No government nowadays admits that it maintains an army so as to satisfy occasional thirsts for conquest; the army is supposed to be for defense. That morality which sanctions self-protection is called upon to be its advocate. But that means to reserve morality to oneself and to accuse one’s neighbour of immorality, since he has to be thought of as ready for aggression and conquest if our own state is obliged to take thought of means of self-defense; moreover, when our neighbor denies any thirst for aggression just as heatedly as our state does, and protests that he too maintains an army only for reasons of legitimate self-defense, our declaration of why we require an army declares out neighbour a hypocrite and cunning criminal who would be only too happy to pounce upon a harmless and unprepared victim and subdue him without a struggle. This is how all states now confront one another: they presupposed an evil disposition in their neighbour and a benevolent disposition in themselves. This presupposition, however, is a piece of inhumanity as bad as, if not worse than, a war would be; indeed, fundamentally it already constitutes an invitation to and cause of wars, because, as aforesaid, it imputes immorality to one’s neighbour and thereby seems to provoke hostility and hostile acts on his part. The doctrine of the army as a means of self-defense must be renounced just as completely as the thirst for conquest.
The single circle at the top of the Taijitu Shuo represents Wuji - undifferentiated Timelessness. What we see below that is actually an early version of the Yin-Yang Symbol - and represents the first movement into Duality - the play of Yin Qi and Yang Qi. From the blending of Yin Qi and Yang Qi come the Five Elements: Earth, Metal, Water, Wood & Fire. From the Five Elements are born the “myriad things” of the world.
Taoist practitioners enter into a “Path of Return” - a movement from the myriad things of the world back into Wuji. The Immortals, or those who have entered the Tao, are those who have completed this “Path of Return.”
“Love is the source of all - love that is unconditional and selfless: love which is totally free. Qi came into being, flowing out of unconditional love. From timelessness, from Wuji, Qi created the Universe. From a non-definable reality, Yin and Yang, the world of Duality, came into being. Wuji became Taiji. Yin Qi and Yang Qi blended together and gave birth to the Universe. It is Qii that created the Universe and it is unconditional love that gave birth to Qi.” - Lu Jun Feng
Rebellion, contrary to current opinion, and though it springs from everything that is most strictly individualistic in man, questions the very idea of the individual. If the individual, in fact, accepts death and happens to die as a consequence of his act of rebellion, he demonstrates by doing so that he is willing to sacrifice himself for the sake of a common good which he considers more important than his own destiny. If he prefers the risk of death to the negation of the rights that he defends, it is because he considers these rights more important than himself. Therefore he is acting in the name of certain values which are still indeterminate but which he feels are common to himself and to all men. We see that the affirmation implicit in every act of rebellion is extended to something that transcends the individual in so far as it withdraws him from his supposed solitude and provides him with a reason to act.
Which of Simone de Beauvoir's works would you recommend to someone as of yet unfamiliar with her writings?
My devotion to de Beauvoir cannot be
overstated enough, and so I barely contain myself in stopping short of
responding « everything! ». De Beauvoir considered herself an
author, first and foremost, and so her philosophical and political writings are
– within the context of being termed a ‘philosopher’ – gratifyingly readable.
My first taste of de Beauvoir was Mémoires d'une jeune fille rangée (Memoirs
of a Dutiful Daughter) and I remain convinced that it is one of the finest
pieces of nonfiction writing of the 20th century, in addition to
being an ideal introduction to her work. It provides a fascinating exercise in
witnessing de Beauvoir apply her philosophically-trained mind to her jeunesse,
exploring questions in semiotics, ontology, and beyond. De Beauvoir’s
philosophy of existentialist humanism is also most apparent and tangible, and
will become even more apparent in her other works. Philosophy aside though, it
is foremost a deeply intimate articulation of de Beauvoir’s own inner
landscape. It is an epiphanic piece of writing, before which very few had
evoked such a level of visceral sympathy; I imagine it is true too for any
young woman of discerning mind who has ever been bound by decorum and social
expectation. That is to say nothing of its Proustian consideration of memory
and its persistence throughout one’s lifetime and its continuous colouring of
For me, Le Deuxième Sexe (The Second Sex) is essential literature.
Terming it the « feminist Bible » is insensitively glib, and entirely
undermines the essence of the work: a manifesto of the female condition and its
social and political construction. It is not intended to be a comforting polemic,
and yet it is – a verbalisation of the convert fears, fantasies, and desires
regarding womanhood that suddenly empowered a generation of women who
previously regarded such articulations as only possible in secret. Volumes upon
volumes have extolled the brilliance of Sexe, and I need not belabour
them, except to marvel at (and be bemused by) the fact that it is still
considered a radical work. To reiterate: essential reading.
Mandarins is, essentially, a nonfiction work thinly
disguised as fiction. It tells of the intelligentsia of post-war France and
their reconciliation of rhetoric, principle, and l’essence de vie in a mutable world. The work chiefly acts as a
platform to expound de Beauvoir’s own views and document shrewd observations
concerning her intellectual circle. The characters are veritably lifelike, the
passages of dialogue sparkling, and the immediacy of the themes retain
relevance. While the philosophy is beyond reproach, the writing, however, is
not, and reveals de Beauvoir’s moderate weaknesses as a narrative author.
Nevertheless, it is entirely worth perusing for further elucidations on de
I would finally suggest The Ethics of Ambiguity as a bookend to
de Beauvoir’s major philosophical output. It continues the tradition of
individual responsibility in constructing personal meaning, as she did in Sexe, but here through the more general
visage of essence (think Sartre’s existence
precedes essence). She claims that the « ambiguity »
is a function of the dissonance between the material tangibility of the world
and the self-constructed reality of the inner self. De Beauvoir
dwells considerably on this dualism, as well as the relationship between
mind-body, spirit-matter, etc, and its implications for moral freedom. Ethics is the most technical of her
philosophical output, closer to Sartre’s Being
and Nothingness or Heidegger’s Being
and Time than to her other works, but the philosophy essence remains the
same, placed within the context of her feminist framework found elsewhere in Sexe. More interestingly, I think, is
her consideration of personal dualism – not in the Cartesian sense, mind, but
in the perpetual discord of acknowledging personal freedom of choice and
action, and deciding when to deploy it, leading to ‘sub-man’ acts such as
bigotry and violence as a rejection of such choice. Ethics is a complex work, but if you manage to get through it, will
find it entirely rewarding in the degree to which it coalesces fragments of
themes found de Beauvoir’s other works, producing a definitive philosophy of –
ultimately – freedom.
I love thinking about what makes a person’s insides tick. What helps get them out of bed in the morning? Who’s the person they try to push out of their head all day? Why do they look down every time someone meets their eyes? What is it about us, about humans, that makes us so special? I’m telling you, we’re all such messy beings. We’re always getting our fingers slammed in the doors of people that no longer need us.
Humans are the cruelest, yet most beautiful species.