Chopping logic – a fishy business!

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10 February 2012

Chuang Tzu and Hui Tzu were strolling along the dam of the Hao River when Chuang Tzu said, “See how the minnows come out and dart around where they please! That’s what fish really enjoy!”

Hui Tzu said, “You’re not a fish – how do you know what fish enjoy?”

Chuang Tzu said, “You’re not I, so how do you know I don’t know what fish enjoy?”

Hui Tzu said, “I’m not you, so I certainly don’t know what you know. On the other hand, you’re certainly not a fish – so that still proves you don’t know what fish enjoy!”

Chuang Tzu said, “Let’s go back to your original question, please. You asked me how I know what fish enjoy – so you already knew I knew it when you asked the question. I know it by standing here beside the Hao.”

This is an extract from The Complete Works of Chuang Tzu, translated by Burton Watson and published by Columbia University Press (1968). The text cited is the concluding section of Chapter 17.

Chuang Tzu is traditionally said to have lived from 369 to 286 BC, but the work dates in something like its present form from the beginning of the Han dynasty in 206 BC. Hui Tzu was a logician.

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