Warp, Weft, and Way

Chinese and Comparative Philosophy 中國哲學與比較哲學

Dao gives us our appearance, the Heavens our bodily form?

This topic contains 12 replies, has 1 voice, and was last updated by  Scott Barnwell 9 months ago.

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  • #130825 Reply

    Scott Barnwell

    Zhuangzi chapter 6, Victor Mair translation:

    “Are there really men without emotions?” Master Hui asked Master Zhuang. “Yes,” said Master Zhuang. “If a man has no emotions,” asked Master Hui, “how can he be called a man?” “The Way gives him an appearance,” said Master Zhuang, “and heaven gives him a form. How can he not be called a man?” “Since he is called a man,” said Master Hui, “how can it be that he has no emotions?” “That is not what I mean by emotions,” said Master Zhuang. “What I mean by having no emotions is to say that a man should not inwardly harm his person with ‘good’ and ‘bad,’ but rather should accord with the spontaneous and not add to life.” “If he does not add to life,” said Master Hui, “how can his person exist?” “The Way gives him an appearance,” said Master Zhuang, “and heaven gives him a form. He does not inwardly harm his person with preferences and aversions. Now you, sir, dissipate your spirit and expend your essence by leaning against a tree while you mutter or by dozing over your study table. Heaven granted you a form, sir, but you go on babbling about ‘hard’ and ‘white.'”

    I’ve long been puzzled as to what “The Way gives him an appearance, and Heaven gives him a form.” (道與之貌,天與之形) means. We don’t have much to go on, but does anyone have any guesses they want to share?

    #130826 Reply

    Scott Barnwell

    correction, chapter 5. (feel free to edit and delete this)

    #130829 Reply

    Steve Coutinho

    I don’t find the particular sentences you isolate from this passage to be problematic, Scott. They would be deeply problematic if we take the two sentences to be contrastive. But the parallel form here seems to me to be emphatic rather than contrastive. 道與之貌,天與之形. The way of the Cosmos (here indicated by both 天 and 道) gives us our manifest embodied form (貌/形).

    I think a deeper interpretive problem arises with the contrast of 貌/形 with 情. My preferred interpretation is that it’s a contrast of manifest embodied form with inner conditions. These inner conditions include our emotional responses of liking and disliking, and thereby of distinction making. Hence the criticism of Hui Zi at the end. (Another problem arises with Graham’s interpretation of 是非 in its technical sense. Ziporyn follows Graham here, but I’m not convinced. I find the straightforward “This is not…” to be more natural a reading.)

    #130834 Reply

    Paul R. Goldin

    I agree with Steve Coutinho’s points. Xing 形 comes very close to “body” in such contexts, but if anyone prefers “form,” I won’t quibble. I would, however, point out a couple of other weaknesses in Mair’s translation.

    1. Sentences like 人而無情,何以謂之人 and 既謂之人,惡得無情 are incomprehensible as long as you content yourself with “emotion” for qing. Graham’s well-known interpretation of qing works better here. This passage is a good example of how Mair’s translation (like Watson’s) starts to falter when he encounters philosophically rough terrain. They’re both brilliant at translating the more literary sections of the book, but neither one shows much command of philosophical vocabulary.

    2. In the phrase 無以好惡內傷其身, haowu 好惡 means “likes and dislikes,” not “good and bad.” Pretty surprising mistake for a translator of Mair’s caliber, actually.

    #130836 Reply

    Bill Haines

    If anyone wants background on interpretations of qíng 情, there’s Brian Bruya’s “Qing and Emotion in Early Chinese Thought,” linked on his publications page.

    #130843 Reply

    Scott Barnwell

    Thanks for your reply Steve. Your paraphrasing of “The way of the Cosmos gives us our manifest embodied form” seems reasonable. If I’m not mistaken, at the time, it was the Earth 地 that was usually considered responsible for our form 形 (or is that 體?) and Heaven our energy 氣. “Dao giving” (daoyu 道與) is a very odd phrase. And the significance of specifying face 貌? Do you think that qing 情 should be thought of having come from Dao or Heaven also but that sages 聖人 have eliminated or discarded it.

    Paul, I found it odd as well that he first translated haowu 好惡 as ‘good’ and ‘bad,’ but then a few lines later as “preferences and aversions,” which is correct.

    #130844 Reply

    Bill Haines

    Well, Mair doesn’t translate as “good and bad,” he translates as “‘good’ and ‘bad'” — referring to the use of the labels, to consciously viewing things as “good” and “bad.” That might not be right, but it’s not as bad as might appear.

    #130845 Reply

    Bill Haines

    I don’t understand Paul’s point that “人而無情,何以謂之人” would be incomprehensible or difficult to understand if we translate 情 as “emotions.” Mair’s “If a man has no emotions, how can he be called a man?” seems to me perfectly intelligible, as meaning “it’s essential to human beings to have emotions.” One could think of this as a critique of some ethical or religious view that advocates ridding oneself of all emotion; the objection is “That’s just not human. Nobody could be like that.”

    And the defender of such a view could reply, “Oh, no, I just meant ridding oneself of the kind of thing Hume calls the violent passions. I don’t mean getting rid of all attitudes. The Way gives us attitudes …”

    And in giving that reply one might use 貌 to mean “attitudes” or “Hume’s calm passions” or “Aristotle’s mean passions” (cf. 色)?

