What is it like to be a butterfly? A philosophical interpretation of zhuangzi's butterfly dream

Asian Philosophy 17 (2):185 – 202 (2007)
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Abstract

This paper attempts to recast Zhuangzi's Butterfly Dream within the larger normative context of the 'Inner Chapters' and early Daoism in terms of its moral significance, particularly in the way that it prescribes how a Daoist should live through the 'significant symbol' of the butterfly. This normative reading of the passage will be contrasted with two recent interpretations of the passage - one by Robert Allinson and the other by Harold Roth - that tend to focus more on the epistemological and mystical concerns of the text. As will be argued, the undue emphasis on the epistemological and mystical significance of the passage not only comes to grief when considered in light of philosophical and textual concerns but also obscures the moral dimensions of the passage that are more congruent with the 'Inner Chapters' as a whole.

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Jung Lee
Northeastern University

Citations of this work

Sleeping Beauty and the Dreaming Butterfly: What Did Zhuangzi Doubt About?Thomas Ming - 2012 - Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 11 (4):497-512.
The Butterfly, the Mole and the Sage.Robert Elliot Allinson - 2009 - Asian Philosophy 19 (3):213-223.
A butterfly dream in a brain in a vat.Xiaoqiang Han - 2010 - Philosophia 38 (1):157-167.
Interpreting the butterfly dream.Xiaoqiang Han - 2009 - Asian Philosophy 19 (1):1 – 9.

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