Zhuangzi and the cat
Honestly, I don't even know why I bother to contribute here seeing as I'm philosophically inept. And quite unable to stray from the order of the world and defy the normal ways of things as philosophy wants.
But I'd say this is Schrodinger's cat all over again. Is the cat in the box dead or alive? Could the cat in the box be both dead and alive as long as the box is shut? Could several timelines, that is, different branches of occurrence in time be created based on whether the cat existed, whether the cat put up a fight against being put in a box, whether the cat died, whether the cat lived or whether you opened the box at all?
Choices and views obviously make the difference here as well as your kind of insanity and level of thirst for answering questions that need not be answered.
Ergo, Zhuangzi is either dreaming about the butterfly OR the butterfly is dreaming about Zhuangzi. Some will say, Zhuangzi is dreaming about the butterfly AND the butterfly is dreaming about Zhuangzi. If I asked around I'm sure I'd find someone who would say there is a universe where Zhuangzi dreams of the butterfly and one where the butterfly dreams of Zhuangzi and there is no superposition of any kind.
I swear I know someone who would ask what a butterfly could possibly be doing dreaming about a human bound in the shackles of thinking and pressure and wandering the world, dying and killing searching for purpose. Is that a dream or a nightmare?
Worst of all, my best friend would tell me to fuck off.
I would say Zhuangzi and the butterfly are both simply figments of a mad (in an apparently profound and notable way) man's dreams or imagination. And therefore, do not deserve to be given any deep thought as they do not actually exist. (Look around, there's no shortage of more real questions to which answers need to be given.)
I guess what I'm trying and failing to point out here is that we don't all see the world in the same way. Zhang Zhu had his reason for raising this question as I have my reasons for writing it off. (Or did I?)
Life is a dream
This question of who (or what) is dreaming who (or what), brought to mind two of my favorite pieces of literature: La Niebla (Mist) by Miguel de Unamuno and Las ruinas circulares (The Circular Ruins) by Jorge Luis Borges.
Towards the end of Mist, the main character, Augusto, is considering suicide and decides to go discuss it with the author of an article he read on the topic: Miguel de Unamuno. When they meet, Unamuno tells him he cannot commit suicide since he is merely a fictional character, a figment of Unamuno's imagination, and thus subject to Unamuno's whims. Augusto, angry, says he is not the ultimate author. Indeed, Unamuno might just be a character in God's dream.
Is God dreaming us or are we dreaming God?
In The Circular Ruins, a short story, a wizard goes by canoe to some burned ruins and lays down to dream a man into existence. After years of trying various tactics without success, he decides to consult with the god of the temple who happens to be the the god of fire. The god of fire says he'll help him out. Everyone will think his creation a man of flesh and blood. Only the wizard and fire will know the truth.
For two years, the wizard trains the man, who he comes to love like a son, but then, with sadness, he lets him go. He sends him downriver to another temple, but first, he wipes away the memory of the two years of training "so that his son should never know he is a phantom, so that he shall think of himself as a man like any other."
Time passes and he begins to hear stories about a man downriver who can walk through fire. The wizard worries that his son will come to know his true origins, but his worries are interrupted by a forest fire. Accepting that his time has come, he walks into the flames. It is "with relief, with humiliation, with terror" that he realizes that he too is the product of another's dream.
Is God dreaming us or do we dream God?
Is the butterfly dreaming Zhuangzi or is Zhuangzi dreaming the butterfly? I am not certain it is either. Rather, the question is who is the ultimate dreamer of all?
But in the end, does it really matter?
Zhuangzi and the butterfly
Who's to say there was a dream at all? We can recite memories of our own experiences to others, but dream of not, that experience required imagination for the listener to envision. Although they can believe it to be true, it will never meld into and be owned by any mind other than the one in which it originated. Even in shared experiences, what goes through the individual's mind will only be real to them. What has gone through the mind of the fellow audience may be similar, but never identical, and never fully understood by anyone else. Therefore, If no experience is truly real, it is for the individual to decide what they believe and how they wish to see. If Zhuangzi so vividly felt his conscience merged with the body of a butterfly, perhaps the experience was real and there was no dream at all.
its one of those classical existential questions. You know, the EASY ones. Chinese philosopher Zhuangzi wrote that he had a vivid dream of being a beautiful butterfly, fluttering to his hearts content from flower to flower. He then questioned it being a dream. Id it was so experienced, then it must have been an actual monent of existing AS A BUTTERFLY, only that to be cognizent of that would mean that he was not only a butterfly, but a butterfly daydreaming that he is some ancient philosopher.
Now, thing is this: butterfly seldom express themselves, those guys just keep quiet. Possibly because they are daydreaming. While being so occupied, it is very possible the the general theme of this mental excursion would be existance as a chinese philosopher. If its possible than you must accept it as truth to some extent.
Zhuangzi, the actual individual is also quite possibly being humerous, and retelling about his day dreaming. It is a joke to him. To day dream of existing as a butterfly is possible, but to day dream of being a butterfly and wondering if the situation is revrsed, would require your acceptance of the day dreaming butterfly, which would then negate the possibility that zhuangzi was being humorous.
In that, zhuangzi adnits to us, in a very indirect way, that despite his best efforts, he has failed in being humorous OR that he is truly a butterfly. As Zhuangzi was known for treating humor as a way to sense the intangible Dao, we are left to conclude that he would not admit to something that is untruthful. It leads us to no other option, but to accept that it was indeed a butterfly, who occupied his mind, with daisies and chrysenthamums, but also with hypothetically imagining himself as a philosopher, who attempts to reconcile the incongrouos narure of language and reality with humor and absurdity in particular. such a butterfly then would seek out a way to record his experience , and share it with other inquusitive and literate beings.
In any case, the experience was recorded and made to affect others, clearly not the work of a daoist, who as a holder of such ideals rejects the possibility of successfuly communicating thoughts in verbal form.