Sunday, April 29, 2012

Taijitu, Yinyang, and D&D Alignment

It's always fun when your readers are interested in something you are interested in, and perhaps even more fun when it's a reader that you know.  Perspicacious comments are pleasing!  So I was happy to see Paris' comments on Y is for YINYANG, yesterday.  Initially, he notes that the principles of motion and interactive arising would make it "challenging to equate Yang to Law and Yin to Chaos without describing a cosmology in which the one eventually changes to form the other."  He then goes on to reflect on an aspect of Pathfinder's Golarion setting to do just that.  There are a few responses I'd like to make vis-a-vis Paris' comments that I hope might develop what I have in mind and perhaps shed further light on my understanding of Yin-and-Yang and the Great Dao.

First, Yin and Yang are not opposing forces (I note, Paris, you said "supposedly").  They are complementary opposites, and so can only be in opposition of a very special kind.  This fits with a Neutral view of a threefold alignment universe.  The proponents of Law and of Chaos each take their side to be the the rightful whole, and the other side its destruction, which itself needs to be destroyed (in ways keeping with its alignment).  Neutrality would view all things as arising from the interaction between Law and Chaos, with both being necessary.  Balance would not be a stasis between them, but needful disintegration of order and ordering of chaos.  While forces and individuals who side with one against the other would resist every instance of this, those who understood its necessity would work for the best outcomes and overall balance.  So a cosmology in which Law and Chaos were constantly in motion, rising and falling, would be a feature of what I was envisioning.  I take it that Law and Chaos do give rise to one another, and that like any of the pairs of complementary opposites in my example chart below, if one were to dominate   it would be detrimental.  Like the perspectives of Confucianism and Daoism themselves, one might argue that Chinese civilization flourished when the two were in harmony.


I have some passages from the Daodejing (Tao Te Ching) in mind as I write this.  Sadly, my two translations were destroyed last year and this semester I taught out of the class anthology without replacing them, therefore this post does not have the quotations I would have liked to use.  Let me finally note that, for such a system to work from my point-of-view, Good and Evil in their moral or ultimate senses could not be sorted as Yang-Yin.  I believe that philosophical Daoism agrees with me here, as well.  Maybe I will revisit this topic at some future date and include some quotations.  I also noted that at least one other A-Z blogger this year shared my interest.  Yay!

Those lucky South Koreans and their awesome flag...


  1. Glad to have inspired such a wonderful post. I have a few really good versions of the "great" Chinese texts.

    I like The Modern Library's version of Lao-tzu, translated from the Ma-Wang-Tui texts.

    The Ballantine books version of Sun-Tzu, translated by Roger Ames, that incorporates the Yin-Chu'eh-shan texts is very good.

    Slightly less well known is Sun Pin's "Art of Warfare", from the 4th Century B.C.E., is interesting, too. Sun Pin is considered the successor to Sun-Tzu's treatise. Although the text had to be reconstructed and is incomplete in places.

    As for your post, here, I absolutely agree with your conception of balance and Neutrality within a Taoist/Yin-Yang model. Nothing is constant. Balance is ever-changing.

  2. I should have mentioned that I also like "The Book of Chuang Tzu" which demonstrates how the development of Taoism was likely a reaction to political and social problems China was facing in the 14th Century BCE.