Wandering the Way

This paper was my contribution to an international conference on “Happiness East & West” held Dec. 10–11, 2009, at the University of Hong Kong. A revised and expanded version of the paper appears in Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy, 13.4 (2014), 541–565.

The author’s manuscript of the full paper can be downloaded here. This is a revised version for publication, completed in August 2013.

An abstract follows.

Wandering the Way:
A Eudaimonistic Approach to the Zhuangzi


The paper develops a eudaimonistic reading of the Zhuangzi on which the characteristic feature of a well-lived life is the exercise of 德 (potency, virtuosity) in a general mode of activity labeled yóu 遊 (wandering). I argue that the Zhuangzi presents a second-order conception of agents’ flourishing in which the life of is not devoted to predetermined substantive ends or activities with a specific substantive content. Rather, it is marked by a distinctive manner of activity and certain characteristic attitudes. Zhuangist eudaimonism differs from virtue ethics, I suggest, since is not moral virtue nor is normatively basic. The paper discusses textual evidence that the Zhuangzi presents eudaimonistic ideals, develops the Zhuangist conception of “wandering” in detail, and explores connections between wandering and the Zhuangist interest in skill. It surveys the justification for Zhuangist eudaimonism and sketches how the wandering ideal affects the substantive content of a good life.

Keywords: Zhuangzi, Daoism, ethics, eudaimonia, wandering, potency, virtuosity, agency