Every nineteen years, I should write a new essay on the ancient Chinese philosopher Zhuangzi, don't you think? This one should tide me over until 2034, then!
Death and Self in the Incomprehensible Zhuangzi
The ancient Chinese philosopher Zhuangzi defies interpretation. This is an inextricable part of the beauty and power of his work. The text – by which I mean the “Inner Chapters” of the text traditionally attributed to him, the authentic core of the book – is incomprehensible as a whole. It consists of shards, in a distinctive voice – a voice distinctive enough that its absence is plain in most or all of the “Outer” and “Miscellaneous” Chapters, and which I will treat as the voice of a single author. Despite repeating imagery, ideas, style, and tone, these shards cannot be pieced together into a self-consistent philosophy. This lack of self-consistency is a positive feature of Zhuangzi. It is part of what makes him the great and unusual philosopher he is, defying reduction and summary.Full draft here.
As always, comments, objections, suggestions welcome, either by email or as comments on this post.
See this post from March 5 for a briefer treatment of the same themes.