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C O U R S E 
Chinese Thought: Ancient Wisdom Meets Modern Science
Edward Slingerland, University of British Columbia
C O U R S E   L E C T U R E 
Laozi: He Who Speaks Does Not Know
Notes taken on October 20, 2016 by Edward Tanguay
Laozi: "He who speaks does not know"
famous saying from the Daodejing
very easy to make satire of, since it contradicts itself
but it maps to the suspicion of language, since language can
cut us off from our experience
distorts our experience in various ways
a common theme in the Daodejing and the Zhuangzi
two foundational texts of Daoism
language can impair our ability to experience reality
language not only gets in the way but distorts our experience of reality
language damages our nature
chapter 2
"Everyone in the world knows that when the beautiful strives to be beautiful, it is repulsive"
wei = striving
when everyone calls that which is beautiful "beautiful", it becomes less beautiful
you're setting up an ideal that his not the right ideal
media presentations of beauty
female body: tall, anorexic models
society sets up an image that it pushes as beautiful
beauty for Confucius
we have crude natural tastes, we have to get trained up and we refine these over time
beauty for Laozi
natural tastes are fine
Confucius is taking away from our basic intuitions, which are the right ones
hedonistic treadmill
social strife
"no showing reverence for precious goods leads others not to steal"
danger of hypocrisy
Confucianism is suspect
talking about morality it just as bad as talking about beauty
hypocritical social values destroy honest, natural relations between people
calling someone benevolent impedes their ability to become benevolent
a corrosive force in human nature
when the Way was lost there was Virtue
if you are talking about virtue, things are already messed up
when virtue was lost there was benevolence
when benevolence was lost there was righteousness
when righteousness was lost there was ritual
and rituals are the wearing thin of loyalty and trust, and the beginning of chaos
Daodejing, Chapter 18
"When the great Way is abandoned, there are benevolence and righteousness."
you don't start talking about morality until morality is gone
"When the six familial relationships are out of balance, there are kind parents and filial children."
when you have to talk about kind parents and filial children, this is a sign there are some that are not kind and filial
when you really have it, you don't need to talk about it
"When the state is in turmoil and chaos, there are loyal ministers."
people don't call themselves loyal ministers unless they are not
a real loyal minister doesn't have to talk about it
healthy relationships don't need ceremony and you don't need to talk about it
ritual scripts will turn people into hypocrites
inhibits their ability to experience and live in a sincere relationship
contemporary psychology
moral licensing
consciously considering yourself moral may impair actual moral behavior
people were asked to meditate, and consider how compassionate they are, yet these were the people in the study who were more likely to spend money on frivolities for themselves
one feels one is good and therefore can engage in bad
people were asked to donate $10 to a charity
people who were primed with normal words, would typically give $2.71 on the average
people who were primed with words such as caring, generous, and kind, gave $1.07 on the average
people primed with words such as greedy, mean and selfish spent an average of $5.30
verbal labels can
be a smoke screen for the lack of the quality
distort our experience with reality
verbal overshadowing
consciously reflecting on our perceptions can have a negative effect on recalling experiences accurately
Jonathan Schooler
how language interacts with perception in a negative way
when people try to talk about things that they really don't have good words for, this can be disruptive
e.g. a face
we don't have a good vocabulary to describe
we can recognize them but not describe them well
people who described the face afterward after the crime were less accurate in identifying the robber
when you describe a face, it can reduce your ability to recognize it
same with a color, shapes, voices, tastes
people lack the vocabulary to describe e.g. the face in sufficient detail
with experts who have the right vocabulary the effect was the opposite
e.g. professional wine-tasters
amateurs who tried to describe the wine they tasted afterward, showed a high rate of verbal overshadowing, whereas wine experts showed a modest gain in their ability to identify wines later, if they described them right after tasting them
study: multiple face recognition
participants were shown two faces and told to describe one of those faces
verbalition interfered with both the face they had described as well as the face they hadn't described
this suggests a generalized processing shift when people make verbal descriptions
from a non-analytic mode to a more analytic mode
study: not just memory but other non-verbal judgements
participants tried a number of jams
some were asked to explain why they made that choice, other were asked not to explain it
they were then asked to rate the jams
those who made verbal descriptions showed more of a discrepancy with generally recognized high-quality jams and low-quality jams
experts don't seem to be subject to verbal overshadowing
reflection and verbalizing have a positive effect in accuracy of descriptions
the experience of non-experts tend to support the view of Laozi
the experience of experts tend to support the view of Confucius
training is important and leads to greater accuracy