In the Social World

An early history of Philosophy in China

  1. Introduction
  2. Mozi
  3. Song Xing
  4. Shen Dao
  5. Laozi
  6. Zhuangzi
  7. Hui Shi

There are many who manipulate formulae and methods in the social world. Each with regard to what he has thinks it cannot be added to. Consider what, in ancient times, was called a guiding method, where was it? Answer: there is nowhere it was not. It is said:

Effective energy, from where does it descend?
Discrimination: from whence does it emerge?
Sagliness from what does it arise?
Kings: how are they made?
All are based on the same thing.

It does not depart from the orthodoxy; call it a "natural person." It does not depart from the fine details: call it an "effective person." It does not depart from the authentic: call it a "person who has reached it." To regard constant nature as the orthodoxy, to regard virtuosity as the basis, to regard a guide as the gate, and pick auspiciously among the changes and transformations, call that a "sagely person."

To deem benevolence as kindness, morality as a natural tendency, convention as what to follow and music as harmonizing and is highly compassionate, call it a "gentleman."

To deem objective standards as the basis for divisions, names as gnomen, surveying as testing, and results to decide, who numbers things, one-two-three-four is such a person. The hundred offices use these to settle things.

To deem social affairs as constancies, be focused on wearing and eating, give rich thought to husbandry, storage, have concerns for the old and weak, orphaned and widowed and how to nourish them all, these are the tendencies of the people.

The ancients were complete. They coordinated with effective discrimination, and appreciated constant nature and earth's cycles. They reared the natural kinds, harmonized the social world and made the hundred clans bountiful. They could discern the basic numbers, and linked it to the detailed measures, interacted with systems of six and of four, the small and great, fine and coarse, their operation was everywhere. They discerned within systems of number and measurement, The historians of old standards and detailed generational records have a lot of this. It is in the Odes, History, Rites and Music and many of the decorated scholars of Zou and Lu can discern them. The Odes guides the will, the History guides social affairs, the Rites guides conduct and the Music guides harmonizing. The Book of Changes guides Yin and Yang, the Spring and Autumn Annals guides names and differences. The numbers are scattered throughout the social world and are collected back to the central states. The learning of the hundred schools regularly cite and discourse about these.

When the social world is in disorder, worthy sages do not discern and guiding discourse and virtuosity do not cohere. Many in the social world examine a portion of it and regard themselves well. It is like ear, eye, nose and mouth. Each has that which it can discern but they cannot interchange. So the hundred schools with their crowd of skills, each has a strength and there is a time when it is useful. Still, we should not fail to universalize. One aspect scholars divide the beauty of natural constancies and earth's cycles and chop up the principles of the myriad natural kinds and divide up the integrated view of the ancients.

Few are able to match the beauty of natural constancies and earth's cycles and state the content of effectiveness and discernment. For this reason, the guiding discourse of being a sage within and a king without is obscured and not discerned, clogged and does not come forth. Each person in the social world deems what he desires in it as his own formulae. It is sad! The Hundred schools spread out, do not return and certainly can not cooperate. The scholars of later times unfortunately cannot see the simplicity of natural constancy and earth's cycles, the great system of the ancients, then the skill of guiding discourse will be rent by the social world.

Not to be extravagant in later times, not to damage the natural kinds or to make a display of numbers and measure, to take a chalk line as a model and respond to the urgencies of the age. The ancient skill of guiding discourse had these features in it. Modi (Mozi) and Qin Guli got wind of it and liked it. In deeming it, they went to far and took it too literally. They construed it as opposed to music and determined it as constraining consumption. In life they did not sing, in death wore no mourning. Mozi made 'love' extensive and 'benefit' universal and disapproved battle. His guiding discourse was not to get angry and he approved of study and combined whatever had no difference. He was not the same with the earlier kings and the ancient rites and music.

