October 26

Monday, October 26, 2020
Plenary – Chapel

Zhuangzi: Perspectivism and Therapy

The text Zhuangzi, named after its putative author (about whom we know very little) is one of the great classics of world philosophy and literature. The text recommends against the Confucian life of commitment to developing virtue and explores various alternative models of what it might be to live well. Today’s class will help us get oriented in understanding Chapter 1 (“Wandering Far and Unfettered”) and especially the dense but crucial Chapter 2 (“Equalizing Assessments of Things”).

  • Understand how “Daoism” and Zhuangzi fit into the development of Chinese philosophy
  • Appreciate how not being committed to one perspective can bring with it a kind of freedom
  • Consider whether a disconnection from perspectives can function as a kind of consistent therapy … or is it just another perspective?
  • See how the strange stories and dialogues in Zhuangzi can function as a kind of “philosophy”

Before Class

  • Watch “Zhuangzi’s Philosophy of Freedom” (20 mins)
  • Question: How does the idea of “freedom” discussed in the video compare to your idea(s) of freedom prior to watching?
  • Next, do the reading

Questions to think about:

  • What do the Kun and Peng, and cicada and dove, respectively, represent? Is one pair superior to the other? Why or why not?
  • What passages seem related to the creation and flexibility of linguistic distinctions and subject-object distinctions?
  • Is it good or bad to be “fully formed”? Why?
  • What is the point about the story of the monkeys in “Three in the Morning”?
  • What are we being told about the sage? What does “illumination of the obvious” mean?

After Class