Zhuangzi: Closet Confucian?

European Journal of Political Theory 16 (4):411-429 (2017)
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Abstract

Confucius and Zhuangzi are the two most famous thinkers in all of Chinese history, aside from Laozi, the Old Master. They occupy positions in the history of Chinese thinking roughly comparable to those held by Plato and Epicurus in the Western narrative of civilisation, in that they offer visions of the engaged political life and the engaged social self to which later political theorists and ethicists invariably return. For the last century or so, if not longer, Sinologists and comparative philosophers have been apt to name Confucius the ‘founder’ of a Confucian ‘school’, and Zhuangzi, one of two ‘founders’ of a rival Daoist ‘school’, despite the lack of evidence for sectarian factions in early China. What is at stake in this essay is nothing less than a recasting of the entire early history of Chinese thinking in ways both bracing and potentially troubling to modern academics.

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