Ethics in the Zhuangzi

I have recently received my Ph.D. on the basis of my dissertation entitled Nature and Value in Early Chinese Philosophy. In Chapter 6, I offer a reading of a number of Zhuangzi passages proposing a pluralist conception of dao (“way”/”ways”). According to my reading, the view holds that though there is an irreducible plurality of equally justifiable dao that are particular to our individual circumstances. However, there are a number of ways in which we can improve our dao by applying select virtues such as tolerance, flexibility, and open-mindedness, to our own dao. I hope to develop this research into a book-length project in the coming years.

Zhuangist Primitivism

One subset of writings in the Zhuangzi anthology I refer to as “primitivist”, following A.C. Graham. These writings exhibit strong theoretical unity in rejecting conventional and moral artifices, such as those championed by the Ru (Confucions) and the Mo (Mohists), in favor of a return back to primitive, small, agrarian societies where people can lead what they take to be natural lives. Research on the primitivists is very much in its early stages, and I hope to contribute to its development with my chapter 5 of my dissertation, which identifies three different strands of thinking within the primitivists’ writings. Organizing the texts in this way I believe will facilitate our ability to identify and develop particular insights of the primitivists.

Ritual in the Xunzi

One of the most profound insights of Xunzi’s is the importance of ritual to the good life. My current project focuses on exploring the ethical implications of giving ritual a more prominent role in theorizing about what to do.

Ancient Chinese Concepts

One of my major research goals is to get a handle on the ways concepts were used in early Chinese philosophy, since they are in general quite different from Western philosophical concepts. This is due to a number of factors including, but not limited to:

  • Views about language
  • The political climate
  • Discursive paradigm (i.e., the venue in which philosophy took place)

I discuss these ideas most in my MPhil thesis.

Truth in Ancient China

One of my first projects was figuring out the extent to which Chad Hansen was right about there being no concept of truth in ancient China. In “Semantics without Truth in Later Mohist Philosophy of Language,” I tried to tackle this idea. My answer ended up being something along the lines of “yes, but…” at least for the Later Mohists.