The Dao of Rhetoric

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We are encouraged to reject human conventions that are inconsistent with the bigger picture, accept the inevitability of change, and avoid the dangers of conquest. The Dao also forces us to question, discern, and discover. While there is a sense of destiny, it is not predetermined. We can deny our nature and make choices that are inconsistent with the natural flow for us. These observations provide a foundation for discussions of equality, envi- ronmentalism, and social justice.

The issues are global, yet also abound in communities, organizations, and individual relationships. As was noted earlier, Laozis philosophy of language recognizes the inability of words, which are finite and temporal, to express what is infinite. The Dao includes all things, even those for which there are no words yet, as well as things that have not come into material existence. Any use of language to express the Dao would inher- ently devalue its magnitude. But were way-making [dao] to be put into words: It could be said to be so bland and insipid that it has no taste.

Look for it and there is nothing to see, listen for it and there is nothing to hear, and yet in availing oneself of it, it is inexhaustible. Laozis precepts for effective use of language begin with recognition of its shortcomings. He points out that those who understand it do not talk about it, and those who really talk about it do not understand it ch. In fact, rare are those in the world who reach an understand- ing of the benefits of teaching that go beyond what can be said, and of doing things noncoercively ch.

Logically, communicators must resign themselves to the conditionality of their discourse or find modes of expression that do not rely on words. The Dao de jing ends with the line, the way of sages is to do without con- tending ch. Earlier, Laozi says it is only because there is no contentiousness in proper way-making that it incurs no blame ch.

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Oliver maintains that this theme is the singular rhetorical insight. The rhetorical contribution in the writings derived from Lao- Tzu is their insight concerning the futility of argument and contention, their recognition that nobody wins an argument, that he who appears to win actually loses more than he gains. While I agree with much of what Oliver observes, it will be shown that Laozi suggests additional implications besides the futility of argu- ment. Furthermore, the notion of transcending and identifying with the universal glosses over some of the nuances of interaction.

If I say, the big fish eat the little fish, someone can counter with piranhas eat bigger fish. Yet this retort does not actually invalidate the original claim as much as it reduces its generalizability. It can be the case sometimes, even most of the time, that big fish eat little fish, but it can also be true that there are exceptions, such as in the case of piranha.

The second claim is thus addi- tional information and not complete contradiction. One could argue that the move to see the two claims as noncompetitive is an act of transcendence, but even then the move does not rely on identification with a higher good. Both statements, like all discourse, remain particularized and do not require reconciliation through transcendence.

One cannot universalize particulars; hence claims that appear com- petitive are not because they represent discrete statements of localized actors at a given point in time. A strategic response might be transcen- dence, but it is also viable to remain silent or reframe the seemingly dis- puted claims. Thus Laozi not only points out the futility of arguing because of the universality of reality, but also because of the particularity of perception and limitations of language. He suggests further that a Laozi and the Natural Way of Rhetoric 33 strategy for avoiding contention is to see the conditional or localized nature of certain claims.

Recognizing their limitations allows one to avoid the need to contest them. Laozi warns not only against arguing, but also excessive verbiage or ornamentation. He sees verbosity as unnatural: It is natural to speak only rarely. Violent winds do not last a whole morning and torrential rains do not last a whole day ch. Furthermore, those who are with the Dao realize that their words are simply attempts to express the Dao. They are part of the Dao, but are not the Dao itself. Words are markers of meaning and not significant in themselves. Laozi suggests that able travel- ers leave no ruts or tracks along the way; Able speakers make no gaffes that might occasion reproach ch.

Communicators must not draw too much attention to their words but must focus on the Dao. This also suggests another approach for noncontentionavoiding mistakes, perhaps over claims, thereby preempting further argument. Because knowledge is an attunement with the natural workings of the world, it is largely apprehended through the ongoing assessment of the world itself. Words have very limited utility in this scheme, and a reliance on words may indicate a lack of true insight. Words can also be used to obscure the Dao and champion undesirable qualities.

