Ethics in the Zhuangzi: Diversity and Sagacity

The following essay is forthcoming in International Philosophical Quarterly (June, 2020) entitled “Ethics in the Zhuangzi: Diversity and Sagacity”. Its content is largely based on the penultimate chapter of my PhD dissertation, and has benefited greatly from feedback at various international venues over the past few years. An author’s preprint of the essay can be downloaded here.

An abstract follows:

Philosophers in China during the Warring States period generally saw themselves as investigators into, disputers of, and leaders of others along the Dao 道—the uniquely authoritative Way to live and to flourish. However, certain voices found in the Zhuangzi offer a radical response to these philosophical projects by rejecting the premise that there exists such a uniquely authoritative Dao. Instead, they argue that there exist myriad, diverse dao, none of which has absolute, moral authority. But these very same texts that undermine the idea of an authoritative Dao simultaneously make positive ethical suggestions regarding how to live and flourish, exemplified by various sagely figures. In this paper, I explore texts in the Zhuangzi that discuss both the diversity of dao and sagely flourishing, and argue that these two themes come together to form the basis of a comprehensive ethical view that I call Zhuangist pluralism.


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