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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It’s Hard to Follow Certain Philosophies

This is the book Yang read. I would come to read it before going to college.
This is the book Yang read. I would come to read it before going to college.

Hui and I at first dismissed the notion that people do not change for philosophies (of the continental sort). Some who would discover meaningful ideas (for instance Stoicism) and attempt to adhere to them generally end up feeling unenthusiastic or forgetting the extremities of the ideas. By “some,” I know at least one.


I read an instance of a person changing for her philosophy. I read that the author was getting annoyed by her husband for the usual jokes, but she realized her petulance and changed her entire attitude. I was either incredulous or respectful to the post, but I do commend the author, if it actually happened.


But for those who find it hard to stick to a philosophy, I’ll use mine to rationalize the difficulty, the main suspect being that the philosophy is too different from the nature of people. For example, how could a hipster stop suppressing emotion for following Stoicism? However, I don’t know if anyone would be capable of straying from Zhuangzi’s philosophy.

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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What’s the Role of Meditation in the Zhuangzi?

Artist: Kano Tan'yû (1602–1674)
Artist: Kano Tan’yû (1602–1674)

In one of my earliest posts, I mentioned that meditation and the ideas in the Zhuangzi are closely related. Actually, Zhuangzi made reference to meditation when a man (Yan Hui) asked Confucius about how to proceed to act with the Tao and be in the world of men. This passage can be seen in the “In the World of Men” Chapter of The Zhuangzi.

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The Double-Edged Sword of Eastern Philosophy

 

Words are very inconsistent in what they mean and try to bound the boundless.
Words are very inconsistent in what they mean and try to bound the boundless.

I was trying to pick arguments to analyze for an assignment in my philosophy class. I came up with four or five candidates, three of which were from Zhuangzi and one of which was from the Spring and Autumn Annals. In picking the arguments, I noticed that most of the eastern ones were arguments by analogy and that they employed figurative language. So, when I’m trying to analyze eastern philosophy, those traits often present some problems.

Continue reading The Double-Edged Sword of Eastern Philosophy