The Zhongyong ends with an odd statement about de 德 (charisma or virtue).2 It cites a line from the Book of Songs that appears to say that de resembles a piece of hair—perhaps in being equally light—but the Zhongyong rejects this analogy, noticing that de is without smell or sound.3 This seems to be a strange comment since, while it might be plausible to think of hair as smelling, there seems to be no way around the incongruity of speaking of hair in terms of whether or not it makes sound. Perhaps the passage is attempting to say, in a clumsy way, that de is completely beyond all sensory capacities. This impression could be reinforced by a similar comment about not seeing or hearing de in Zhongyong 16. However, a series of contrary descriptions undermines this possibility: in various passages, de is described as big (Zhongyong 17, 30), small (Zhongyong 30), and bright (Zhongyong 33.6). Moreover, Zhongyong 16 itself refers to a de that “embodies” things.4 This conflicting sensory rhetoric in the Zhongyong is not restriced to the phenomenon of de. Indeed, in many places the text seems to describe the proper dao and those who employ it as simultaneously hidden and yet broadly displayed, invisible and yet intensely apparent. In other words, the text makes obvious, even strained, attempts to describe a peculiar kind of sensory mode. I will employ Hall and Ames’ concept of “extension” to try to clarify this sensory mode. Hall and Ames discuss extension—what the Zhongyong refers to as da dao 達到—in the context of education and ritual.5 They argue that extending is the method by which one advances in these areas, by creatively drawing upon something already available or understood. I will first support their claim regarding the significance of extension in the text, and then argue that the unusual sensory rhetoric in the Zhongyong is also explainable in terms of this idea of da dao, understood as extension.
Copyright © 2005 Global Scholarly Publications. This chapter first appeared in Metaphilosophy and Chinese Thought: Interpreting David Hall.
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Geaney, Jane. "The Limits of the Senses in the Zhongyong." Metaphilosophy and Chinese Thought: Interpreting David Hall. Ed. Ewing Chinn and Henry Rosemont. New York: Global Scholarly Publications, 2005. 149-165. Print.