"the mean" was the ripe fruit of the practical inquiries of the Greeks, and was the ethical counterpart of their artistic development. But in 1861 we were introduced by Dr. Legge to a Confucianist work, attributed to Tzŭ Tzŭ, grandson of Confucius and a contemporary of Socrates, and entitled The Doctrine of the Mean, which is there represented as the true moral way in which the perfect man walks, while all else go beyond or fall short of it. Yet even those who discovered the doctrine of the Trinity in the Tâo-Tê-Ching have not, we believe, suggested that Aristotle had private access to the Li Chi.
We may then, without bringing any charge of piracy or plagiarism against either, point out some parallels between Chuang Tzŭ and a great Greek thinker.
Chuang Tzŭ's first chapter is mainly critical and destructive, pointing out the worthlessness of ordinary judgments, and the unreality of sense knowledge. The gigantic Rukh, at the height of 90,000 li, is a mere mote in the sunbeam. For size is relative. The cicada, which can just fly from tree to tree, laughs with the dove at the Rukh's high flight. For space also is relative. Compared with the mushroom of a day, P'êng Tsu is as old as Methuselah; but what is his age to that of the fabled tree, whose spring and autumn make up 16,000 years? Time, then, is relative too. And though men wonder at him who could "ride upon the wind and travel for many days," he is but a child to one who "roams through the realms of For-Ever."
This doctrine of "relativity," which is a commonplace in Greek as it is in modern philosophy, is made the basis, both in ancient and modern times, of two opposite conclusions. Either it is argued that all sense knowledge is relative, and sense is the only organ of knowledge, therefore real knowledge is impossible; or else the relativity of sense knowledge leads men to draw a sharp contrast between sense and reason and to turn away from the outward in order to listen to the inward voice. The one alternative is scepticism, the other idealism. In Greek thought the earliest representatives of the former are the Sophists, of the latter Heracleitus.
There is no doubt to which side of the antithesis Chuang Tzŭ belongs. His exposure of false and superficial thinking looks at first like the
- In 1885 this treatise was republished by Dr. Legge in its place as Bk. xxviii of the Lî Kî or Li Chi (Sacred Books of the East, vols, xxvii, xxviii), with a new title The State of Equilibrium and Harmony. But the parallelism with the Aristotelian doctrine is as obvious as ever.