Those who are not self-promoting are distinguished, those who do not show off shine, those who do not brag have lots to show, those who are not self-important are enduring. It is only because they do not contend that none are able to contend with them. Notice that he does not advocate silence, nor is he opposed to the use of language. His advice to communicators is to speak naturally, that is, rarely and plainly.

Furthermore, words must be chosen very carefully. Communicators must focus on the Dao, and cycle their linguistic choices through a lens that sees the particular and its con- nection to or inclusion in the universal. Consid- ering Laozis rhetoric from these vantage points reveals the consistency of his philosophy and rhetoric and the potential for additional insights about rhetoric.

Xiao notes that Laozi uses three methods to communicate the Dao: negation, paradox, and analogy. Negation is a way of describing the Dao by what it is not: as for this oneits surface is not dazzling nor is its underside dark ch. Since attributing positive qualities to something indicates also what it is not, Laozi avoids limiting the infinite Dao, by stating negatively what the Dao is not.

The second rhetorical strategy Xiao identifies is paradox. Laozi is fond of using the seemingly contradictory to indicate that the Dao is nei- ther one thing nor its opposite, but both simultaneously: The bright Way looks dim. The progressive Way looks retrograde. The smooth Way looks rugged. Great sound is silent. Great Form is shapeless ch. Paradox can also teach us how to conduct ourselves: Bend and you will be whole. Curl and you will be straight. Keep empty and you will be filled. Grow old and you will be renewed ch.

Paradox functions rhetorically by forcing the audience to confront inconsistency that is posed as consistent. The incongruity is meant to be uncomfortable, spurring insight by challenging habitual assumptions. Furthermore, Laozis methods are not discrete. For example, he combines negation with paradox to invite new ways of thinking about the Dao: following behind you will not see its rear; Encountering it you will not see its head ch.

Xiao argues that negation and paradox are destructive or negative ways of communicating, and notes a final and positive method Laozi uses: analogy and metaphor. Analogies and metaphors allow rhetors to move beyond the limitations of language because their meaning is not literal but is informed by context. Chen and Holt examine Laozis use of the water metaphor in order to make its metaphysical principles mean- ingful at the social and behavioral levels. Specifically, they demonstrate ways that Laozi employs the water metaphor as a persuasive tool in Dao De Jing for the purpose of reforming social life p.

To these insights I add an additional positive rhetorical method that Laozi employs: the use of vague expressions to refer to the Dao. Words such as indeterminate, empty, and bottomless, indicate what the Dao is, but they do little to limit its vastness: Way-making [Dao] being empty, Laozi and the Natural Way of Rhetoric 35 you make use of it but do not fill it up.

So abysmally deepit seems the predecessor of everything that is happening ch. By using vague referents to positively describe the Dao, Laozi main- tains an ambiguity that does not detract from the infinity of the negative. This analysis of the Dao de jing suggests a number of implications for rhetoric.

First, it specifies the substance of Daoist rhetoric by outlining basic Daoist principles. Second, it notes Laozis strategic approach, to speak naturally, and indicates that the natural style is brief and plain. Finally, the analysis suggests that Laozis rhetoric is consistent with his phi- losophy. Yet he uses a strategy and methods that are consis- tent with his natural way of communication.


His germinal work, Zhuangzi, has been lauded as a literary masterpiece and philosophical classic Schwartz, ; Graham, Creel proclaims Zhuangzi the finest philosophical work known to me, in any language p. Despite Zhuangzis literary and philosophical signifi- cance, it has received little attention from rhetorical scholars. Lu offers a notable exception to the scant treatment of Zhuangzis rhetoric. She identifies six elements that characterize his rheto- ric: 1 three models of speech; 2 paradoxical and oxymoronic sayings; 3 fables or parables; 4 pseudodialogues; 5 reconstructed anecdotes; and 6 glorification of the ugly and handicapped.

The three models of speech are imputed words, repeated words, and goblet words. Imputed words were those put into the mouths of individuals who were not followers of Zhuangzi. By using this strategy, Zhuangzi could freely express himself through other persons. Repeated words were those spoken by respected and estab- lished elders, primarily Confucius and Laozi.

