Episode 1 of This is the Way: Daoist Detachment

Richard Kim and Justin Tiwald are pleased to present a new podcast series on Chinese Philosophy, This is the Way. The administrators of Warp, Weft, and Way have generously agreed to host supporting materials and discussions of specific podcast episodes.

Our first episode is titled “Daoist Detachment.” In fact, it’s really just about the distinctive sort of detachment that seems to be at the heart of some (core) passages of the Zhuangzi. In the episode, Richard and Justin introduce themselves and talk about the motivation and vision for the podcast series, the idea of “philosophical double-vision” that makes Zhuangzi-style detachment possible, and some worries about this sort of detachment. Below you will find a more detailed accounting of topics, some specific passages and books or articles mentioned in the episode, and an opportunity to “weigh in” and share your views about the topic (or about hosts’ wild claims about the text).

Your feedback is very welcome! Please leave a comment below, mail us at ChinesePhilosophyPodcast@gmail.com, or follow us on X @ChinesePhilPod.

Chapter markers

0:00 Part I — Introduction
6:30 Part II — Daoist detachment
          6:31 Our particular Daoist: Zhuangzi
          8:30 The monkey-trainer passage
          10:44 Philosophical double-vision
          25:05 Double-vision and value distinctions
          30:30 Why should we adopt philosophical double-vision?
          40:38 How the two perspectives can be integrated (strategic model vs. Monopoly
                      model vs. others)
          53:28 An objection to Daoist detachment: personal relationships
          1:00:22 Another objection: meaninglessness
          1:11:05 Next week’s topic
Key passages

     The Monkey Trainer


…exhausting the spirit trying to illuminate the unity of things without knowing that they are all the same is called “three in the morning.” What do I mean by “three in the morning”? When the monkey trainer was passing out nuts he said, “You get three in the morning and four at night.” The monkeys were all angry. “All right,” he said, “you get four in the morning and three at night.” The monkeys were all pleased. With no loss in name or substance, he made use of their joy and anger because he went along with them. So the sage harmonizes people with right and wrong and rests them on Heaven’s wheel. This is called walking two roads. (Zhuangzi, ch. 2, Paul Kjellberg’s translation)

Other sources mentioned
The Zhuangzi《莊子》 (Chinese)
The Zhuangzi (English translations)
The Daodejing (Chinese, English)
Thomas Nagel, The View from Nowhere
Terrence Malick (director), The Tree of Life
The Xunzi, ch. 21, section 5 (Xunzi’s brief criticism of Zhuangzi)
Confucius’s dialogue with the Duke of She (on the inescapability of human concerns)
P.F. Strawson, “Freedom and Resentment
The Huainanzi, ch. 19, section 9 (story about the unpredictable turns of good and bad fortune)
The Zhuangzi, ch. 18, section 4 (Zhuangzi talks to a skull about death)
The Zhuangzi, ch. 18, section 2 (Zhuangzi “mourns” the death of his spouse)
The Zhuangzi, ch. 6, section 7 (ideal mourner Mengsun Cai)