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Nietzsche and Chuang-Tse - Leave your Ego at the Door [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]

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Nietzsche and Chuang-Tse [Jul. 27th, 2006|03:53 am]


I'm a philosophy student at SUNY Plattsburgh and recently took a course on Nietzsche and another one on Ancient Chinese Philosophy. I'm considering writing my final thesis on Nietzsche and Chuang-Tse.

In Zarathustra, N writes:

"My brother, if you have a virtue and she is your virtue, then you have her in common with nobody. To be sure, you want to call her by name and pet her; you want to pull her ear and have fun with her. And behold, now you have her name in common with the people and have become one of the people and herb with your virtue.

You would do better to say, "Inexpressible and nameless is that which gives my soul agony and sweetness and is even the hunger of my entrails."

May your virtue be too exalted for the familiarity of names: and if you must speak of her, then do not be ashamed to stammer of her..."

He goes on, but what caught my eye was the "inexpressible and nameless" passage. It reminds me of the first line of the Daodejing. "The way that can be named is not the true way."

As far as I am aware Nietzsche never read anything about or by any Daoists, however it seems that Nietzsche's thought and Daoist thought intersect in alot of ways.

I'm especially interested in the similaritiy between Nietzsche and Chuang-Tse. Both use humor to illustrate points, both have very round about ways of discussing things, and both seem to be aiming at describing the same universal truths.

I'd be thrilled to hear anybodies stance on the mixture of the two and even more thrilled if anybody could recommend a good place to start researching the two (outside their written works, as I've read most of Nietzsche and around 1/2-3/4 of Chuang-Tse.

[User Picture]From: nicked_metal
2006-07-28 09:02 am (UTC)
My understanding is that Neitzsche was heavily influenced by reading Chinese literature; an understanding formed by reading the translator's intro to one of his books several years ago.

dao ke dao fei chang dao is very frequently mistranslated as "The way that can be named is not the true way", but I maintain that it is a mistranslation.

For one thing, the word 'the' is absent in the original Chinese translation, and there is no other indicator of singularity or plurality there either. So "way[s]" is a more accurate translation.

I prefer to translate TTC 1.1 as "There are ways, but they are not constant or predictable".

IMO, Neitzsche understood only part of what was being said - a far better example of a European who discovered the truths of Taoism would be Arthur Koestler (one of the founding fathers of parapsychology). His book Arrival and Departure is a relatively easy read, and his history of science trilogy is a masterpeice.
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[User Picture]From: enders_shadow
2006-07-28 09:42 am (UTC)
It's odd you mention the mistranslation of the first line of the Daodejing, because in a similar post elsewhere I commented:
"The first line of the Daodejing can be read two ways:

The way that can be spoken is not the true way
A way that can be spoken is not a true way."

And somebody was suprised and did not believe there was any dispute about the translation of the first line to read as "The way" as opposed to "the way". Is my possible translation acceptable, and if so, do you know of any translations in particular that read "a way"?
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From: mohjho
2006-12-21 11:12 am (UTC)
Nice post enders.
The Tao Te Ching is a wonderful learning device that does not reveal much when studied using traditional western philosophical methods. The treaties is specifically focused to enhance nonlinear logical inquiry. Deeper study of Taoist principles uses some meditative internal art form to focus the attention in order to perceive what the Tao Te Ching has to offer.

Trying to study the Tao Te Ching by focusing on specific translations or wording reveals very little useful insight. This type of inquiry has worked well in our western traditions, but the Eastern methods of inquiry are completely different, at least up until modern times with the introduction of science and Marxism.
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