The Yellow Emperor had Xian-Chi music, Yao had Dazhang music, Shun DaShao, Yu the Daxia, Tang the Da huo, King Wen the Biyong music and King Wu and the Duke of Chou made these martial dances. In ancient burial rites, there were standards for noble and plebeian and higher and lower classes. The Emperor had seven stacked coffins, the high officials five and medium officials three and the scholar-knight doubled. Now Mozi alone wants the living not to sing and the dead not to be dressed, a three-inch coffin and no outer coffin and treats this as a measurement standard and style. He taught people this, I fear it was not loving people. To carry it out on oneself is certainly not to love oneself.

Mozi's guiding discourse is not defeated, still we sing and he decries singing, we cry and he decries crying, we have concerts and he decries concerts, Don't these in substance belong to our type? When you are alive you move, when you are dead you thin out. His guiding discourse was too parsimonious and made people anxious and pessimistic and his behaviors were hard to carry out. I'm afraid it cannot be deemed the guiding discourse of a sage. It went against the psychology of the social world. The social world can not sustain it. If only Mozi alone could bear the responsibility, what about the social world? Detached from the social world, he was some distance from being a king!

Mozi recited his guiding discourse saying: In ancient times Yu's stopping the flood, determining the course of rivers, and establishing intercourse between the 4 barbarians and 9 provinces, named three hundred Rivers, directed three thousand tributaries, and smaller ones without number. Yao himself handled the implements of this work and nine times traveled the social worlds rivers till there was no flesh on his calves and no hair on his shins. In storms and wind he set up the many city states. Yao was a great sage and yet he worked his body like this for the social world. This caused later Mohists to wear coarse furs and wool and cover their feed with hemp sandals, to work day and night without rest and take self deprivation to the extreme. They say, if not like this, we are not following the guide of Yao and are not worthy to be called Mohists.

The followers of Xiang Liquan, the disciples of Wu Hou and the Mohists of the south: Ku Huo, Jizhi, Denglingzi, and their group all recited the Mohist Canon and yet divided in interpretation and lost unity. They mutually called each other splittist Mohists and regaled each other with Hard-white and Similar-different distinctions and answered each other with phrases about how divergent examples don't match. They regarded their high masters as sages and wanted to advocate them to the others and later generations, but even today it is not settled.

Modi and Qin Guli's intent was correct, but their practice was not and they led later Mohists to torment themselves and wear out their thighs and shins and simply urged each other on. The disorder rose and order declined Still, Mozi authentically reflected what was good for the social world although in seeking it he could not succeed and though worn out, he did not give up. He was a skillful scholar-knight.

Don't be burdened by customs. Don't embellish natural kinds. Don't distort the human. Don't offend the crowd. Wanting peace in the social world and the living out the people's natural lives. When Others and my nourishment are both sufficient, that is enough. Use this to cleanse one's psychology.

The ancient skill of guiding discourse had these features in it. Song Xing (Songzi) and Yin Wen got wind of it and liked it. They construed it as a "cap of Hua mountain" as their style. In receiving the myriad natural kinds, they took "different pens" as their starting point. They spoke of the contents of the heart and directed people to the behavior of the heart. This was to bring coordinated action and harmony to all within the seas. They concentrated on laying out the real desires. With "To be criticized is not a disgrace" they sought to save people from fighting. With "Prohibit aggression and bury armaments" they sought to save the generation from war. With these tenets they went all around the social world. To those above they explained, to those below they taught. Although the social world did not take their doctrine, they were steadfast and did not give it up. So it is said "above and below are sick of the sight of you, but you force yourself upon them."

However, they were too much for others too little for the self. They said, "The reality based desires are inherently set out. Five pecks of rice is enough" The teachers, I fear, would not be filled and the disciples although starving would not forget the social world. Day and night without resting. They said, "I certainly will live" Model oneself on those who save the world.. They said "The gentleman does distort his examination, don't, for the sake of your body, falsify natural kinds." That which they deemed not for the good of the social world, to discern it is not as good as stopping short. They took "forbid aggression and bury armaments" as the outside and "reality based desires are few and meager" as the inside. With regard to small and large, fine and coarse, their behavior fits to this and then stops.

