Zhuangzi and relativistic scepticism

Asian Philosophy 7 (3):207 – 220 (1997)
Abstract
Chad Hansen is one of the strongest proponents of the view that the important second chapter of Zhuangzi's Inner Chapters (The Qi Wu Lun) reveals Zhuangzi to be a relativistic sceptidst. Hansen argues that Zhuangzi is a sceptic because he is first and foremost a relativist. Hansen's argument is essentially that Zhuangzi's perspectivism, his belief that one's linguistic and conceptual perspective determines what one claims to know, makes him a thorough going relativist and sceptic. I agree that Zhuangzi is a perspectivist, but disagree with Hansen's portrayal of him as a relativistic sceptic. I first show that there is an important ambiguity in Hansen's argument. I then proceed to argue that important passages in the Qi Wu Lun (in particular the butterfly dream passage,) reveal serious problems with Hansen's interpretation of Zhuangzi's philosophical stance, I maintain that Zhuangzi is neither a sceptic nor a perspectival relativist. He is rather a perspectival realist.
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