Archivo de la etiqueta: I Ching

The logical ballerinas: “Yin-Yang”




We all contemplate, astonished, bewildered, also fascinated, the incessant turns of our inner and outer realities. We all have suffered the shocking mutations of our own soul and of the souls of others: the good-natured turns out to be a devil, and the devil, suddenly, looks at us with infinite tenderness. Nature, at times, loves us and raises us with its beauty, and, at other times, it crushes and denigrates us without mercy. The slopes of the mountains of the soul are lit and also darkened under a sky that can not be quiet. The stupid suddenly becomes a mighty sage, and the wise, or the saint, suddenly behave in the lowest, ugliest limits of the human condition.

“Yin-Yang”. Change, contradiction, interpenetration, complementarity of opposites. I believe that we are dealing with a single but also bicephalous word that, according to Chinese tradition, symbolizes the internal machinery that moves the world. But within that single word are actually dancing (always embraced, embraced even to guts of the other one, and to the guts of the other one’s guts) two beautiful dancers who were born in China, in ancient China.

And that intimate dance reflects a terrible but also fertile tension. We are not facing two opposing forces, but complementary ones. Neither of them can live without the other. They never grow or decrease together: when one of them expands it is because the other one is reduced. But these expansion and reduction immediately triggers a change to its opposite: what goes up starts to fall if it reaches its maximum, and what goes down, when it gets enough denigration, begins to ascend. Light becomes darkness and darkness becomes light. Hell becomes heaven. And hell heaven. Everything is permanently turning, changing. But, if we asume the ideas of this philosophy, we are obliged to say that it has a huge contradiction: the very reality of change and its internal logic doesn’t seem to be thought of as changeable… I will deal with this contradiction on the last part of this text.

So, installing in its consciousness, through the word, always through the word, the metaphysical reality of this eternal dance, Chinese wisdom may be able to combine hope (any hell will transmute into paradise) with prudence (beware, you should consider that everything will change; take precautions, do not relax too much in boom times). Balance. Prudence. Temperance. Middle point. Avoid extremes, excesses. Be wise…

Before presenting my ideas about the logical ballerina “Yin-Yang”, I think it might be useful to take a look a the following themes:

1.- China… Schopenhauer included an interesting chapter in his work On the Will in Nature under the title “Sinology”. In the beginning of that chapter the great philosopher deems China as a top civilized country, and does so primarily on the grounds of its high -and permanently increasing- population: 396 millions in 1857. Today that population has reached 1.400 millions of people: millions of minds and heaths and working hands which are interwoven shaping a mighty civilizational and even racial meta-human being. I am anyway quite fascinated by the fact that China’s basic civilizational program remains almost intact, and that it was coded and activated, it seems, by a family -the Shang- which gave their name to that area of ​​the planet and which governed it between the 17th and 11th centuries BC. From that ‘family’ comes Chinese writing, which is still alive: logical dancers who emerged out of the Yellow River millennia ago and who, unlike those that appear in this philosophical dictionary, are drawn full body, not in pieces. I also find remarkable the relative self-sufficiency of China. I also see this ‘country’ as a kind of very old animal -a kind of a god- where the human individual, as such, would not have reached a determining ontological location beyond its performative function inside such animal-god. Perhaps China was always, in general, communist and bureaucratist. Except for the irruption of Buddhism (that Indian program), I do not see that this fabulous living system segregated by the Yellow River has opened its consciousness to concepts such as freedom or creativity. Taoism, while propitiating individual anarchy in the human-social realm, would set the human individual into a natural, yes, but also  radically legalized flow: an unstoppable metaphysical force with which human beings should harmonize in order to be really happy. Buddhism, on the other hand, as a worldview imported from India, would offer to the Chinese mind -and heart- the concept of absolute freedom (Moksa): the possibility of leaving the wheels of Karma, the possibility of liberating from the very Tao even (if we understand the Tao as a universal law), the possibility of liberating from the very concept of “liberation”…

2.- Meanings for “Yin-Yang”. It seems extremely complicated to set a unique meaning for this/these symbols. Some scholars speak of weak (Yin) and strong (Yang), of feminine (Yin) and masculine (Yang), of dark (Yin) and luminous (Yang), of Earth (Yin) and sky (Yang). In the amazing I Ching (or Yijing according to the pinyin phonetic transcription) we find a very efficient use of two types of strokes: a) The broken stroke (or two consecutive strokes) that would correspond to the Yin concept (perhaps due to its similarity with the vagina); and b)The continuous stroke, which would correspond to Yang (perhaps because of its similarity with the penis).

