Monday, July 2, 2012

Zhuangzi Part 4 -- Monsters

     Allison starts off the 4th chapter of his book on the Zhuangzi by making us regard social outcasts.  In the extreme case he refers to them as 'monsters'.  These are people whom normal people avoid.  Zhuangzi puts philosophical reflections into the mouths of cripples, hunchbacks, people with no lips, and one Master Shu:

"My back sticks up like a hunchback and my vital organs are on top of me.  My chin is hidden in my navel, my shoulders are up above my head, and my pigtail points at the sky."(as quoted in Allison pg. 52).

Allison goes on...
"The use of the monster serves two philosophical functions.  First, the monster is a living counterexample to the norm, whether cultural or biological or both...That which all monsters possess, which is feared and avoided by those who live according to the rule, is spontaneity.  In a very subtle way, then, the first philosophical significance of the monster is to make us aware that the value represented by the monster -- spontaneity -- is a value which is feared and avoided by normal society."(Allison pg. 53)

Now, the question I have for you is, are you a monster?  Do you feel like one?  I don't mean to make you cry, I'm just asking. ..

Those of us who have always been monsters for some reason or another, we're disabled mentally or physically, have a point of view that is valuable to the rest of you conformist bastards out there.

Fine, I'm mentally ill.  The dose of antidepressants I'm on would turn a moose into a glob of jiggling basalganglia.  And I'm down to 1 drug from 3.  But it gives me a perspective on the rest of you boring pricks.  To hell with you, anyway.

Well, I feel better. 

"...when we have the courage to become monsters or to share the monster's point of view we will be able to be spontaneous.  In the very act of spontaneity we will have come that much closer to being able to apprehend what is true."(Allison 54)\

So, like the Tao Te Ching, the Zhuangzi is radically subversive.  It encourages an anarchist epistemology, one that requires we break out of the society's 'epistemic regime'[to borrow a phrase of Foucault's].  This is not just so we can be tedious PoMo relativists like the rest of you pusillanimous academic frauds, but so that we can live a sponaneous and very likely politically incorrect existence apart from you.


  1. Hmm. For some of us, the monster IS that which crushes spontaneity. Cultural differences?

  2. Thank you for the comment! This book is apparently a response to Confucianism, which was a very rigid and hierarchical, and judgemental, philosophy. So, in the sense you're speaking, Confucianism is one of the monsters being taken on here.

    This section reminds me of the fad a few decades ago of philosophers, like Foucault, assembling 'repressed' voices, such as the voices of people in prison. The idea is that these folks say things from a position outside the norm.
    The moral/social ideas the majority accept are not logically superior, in fact the majority language confines us to think in certain ways. For Zhuangzi, all of morality is called into question. The points of view of the insane, even of the violent criminal, are allowed.

    I think that the Zhuangzi is thus one of the most anarchic and subversive books I've ever read.