4 replies on “Aristotelian Society Talk by Michael Beaney”

  1. Actually, the changed title is ‘Swimming Happily in Chinese Logic’, and I am just doing a revision of the current draft before it goes online (in first week of June) before the online talk – after which I have another month to revise before official publication. So comments welcome before, at, or after the talk!

  2. I think there’s a little more juice to wring out of the word an 安, which is so crucial to the “happy fish” episode. It can certainly mean “how,” and this is presumably how the figure of Huizi meant it; you are right that it means “how” because it means “whence” or even “where.” So at least part of the payoff, as it were, is that the figure of Zhuangzi is deliberately misunderstanding Huizi’s question: not “How do you know …?” but “Where do you know …?” And the answer to that one is simple, “Ha, I know it right here, on the bridge.” So far, so good.

    But there’s more: one of the most versatile techniques in constructing paradoxes was what we call equivocation, or using the same word in at least two different senses (I discuss this in The Art of Chinese Philosophy, 16f.), and Huizi was known first and foremost in antiquity for his paradoxes. So a reader in that culture would have entertained a subtext along the lines of “Don’t start with me with your paradoxes, dear Huizi, because I know exactly how you construct them: you use the same word in two different senses, and behold, I can do the same thing with 安.” And to this extent Zhuangzi’s response is unsatisfactory, because Huizi’s challenge in this instance is not sophistic. I would suspect further that we are being asked NOT to try to answer Huizi’s question on its face.

    Yet more: Zhuangzi’s proximity to fish (as in the famous dragging-one’s-tail-in-the-mud episode in Ch. 17) has been insightfully analyzed by K.O. Thompson (in Ames, ed., Wandering at Ease in the Zhuangzi) as a metaphor for his profound knowledge. (The key is that fish swim in water.) So another inference that a classical reader would have made is probably something like, “Oh, Zhuangzi obviously knows more about fish than Huizi because Zhuangzi is wiser.” (I take Zhuangzi and Huizi in all these episodes as essentially fictional characters.)

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