Translated Titles

Zhuangzi's Epistemology and Related Doctrines: New inquiries




劉榮錦(LAU , Wing Kam Raymond)

Key Words

莊子的認識論 ; 莊子與相對主義 ; 莊子與不可知論 ; 「真知」 ; 庖丁解牛 ; 體道 ; Zhuangzi's epistemology ; Zhuangzi and unknowability ; Zhuangzi and relativism ; "true knowledge" (zhenzhi) ; paodingjieniu (Paoding's dismemberment of a cattle) ; tidao



Volume or Term/Year and Month of Publication

36卷(2019 / 08 / 01)

Page #

1 - 47

Content Language


Chinese Abstract


English Abstract

Zhuangzi is popularly taken to be an anti-rationalist and a supporter of the theory of unknowability, but this is mistaken. In fact, Zhuangzi believes in truth; his whole theoretical practice, including his query of the debate of right and wrong, is premised upon an endorsement of cognitive knowing. Such a query is driven by his life philosophy. Contemptuous of the pursuit of power and material things, Zhuangzi detests cleverness (zhiqiao), that is, the use of intelligence with an improper motive. In his view, improper motives inevitably bring prejudice (chengxin), and it is prejudice that leads to the debate of right and wrong. Hence, if people can do away with improper motives, thereby eliminating prejudice, they will be able to arrive at the ultimate truth which is above right and wrong. As a value, improper motives constitute the starting point of Zhuangzi's epistemology, and it is this very starting point that destines his entire epistemology to complete failure. Although Zhuangzi endorses cognitive knowing, his ultimate ideal is to go beyond it. When people do not treat things (nature) as cognitive objects, but simply live with them in a relationship of experiential practical contact, they will arrive at the spiritual state of Dao. Tidao is precisely the experience of living in such a state, but is commonly but mistakenly understood as arriving at a cognitive ‘ultimate truth' through some experiential revelation. This mistake has arisen from Zhuangzi's two practices which have caused much conflation: on the one hand, Zhuangzi is very loose with terminology (the term Dao has five meanings in his usage, not counting its ordinary senses); on the other, Zhuangzi has a preference for advancing arguments by means of paradoxes built upon the play of words. In putting forth the idea of Dao as a spiritual state, Zhuangzi's objective is not that people should become illiterate and ignorant, but to appeal to people to rethink humankind's position in nature.

Topic Category 人文學 > 哲學
人文學 > 宗教學
人文學 > 歷史學
人文學 > 中國文學