east asian philosophy

Carpenter Stone went to Qi, and on reaching Quyuan saw an oak tree planted at the earth god’s shrine. It was big enough to shelter thousands of cattle under its shade, and measured a hundred arm-spans around. It towered over the mountains, and its branches began at a height of seventy feet. There were over ten limbs that could be made into boats. Visitors thronged as if it were a marketplace, but Carpenter Stone didn’t give it a glance and went on without pausing.

His apprentice gazed at the tree in satisfaction, then caught up with Carpenter Stone and asked, ‘Master, since I took up the axe and followed you I’ve never seen timber as beautiful as this, but you didn’t even look at it and went on without pausing. Why?’

“Enough! Don’t talk about it. It’s a useless tree: If you made boats out of it they’d sink, if you made coffins out of it they’d rot, if you made vessels out of it they’d quickly fall apart, if you made doors out of it they’d ooze sap, and if you made pillars out of it they’d be consumed by insects. It’s not a timber tree. There’s nothing it can be used for, and that’s how it’s gotten to live this long.”

Carpenter Stone returned home, and in a dream the tree from the shrine appeared and said to him, 'On what basis are you judging me? Are you comparing me with timber trees? The sour apple, pear, tangerine, and pomelo belong to the class of fruits and melons. When their fruit is ripe it’s plucked, and when it’s plucked they get damaged. Their big branches are snapped and their small branches are broken. Their lives are embittered by their use, and so they don’t live out the years allotted by heaven but die in their prime, broken by ordinary people. This is true of everything. Now I’ve been trying to become useless for a long time, and I’ve got it now as I approach death. This is of great use to me. Suppose I was useful: would I have gotten to be this big?Moreover, you and I are both things: where do you get off assessing things? You useless man about to die, how would you know what’s a useless tree?’

—  Zhuanzgi, “The Human World" 
A response to Isomorphismes' question 2/2

My understanding of East Asian logic is weak, but I remember that Joang Dze was making fun of a Chinese logician’s struggle to work out a puzzle about a white horse. It sounds to me like (millennia ago) that group of Mandarins hadn’t worked out supervenience or qualia–metaphysical issues which I think are still wrestled with today. That they come to the struggles from a different language (liu and qu I think are also part of the issue?) might illuminate something.

See, I’m not sure which logician would be doing that. The whole white horse bit comes up in the rectification of names, where by a name give something a meaning, and having the proper name/meaning association enables the proper functioning of the society of the country and the world itself. The haggling over qualia was probably due to the fact that the logician was trying to discern whether or not a white horse should go into the same class as horse.

I’m not much of a chinese scholar outside of the Tien Tai, Hua-Nen, and Mencius stuff as well as the Taoist stuff. My Confucian knowledge is limited to their wonderfully rich aesthetic theory.

Induction - an East-Asian perspective

Alright, if by induction, we mean the logical reasoning, it could be argued that induction is a reliable method of making statements about the world from a particular perspective, however, the truth value of these statements would be phenomenally empty in a sense, if we are to take the buddhist ontology as the ground from which we are proceeding. That is to say that any statement that we might make about the world is true based upon a particular nexus of events that gives rise to the observation from which we make out inductive reasoning. A classic example:

90% of Republicans are idiots. Max is a Republican. Max has a 90% chance of being an idiot.

With regards to buddhist onotology, we can make all of these statements, but we must recognize that all of the operators within the statements are bundles of causal results, that is, their phenomenal presence within the statment is built upon numerous conditions that give rise to “republicans,” but could also give rise to “democrats” or “bigots” in another arrangement: there is nothing essential to republicans, the statistic, or Max except what is granted to it by it’s causal relations.

In essence, I do not see that buddhist ontology (unless you’re doing Nagarjuna and Nyaya who have their own logic) would fundamentally be opposed to the statement, provided we don’t argue that the functions have any fundamental reality.