Wednesday 20 October 2010

Daring to question

Earlier this month I wrote about Liu Xiabo, winner of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize (Freedom is an obscenity). I wanted to offer this brave man a tiny drop of support for his moral courage, his determination to stand for a simple principle of freedom. Beyond the fact that he is a leading Chinese dissident I did not know terribly much about him. However, my friend Yun Yi has been busy adding translations from The Mist of Metaphysics , a major philosophical work, to one of her own blogs (Human without God). With her permission I’m adding a selection of these here, a tribute to a clever, subtle thinker in the best Socratic tradition. That a man like this should languish in prison for daring to pose questions is a tragedy for us all. It's as if Socrates had never quite finished his cup of hemlock

From Human without God by Yun Yi

Liu Xiaobo is the Nobel Peace Prize winner of 2010 who is currently in jail in mainland China. I don't know much about him but just discovered one of his books "Mist of metaphysics" and it appears very thoughtful to me, also a bit pessimistic.
Below are some quotes from the book (my own English translation):

About metaphysics:
"Metaphysics is a compound of ways of our thinking and existence, an entirety of our behavior and motive."

"All knowledge of mankind is process of questions and answers. The history of thought is the history of questions."

"Whereas everything that man creates is for transcending his own limitation, the limitation of existence itself decides that he could never break the boundary."p6

"Discovery is creativity, common sense is imitation."

Space and Time:
"...the importance of time and space lies in the fact that they are the measurement of our life, the reference for the meaning of life - which work as a leverage for our survive will."

The value of thinkers:
"The value of a thinker is not about what problems he solves, but what kind of problems/questions he presents, because a new question means a new start and new development. Even if he does solve problems, the solutions must be open and provocative, must conceive new problems/questions"

About human wisdom, the separation of human and nature:
"If we ask: why under God's supervise Adam and Eve still stole the forbidden fruit, choosing the misery of knowing instead of the happiness of unknown? Was it really because of the temptation of Snake? I think, this temptation of snake was not the true cause of this action, the true cause was our human nature. And the reason that we created such a story to put the responsibility to others (snake) was because we have fear - we fear we have such kind of instinct. Indeed, giving a outside cause to our human tragedy can more or less alleviate the cruelty of this destiny." p14

About Time - the value also the limitation of life:
"The Buddhist concept of reincarnation is an avoidance of time, a murder of the sense of time. This avoidance of time creates a psychological satisfaction, a triumph over death, but the price is all our current life. Being apathetic to time is being apathetic to life. If all our hardship was caused by our previous life, we should not fight, be completely obedient to whatever come to us. Those whoever lack vitality, would also lack the sense about time. The sense of time is the sense of life... " p22


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Liu Xiabo,Tread lightly or you may get run over with a tank.

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  4. In some ways, Anthony, he already has.

  5. Thanks Ana!
    @Mister Garrie's One Nation, I only wish there were more thinkers like Liu in China. I consider Liu is rebel of Chinese culture. He can only represent himself.

  6. I was always struck by the fact that Socrates preferred suicide to exile.

  7. Calvin, he defined himself by membership of the polis. I don't believe that he could conceive of life beyond its confines.

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  9. Yuni added more quotes today by Liu to her blog. I found his comments about Chinese culture particularly interesting. A very different outlook than one might expect.

  10. Adam, have you read any of Joseph Needham's Science and Civilization in China? As a teen, I was, for a time, very keen on the idea of studying under him . . . but my fortunes took me in another direction.

    One of the results of my fascination with the Orient was the conviction that miscommunication is all too easy between people from cultures as different in history and pattern as the West and the East. Translation is more than a simple rendering of words; there are nuances and associations with each term and phrase accreted down the long trail of years that carries freight for those who are immersed in a culture which are most likely completely different for readers from another. It is one of the things that makes the study of alien philosophy, politics, and religion so fascinating. There are puzzles within riddles within enigmas . . .

  11. Hi Mister Garrie's One Nation,
    I did translated more. Let me just put the link here:

    Liu violently criticized Chinese culture which I "violently" agree. He also had many excellent thoughts over life & death, religions and science. Overall, a bit pessimistic but very profound.

  12. @Mister Garrie's One Nation
    A make up courtesy: you are so very welcome:-)