PHIL2450 Zhuangzi (2010 version)

(2009–2010 Academic Year)

This course is devoted to interpreting, analyzing, and evaluating the philosophical views presented in the early Daoist anthology Zhuāngzǐ 莊子 and to exploring the relevance of these views to contemporary epistemology, ethics, and political thought. Class meetings will be divided between lectures on and discussion of the primary source text and five tutorials addressing a range of secondary sources.

Course webpage: For the address of the course webpage, see the instructor or tutor in class or email the instructor.

Learning Objectives and Outcomes

After completing this course, students should be able to:

  • Describe selected issues pertaining to metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, politics, and psychology that arise from study of the Zhuāngzǐ
  • Critically examine a range of positions on and approaches to these issues and identify their strengths and weaknesses
  • Demonstrate interpretive, analytical, and argumentative skills in oral presentation and writing by discussing these issues in written assignments and tutorials
  • Demonstrate appreciation of the distinctiveness and complexity of Zhuangist philosophy and how it relates to the broader classical Chinese philosophical discourse

Tentative Syllabus

1. Introduction: Daoism in the context of classical Chinese thought (weeks 1–2)

Readings: Chan, “Laozi”*; Hansen, “Daoism”*; Lau, 90–114* (Note: An asterisk “*” indicates required readings. Other readings are suggested but not required. All primary readings are required. Readings marked with an asterisk will be included in a course packet available in the Philosophy Office.)

2. “Naive” Daoism and the Dàodéjīng 道德經 (week 3)

Primary readings: Dàodéjīng chapters 1–4, 7–10, 14–19, 21–25, 28–32, 34–38, 40–43, 48, 49, 51, 53, 55, 57, 59, 60, 63, 64, 65, 72, 73, 75– 78, 80; Zhuāngzǐ books 25 則陽 (sect. 10, 11); 9 馬蹄; 10 胠篋

Secondary readings: Liu, “Inquiry”; Van Norden, “Method”; Moeller; 陳鼓應,《老子》,1–37; 唐君毅,《原道篇》,290–342; 徐復觀,325–57

Tutorial 1: Hansen, Daoist Theory, 200–30*

3. Zhuāngzǐ: Critique of Knowledge and the Human Predicament  (weeks 4–6)

Primary readings: Zhuāngzǐ books 17 秋水 (sect. 1); 2 齊物論; 33 天下 (sect. 7, 8 )

Secondary readings: 馮友蘭,277–306; Wong; Hansen, Daoist Theory, 265–303; Ivanhoe; Van Norden, “Competing”; Graham, “Chuang-tzu’s Essay”

Tutorial 2: Fraser, “Skepticism”*

4. The Good Life: Resilient Wandering (weeks 7–8)

Primary readings: Zhuāngzǐ books 1 逍遙遊; 3 養生主; 4 人間世 (sect. 2); 5 德充符; 6 大宗師; 21 田子方 (sect. 4); 22 知北遊 (sect. 4)

Secondary readings: Puett*; Fraser, “Wandering“*; Fraser, “Paradoxical”; 徐復觀,358–414; 唐君毅,《原道篇》,343–402; Velleman

Tutorial 3: Kupperman*

5.  Ethics and Politics (weeks 9–10)

Primary readings: Zhuāngzǐ books 7 應帝王; 4 人間世;  6 大宗師 (sect. 7); 22 知北遊 (sect. 5); 13 天道 (sect. 4)

Secondary readings: Fraser, “Heterogeneity”*; Hansen, “Guru”

Tutorial 4: Wenzel*

6.  Practical Training (weeks 11–12)

Primary readings: Zhuāngzǐ books 19 達生; 20 山木 (sect. 1); 3 養生主; 4 人間世 (sect. 1); 6 大宗師 (sect. 9); 2 齊物論

Secondary readings: Fraser, “Emptiness”; Yearley; 唐君毅,《導論篇》,120–131

Tutorial 5: Fox*

Coursework and Assessment

Class participation, including tutorials (30% of the grade), three short homework assignments (30%), term paper (40%).


Primary Sources





郭慶蕃,《莊子集釋》,三冊,中華書局, 2004 (1961)。


Graham, A. Chuang Tzu: The Inner Chapters. Hackett, 2001. (English translation.)

Lau, D. Tao Te Ching. Penguin, 1963. (English translation.)

Watson, B. The Complete Works of Chuang-tzu. Columbia, 1968. (English translation.)

Ivanhoe, P. J., and B.  Van Norden, eds., Readings in Classical Chinese Philosophy. Hackett, 2005.

Secondary Sources


王博,《莊子哲學》,北京大学出版社, 2004

王博无奈与逍遥—庄子的心灵世界》, 华夏出版社出版社, 2007

牟宗三,莊子齊物論義理分》,中華書局, 1998

唐君毅,《中國哲學原論導論篇》,學生書局,1986,頁 120–131。

唐君毅,《中國哲學原論原道篇》,卷一,學生書局,1986,頁 290–342, 343–402。

徐復觀,《中國人性論史》,先秦篇,臺灣商務印書館,1969,頁 325–57, 358–414。

陳少明,《齊物論及其影響》,北京大学出版社, 2004


馮友蘭,《中國哲學史》,增訂本,上冊,臺灣商務印書館,1994,頁 277–306。



Angle, S., and J. Gordon. “‘Dao’ as a Nickname.” Asian Philosophy (2003), 13:1: 15–27.