This strategy appealed to the Chinese cultural tendency to value the elders and, in the process, also added to the credibility and persuasive effect of Zhuangzis ideas.

Article excerpt

Goblet words were those used to present all sides of an issue, giving equal treatment to different schools of thoughts. The parable is particularly interesting because it encapsulates the major ideas in the text. Furthermore, it exem- plifies several of Zhuangzis rhetorical methods. Besides being a parable, the story uses imputed words, repeated words, pseudodialogue between Duke Ai and Confucius, paradox, and glorification of the ugly.

The analysis deepens our understanding of key elements of Zhuangzis rhetoric delineated by Lu It demonstrates further that, given the constraints of Daoism, Zhuangzi was a remarkably adept rhetori- cian and his use of rhetoric provides valuable insights on rhetorical theory and its relationship to Asian culture. I conclude that the defining charac- teristic of Zhuangzis rhetorical strategy is evocativenessthe use of rheto- ric designed to induce others to join in a communication interaction and engage in self-persuasion.

Duke Ai is recounting his experiences with an unusual man: In Wei there was an ugly man named Ai Tai-to. But when men were around him, they thought only of him and couldnt break away, and when women saw him, they ran begging to their fathers and mothers, saying Id rather be this gentlemans con- cubine than another mans wife! No one ever heard him take the leadhe always just chimed in with other people. He wasnt in the position of a ruler where he could save mens lives, and he had no store of provisions to fill mens bellies.

On top of that, he was ugly enough to astound the world, chimed in but never led, and knew no more than what went on right around him. And yet men and women flocked to him. He cer- tainly must be different from other men, I thought, and I sum- moned him so I could have a look. Just as they saidhe was ugly enough to astound the world. But he hadnt been with me more than a month or so when I began to realize what kind of man he was, and before the year was out, I really trusted him.

There was no one in the state to act as chief minister, and I wanted to hand the government over to him. Then, before I knew it, he left me and went away. I felt completely crushed, as though Id suffered a loss and didnt have anyone left to enjoy my state with. What kind of man is he anyway? A common man, who follows the crowd, has no extraordinary wealth, and is ugly, is nonetheless adored and respected.

The moral appears to be that beauty is only skin deep, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, or one cannot judge a book by its cover. These interpretations are appropriate, but they stop short of other possible interpretations that may be more revealing. On further reflection, the simplicity of the story masks its oddities. Given what seemingly little the man had to offer to others, it is difficult to understand why he is adored by all. Both the situation and the extent of his ugliness, the exaggeration, are striking.

The man is ugly enough to astound the world yet women would rather be his concubine than be married to someone else. Duke Ai is around him for a month and then comes to realize what kind of man he was. But we are never told what kind of man he is. What does the Duke see? Apparently, he sees something good, because he forces the control of government onto the unusual man. Again, one is struck with the question why?

The man chimed in but never led, and knew no more than what went on right around him. What qualifies him to lead a government? Finally, the man leaves and goes away.

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Why would the man do this? Where did he go? No motive is discussed. And why is the Duke left with the sense of being completely crushed, as though Id suf- fered a loss and didnt have anyone left to enjoy my state with. The mans initial reluctance to take the job should have tempered any illusions the Duke might foster about the mans commitment to the position.

The story does not say, and one is left with the explicit question What kind of man is he anyway? This is certainly a strange tale. All told, there are at least three notable features of the story: the mans incredible ugliness, his unas- sumingness, and his ambivalence about government office. Given these three features, it is also interesting to consider the strange attachments other people have for him. Further contemplation of the parable evokes at least three additional interpretations: the man personifies the Dao, exemplifying appropriate Zhuangzi and the Rhetoric of Evocation 39 conduct for individuals; the story is a survival manual for peasants during the Warring States period; and, the narrative suggests and enacts principles for effective communication from a Daoist perspective.

