But until the sage is dead, great thieves will never cease to appear, and if you pile on more sages in hopes of bringing the world to order, you will only be pilling up more profit for Robber Chih. Fashion pecks and bushels for people to measure by and they will steal by peck and bushel.29 Fashion scales and balances for people to weigh by and they will steal by scales and balance. Fashion tallies and seals to insure trustworthiness and people will steal with tallies and seals. Fashion benevolence and righteousness to reform people and they will steal with benevolence and righteousness. How do I know this is so? He who steals a belt buckle pays with his life; he who steals a state gets to be the feudal lord and we all know that benevolence and righteousness are to be found at the gates of the feudal lords. (Chuang Tzu, 1968, X, p. 109f)
The relationship between these two nearly contemporary points of view makes me think that in China as well as in Greece, the introduction of new technologies posed the same kind of philosophical problems, even if the cultures were profoundly different. Indeed, the Taoist argument states that people knew how to estimate the weight of a commodity by holding it in their hands. After the invention of weights, people had such confidence in the system of measures that they no longer bothered to develop their capacity to estimate weight with their hands. It then became easy to steal by falsifying the instruments of measure. It is the same with written laws. People end up not learning how to evaluate for themselves what is good and just. This is what makes it possible for villains who take over a state to manage the justice system at will and for dishonest religious authorities to use the few saints that exist to justify doubtful religious practices. When people lose contact with their own profound resources, they become subject to manipulation because they easily notice the existence of petty thieves but they are not capable of experiencing as pernicious and dangerous those who rob them blind through the manipulation of social rituals and political power.
The Myth of the Cave: Blinding Truths and the Creative Shadows of the Psyche
Plato’s Socrates, in The Republic, teaches that most citizens, even those who are educated, do not achieve an integration of their intuition of what is Good; but they are often responsive to examples of what is Good.30 It is the same for Truth and knowledge. Socrates uses the myth of the cave31 (see the following summary) to illustrate the difficulty that most citizens experience when they try to contact the Ideas:
Socrates describes persons facing the inner far wall of a cave like spectators facing the screen in a cinema. On that wall, they see moving shadows. As at the cinema, the citizen quickly forgets that what is happening comes from a projector situated behind him.