Naturalism and Moral Expertise in the Zhuangzi

Journal of East-West Thought 7 (3):13-27 (2017)
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Abstract

This essay will examine scholarly attempts at distilling a proto-ethical philosophy from the Daoist classic known as the Zhuangzi. In opposition to interpretations of the text which characterize it as amoralistic, I will identify elements of a natural normativity in the Zhuangzi. My examination features passages from the Zhuangzi – commonly known as the “knack” passages – which are often interpreted through some sort of linguistic, skeptical, or relativistic lens. Contra such readings, I believe the Zhuangzi prescribes an art of living – or shù [術] – which incorporates a few motifs familiar to certain threads of philosophical naturalism. Building on existing scholarship which treats of the praxeology of the text, I argue that the naturalist themes present in the Zhuangzi support an unusual, but robust, view of moral expertise.

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Christopher Kirby
Eastern Washington University

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