On the question of relativism in the Chuang-Tzu

Philosophy East and West 39 (1):13-26 (1989)
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Abstract

This article offers a meta-analysis of contemporary approaches aimed at resolving the internal, relativistic-non-relativistic tension within the text of the Chuang-Tzu. In the first section, the four most commonly applied approaches are unpacked and evaluated, ranging from relativistic approaches such as hard relativism and soft relativism, to approaches that acknowledge both relativism and non-relativism, as well as others which acknowledge neither of the two perspectives (relativism and non-relativism). After demonstrating the immanent difficulties these four types of approaches encounter, the latter section of this paper puts forward a different philosophical solution known as asymmetrical relativism. This novel approach preserves textual evidence for both relativistic and non-relativistic attitudes within the Chuang-Tzu by proposing that the mind engages in relativism insofar as it is in a state of ignorance; en route to enlightenment, however, value-laden discourse and pedagogical heuristics are nonetheless still employed as instruments for the mind to transcend its own ignorance.

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Robert E. Allinson
Soka University

Citations of this work

Zhuangzi on ‘happy fish’ and the limits of human knowledge.Lea Cantor - 2020 - British Journal for the History of Philosophy 28 (2):216-230.
Perspectivism as a Way of Knowing in the Zhuangzi.Tim Connolly - 2011 - Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 10 (4):487-505.

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References found in this work

The wandering dance: Chuang Tzu and zarathustra.Graham Parkes - 1983 - Philosophy East and West 33 (3):235-250.
Skepticism and realism in the Chuang Tzu.Russell B. Goodman - 1985 - Philosophy East and West 35 (3):231-237.
Forgetting morality: Reflections on a theme in Chuang Tzu.Antonio S. Cua - 1977 - Journal of Chinese Philosophy 4 (4):305-328.

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