3.- Yin-Yang in Chinese philosophy. This concept reached a decisive place in the thought of Zou Yan (305-240 BC). But its philosophical development was driven mainly by Dong Zhongshu (179-104 BC), a Han-era thinker who wrote a work whose title -of astonishing beauty- was something like Luxuriant Dew of the Spring and Autumn Annals  (Chunqiu fanlu). In this work a model of totality is shown in which the Earth, the sky and the human being are intimately connected.

4.- Yin-Yang in the I Ching (or Yijing). The fundamental idea of ​​this mighty book is that of change. Everything changes. And that change would be produced by the interaction of the Yin-Yang opposites. The I Ching is a strange, beautiful and abyssal being that has been part of my life for many years. I use the translation of Richard Wilhelm, with the brilliant introduction of Karl Jung. With this book, within this book, I have lived and leaded decisive moments of my life. The introduction made by Jung is part of the masterpieces of the philosophical art. I think that, for the subject that concerns us now, there are two fundamental symbols: Qian and Kun. The first is pure Yang, is active and refers to the sky. The second is pure Yin, which is passive and refers to the Earth. We can think of the duality between the Mediterranean goddesses of the Earth and the gods of heaven. We can also think of the purusa-prakriti duality of the Indian Samkya. But from the Chinese worldview (at least that which is implicit in the Yin-Yang doctrine), it is not possible to speak of dualisms: within the goddesses of the Earth there would be gods of heaven. And vice versa. All together, interwoven, inter-fertilized.

5.- The diagrams. The best known is the Taijitu (literally “symbol of the highest, most extraordinary”). It is a symbol that shows polarity and movement; and that also appears, with few morphological differences, in the Celtic, Etruscan and Roman cultures. As far as China is concerned, I believe that a great philosophical expressiveness has been achieved by including within each color a circle of the opposite color, which, according to the Chinese sages, could always be subdivided into another diagram of two interlaced colours. And so on to infinity. To infinity. This must not be forgotten. But it would be better, in my opinion, to try a diagram in which within the Taijitu would appear a symbol that represents its absolute other… ‘that’ that is completely outside of that human and cosmic wheel and, therefore, of all its laws. I think that this would be the true symbol of “the highest”, and it should encompass what is presented to consciousness, and also consciousness itself (that infinite void).

6.- Some sources on Chinese philosophy. I suggest these two internet sites: (created by John Bruno Hare). This last site is edited by Victor H. Mair (Department of Asian Languages ​​and Civilizations, University of Pennsylvania) and offers a large number of essays on Chinese culture in general.

I also recommend these works on Chinese philosophy:

– Feng Youlan: A History of Chinese Philosophy, Princeton University Press, 1952 (translation of Derk Bodde).

– Marcel Granet: La pensée chinoise, Paris 1934.

– Needham, Joseph: Science and Civilization  in China, Cambridge University Press, 1954-2016 (7 volumes in 25 books).

– Bauer Wolfgang: Geschichte der chinesischen Philosophie. Konfuzianismus, Daodismus, Buddhismus, München 2001.

– Encyclopedia of Chinese Philosophy (ed. Antonio S. Cua, Routledge, 2002).

Now I will try to organize my ideas, my intuitions, about the “Yin-Yang” logical ballerina:

1.- Yin-Yang. Permanent (and also metaphysically regulated) change. But, if we do really philosophize (if we do really think) we discover that change is impossible, illogical. As it is impossible -illogical- the movement (let’s remember, let’s not stop doing so, Zeno of Elea). In fact, everything that happens seems to be impossible (maybe because everything that happens is purely magical, the masterpiece, the outcome of the unlimited power and creativity of a prodigious magician). In any case, in order to just testify about changes, an observer should remain immutable (precisely the one who affirmed that something has changed… the one who is supposed to have noticed that the reality surrounding him has changed). But that observer, according to the Chinese tradition, at least as far as I get, and, even according to the current world view of Physics, is also constantly shaken by the great dance that moves everything. Therefore, there would be no place to locate (even to think) a fixed point from which to affirm that, a few minutes ago, there was not a hawk in the sky and now there is.

2.- Changes occurs only in Maya (in the magical spectacles of our conscience, or “mind”, or “brain” if you like). Change is fantasy (chemical-biological fantasy, for those who do not want to abandon the neurophysiological worldview). And there, only there – in that fantasy- it is possible to visualize the tension of complementary opposites. However, this tension seems to me finally linguistic (like everything that can appear in sentences): the Yin-Yang presupposes a certain structure of words. It is said that Yang would be the luminous slope of a mountain, and Yin the shadowy one. But “mountain” or “hillside” are the result of a certain mental form: they are the product of one of the infinite ways of cutting out what is presented as real. The opposite of something requires assuming the ontological reality of that something. Think of the possible tension between God and the Devil (which requires a theism), or of the tension between matter and antimatter (a tension only possible if the models offered by current Physics are assumed to represent reality).

