Musing on a Section of the Zhuangzi, or, On Perspectivism

The following is from Brook Ziporyn’s translation of the Taoist Zhuangzi, Inner Chapter 2.

This Inner Chapter (2) of the Zhuangzi has become something of a leitmotif of my days on earth, and this passage of the chapter in particular. Nietzsche expressed a similar idea in his Will to Power notes in terms of perspectivism, and thought that such perspectivism is what we are left with after the fable of the true world has dawned on us as fable, and we realize that a world of appearances is as illegitimate as a true world, a world of being, that the distinction “true world-apparent world” is illegitimate. To our great freedom and consternation all we can say now we can say only from a local perspective, and more particularly from the perspective of our basic health or sickness.

Zhuangzi, at least in this case so much more playfully than Nietzsche, says the same: that things are perspectival through and through. From the smallest to the greatest things, from our laughing alone or together, to our tears and complaints, to our religions and our businesses and our marriages and wars. Every thing or way of life or basic mood is a “This” as compared or opposed to, or in play with, a “That”. Every bit of our lives is a perspectival region immersed in and entangled with other regions. The “Light of the Obvious,” which Zhuangzi mentions later in this chapter, the only (shadowy-dusty) clarity we can have in this scenario is precisely this: to bear witness to all things playing in this play as the perspectival glimpses that they are, as the Thises and Thats that they are, to be guided by each thing’s peculiar Thisness and Thatness into its proper fulfillment and shining. This, rather than hope or insist (or both) that all the ten thousand things be guided by one guide, or yoked to one yoke.

Much more playfully, for in Zhuangzi such a play of perspectives comes in the midst of a “Carefree Wandering,” while for Nietzsche such a realization cannot but be disorienting for most of the inhabitants of the earth.

I will continue playing with them both, and playing among and between endless perspectives, believing with Whitman that All Is Truth, even while fighting so earnestly for certain truths and against others. Whether I will ultimately laugh or be terrified, or laugh at the terror, is yet to be seen. And when it is seen, there is no telling…how many ways it can be–seen.

In so far as the word “knowledge” has any meaning, the world is knowable; but it is interpretable otherwise, it has no meaning but countless meanings. — “Perspectivism”

Nietzsche, Will to Power, 481


  1. Mr. Z says:

    Beautifully played Mr. Q.
    Play on maestro…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Richard Q says:

      Of course, our recent conversations played a role in my playing here. Thanks, Mr. Z. It is great to hear from you always, but especially on this occasion of my dancing more through Zhuangzi. It is wonderful to hear all the sounds things make.

      I hope your day is marvelous. 🎶


      1. Mr. Z says:

        I’m honored that you have taken the time to reflect as I have. You know I’m going to break down and get my own copy of the Brook Ziporyn translation. Thank you for that link in the meantime. My nephew will be opening his Martin Palmer translation in 4 days. I hope he gravitates to it at his age. I’m very grateful for your points of view and energy in all of its manifestations. You bring much to the table.


  2. Pussy Krampus says:

    This is like a grand slam in baseball Richard Q. Or the three peat in basketball. You even managed Whitman. I’m new to Zhuangzi. It makes me feel like “that” book with Tock (the dog) in the Phantom Toll Booth and Alice in Wonderland a little bit. Lost and found… I LOVE this post!!!! You are a healer for real. Thank you for all of this. ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Richard Q says:

      Thank you! These words from you came as a treasure to me today. That you brought up Alice in Wonderland sent me high into the ether, as I adore that story. It means a lot especially because I loved composing and sending out this little note. This “stance” somehow lies at the fundament of me.

      Thank you again. Life is incredible.

      Liked by 1 person

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