Sages of the Inner Chapters
What is a sage? A popular Western definition suggests that a sage is someone who “[has] the power of discerning and judging properly as to what is true or right; [possesses] discernment, judgment, or discretion.” Although this is a Western definition, it is not so radically different from a grossly generalized Eastern definition, in the sense that a sage is someone who the rest of society looks to for advice. As I delve further into this concept of a sage, I think it is important to more closely examine the meaning of judgment.
We can infer that this advisor possesses a greater ability to judge what is right and to make appropriate suggestions. However, that is not what a sage appears to do, neither in the theory or practice of Daoist Philosophy in Chuang Tzu's Inner Chapters. In his “The Sorting Which Evens Things Out,” Chuang Tzu writes: “The sage does not work for any goal, does not lean towards benefit or shun harm, does not delight in seeking...” (59, Graham). Chuang Tzu's sage does not place judgment, but instead makes his goal not to approach any situation with prejudices and allows everything to happen to him. It is as if he has no output of energy, but accepts all inputs. Members of a society within which this kind of sage lives would probably not flock to this sage for advice. And those who come may be disappointed with the response, for this sage will not advise or judge. He will not advise other members of the community because it defies his very nature as described in the quote above.
Why does Chuang Tzu's sage not utilize proper judgment? Chuang Tzu writes: “Where neither It nor Other finds its opposite is called the axis of the Way... on the one hand no limit to what is It, on the other no limit to what is not.” (53, Graham) The problem with judgment, Chuang Tzu says, is that it creates limitations. To judge any one thing as being superior to another is to limit possibilities. “To discriminate between...