Page:Zhuang Zi - translation Giles 1889.djvu/24

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Note on the Philosophy of Chaps. i-vii.


Tutor of Keble and Magdalen Colleges, Oxford; Hon. Canon of Christ Church, &c.

The translator of Chuang Tzŭ has asked me to append a note on the philosophy of chs. i-vii. It is difficult to see how one who writes not only in ignorance of Chinese modes of thought, but with the preconceptions of Western philosophy, can really help much towards the understanding of an admittedly obscure system, involving terms and expressions on which Chinese scholars are not yet agreed. But an attempt to point out parallelisms of thought and reasoning between East and West may be of use in two ways. It may stimulate those who are really competent to understand both terms in the comparison to tell us where the parallelism is real and where it is only apparent; and it may help to accustom ordinary readers to look for and expect resemblances in systems in which an earlier age would have seen nothing but contrasts.

There was a time when historians of Greek philosophy used to point out what were considered to be the characteristics of Greek thought, and then to put down to "Oriental influence" anything which did not at once agree with these characteristics. How and through what channels this "Oriental influence" was exercised, it was never easy to determine, nor was it always thought worthy of much discussion. In recent times, however, a greater knowledge of Eastern systems has familiarised us with much which, on the same principle, ought to be attributed to "Greek influence." And the result has been that we have learned to put aside theories of derivation, and to content ourselves with tracing the evolution of reason and of rational problems, and to expect parallelisms even where the circumstances are widely different.

One instance may be worth quoting in illustration. We used to be told that the Greek mind, in its speculation and its art, was characterised by its love of order, harmony, and symmetry, in contrast with the monstrous creations of the Oriental imagination, and the "colossal ugliness of the Pyramids"; and it was said with reason that the Aristotelian doctrine of