3.- Changes and their internal logic only happen in the theatres of consciousness. They are artistic needs. They are necessary for it to happen -for us to feel- a world in our consciousness. In meditation state [See], and, certainly, not only in that state, it may happen that we realize that we are always still, ‘there’, immutable, in a meta-spatial and meta-temporal workshop, utterly capable of any Creation (Creation with capital letter). In meditation state we are aware of our infinite quietness and unchangeability. We become aware that we are that immobile Being which Parmenides considered the true, only reality.

4.- The model of totality implicit in the doctrine of Yin-Yang presupposes a legaliform metaphysics. I have the feeling that most of the Chinese philosophical approaches (except those derived from Buddhism, which is an ‘imported’ wisdom) offer ideas in order to optimize the position of human beings within an already regulated cosmos. I do not see in Chinese philosophy-sotoriology a quest for transcendence. The Chinese sage wants to optimize his stay in immanence. The Chinese seek accommodation in a changing cosmos that changes according to an order that the wise must detect, but not modify, erase or re-create. In general, system-escapes are not sought, but optimization in the system. Confucians seem to be willing to incorporate human society and even its bureaucracy into a cosmic and sacred whole. Taoists, in general, seem to reject that radical pure-human-socialism, but they also seem to aspire to a fusion with a kind of cosmic-natural-metaphysical bureaucracy. In both cases, individual freedom seems to be meaningless. We are facing legaliform metaphysics. Buddhism -that Indian sotoriology- would perhaps be the only form of freedom (of freedom in the absolute sense) that the Chinese spirit would have known. It could be said that Chinese wisdom is an imposing Apara-Vidya [See]. And, as far as I get, that “inferior wisdom” of China is based on the search for balance -harmony- inside a universe of changing but also metaphysically ‘coded’ forces; and also on the search for techniques that allow channeling, for the benefit of human beings, those same forces.

5.- From the worldview of modern neurophysiology we should consider the hypothesis that Yin-Yang schematizes, in a rudimentary way, the functioning of the two parts of the human brain and their physiological, vital needs (energetic needs if you want), to stay balanced [See “Brain”].

6.- I return to the possibility that I pointed out before: to draw a Taijitu (the classic Yin-Yang diagram) in which its own opposite is shown. I mean the opposite of the whole model of totality that that symbol wants to subject.

The Yin-Yang system allows human being to survive inside a cosmos, inside a cosmos of words, but it does not allow to see beyond. In order to see beyond the theatres of our consciousness we have got to be silent. To be the silence.

In any case, I hope to have time enough so as to contemplate with calm the majestic flutter of Chinese civilization: that huge, astonishing butterfly.

David López

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Filósofos míticos del mítico siglo XX: Feyerabend

Feyerabend. Viena 1924/Zúrich 1994.

Un teniente del ejército alemán (en la segunda guerra mundial) que empezó hechizándose con el neopositivismo del Círculo de Viena y que terminó por pensar que la Ciencia no progresa, sino que sufre cambios. Tan válido sería el modelo de universo de Aristóteles como el de Einstein o el de los esquimales. Estamos ante el “anarquismo epistemológico”. La libertad y la lucidez extremas.

Se me ocurre ver en el esfuerzo intelectual de Feyerabend una especie de upanisádica liberación de los confinamientos, de las esclavitudes, que las sagradas escrituras de la ciencia baconiana provocan en la mente del ser humano. Y en su mirada. Y hasta en su corazón. Creo, desde Feyerabend, y no solo desde él, que la Ciencia, que es fascinante e ineludible, corre el peligro de crear un totalitarismo intelectual, una nueva escolástica, de forma que habría algo así como unas Sagradas Escrituras (en perpetuo proceso de redacción) y unas autoridades interpretativas de esas escrituras que ofrecerían el material, las verdades (ninguna de ellas probadas, ninguna realmente “racional”), a partir de las cuales debe empezarse a pensar. Habría, según la ideología cientista, unos suministradores oficiales de verdades. El filósofo, como cualquier otro obligado feligrés de la religión de la Ciencia, debería aspirar a conocer esos datos y a componer con ellos dibujos de la realidad lo más amplios que le fuera posible. Sería, el filósofo, algo así como experto en esos pasatiempos en los que se ofrecen puntos numerados y dispersos en un papel para que se descubra, uniendo esos puntos, la figura oculta: un pájaro, un león, lo que sea. Eso sí: sin cuestionar la validez de esos puntos, su numeración y, sobre todo, el porqué del juego.