For the general public not cliques; changing and without selfishness; decisive but without any control; responsive to things without dividing in two. Not absorbed with reflection. Not calculating in knowing how. Not choosing among natural kinds and flowing along with them. These are part of the ancient guiding methods. Peng Meng, Tian Pian and Shen Dao got wind of them and delighted in them.

They took collocating all the natural kinds as the key. They said, "Natural constancies can cover but cannot sustain-Earthly cycles can sustain but cannot cover it. The Great Guide can embrace it but cannot distinguish it. We know the myriad natural kinds all have both that which is acceptable and that which is unacceptable. So they said, "If you select then you cannot be comprehensive, if you teach you cannot convey all of it. The guide does not leave anything out.

Hence Shen Dao "abandoned knowledge and discarded 'self'. He flowed with the inevitable and was indifferent to natural kinds. These were his guiding tendencies. He said "know to not know (what to do)." He would have reduced know how to something harmful. Naked and without responsibility, he laughed at the social world for elevating worthies. Dissolute and with no standards of conduct, he rejected the social world's great sages. Skillful and crafty he responded to natural kinds. He lived together with shi and fei, mixed acceptable and avoidable. He didn't treat knowing and deliberation as guides, didn't know front from back. He was indifferent to everything.

If he was pushed he went, if pulled he followed--like a leaf whirling in the stream, like a feather in a wind, like dust on a millstone. He was complete and distinguished (fei) nothing. In motion and rest never went too far. He was without crime. How was this? Natural kinds that lack knowledge are free from the trouble of creating a self and from the entanglements of knowing what to do. In motion or rest he did not miss the natural tendencies. And for this reason he had no high status. So he said, "reach for being like things without knowledge of what to do. Don't use worthies and sages. Even a clod of earth cannot miss the guide.

The worthy officials all laughed at him and said, "Shen Dao's guide does not lead to the conduct of a living man but the tendency of a dead man. It is really very strange. . . .

Tian Pian was the same and studied under Peng Meng and attained "not learning" Peng Meng's teaching said: "The ancient way of guiding people extends to simply not shi-ing or fei-ing anything. It's noise is silence; how could it be spoken? They made reversing what is human a constant value, didn't take the common view and couldn't avoid inconsistency. That which they called a guide was a non-guide and what they approved could not but be wrong. Pang Meng, Tian Pian and Shen Dao did not know how to guide although they had heard some of it.

To take the root as the nuance, natural kinds as crude and having an accumulation of deemings as inadequate. Being uniquely unpretentious while dwelling with effective discernment. These are part of the ancient guiding methods. Guanyin and Lao Tan got wind of them and delighted in them.

They set it up in treating "non-being being" as constant and subjugated it under the Supreme One. They took leniency, weakness, modesty and inferiority as its standards and emptiness, vacuity, not damaging the natural kinds as its stuff.

Guanyin said: "Within yourself, don't reside in views; the shape of things is self disclosing. It's movement is like water; its rest like a mirror; its response like an echo. Ignore it as if it were lost. Be still as though pure. That which is made similar is harmonious, that which is gained from it is lost. It has never been prior to humanity and constantly followed it."

Old Tan said:

To know its 'male'

and preserve its 'female'

is to act as the world's ravine.

To act as the world' ravine,

To know its 'white'

and preserve its 'black'

is to act as the world's valley.

People all choose being ahead

Only I choose being after.

He said: "accept the excretion of the social world." All of humanity preferred stuff; he alone choose emptiness. Don't store up and you will consequently have more than enough. In doing nothing he had more than enough. His conduct was his character, he was at ease and did not expend much. He did not act according to a scheme and laughed at skill. All of humanity sought good fortune; he alone took being bent as being whole. He said: "avoid punishment." He took depth as the base and entanglements as the threads. He said: "if you are solid then you break; if you're sharp you get worn off." He treated liberal acceptance of natural kinds as a constant and didn't whittle them to suit the human. He could be said to have taken it to the extreme. Guanyin and Lao Tan! They certainly were grandiose genuine men of old.

