Philosophy and philosophical reasoning in the zhuangzi: Dealing with plurality

Journal of Chinese Philosophy 33 (3):365-374 (2006)
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The Zhuangzi is noted for its advocacy of many different perspectives—chickens, cicadas, fish and the like. There is much debate in the literature about the implications of Zhuangzi’s pluralist inclinations. I suggest that Zhuangzi highlights the limitations of individual, perspectivally-constrained, knowledge claims. He also spurns the ‘view from nowhere’ and is sceptical about the possibility of an ideal observer. For him, wisdom consists in understanding the epistemological inadequacies of each perspective. I propose that Zhuangzi’s philosophy offers significant insights to an increasingly globalized world characterized by a plurality of ethical and value commitments. It does not assume there will necessarily be universal agreement or a standardized answer. Most importantly, it is a position that seeks to augment self-understanding and enrich the self in dialogue with and response to others.



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Karyn L. Lai
University of New South Wales

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