La Ciencia nos exige que solo pensemos a partir de los datos, las verdades, que ella nos va suministrando y, a la vez, cambia esos datos constantemente y hasta llega a ser incapaz de dar por probado ninguno de ellos. Cada “avance” parece re-instaurar las fronteras de lo posible y lo imposible, de lo real y de lo no real, pero visto desde “fuera” el espectáculo no deja de ser estremecedor, precioso, sublime en sentido kantiano: todas las fronteras de todos los mundos se mueven sin cesar, aparecen nuevos mundos, desaparecen otros… En cualquier caso, y en contra de lo que señalaba Quine [Véase], creo que la Filosofía no debe dedicarse exclusivamente a la Ciencia. Si lo hace, cualquier proposición filosófica dejará de tener interés con el paso de los siglos, se convertirá en una curiosidad cultural pretérita. Un fósil. La Filosofía debe ocuparse del temblor que sacudirá a cualquier ser consciente que viva dentro de cinco mil años. La Filosofía debe generar textos eminentes, en el sentido que dio a este término Gadamer [Véase].

La obra fundamental de Feyerabend es Against Method [Contra el método]. La escribió en 1975. Hubo una segunda edición en 1988 y una tercera en 1993. Antes de analizar las ideas fundamentales de esta obra voy a ocuparme de unas notas preparadas por Feyerabend para una conferencia del 20 de marzo de 1973. Este texto lo he obtenido de una obra que lleva por título For and against method (el título que hubiera llevado un texto que querían escribir juntos el propio Feyerabend y su gran amigo/gran rival Lakatos, pero que no pudo ver la luz por la muerte de este último). El editor de la obra de la que yo he sacado esas notas es Matteo Motterlini (The University of Chicago Press, 1999).

Ofrezco a continuación algunos momentos especialmente elevados del borrador de conferencia que escribió Feyerabend (la traducción es mía):

1.- “La fe en la ciencia está parcialmente justificada por el papel revolucionario que la ciencia jugó en los siglos diecisiete y dieciocho. Mientras que los anarquistas predicaban destrucción, los científicos golpearon [smashed] el armonioso cosmos de las épocas anteriores, eliminaron el “conocimiento” estéril, cambiaron las relaciones sociales y ensamblaron los elementos de un nuevo tipo de conocimiento que era a la vez verdadero y beneficioso para el hombre. Esta ingenua e infantil aceptación de la ciencia (que se encuentra incluso entre izquierdistas “progresistas” como Althusser) está hoy a amenazada por dos avances: (1) por el cambio de la ciencia como investigación filosófica a negocio empresarial, y (2) por ciertos descubrimientos relativos al estatus de los datos científicos y las teorías” (PP. 113-114).

2.- “También hemos descubierto que la Ciencia no tiene resultados sólidos, que tanto sus teorías como sus enunciados sobre hechos son hipótesis que a menudo son no solo localmente incorrectas sino enteramente falsas, haciendo afirmaciones sobre cosas que nunca han existido” (P.114).

3.- “Detrás de todo este atropello [del atropello ejercido por el anarquismo epistemológico] yace la convicción de que el hombre dejará de ser un esclavo y ganará una dignidad que es más que un ejercicio de cauteloso conformismo, solo cuando sea  capaz de salirse de sus convicciones más fundamentales, incluidas esas convicciones que supuestamente le hacen humano” (P. 115).

4.- “Las personas y la naturaleza son entidades muy whimsical [este adjetivo cabe ser traducido al español como “caprichoso”, “fantástico” “improbable”] que no pueden ser conquistadas y entendidas si uno decide limitarse por adelantado” (P.116).

5.- “No hay razón para deprimirse por este resultado. La Ciencia, después de todo, es nuestra criatura, no nuestra soberana; ergo, debería ser la esclava de nuestros caprichos y no la tirana de nuestros deseos”. ¿Quiénes somos “nosotros”? me pregunto yo apoyado en el modelo de universo y de hombre que presupone la Ciencia.

Feyerabend en realidad no deja de ser un escolástico de la Ciencia. No cuestiona sus presupuestos metafísicos fundamentales. De hecho, en el prólogo a la edición china de su obra capital (Contra el método), Feyerabend afirma que la Ciencia -al menos como él la entiende- es “una de las más maravillosas invenciones de la mente humana”. ¿Qué es eso de “mente”? ¿Debemos “reducirla” a eso que esta civilización ahora llama “cerebro”? ¿Es materia el cerebro? ?Puede la materia ocuparse de sí misma “sacando” modelos de sí misma más o menos certeros? ¿Alguien se atreve a decir qué demonios es eso de la “Materia”? [Véase “Materia“].

