Perspectivism as a Way of Knowing in the Zhuangzi

A perspectivist theory is usually taken to mean that (1) our knowledge of the world is inevitably shaped by our particular perspectives, (2) any one of these perspectives is as good as any other, and (3) any claims to objective or authoritative knowledge are consequently without ground. Recent scholarship on Nietzsche, however, has challenged the prevalent view that the philosopher holds (2) and (3), arguing instead that his perspectivism aims at attaining a greater level of objectivity. In this essay, I attempt a structurally similar reinterpretation of Zhuangzi’s perspectivism. I argue that while the Chinese thinker sees all knowledge as perspective-dependent, he thinks that some perspectives are broader and more accurate than others. He utilizes shifts in perspective precisely in order to attain these superior perspectives, which constitute what he calls da zhi 大知, or “greater knowledge.” Whereas Nietzsche sees his perspectivism as methodologically continuous with the sciences, Zhuangzi’s “greater knowledge” has the goal of ensuring our survival and well-being in the everyday world
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DOI 10.1007/s11712-011-9246-x
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