On Becoming a Rooster: Zhuangzian Conventionalism and the Survival of Death

Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 21 (1):61-79 (2022)
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Abstract

The Zhuangzi 莊子 depicts persons as surviving their deaths through the natural transformations of the world into very different forms—such as roosters, cart-wheels, rat livers, and so on. It is common to interpret these passages metaphorically. In this essay, however, I suggest employing a “Conventionalist” view of persons that says whether a person survives some event is not merely determined by the world, but is partly determined by our own attitudes. On this reading, Zhuangzi’s many teachings urging us to embrace transformation are not merely a psychological aid for dealing with death, but also serve as a tool for literally surviving it.

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Michael Longenecker
Zhongnan University of Economics and Law

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