La cuestión fundamental que me plantea pensar con Feyerabend y otros cientistas más o menos liberados es la siguiente: ¿qué es la Ciencia como fenómeno dentro de los distintos modelos de realidad que ofrece esa actividad humana? ¿Qué le ocurre a la Materia (o a la energía o a lo que sea) cuando ocurre el fenómeno de la Ciencia? ¿Qué es físicamente una teoría física?

En cualquier caso Feyerabend es un excepcional estímulo filosófico. A mí me gusta mucho leerle. Su obra Contra el método es un texto especialmente cómodo y refrescante, cuyas ideas principales se muestran en un índice analítico que sirve como esquema de sus tesis fundamentales. Ofrezco a continuación las que me han parecido más brillantes, más fertilizantes:

1. Prólogo a la edición china: “Mi principal motivo para escribir el libro era humanitario, no intelectual […] Progreso del conocimiento en muchas ocasiones significa asesinato de mentes. Hoy están siendo revividas antiguas tradiciones y hay gente que intenta adaptar sus vidas a las ideas de sus ancestros […] La Ciencia bien entendida no tiene argumentos contra ese procedimiento. Hay muchos científicos que actúan así. Físicos, antropólogos, medioambientalistas, están empezando a adaptar sus procedimientos a los valores de la gente a la que se supone que están aconsejando. No estoy contra una Ciencia así entendida. Esa Ciencia es una de las más maravillosas invenciones de la mente humana. Pero estoy en contra de las ideologías que usan el nombre la la Ciencia para el asesinato cultural”.

2.- “La Ciencia es esencialmente una empresa anárquica: el anarquismo teorético es más humanitario y más capaz de promover el progreso que sus alternativas de ley y orden”.

3.- “El único principio que no inhibe el progreso es: todo vale.” Me pregunto con Feyerabend si cabe hablar aquí de límites éticos para la Ciencia. ¿Cuáles serían? ¿Para qué queremos por cierto eso de “la Ciencia”?

4.-  Sería válido y necesario para la Ciencia “[…] usar hipótesis que contradigan teorías confirmadas”. Sí.

5.- “La Ciencia no es la única tradición, ni la mejor tradición que existe, excepto para la gente que se ha acostumbrado a su presencia, a sus beneficios y a sus desventajas. En una democracia debería estar separada del Estado de la misma forma como hoy está separada del Estado la Iglesia”.

6.- En la última de las frases de su índice analítico Feyerabend afirma que su intención es denunciar la destrucción de logros culturales de los que podemos seguir aprendiendo. Y habla de fechorías de algunos intelectuales.

¿Cuál es la amenaza contra la que lucha Feyerabend? Creo que lucha contra el confinamiento, contra los legisladores de lo posible y lo imposible. Recuerdo unas frases de Jung, escritas con ocasión de su desinhibido prólogo a la edición americana del I Ching de Richard Wilhelm: “La plétora irracional de la vida me ha enseñado a no descartar nada”.

¿Qué estaremos descartando, ahora mismo, sin darnos cuenta?

En cualquier caso tengo la sensación, creciente, de que eso que llamamos “realidad” no se va configurando por la acción de leyes que vamos conociendo más o menos. Lo decisivo no son las leyes de la Física, sino las de la Ética; y las de la Lúdica. Lo que mañana viviremos se configurará según la altura a la que seamos capaces de elevar nuestro “corazón” y nuestra “lucidez”, por decir algo (nuestra “consciencia” si se quiere). Estamos en un lugar curioso, extraño, fabuloso y atroz: una especie de descomunal videojuego donde se nos va inoculando realidad virtual (no otra puede existir) según vamos jugando mejor o peor. La Ciencia no descubre nada: recibe mundos, recibimos mundos, según nuestra ética, nuestra magia, nuestra capacidad de actuar sobre la Materia (entendida como lugar de Creación). Quizás habría que expandir el concepto de trabajo, como acción transformadora (siempre por “cuenta propia”: transformamos nuestra “mente” con trabajo, y nuestro corazón, que forman, juntos, por así decirlo, el hábitat de eso que se nos va a presentar como realidad “exterior”.

Algo prodigioso ocurre siempre. La Filosofía es un intento de decir ese prodigio indecible.

No descartemos nada. Seamos capaces de pensar y de sentir a lo grande. Cuando más a lo grande mejor.

David López