The richness of these interpretations in themselves is evidence of the evocative nature of Zhuangzis parable. I shall consider each of these interpretations in turn before discussing their implications for rhetoric and culture. By making a metaphorical connection between a common man and the divine Dao, Zhuangzi helps his audience to find the Dao in their own lives.

The unusual man can be seen as the enactment of the Dao when one considers his looks, unassumingness, and effortless- ness. These qualities demonstrate that the man epitomizes the Dao by manifesting its fundamental and essential elements. Recall that the man was ugly enough to astound the world a line which is repeated twice , yet people flocked to him and women threw themselves at his feet, begging their parents to allow them to be his con- cubines.

Obviously, people were attracted to the man because they saw something in addition to, or instead of, his physical appearance. What they saw in him was the Dao. Because the Dao is the unification of all things, Daoists are loath to make distinctions in or particularize about the natural world.

By making distinctionsperceiving something as good or bad, or defining a person by particular characteristicsone violates the very essence of the Dao. Whether you point to a little stalk or a great pillar, a leper or the beauti- ful Hsi-shih, things ribald and shady or things grotesque and strange, the Way makes them all into one ch. For Zhuangzi, posing alternatives and attempting to label things as right or wrong is the fundamental error in life Graham, , p. Consequently, the sage must approach the Dao in the way of the Dao.

One must integrate the powers of mind, body, and spirit in order to see the underlying unity and creativity in all things Blofeld, Usually, standards that preference particular physical features assess what is judged to be beautiful. Of these four, which knows how to fix the standard of beauty for the world?

If one judges the man to be ugly then one is committing a fundamental error and indicating a profound alienation from the Dao. The fact that the man does not acknowledge his physicality, let alone define himself by his looks, shows that the man is whole. He personifies the Dao by avoiding distinctions and being unified. While others perceive his particular char- acteristics, they ultimately discover his de, further testifying to the mans sagacity. Like the Dao, he can appear ugly or beautiful. Ultimately, he is neither, because the Dao resides in him and makes him one.

The demeanor of the man is also an indication of his perfection. He is unpretentious, offers no opinions, and displays no obvious talents. These are the fundamental qualities Zhuangzi perceives in the True Man, Perfect Man, or Great Man: This was the True Man of old: his bearing was lofty and did not crumble; he appeared to lack but accepted nothing; he was dig- nified in his correctness but not insistent; he was vast in his emptiness but not ostentatious.

Mild and cheerful, he seemed to be happy; reluctant, he could not help doing certain things; annoyed, he let it show in his face; relaxed, he rested in his virtue. Tolerant, he seemed to be part of the world; towering alone, he could be checked by nothing; withdrawn, he seemed to prefer to cut himself off; bemused, he forgot what he was going to say. His de is apparent and the man exemplifies the fundamental Daoist notion of wu-wei. Lu describes wu-wei as the natural, spontaneous movement that harmonizes everything. Thus, to live by the Tao is to function like the Tao, to conform with that marvelously effortless way of getting all things done, and to produce what is of use to others as the Tao produces beneficial rains and dews with never a thought of praise or thanks, still less reward Blofeld, , p.

In other words, one must release oneself from an effortful life by engaging in the activities which are actionless Parrinder, , p. The man is the Dao because his demeanor dis- plays the characteristics of virtuelimpidity, silence, emptiness, and inac- tion Lu, , p. Zhuangzi and the Rhetoric of Evocation 41 The man recognizes what is fated or destined to be.

He has been given a deformity or imperfection of features, something over which he has no control. The challenge for the man is to transcend his material self and unify his total self, thus discovering the Dao: To know what you cant do anything about, and to be content with it as you would with fateonly a man of virtue can do that ch. Concentrating on certain aspects of persons is unnatural, since it renounces their fates. Zhuangzi believed that the simplest things, including toads, insects, snakes, and birds, can give insight because they live in nature Lu, Furthermore, the seemingly humblest person can serve as an example of the divine.

