Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Berger, Douglas


This dissertation seeks to extract the Zhuangzi from a variety of problematic interpretations in English-speaking scholarship. The text has been accused of supporting a variety of moral or epistemic positions, including moral relativism, transcendental mysticism, skepticism, anarchism, and anti-societal asceticism. Against these interpretations I demonstrate the text has a complex but coherent diagnosis of human suffering in a cosmology of change. In response to this diagnosis the text also presents a complex but coherent set of ideals that treat human suffering. This suffering takes many forms, but is particularly problematic in the xin, the organ conventionally regarded as being responsible for wisdom and guidance in human activity. This dissertation performs a thorough analysis of the idea of xin in the Zhuangzi, and demonstrates how the Inner Chapters provide a coherent prescriptive regimen to treat the afflictions of discrimination, completion, and acquisition. When discriminations in the xin are released through forgetting and emptiness, this allows the zhenren to harmonize his conscious attention and bodily activity to dao. Integrating mind, body and spirit with dao allows the sage to wander effortlessly through the emergent processes of yin and yang. Not only does this mean paying attention to the changes of dao, but also means acclimating to those changes.




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