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February 24, 2012

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Greetings Sam,

After reading your words I find myself asking, if not from our human nature, where does desire come from?

in peace,
gar

For Zhuangzi, "human nature," or as he says "mangling yourself with 'good' and 'bad'..." are socially constructed expectations and standards and roles that individuals (unnecessarily) latch on to. Desire, then, is generated from without. He believes that we can, some of us, avoid such desires, empty ourselves, and simply live in the moment of ziran...

I think King should read Steven Pinker's The Blank Slate. He debunks the idea that we are born as a blank slate.

re: "For Zhuangzi, "human nature," or as he says "mangling yourself with 'good' and 'bad'..." are socially constructed expectations and standards and roles that individuals (unnecessarily) latch on to. Desire, then, is generated from without. He believes that we can, some of us, avoid such desires, empty ourselves, and simply live in the moment of ziran."

"Zhuangzi" actually says that socially-constructed standards mangle our human nature (Xing), not that these are our so-called human nature (though some in ancient China felt these standards were inherent in our nature).

As for desire, there isn't much in the Zhuangzi about desire (yu) and most of it that is in there is influenced by the Laozi. I feel that the authors of the text basically agreed with Song Xing that our desires are few. Additionally, we best not be attached to any desires we manifest, thus we will enjoy more peace of mind.

Thanks for the comment, Scott. You're right, I should be more precise in how I frame things here... one of the dangers of a blog is lack of precision. I read this passage in Zhuangzi against Mencius and Xunzi. Perhaps I shouldn't, since it isn't about xing. But it seems that the passage rejects the notion of an inherently "good" or "bad" human nature. If it is neither of those then, I think, Zhuangzi suggests that it is closer to a "blank slate," whatever Pinker has to say about it... At the very least, we can return to something like the blank slate. And, yes, I am influenced by the DDJ here: "uncarved block" and all that, as your nom de blog implies... And the DDJ also holds up the infant as an ideal of sorts, not yet corrupted by the anxieties of "good" and "bad" that plague adults. I think the notion of plasticity in the linked-to piece gets at this...

Greetings Sam,

It seems to me that the "uncarved block" has substance, "t'ung-ch'u" produced from the same, and the carving is done by our filtered mind.

Not sure how anyone could believe in a blank slate if they have watched children grow from birth.

I think we can, and should, talk about what "human nature" is, but not, in the end, in the manner that Pinker does. For a fairly sophisticated, and I think largely persuasive philosophical discussion of human nature, please see P.M.S. Hacker's Human Nature: The Categorial Framework (2007). http://www.amazon.com/Human-Nature-The-Categorial-Framework/dp/1444332481/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1333413244&sr=1-3

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