Great wisdom recognizes small without considering it paltry ch. Thus, Zhuangzi chooses as the hero of this story a person who most people would consider insignificant. Yet, the man is a unified spirit who moves effortlessly. He not only shows us the way by example, he metaphorically is the way. Confuciuss prologue to the para- ble explains that: Now Ai Tai-to says nothing and is trusted, accomplishes noth- ing and is loved, so that people want to turn over their states to him and are only afraid he wont accept.

It must be that his powers are whole, though his virtue takes no form. Despite the temptation to judge people and things by their superficial features, perceptions regard- ing ones appearance are antithetical to the Dao. The mans apparent ugliness is thus a vehicle for perfection Wu, , p.

If a man of extremely bad looks is capable of transcending his physicality then he must surely be a True Man. He accepts what he cannot change and sees no distinctions that would make him ugly. Hence, it is because of the extreme nature of his gross features that he stands as proof of his own sagacity. Having recognized the mingling of opposites and transcended the material, the unusual man is evidently a personification of the Dao. We learn that by avoiding distinctions, living easily, and being true to nature and fate we may live with the Way.

Further, we learn that our out- ward appearance and the circumstances of the material world are unim- portant. The sage recognizes that such matters are the concerns of the foolish. The story also illustrates that the personification of abstract ideals can be an important rhetorical strategy. In the same way that Jesus exemplifies goodness to Christians, and Socrates personifies the ideal philosopher for Plato, the unusual man walks in the everyday world and attempts to discover ultimate and profound meaning. Unlike Jesus and Plato, Zhuangzis man does not discuss any of his ideas.

In fact, he appears devoid of original or profound thought.

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Instead, the man exhibits ideal behavior, indicating the Dao need not be directly communicated. Rather, one may infer the presence of the Dao through outward demeanor.

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Analysis of this context and the text of Zhuangzi reveal that Zhuangzi goes beyond Laozis advice for rulers and offers the common peasant a manual for practical living during an incredibly dangerous period in Chinese history. This advice also suggests principles for appro- priate ways to communicate. Hsu observes that the peasant in classical China was, on the whole, a man of few rights, few opportunities, and few pleasures. He is almost at the bottom of the social scale p. The effect of warfare on the peasant class was significant, as war meant conscription and front-line fighting or being killed as a deserter.

Despite new opportunities for many people as states were conquered, ancient China remained a place of wide- spread illiteracy, official corruption, and cruelty.

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Zhuangzi responded to the brutality of the Warring States period with a message for all of humanity, particularly the peasant class, on how to live harmoniously and in acceptance of ones lot in life. His goal is to help all people become wise in the Dao, or True Men. The story of the unusual man suggests that a sage goes along with the crowd, does not ven- ture an opinion, and possesses nothing that may be deemed valuable by others.

Zhuangzi tells us to follow the middle; go by what is constant, and you can stay in one piece, keep yourself alive, look after your parents, and live out your years ch. Zhuangzi also admon- ishes us not to bring attention to ourselves, for it may be hazardous to ones health: Dont you know about the praying mantis that waved its arms angrily in front of an approaching carriage, unaware that they were incapable of stopping it? Such was the high opinion it had of its talents.

Be careful, be on your guard! If you offend him Zhuangzi and the Rhetoric of Evocation 43 by parading your store of talents, you will be in danger! He was vague about giving an answer, but in the end the state was turned over to him. After a short time, unexpect- edly, he left me and went away.

Given the political situation, it is not sur- prising that we are warned to avoid working for a lord. Another chapter of Zhuangzi tells of a time that Zhuangzi was offered a prime ministership: Once, when Chuang Tzu was fishing in the Pu River, the king of Chu sent two officials to go and announce to him: I would like to trouble you with the administration of my realm. Chuang Tzu held on to the fishing pole and, without turning his head, said, I have heard that there is a sacred tor- toise in Chu that has been dead for three thousand years. The king keeps it wrapped in cloth and boxed, and stores it in the ancestral temple.

