Snakes and Dragons, Rat’s Liver and Fly’s Leg: The Butterfly Dream Revisited

Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 11 (4):513-520 (2012)
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The Zhuangzi begins with Peng, a soaring bird transformed from a bounded fish, which is the first metaphor that points beyond limited standpoints to a higher point of view. The transformation is one-way and symbolizes that there is a higher viewpoint to attain which affords mental freedom and the clarity and scope of great vision. Under the alternate thesis of constant transformation, values and understandings must ceaselessly transform and collapse. All cyclical transformations must collapse into skeptical relativism and confusion. But Peng does not turn back into a fish, and the awakened sage does not fall into a slumber of ignorance and confusion. It is only the thesis of a one-way transformation that leaves the sage in a state of knowledge.

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Robert E. Allinson
Soka University


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