One of the most sophisticated texts of world philosophy, the Zhuangzi is a compendium of different but related works that has exerted tremendous influence on the philosophical, religious, artistic, and literary traditions of East Asia. Written in a volatile and dangerous age, the Zhuangzi explores how one can live a meaningful life of cultivated sensitivity and empathy in a world whose dangers are exacerbated, but also solved, by those very traits.
This course will examine the Zhuangzi in its entirety, surveying its themes, arguments, and the tensions that exist between its component parts. It will also explore its reception and influence in later periods of history. Although the class will discuss the full variety of the text’s themes, it will focus on the Zhuangzi’s relevance for the modern age and how its thought can change and enrich both daily life and the world at large.