Zhuangzi’s idea of ‘spirit’: acting and ‘thinging things’ without self-assertion

Asian Philosophy 26 (1):38-51 (2016)
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ABSTRACTIn contrast to his contemporaries who take the heart–mind as the ruler of a person, Zhuangzi suggests that one’s action is guided by the spirit. Questions arise as one articulates the function of spirit and its relationship with the heart–mind. In this article, I articulate the relationship between heart–mind and spirit to show three points: first, spirit is a kind of qi 氣 that can be tied or run smoothly, or rather the mechanism triggered by the functioning of smooth qi. This reading brings the skill passages together with the fasting of heart–mind passage. Second, the proceeding of spirit admits no fixed ways and is not confined to any particular organ or faculty, so it avoids the problem of self-assertion mentioned in Qiwulun. Third, the proceeding of spirit implies that one’s practice takes as many particularities of the context as possible into account, so the person has a higher chance to reduce conflict in interacting with things and other people and bring out their p..



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Wai-wai Chiu
Lingnan University

Citations of this work

Skilled Feelings in Chinese and Greek Heart-Mind-Body Metaphors.Lisa Raphals - 2021 - Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 20 (1):69-91.
Sense perception in the Zhuangzi 莊子.Massimiliano Lacertosa - 2022 - Philosophy Compass 17 (1):1–13.
Sense perception in the Zhuangzi 莊子.Massimiliano Lacertosa - 2021 - Philosophy Compass 17 (1):e12798.
Spontaneity, Perspectivism, and Anti-intellectualism in the Zhuangzi.Wai Wai Chiu - 2019 - Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 18 (3):393-409.

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