Monday, November 8, 2021Plenary
Zhuangzi: Role Models and Varieties of Freedom
The remaining “Inner Chapters” of Zhuangzi contain some arresting descriptions of apparently well-lived lives, such as that of a supremely skilled butcher or some friends who celebrate when one of their number dies, as well as an extended exchange between Confucius and his student Yan Hui (at least as Zhuangzi depicts them) in which Yan Hui seems to go beyond anything his master can teach. These anecdotes contain multiple possibilities for what “freedom” and a “good life” can mean, ranging from modest corrections to everyday living to extremely radical alternatives to our normal lives.
- Understand the range of possibilities that Zhuangzi is putting before us
- Think through the ways that psychology, ethical ideals, and therapy can function in a radically perspectivist work like Zhuangzi
- Consider possible tradeoffs between lives lived with commitment and those aimed at freedom
- Would the cook (pp. 29-30) be a good ruler? Or archer? Would you say he represents a Daoist ideal?
- What would it be like to be “Sir Reversal” or “Sir Zitherspread” (pp. 49-60)? Do they represent an appealing ideal?
- What is wrong with humankindness (ren 仁) and responsible conduct (yi 义), ritual and music? (See p. 61 and 62, though compare p. 38 on “responsibility” [also yi].)