More "mu" lore (Repost...)

From: Alfie Costa (
Date: Fri Mar 10 2000 - 19:15:12 CET

On 5 Mar 00, at 8:58, Michele Andreoli <> wrote:

> Reading a book about Buddism and Zen, i found the word "Mu"
> has some relevant meaning for his. Surprise :_)

<snip> mu /moo/

The correct answer to the classic trick question "Have you stopped beating your
wife yet?". Assuming that you have no wife or you have never beaten your wife,
the answer "yes" is wrong because it implies that you used to beat your wife
and then stopped, but "no" is worse because it suggests that you have one and
are still beating her. According to various Discordians and Douglas Hofstadter
the correct answer is usually "mu", a Japanese word alleged to mean "Your
question cannot be answered because it depends on incorrect assumptions".
Hackers tend to be sensitive to logical inadequacies in language, and many have
adopted this suggestion with enthusiasm. The word `mu' is actually from
Chinese, meaning `nothing'; it is used in mainstream Japanese in that sense,
but native speakers do not recognize the Discordian question-denying use. It
almost certainly derives from overgeneralization of the answer in the following
well-known Rinzei Zen koan:

A monk asked Joshu, "Does a dog have the Buddha nature?" Joshu retorted, "Mu!"

See also has the X nature, Some AI Koans, and Douglas Hofstadter's "Gödel,
Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid" (pointer in the Bibliography in Appendix


(taken from:)

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