Ideas from books, articles & podcasts.
The first chaper of an ancient Daoist masterpiece (attributed to Zhuang Zhou, c369-286 BCE) concludes with a discourse about a huge twisted and knotted tree that made its wood unusable. Huizi considers the tree useless, and so everyone spurns it. But his...
In modern times, we often hear how we should avoid useless things such as pursuing the arts or humanities education. Or we are told to only allow for these things if they benefit the economy or human welfare.
But Zhuangzi offers an antidote to this way of thinking and demonstrates that
"Axes will never shorten its life, nothing can ever harm it. If there's no use for it, how can it come to grief or pain?"
A gnarled and bumpy tree cannot be reduced to its usefulness. By extension, neither can a human being. If one stops to focus on its usefulness, one can come to ...
Trying to be useful can end up harming you. For example, the gnarly tree can remain standing because it is deemed useless, but a neat and straight tree is cut down for timber.
We should refrain from casting ourselves and our doings in terms of how much we contribute to the ...
Throughout his book, Zhuangzi puts the ideas of freedom and play opposite usefulness. He thinks we need to reject the concept of usefulness because it does not make us happier or more in harmony with nature.
Zhuangzi does not recommend that we shut ourselves away from society or give up a l...
Welfarism is the idea that the value of something or someone is limited by if we or others benefit from it. A handful of philosophers in the West have argued against it. For example, Susan Wolf argues that 'we should think more creatively and imaginatively about the value of things we love in...
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