion for geometrics of mind as steering toward cooperative eco-consciousness.

    With respect
    Gerald Dillenbeck

    Liked by 1 person

    1. To be candid, I don’t know much of anything you mentioned. And, I should say that yin and yang is a concept that we’ve not had much thought towards (even though it is a big aspect of Chinese thought). With that said, I think I gleaned your notions:
      A balance of distinction and nondistinction begetting co-arising nondistinction? At a second consideration of this, it seems that this is related to the part about the two coming to “the same end.” And, that they are two parts to one whole. To analogize (and also to be concise), at the limit of the numerous amounts of sides to the polygon that it starts to look indistinguishably like the circle, the line between bounds and no bounds eventually become one in the same, and in that end, both distinction and nondistinction make the whole and are balanced.

      I’m not familiar with Buckminster Fuller’s Synergetics, until now that is. Thanks for referencing it; there’s kind of an obscurity with philosophies dealing with these concepts. And thanks for your support too.


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