Non-humans in the Zhuangzi: Animalism and anti-anthropocentrism

Asian Philosophy 32 (1):1-18 (2022)
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Some argue that animals and non-human figures in the Zhuangzi help displace the significance of humans. According to others the Zhuangzi suggests a certain time of ‘animalism,’ asking us to be more like various types of fauna and flora that do not share our self-centeredness. In this paper the use of non-human characters in the Zhuangzi will be examined through a survey of traditional Chinese commentary, comparisons with the Lunyu, and placing the use of non-human characters within the larger context of the Zhuangzi. Thus we find that while anti-anthropocentric and animalistic perspectives can be philosophized with the Zhuangzi, the text itself is not overly concerned with these subjects. Animals and non-human characters are mainly allegorical or metaphorical, allowing the Zhuangzito 1) make broadly applicable arguments; 2) playfully discuss ideas that may be unappealing at first glance, and; 3) create a distance that allows the text to resist ossification.



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