Antithetical Redux — Colin and Charley

Happiness of Fish

The joy of the fish whosoever would know
Must as the fish be spawned and grow

Okay, so I was reading the back and forth between Qbit and Jilly on Qbit’s latest Antithetical Couplet (which is Colin’s contribution to Jill’s Casting Bricks July challenge… which Colin… well, click on the Casting Bricks link and you can read the whole story), and as I was reading the back and forth it suddenly hit me …either like a brick or as a piece of jade!

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22 thoughts on “Antithetical Redux — Colin and Charley

  1. “Walk Two Moons” comes to mind. You completed this using that same annoying logic that I used – the word Whosoever is the key.
    “The one that would know the joy of the fish…” and then finish that sentence. (That damn Logic class forever tainted me.)
    I like it, Charley! (However, the whole process still makes my brain hurt!)

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  2. OK, I think you’ve said something super-complicated in your couplet. Let me know if this is even close:

    The fish, which may or may not be knowable to us, in their fish-nature will grow and develop as fish are wont. If they are happy in some way that fish-nature allows, that happiness will grow and continue. Spawing — e.g., fish sex — might be one way that fish experience happiness, but this too is not proscribed, just a possibility. In fact, this is all we can probably say or know about fish-nature. It is what it is, it proceeds as fish-nature allows.

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    • You’ve got it, exactly! In the original story (or at least one of the countless translations of the original story) that spawned the first half of Colin’s couplet challenge — and here I’m assuming this is where it came from — the antagonist (for lack of a better term) questions the instigator of the debate over the happiness of fish by saying, “If I, not being you, cannot know what you know…it follows that you, not being a fish, cannot know the happiness of the fish.” (This is why I love the comedy of Stephen Wright…!) We cannot know what makes a fish happy, or even if a fish can be happy, until we become a fish.

      The protagonist counters, by the way, with a head-spinning reply that puts all that into doubt… or colors it at the least.

      Fun stuff! Well done! It took me two readings to fully comprehend your response. …I think my mind got hung up on “fish sex.” But then I’m a male. 🙂

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      • OK, but neither your Dau-of-fish-sex nor my Epesctemology (Epistemology of fish) adequately address Zhuangzi’s claim. Even if all of our assertions are true, *we still can’t know if he knows.*. We can think and claim he is extremely unlikely to know whether the fish are in fact happy/unhappy., and we can carp about it, but since we are unable to directly experience *his* experience (because he is fundamentally separate from us), we can never have complete certainty. Ergo, Zhuangzi: 2, Randall and Charlie: 0. Colin and Jilly, please jump in here. The water is plenty deep.

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      • A fine kettle of… a dilemma to be sure! Perhaps if we scale down the rhetoric to this: We can’t know if fish experience. To do so we have to hook into the fish experience. But let’s be reel; there is a permanent tension between the happiness that one man “feels” on the bridge, and the activity of fish in the Hao — which to the best of Google’s knowledge, doesn’t even constitute a river. (So much for the happiness of those moat dwellers… unless, of course the Thai river Hao is meant… which must truly P-off the fish! Let’s not head there!) By using the philosophical algorithm you posited (or deposited… I get those a tad confused at times), I cannot fully experience the understanding you have attained until I achieve a fullness of being as you.

        Is that close to what you said? Let me re-read your last post.

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      • I think it comes down to this – Zhuangzi has somewhat cynically stumbled on the fact that you cannot disprove a negative. He uses the argument that “since we are not the fish, we cannot know their experience” against itself – since we are not Zhuangzi, we also cannot know *his* experience. Which is not unreasonable so far as it goes. But then he abuses it, he makes a claim that he knows the fish are happy. And there is nothing we can do about it. Which is sort of 6th Century “alternative facts”. He now has license to make up just about any BS he likes, and hide it behind this sophistry.

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      • I think the deepest kernel of your post is that we cannot be certain of any preconception, assumption, assimilation, empathetic posturing or assumed sympathies toward either the fish, the protagonist or the antagonist.

        …so help me God!

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  3. In spite of the fact that Charley posted that Dr. Hook video, I reluctantly have to stick with my claim that his couplet is accurate in logic. He is saying (correct me if I’m wrong) that to know the happiness of fish one must be born, live & die a fish. The trouble in the original story is that the logic is flawed and I can fillet it with this one assertion; all experience, including that which we name ‘happiness’ is subjective. Zhuangzi did NOT win the debate, in my opinion because his logic is flawed. He can ONLY assert what HE knows, not what anyone else knows. Perhaps for the other guy, happiness can be defined by what those fish are doing. Logic swims happily out of reach when we bring ‘experience’ into the discussion. School’s out 🙂

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  4. Pingback: July Challenge: Antithetical Couplet – The Pescetarian Poet

  5. What’s going on here? I couldn’t for all the tea in China have imagined this epic output over a micropoem! I’m truly amazed by your understanding of Zhuangzi’s logic, which is cooking the fish so thoroughly even Schrödinger’s cat is heard happily meowing in the box. Ha!

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