Warp, Weft, and Way

Chinese and Comparative Philosophy 中國哲學與比較哲學

Was Zhuangzi a "great philosopher"? : continuing tangent from another thread

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    Scott Barnwell

    A tangent developed in “Zhuangzi and Aesthetic Values,” on whether the Zhuangzi (and Laozi) contain the writings/teachings of Zhuang Zhou (or Lao Dan). I have some thoughts to share on part of that discussion.

    @ Paul, who wrote “… the fact is that we don’t have the foggiest idea of who the author or authors [of the Zhuangzi] were, except that it/they can’t possibly have been some wise old philosopher named Zhuang Zhou.”
    What are the grounds for such a bold statement of certainty? Why is it impossible that an historical person named Zhuang Zhou was an influential “philosopher” and (literate) author, some of whose writings and teachings are found in what was later titled the Zhuangzi? Elsewhere I’ve written about our lack of evidence for which parts of the text are the oldest or are written by Zhuang Zhou. (The same is true with regards to the Laozi and Lao Dan.) However, it is not true that we don’t have evidence to support the traditional views of these two: the problem is whether this evidence is good evidence, is reliable, plausible, etc.; whether we have enough evidence. There is subjectivity involved in answering these questions. You believe we don’t, as you write “there is now enough inarguable evidence to show that the idea [of Laozi and Zhuangzi being great philosophers] is totally untenable.” “Inarguable”? And again: “every single piece of evidence shows that this is nonsense.” Really?
    Iirc, you yourself have argued that we don’t have good grounds to deny Hanfei’s authorship of certain questionable chapters in the book named after him. Certainly that would apply to other texts from the period, no?
    I also don’t believe “the issue is trivial or pedantic,” and support your comment that “it’s much easier to be open about inconsistencies in a text with uncertain and almost certainly multiple authorship than a Great Philosopher (who must be coherent because incoherence is not an attribute of greatness),” as I’ve said something very similar in a previous post and my blog.

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