Wandering the Way: A Eudaimonistic Approach to the Zhuāngzǐ

Abstract

The paper develops a eudaimonistic reading of the Zhuāngzǐ 莊子 on which the characteristic feature of a well-lived life is the exercise of dé 德 in a general mode of activity labeled yóu 遊 . I argue that the Zhuāngzǐ presents a second-order conception of agents’ flourishing in which the life of dé is not devoted to predetermined substantive ends or activities with a specific substantive content. Rather, it is marked by a distinctive manner of activity and certain characteristic attitudes. Zhuangist eudaimonism differs from virtue ethics, I suggest, since dé is not moral virtue nor is it normatively basic. The paper discusses textual evidence that the Zhuāngzǐ presents eudaimonistic ideals, develops the Zhuangist conception of “wandering” in detail, and explores connections between wandering and the Zhuangist interest in skill. It surveys the justification for Zhuangist eudaimonism and sketches how the wandering ideal affects the substantive content of a good life

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Chris Fraser
University of Toronto, St. George Campus

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