    If with Graham we translate the noun 情 as “facts”, then the sentence “人而無情,何以謂之人” strikes me offhand as incomprehensible.

    #130846 Reply

    Bill Haines

    Or we could read 貌 as meaning attitudes or emotions generally, not just violent passions.

    I’m thinking of the kind of thing I was talking about when, writing on Slote and discussing Aristotle, I wrote

    “(b) Probably every operation of the mind involves affect, pleasure, or things we might want to call “passions,” pathe. But among the things we might call “passions,” pathe, some are more violent than others, less responsive to thinking, or less integral to good general rational functioning; so that it seems apt to say these are affecting us, moving us, pushing us around. These are events are salient as passions, the stereotypical cases of “passion,” where the word is most at home, most apt (cf. Met. 1022b15-19). (We might say the same about the English ‘emotion’. Translators often use ‘emotion’ for thumos, really a passionate excitement loosely associated with the chest.)”

    #130847 Reply

    Paul R. Goldin

    Graham didn’t say that qing means “facts.” His argument was a little more complex than that.

    My point is that Huizi’s confusion isn’t adequately conveyed by translating qing as “emotion.” Of course qing encompasses something comparable to “emotion”; it would be hard to understand texts like the Great Preface to the Odes (don’t forget 不學詩,無以言, my philosopher friends …) if qing did not have such connotations (as in phrases like 情動於中而形於言). But its range is much broader than that, and if you go back to Graham’s definition, namely “The qing of X is what X cannot lack if it is to be called X,” then Huizi’s question becomes more comprehensible. How can there be a human being without the thing that human beings must have in order to be called human beings? It seems like a contradiction in terms.

    THEN you get Zhuangzi’s response.

    For recent scholarship on qing, I recommend a neglected book: Halvor Eifring, Love and Emotions in Traditional Chinese Literature, which I reviewed in Dao 9 (2010), 237-40.

    #130848 Reply

    Bill Haines

    All points taken, Paul. Thank you! (I had in mind Brian’s Graham quote on his second page: “as a noun it means facts …”.) I have now read the main relevant parts of Eifring ed.; I’m no judge but it sure looks good to me. Harbsmeier’s way of displaying and discussing examples is extremely helpful: as he intends, one gets a feel for the word that goes well beyond his definitions. What helps even more is the context of this Zhuangzi passage – that in the passage just before, the reference was to “人之情” (not just to “情”), and even to the idea of belonging to mankind.

    #130849 Reply

    Steve Coutinho

    I see what you’re getting at now, Scott. You are taking the terms in their most basic literal senses, which does indeed cause problems. My sense is that 天 in the Zz tends to be used in its broadest sense. I would only distinguish it from 地, where context requires it. Regarding 貌, I don’t think it is being used literally to refer to the face; it often has the broader meaning of ‘outward appearance’ in general (which is why I glossed it as ‘manifest’). I agree with Paul that 形 refers to the body (which is why I glossed it as ’embodied form’ rather than ‘form’ alone).

    Regarding 情, it is unfortunately one of the trickier terms to find a consistent usage for. I think the problem arises at least in part because of an inherent philosophical tension. All things have their conditions 情, and insofar as they are natural they must indeed come from 天 (in the broad sense of ‘Cosmos’ as a whole). But human conditions 人情 have tendencies that seem to be in tension with their natural origins (language, distinction-making, preference, and evaluation). The author of this passage of the Zz would want to eliminate them (or at least minimize them). But how could anything natural be responsible for anything that is not natural (indeed, how could anything not be natural)? I see this tension as a fundamental force that propels pre-Qin philosophy. It manifests in various contrasts (天/人; 真/伪) and is especially alive in the ‘dialectic’ (if I might misappropriate that word) between Ruism and Daoism.

    Not sure if this addresses your concerns about 情?

    #130855 Reply

    Scott Barnwell

    @ Steve
    Taking Tian to refer to Tiandi seems reasonable as well, although we can’t be quite sure. Even interpreting mao 貌 as appearance, still, appears odd to me. Is there a significant difference between mao 道與之貌 and xing 形? It doesn’t really jive with Laozi 51: 道生之,德畜之,物形之,勢成之。 or Zhuanzgi 12: 泰初有無,無有無名,一之所起,有一而未形。物得以生,謂之德;未形者有分,且然無間,謂之命;留動而生物,物成生理,謂之形;形體保神,各有儀則,謂之性。 However, it doesn’t have to. What seems odd to me that both 道 and 天 are used as the source of (“that which gives” 所與者) both 貌 and 形. My (rhetorical) question is, HOW does the Dao give appearances to things. Is this akin to saying, in modern terms, that the Dao provides the genetic code and Tian provides the physical substance?
    I like what you’ve written about qing 情. Considering Huizi’s surprise and Zhuangzi’s definition of qing, he is using it narrowly, as “preferences,” and even more narrowly, as “preferences which can cause suffering.” And perhaps “preferences which cause suffering” can be simply understood as “excessively valued preferences,” which are accompanied by strong emotions.

    With regard to the issue of something being unnatural, it seems to me to often being the case of different senses of the word. Think of what we mean when we describe someone as having their natural hair colour. Is it “natural” to have interest in colouring one’s hair, I think so. People do it to attract mates, stand out or blend in. That’s natural as well. But no one will misunderstand you when you say “natural hair colour.” The Zhuangzi and Huainanzi use Tian 天 in this way.

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