Zhuangzi or the Butterfly: Ike no Taiga and Jorge Luis Borges


I think it’s time again for a post involving Jorge Luis Borges on dream animals.  The first was about dreamtigers, and this one is part of a lecture on metaphor delivered at Harvard University in 1967.  The entire lecture can be found here and the bit I am quoting starts in at about 19 minutes.

“Zhuang Zhou dreamt that he was a butterfly and on waking up he did not know whether he was a man who had a dream of being a butterfly or a butterfly who was now dreaming he was a man.  This, I think, is the finest [metaphor] of all.  Firstly, he begins by a dream so that afterwards when he wakes up, when he awakens, his life has still something dreamlike about it.  And secondly, because, with a kind of almost miraculous happiness, he has chosen the right animal.  Had he said Zhuang Zhou had a dream that he was a tiger, then there would be nothing in it, because while a butterfly has something delicate and evanescent about it, that is to say if we are dreams the true way to suggest a dream is a butterfly and not a tiger.  Or for example, Zhuang Zhi had a dream that he was a typewriter–that would be no good at all, or that he was a whale—that would do him no good.”


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