Reply to Yang’s Prior Post

Yang mentioned that Yang and I dismiss the notion that people do not change for philosophies, but the extent to which people genuinely change can be…questionable. As I was typing that last sentence, a litany of examples came to my mind.

Take for instance the many motivational videos on, say, Youtube. One video might (and one does) convey that social media and cell phones are decreasing quality time in real life, with its message receiving applaud from the nameless on the internet. My guess is that it doubtlessly succeeded in spreading awareness, but for it to change people’s views such that action is taken is dubious at best, a rare sight to be seen, if my intuition serves me correctly. This is because, as David Hume wrote, “reason is and ought only to be a slave to the passions”—a notion which I’ve seen reinforced often.

Whether David Hume is right in his “ought” judgement, it is hard to deny that an undesirable, yet not without virtue, philosophy (of the continental sort) would have any genuine impact on a susceptible person if that person’s senses are prior to her reason. I figure a genuine impact might be the case only if the stars are aligned.

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Not Good is Not No Good

Scarecrow_in_Taipei
In logic, there is a fallacy (an instance of poor reasoning) called the straw man: contorting a proposition only for it to be “beaten” down. Scarecrow in Taipei by 陽炎.

A logical opposite is a sentence (I use sentence very loosely here.) that is the negation of its counterpart. In practice, logical opposition is generally inserting a “not” near the core of the sentence.

Zhuangzi could have been striving to be therapeutic or (its logical opposite) not therapeutic. 

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Our Approach to Eastern Philosophy

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If you’ve been reading this blog for some time, then you might know that Yang and I take a more analytically-inclined approach to eastern and western philosophy. Ideally, what this entails is similar to developing a formula or working through an algorithm, but instead the work is done with propositions (there is no clear cut cardinality and arithmetic…and people think philosophy is easy!). Sometimes, though, time doesn’t allow for fully explaining everything such that the most coherent and strong view is formed or readily apparent, so we think it might suffice to introduce ideas into eastern philosophical discussion. This can be seen with Yang’s post about morality in Taoism.

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The Tao in Relation to Everything

 

Pheasant,_Great_Argus_2012
Angus Charles Graham’s Disputers of the Tao cites that the Argus Pheasant is the legendary Peng.

The Tao is said to be many things. Among such are emptiness, nothingness, spirit, the way, unity, dung and so on and so forth. If you have a clear idea of what the Tao is, then either you are a sage or more understanding need be had by you. Perhaps the Tao can be approximated from infinitely many distinctions, but that directly contradicts the idea of the Tao. For now, let’s define it simply as The Way. In our Taoist musings, we made reference to some God Tao; this is a mistaken (and satirical) view, but it needs clarifying how the Tao clearly relates to us and everything around us.

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Eastern Philosophy: Not Mystical But Metaphorical

Mount Sanqing, an important Taoist Mountain, can create a sense of magic with its greatness.
Mount Sanqing, an important Taoist Mountain, can create a sense of magic with its greatness.

To many people, Philosophical Taoism and Buddhism are full of strange and fanciful ideas; it may seem absurd that a bird or a mouse could be the reincarnation of a relative or that people can achieve immorality by living stress-free, but these ideas and many others are taken out of context, only allowing potential seekers of “spirituality” and onlookers to engage with the concepts in a straightforward manner. This leads people to think that these philosophies have some sort of “magic” in them.

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