Wednesday, August 27, 2014

"White horse is not horse" vs " A deer is a horse"

This blog is about Tao and Zen - as meditation, internal art and everything, in the perspective of Eastern (primarily traditional Chinese) culture under the scrutiny of modern (western) knowledge base. A better understand of Tao and Zen (which is, in many respects, very similar in Chinese cultural context) however cannot be have without a comparative understanding of other, non-Tao/non-Zen traditional Chinese concepts.

Both "White horse is not horse" (白馬非馬) and "A deer is a horse" 指鹿為馬 are popular stories in traditional Chinese culture. The first is fine logical argument. This aspect of genetic trait of Chinese is still flourishing today, as can be seen by sound academic and professional achievements in areas demanding finely argued, self-contained logical systems, for example accounting. The argument can run either of the following two ways:
  1. White horse is a subset of horse, hence cannot be equivalent to horse (or white horse implies horse but horse does not imply white horse).
  2. White horse is a specific horse that the speaker is pointing at. And that particular horse is not equivalent to the concept of horse, by definition, is devoid from or over and above, any concrete reality.
Clever argument.

The "cleverness" when extended to the political arena becomes "A deer is a horse". The story goes like this (in essence): "When the minister brought a deer to the young (inexperienced and naïve) emperor, to the emperor's surprise, he called it horse, many in court said it was a horse (to the greater surprise of the emperor), those who said it was a deer were later killed/persecuted by the minister". Smart move for an authority figure. Result: those who uphold the truth will be persecuted, those who prosper will be people who take personal benefits above public good and rights, and who prefer to be slaves than to be free men. Genetic traits die hard.

"I'm Hongkonger. I want genuine universal suffrage"

1 comment:

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