Chan, Alan. “Laozi.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2001).

Chong, K. “Zhuangzi’s Cheng Xin and its Implications for Virtue and Perspectives.” Dao 10 (2011): 427–443.

Connolly, T. “Perspectivism as a Way of Knowing in the Zhuangzi.” Dao 10 (2011): 487–505. 

Crandell, Michael. “On Walking Without Touching the Ground: ‘Play’ in the Inner Chapters of the Chuang-tzu.” In Experimental Essays on Chuang-tzu, V. Mair, ed. (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1983), 101–124.

Csikszentmihalyi, M. “Mysticism and Apophatic Discourse in the Laozi.” In M. Csikszentmihalyi and P. Ivanhoe, eds., Religious and Philosophical Aspects of the Laozi (SUNY, 1999): 33–58.

Fox, Alan. “Reflex and Reflectivity: Wuwei in the Zhuangzi.” Asian Philosophy 6.1 (1996): 59–72. Also in S. Cook, ed., Hiding the World in the World: Uneven Discourses on the Zhuangzi (SUNY, 2003): 207–25.

Fraser, C. “Wandering the Way.”

Fraser, C. “Emotion and Agency in the Zhuāngzǐ.” Asian Philosophy 21.1 (2011): 97–121.

Fraser, C. “Skepticism and Value in the Zhuāngzǐ.International Philosophical Quarterly 49.4 (2009).

Fraser, C. “Psychological Emptiness in the Zhuāngzǐ.Asian Philosophy 18.2 (2008): 123–47.

Fraser. C. “Wú-wéi, the Background, and Intentionality.” In Bo Mou, ed., Searle’s Philosophy and Chinese Philosophy: Constructive Engagement (Brill, 2008): 63–92.

Fraser, C. Zhuangzi, Xunzi, and the Paradoxical Nature of Education.” Journal of Chinese Philosophy 33.4 (2006): 529–42.

Fraser, C. “Daoism and the Heterogeneity of Value.”

Graham, A. “Chuang-tzu’s Essay on Seeing Things as Equal.” History of Religions 9 (1969/70): 137–59.

Hansen, C. A Daoist Theory of Chinese Thought (Oxford, 1992): 200–30, 265–303.

Hansen, C. “Guru or Skeptic? Relativistic Skepticism in the Zhuangzi.” In S. Cook, ed., Hiding the World in the World: Uneven Discourses on the Zhuangzi (SUNY, 2003): 128–62.

Hansen, C. “Daoism.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2003).

Huang, Yong. “The Ethics of Difference in the Zhuangzi.Journal of the American Academy of Religion 78.1 (2010): 65–99.

Huang, Yong. “Respecting Different Ways of Life: A Daoist Ethics of Virtue in the Zhuangzi.” Journal of Asian Studies 69.4 (2010): 1049–1070.

Ivanhoe, P. J. “Zhuangzi on Skepticism, Skill, and the Ineffable Dao.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 61.4 (1993): 639–54.

Kupperman, J. “Spontaneity and Education of the Emotions in the Zhuangzi.” In Learning from Asian Philosophy (Oxford, 1999): 79–89.

Lau, D. Tao Te Ching (Penguin, 1963): 90–114.

Moeller, H. The Philosophy of the Daodejing. Columbia, 2006.

Olberding, Amy. “Sorrow and the Sage: Grief in the Zhuangzi.” Dao 6.4 (2007): 339–359.

Puett, M. “‘Nothing Can Overcome Heaven’: The Notion of Spirit in the Zhuangzi.” In S. Cook, ed., Hiding the World in the World: Uneven Discourses on the Zhuangzi (SUNY, 2003): 248–62.

Robins, D. “‘It Goes Beyond Skill.'” In C. Fraser, D. Robins, and T. O’Leary, eds., Ethics in Early China (HKU Press, 2011).

Sturgeon, D. “Zhuangzi, Perspectives, and Greater Knowledge.” Philosophy East and West 65.3 (forthcoming).

Van Norden, B. “Competing Interpretations of the Inner Chapters.” Philosophy East and West 46.2 (1996): 247–68.

Van Norden, B. “Method in the Madness of the Laozi.” In M. Csikszentmihalyi and P. Ivanhoe, eds., Religious and Philosophical Aspects of the Laozi (SUNY, 1999): 187–210.

Velleman, D. “The Way of the Wanton.” In K. Atkins and C. Mackenzie, eds., Practical Identity and Narrative Agency (Routledge, 2008).

Walker, S.  “The Unity of Dao: Ethics and Metaethics in the Qiwulun” (unpublished handout).

Wenzel, C. “Ethics and Zhuangzi: Awareness, Freedom, and Autonomy.” Journal of Chinese Philosophy 30.1 (2003): 115–26.

Wong, D. “Zhuangzi and the Obsession with Being Right.” History of Philosophy Quarterly 22 (2005): 91–107.

Yearley, L. “The Perfected Person in the Radical Chuang-tzu.” In V. Mair, ed., Experimental Essays on Chuang-tzu. (Hawaii, 1983): 125–39.