On the question of relativism in the Chuang-Tzu

Philosophy East and West 39 (1):13-26 (1989)
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This article offers a meta-analysis of contemporary approaches aimed at resolving the internal, relativistic-non-relativistic tension within the text of the Chuang-Tzu. In the first section, the four most commonly applied approaches are unpacked and evaluated, ranging from relativistic approaches such as hard relativism and soft relativism, to approaches that acknowledge both relativism and non-relativism, as well as others which acknowledge neither of the two perspectives (relativism and non-relativism). After demonstrating the immanent difficulties these four types of approaches encounter, the latter section of this paper puts forward a different philosophical solution known as asymmetrical relativism. This novel approach preserves textual evidence for both relativistic and non-relativistic attitudes within the Chuang-Tzu by proposing that the mind engages in relativism insofar as it is in a state of ignorance; en route to enlightenment, however, value-laden discourse and pedagogical heuristics are nonetheless still employed as instruments for the mind to transcend its own ignorance.

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Robert E. Allinson
Soka University


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