Blake Reviews Moeller and D’Ambrosio, Genuine Pretending

Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

2018.06.18 View this Review Online   View Other NDPR Reviews

Hans-Georg Moeller and Paul J. D’Ambrosio, Genuine Pretending: On the Philosophy of the Zhuangzi, Columbia University Press, 2017, 221 pp., $35.00, ISBN 9780231183994.

Reviewed by Susan Blake, Bard College

“A romp through ‘the vast wilds of open nowhere'” — Roger Ebert

“Better than any existing work on humor” — Aristotle

“Nothing more than a success” — Guy Smiley

“A demonstration of nothing . . . in a technical sense” — Ford Prefect

“A tour de force through the ‘homeland of non-even-anything'” — Steven Colbert

This book presents a novel reading of the Zhuangzi that illuminates its humor and presents it as responding to philosophical concerns of its day. To the extent that these philosophical concerns are also those of the present day — the search for a sane and healthy response to the impossible demands of sincerity — we can, through the discussion here, gain an understanding of an alternative to the unsatisfying ethical approaches of both sincerity and authenticity. The book is impressive in bringing together diverse passages in this difficult text under one interpretation.

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Moeller and D’Ambrosio Lecture at Ghent University

Hans-Georg Moeller and Paul J. D’Ambrosio will be giving a lecture on their new book
on the philosophy of the Zhuangzi at Ghent University on June 1, 2018. The lecture is entitled
Genuine Pretending: A Daoist Mode of Existence”.

Venue: Ghent University, Faculty of Arts and Philosophy, Campus Boekentoren (Blandijnberg 2), Ghent (Belgium), 5th floor, room 150.018. Time: 14.00 – 15.30. The poster is available here.

For any additional information, please mail to ady.vandenstock@ugent.be

JHI Blog Entry on Heidegger and Zhuangzi

Dag Herbjørnsrud has written a fascinating entry at the Journal of the History of Idea blog, which begins as follows…

A remarkable example of how ideas migrate across so-called cultural borders and change minds in unknown ways happened in the German city of Bremen on October 8, 1930. There, Martin Heidegger gave a speech based upon his masterwork Being and Time (1927). Afterwards, he and several of Bremen’s citizens gathered at the home of a wholesaler. During the evening, Heidegger suddenly turned to his host and asked, “Mister Kellner, would you please bring me the Parables of Zhuangzi? I would like to read some passages from it.”

Alexus McLeod – Columbia Society for Comparative Philosophy Lecture: “The Madman of Chu: The Problem of Mental Illness and Self-Cultivation in Early Chinese Texts”, Dec. 2 @ 5:30pm

THE COLUMBIA SOCIETY FOR COMPARATIVE PHILOSOPHY

Welcomes: ALEXUS MCLEOD (University of Connecticut)
With responses from: ANDREW MEYER (Brooklyn College, CUNY)

Please join us at Columbia University’s Religion Department on FRIDAY, DECEMBER 2nd at 5:30PM for his lecture entitled:

The Madman of Chu: The Problem of Mental Illness and Self-Cultivation in Early Chinese Texts

ABSTRACT: In Confucian and Zhuangist texts of the Pre-Han and Han period, we see characters described as “crazy, mad” (狂 kuang), and find descriptions or discussions of madness or mad persons—most prominently the infamous Jieyu, “Madman of Chu”. I argue that madness is seen by Confucians and Zhuangists as a kind of moral deformity that moves one outside of the boundaries of ritual and society and thus full personhood—a fact that leads the Confucians to shun mad people, and the Zhuangist to praise them.  Madness is seen not as a 病 bing (disorder, illness), but instead as based on a cultivated choice.   Continue reading

Eric Schwitzgebel – Columbia Society for Comparative Philosophy Lecture: “Death and Self in the Incomprehensible Zhuangzi”, THURSDAY Oct.13 @ 5:30pm

THE COLUMBIA SOCIETY FOR COMPARATIVE PHILOSOPHY

Welcomes: ERIC SCHWITZGEBEL (University of California Riverside)
With responses from: CHRISTOPHER GOWANS (Fordham University)

Please join us at Columbia University’s Religion Department on *THURSDAY*, OCTOBER 13th at 5:30PM for his lecture entitled:

“Death and Self in the Incomprehensible Zhuangzi”

ABSTRACT: 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. 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.  In this talk, I will look at Zhuangzi’s inconsistent remarks about death and the self. Continue reading

Tao Jiang – Columbia Society for Comparative Philosophy Lecture: “Between Philosophy and History: The Challenge of Authorship to Classical Chinese Philosophy in the Western Academy”, Sep.23 @ 5:30pm

THE COLUMBIA SOCIETY FOR COMPARATIVE PHILOSOPHY

Welcomes: TAO JIANG (Rutgers University)

With responses from: ESKE MØLLGAARD (University of Rhode Island)

Please join us at Columbia University’s Religion Department on FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 23rd at 5:30PM for his lecture entitled:

“Between Philosophy and History: The Challenge of Authorship to Classical Chinese Philosophy in the Western Academy”

 ABSTRACT: The tension between philosophical and historical inquiries has been a perennial problem. Within the modern academy, the disciplines of philosophy and history are protected by their respective institutional norm and practice, without much need for interaction. However, Chinese philosophy, situated between Sinology and philosophy in the western academy, has encountered extraordinary challenges from both Sinologists (most of whom are historians) and (Western) philosophers. At the root of the difficulty facing Chinese philosophy lies its very legitimacy, torn between the historicist orientation of Sinology and the presentist orientation of mainstream contemporary Western philosophy. Such divergent disciplinary norms have put scholars of Chinese philosophy in a difficult position. On the one hand, they have to defend the philosophical nature, or even the philosophical worthiness, of classical Chinese texts in front of contemporary Western philosophers whose interests tend to be more issue-driven and in the philosophical integrity of ideas, rather than the historicity of ideas. At the same time, these scholars of Chinese philosophy, when dealing with Sinologists, need to justify the basic premise of their philosophical approach to the classics due to the historical ambiguity and compositional instability of these texts. Continue reading