Now would this tortoise rather be dead and have its bones left behind and honored? Or would it rather be alive and dragging its tail in the mud? It would rather be alive and dragging its tail in the mud, said the two officials. Chuang Tzu said, Go away! Ill drag my tail in the mud! Hsu notes, large numbers of people were forced to undergo this humiliation p. Zhuangzi tells us that the prestige of office is short- lived and hardly worth the nearly inevitable consequences. Despite his lack of interest in government office, the unusual man cannot resist when the Duke presses the office onto him.

This is because one must not attempt to control things or go beyond what one can know. Instead, resign yourself to what cannot be avoided and nourish what is within youthis is best ch. The man could no longer avoid the Duke and resigned himself to the imposition of office. Of course, before anyone realized what was happening, the man went away, leaving without confronting the Duke. Presumably the man knew that his destiny lie elsewhere and quietly moved on. A key idea that is embedded in the story is that one should avoid communicating uncomfortable ideas.

The man did not want the minister- ship, yet he did not refuse it directly. The message to communicators is clear: do not use words to draw attention to yourself. Avoid confrontation and conflict, especially when one might be called upon to provide information that would be viewed negatively. Never take the lead in a conversation; just pleasantly chime in with everyone else.

A final strategy for coping with difficulties is to transcend them, focusing only on our internal states and avoiding what goes on outside of us. Zhuangzi is a mystic who advocates the use of introspection to reach elevated states of awareness that allow one to transcend the everyday world and align with the eternal, universal one.

Being at one with the Dao frees one from physical limitations and otherwise daunting circumstances and allows one to enjoy longevity, perhaps even immortality Thompson, Notice that the man in the story is unconcerned about anything that went on around him because if you abandon the affairs of the world, your body will be without toil Ch. By living easily and focusing on our inner strength we may live with the Dao. Our ability to harmonize all gives us endless joy, regardless of our physical cir- cumstances. This message must have been heartening to many of the common people of China who led a miserable material existence.

The story of the unusual man advises peasants that long life is possi- ble if one communicates in such a way as to blend in with the crowd, stay out of the spotlight, and avoid conflict. Maintaining a focus on our inter- nal states, avoiding what goes on outside of us, and being satisfied with what fate has destined is a prescription for a satisfying life. By knowing the Dao no human can harm us. Analyzing the communication principles at work in the Zhuangzi should help scholars not only understand Zhuangzis theory of rhetoric but also judge his use of rhetoric and ability to enact his own principles.

Communicating an idea in a manner that is consistent with Daoism can be difficult given Daoist views on language and persuasion. Zhuangzi agrees with his predecessor, Laozi, that language cannot fully express the Dao, saying, if the Way is made clear, it is not the Way ch. Hence, language must be thought of as a crude tool that cannot literally represent meanings. Zhuangzi illustrates this by showing words may capture meanings but they are not the things they represent. Zhuangzi and the Rhetoric of Evocation 45 The fish trap exists because of the fish; once youve gotten the fish, you can forget the trap.

The rabbit snare exists because of the rabbit; once youve gotten the rabbit, you can forget the snare. Words exist because of meaning; once youve gotten the meaning, you can forget the words. Where can I find a man who has forgotten words so I can have a word with him? At best, it can be a figurative spur that goes beyond language and promotes deeper mental communion Lu, Zhuangzi illustrates his preference for avoiding words by describ- ing conversations that seem to end prematurely, either in silence or agree- ment, because everyone understands: Master Sang-hu, Meng-tzu Fan, and Master Chin-chang, three friends, said to each other, Who can join with others without joining with others?

Who can do with others without doing with others? Who can climb up to heaven and wander in the mists, roam the infinite, and forget life forever and forever? The three men looked at each other and smiled. There was no disagreement in their hearts and so they became friends. I suggest that the Duke implicitly acknowledges a limitation of lan- guage. Recall also that the man says nothing of consequence, indicating that his union with the Dao may be unrelated to his ability to verbalize.