Diffuse, barren and without shape, changing and transforming without taking anything as constant, with life or with death, balancing natural constancies and earthly cycles, moving with effective discernment-Lost! Where am I going. I've forgotten! What am I trying to match up to? All the different natural kinds are arranged and none are up to being a point of return. These are part of the ancient guiding methods. Zhuangzhou got wind of them and delighted in them.

With paradoxical and allegorical explanations, the language of hyperbole and irony, and by constructing reductios and regresses, he was sometimes a little undisciplined but didn't get locked into any group's point of view or prejudice. He took the social world to be mired in obscurity and wouldn't join in their pontificating. He regarded "goblet words" as open metaphors, redundancies as true, and perspectival utterances as expansive. He alone was able to commute with the nuanced energy of the cosmos without claiming a priority among all the natural kinds.

He didn't reproach with "right" and "wrong" and used this to take a place in the world's customs. Although his writings are extraordinary, there would have no harmful consequences. All though he words things from many points of view, the sophistries are perceptible. The solidity of his position is invulnerable. Above he roams with those who make natural kinds and below he befriends those who transcend life and death, beginning and end.

Regarding the root, he laid it out comprehensively and found ample roaming room in its depths. Regarding the ancestral, he can be said both to be in tune with it and to be pulling it along. Still, he responds to changes and is undone by natural kinds. His guiding tendencies are not exhaustible and his having come to be cannot be eradicated. Evasive and baffling, he has still to be fully grasped.

Hui Shi had many formulae and his writings filled five carts, but his guiding doctrine was incoherent and his language didn't get the point. He catalogued the significance of natural kinds. He said:

  1. 'The ultimately great has nothing outside it, call it "the greatest One". The ultimately small has nothing inside it, call it ''the smallest one".
  2. 'That which has no thickness cannot be accumulated, yet it's amounts to a thousand miles.
  3. 'The sky is on a par with the earth; mountains are level with the marshes.
  4. 'The sun is simultaneously at the center and declining; natural kinds are simultaneously living and dying.
  5. 'Make unity great and with it a lesser unity differs. This we call the lesser unity and difference. The myriad natural kinds are totally the same and totally different. This we call the great similarity and difference.
  6. 'The south has no limit yet has a limit.
  7. 'I go to Yue today yet arrived yesterday.'
  8. 'Linked rings can be disconnected.
  9. 'I know the center of the world; north of Yen (northern region) and south of Yue (southern region); it is this-here-now.
  10. 'Exhaustively love all the myriad thing-kinds; The cosmos is one unit.'

Hui Shih treated these as great insights into the social world and as something that could illuminate discrimination. The dialecticians of the social world shared his delight with them.

The dialecticians used these to respond to Hui Shih, and the issues never end.

Huan Tuan and Gongsun Long were students of the dialecticians. They could decorate people's heart-minds and change people's views; they could win over other people's mouths, but couldn't convince them in their heart-minds. This was the dialecticians' limitation. Hui Shi daily used his knowhow to dispute with people. But it was only among the social world's distinction-makers that he had an impact. That was his base.

Thus, Hui Shi's discussion he himself deemed most worthy. He said: Cosmology is the grand issue. I preserve the male and have no method. In the south was a curious man called Huang Liao. He asked why the cosmos does not collapse or fall and the reasons for wind, rain and thunder. Hui Shih answered without hesitation and replied without thinking. He had theories for all the natural kinds and never stopped explaining. He went on and on and still thought it sparse and would embellish it with weirdness.

He took whatever contradicted conventional wisdom as solid and wished to make a name for himself by winning over people. So he didn't fit in with the crowd.

Lacking in virtuosity and strong on the natural kinds was his undoing. From the perspective of a cosmic guide, if we look at Hui Shi's capacity, he was like a mosquito or a gnat working away. What use could he be to natural kinds?

In general, those who mastered one aspect can be esteemed. One could say that little more attention to guidance and they would be there. Hui Shi couldn't use this to train himself. He was scattered over the many natural kinds and would not stop. He got his reputation as being good at disputation, but a pity considering his talents. He dashed about and never got it, pursued the many natural kinds and couldn't get back. His was a voice that lasted only as long as his echo. His influence passed with his body. Sad!?