November 7

Monday, November 7, 2022

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.

Before Class

Questions to think about:
  • 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].)

After Class