Zhuangzi’s Ironic Detachment and Political Commitment


Authors
Bryan Van Norden
Yale-NUS College
Abstract
Paul Gewirtz has suggested that contemporary Chinese society lacks a shared framework. A Rortian might describe this by saying that China lacks a “final vocabulary” of “thick terms” with which to resolve ethical disagreements. I briefly examine the strengths and weaknesses of Confucianism and Legalism as potential sources of such a final vocabulary, but most of this essay focuses on Zhuangzian Daoism. Zhuangzi 莊子 provides many stories and metaphors that can inspire advocates of political pluralism. However, I suggest that Zhuangzi is ultimately an “ironist” in Rorty’s sense. Many intellectuals assume there is something progressive and liberating about broadly ironic stances like relativism and skepticism. Ethically, though, irony is “the night in which all cows are black”: since it regards all positions as equally undermined, an ironic stance cannot be enlisted in support of tolerance or humanitarianism or in opposition to absolutism or cruelty
Keywords Paul Gewirtz  Political philosophy  Relativism  Richard Rorty  Zhuangzi 莊子
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DOI 10.1007/s11712-015-9471-9
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References found in this work BETA

After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory.Alasdair C. MacIntyre - 1983 - University of Notre Dame Press.
Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity.Richard Rorty - 1989 - Cambridge University Press.
Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity.Richard Rorty - 1989 - The Personalist Forum 5 (2):149-152.

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Citations of this work BETA

The Phenomenology of Spirit and the Daoist Sage.Paul J. D’Ambrosio - 2017 - Comparative and Continental Philosophy 9 (3):202-217.

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