Besides the fact that language is unable to fully represent reality, Zhuangzi maintains that words create distinctions that can prevent attain- ment of the Dao. For Laozi, to the extent that language classifies and dichotomizes reality, it interferes with the natural order of things, or the dao Lu, , p. Zhuangzi took the problem of classification even further.

He believed that the use of language created distinctions and value judgments that clouded peoples minds, preventing them from seeing the unity, or Dao, of the universe. In other words, language, to the extent it functions as a dichotomizing element, is an obstacle to truth and knowledge p. Furthermore, the abuse of symbols led to the for- mation of a hierarchical society, caused greed and fear to flourish, and encouraged people to engage in endless disputations over truth and false- hood pp.

Thus, words were not only lacking, but also caused a number of problems in classical China. Zhuangzi muses that if there were a true perspective, which is impossible, it would be so obvious that it would not require rhetoric: If right were really right, it would differ so clearly from not right that there would be no need for argument. If so were really so, it would differ so clearly from not so that there would be no need for argument. Forget the years; forget distinctions. Leap into the boundless and make it your home. The claim that Daoism is antagonistic to rhetoric overgeneralizes certain textual statements and fails to fully account for the philosophical and cultural context in which the literature was written Lu, Con- trary to the positions taken by Jensen and Oliver , Laozi did not condemn speech and argumentation out of hand, but only in those instances where they failed to conform to the virtues of nonaction, spon- taneity, and noncontention Lu, , p.

Similarly, Zhuangzi points out limitations of speech without rejecting it entirely. Of course, certain speaking practices are highly correlated with ineffectiveness. Argumentation is viewed in this scholarship as antithetical to Daoist principles such as unity, harmony, and noncontentiousness. Through analysis of the works of Laozi and Zhuangzi, 2 I go beyond the admonitions against argument found in previous research, and articulate principles of argumentation that stem from the Daoist worldview. It will be shown that Daoism, while differing in many key assumptions about the role and methods of disputation, is a vital addition to Greco-Roman theorizing about argumentation, enriching our understanding of human discursive practices.

I begin by outlining and comparing critical Greco-Roman and Daoist views on cosmology, knowledge and reason, and language, in order to demonstrate the larger system of thought that collaborates in argumentation theories. Next, I sketch features of the Dao 3 of disputation by looking at argument as both useless and useful. Finally, I examine potential implications of this study. This analysis contrasts Daoist and Greco-Roman argumentation, engages the nexus between broader philosophical positions and argumentation theories, and offers a more contextualized and deepened understanding of Daoist argument than previous scholarship.

It maintains that Daoist argumentation offers a vital enhancement to the trajectories of current western rhetorical inquiry. Critical views of Laozi and Zhuangzi, specifically, positions they hold on cosmology, knowledge and reason, and language, 4 contrast with corresponding classical Greek perspectives. Seeing these foundational principles also allows one to imagine a trajectory for or constellation of Daoist ideas in order to assess my claims about how Daoism might inform contemporary argumentation theory. As part of the many chiasmic encounters, it is the assertion here that Derrida's rewriting of the Heideggerean Dasein, "There is nothing outside the text", signals the revolutionary aestheticisation of the ontological contours which gives to a replete subjectivity, political or otherwise. Inversely, the ontological disclosure in and through aesthetics provides impetus to epistemology. And the circular relations between aesthetics and existential ethics are that which provides the possibility of reconciliation with alterity, the trace that inevitably keeps reading open.

Given that we can relate the ethical only to the contextual, the contingency underlying its very definition discloses an indeterminacy that ensures openness to the future, and, coupled with the readiness to respond to the call of the other, prompts a re-reading as reading irresponsibly. In other words, the semiotic coming-to-be reciprocates the coming-to-be of the human entity. Derrida's silence about Chinese writing may be a gesture to the signifying reticence at the heart of discourse, simultaneously the poetic place and moment, which enables this critical traversal, a wayfaring entailing the bearing of the past so that alterity can be imag in ed, the "supernumerary" of both dao and khora, with the disablement of a fixed discursive trajectory.