Discuss the meaning of the following quote:  "... the man of aggressive violence appears to be ruthless but is really an emotionalist; then they slay the emotionalist with real ruthlessness before...

Discuss the meaning of the following quote:  "... the man of aggressive violence appears to be ruthless but is really an emotionalist; then they slay the emotionalist with real ruthlessness before revealing the spontaneous nature of free humanity. The ancient Taoist masters show how ruthlessness, the coldness of complete objectivity, always includes oneself in its cutting assessment of the real situation."

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Since the original question had two quotes in it, I chose this being the first quote.  The second quote is equally profound and I would suggest resubmitting it for an analysis of this quote.  The quote featured is taken from an introduction written by Thomas Cleary to Sun Tzu's The Ancient Art of War.  This quote seeks to understand the nature of wartime leadership in the contemporary philosophers that were articulating their viewpoints at the time that Sun Tzu was developing his ideas.  The quote shows how Chinese philosophers saw the nature of conflict and military being in the world.  Essentially, the introduction wants to articulate Sun Tzu's basic premise that while he is associated with war, he sincerely believed that "To win without fighting is best."  Cleary spends the introduction discussing how Sun Tzu's thinking was deeply influenced by the Taoist line of logic and thought.  For Cleary, there is an importance in understanding the contemporary Taoist philosophies that surrounded Sun Tzu and is evident in his thought.  It is here in which Cleary talks about how the Taoists viewed the man of intense aggressive violence, reflecting such thinking in Sun Tzu's analysis.  The duality with which Taoism was viewed, then and now, plays largely into Cleary's anaylsis and the meaning of the quote.

The Taoist philosophy of dealing with disharmony and constructing reality in a dualist manner becomes the essence of the quote.  The idea of how aggressive violence can actually be seen as one thing but represent another is Taoist in its dualism.  The notion of how "free humanity" is one in which there is complete destruction is evident in the Warring States' time period in which bonds between individuals were precarious, at best.  The Taoist approach to understanding this true nature of political leadership is something in Sun Tzu's work, an element that shows there is a "coldness" in human objectivity.  It is one in which action is taken and to understand it might move an individual closer to being able to win "without fighting" when its true nature is embraced.  In this, the quote is featured in Cleary's introduction.

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