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constant escape

winter withered, warm
What are the thoughts on this passage from the Tao Te Ching? From the Stephen Mitchell translation.

What is a good man but a bad man's teacher?
What is a bad man but a good man's job?
If you don't understand this, you will get lost,
however intelligent you are.
It is the great secret.
 

Linebaugh

Well-known member
What are the thoughts on this passage from the Tao Te Ching? From the Stephen Mitchell translation.

What is a good man but a bad man's teacher?
What is a bad man but a good man's job?
If you don't understand this, you will get lost,
however intelligent you are.
It is the great secret.
this sounds like primer for white mans burden
 

constant escape

winter withered, warm
I'm afraid I don't understand...

Is it saying that that-which-makes-one-good and that-which-makes-one-bad are both constitutive of one's responsibilities? And that the goodness and badness of people are constantly in flux, rather than being fixed essences around which the cosmos flux?
 

padraig (u.s.)

a monkey that will go ape
I'm afraid I don't understand...
in the sense that it implies that the "good man" has a responsibility to teach the "bad man" i.e. the colonialist civilizing mission, I believe

that's one way to read it

you could also read it as goodness and badness are constantly in flux which sounds like a primer for moral relativism

without knowing how "good" and "bad" are being defined, by who and to what end, I don't think it can be made clear
 

constant escape

winter withered, warm
Ah, I see the white mans burden point now.

But I was just sent this other translation of it, which to me was much less of an obstacle. Also kind of does away with the colonialist angle, arguably:

The good man is the teacher of the bad;
The bad man is the charge of the good.
If the teacher is not revered,
And the charge not cherished,
Confusion results, regardless of learning.
This is an essential secret of the Tao.
 

padraig (u.s.)

a monkey that will go ape
Also kind of does away with the colonialist angle
I don't think so. the key passage "the good man is the teacher of the bad, the bad man is the charge of the good" is the same, just changing "job" to "charge".

it still depends whether or not you interpret the good man-bad man, teacher-job/charge relationship as paternalistic

which I don't think you can without more information
 
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