4 replies on “Varieties of the Self Conference at Scripps”

  1. Every time I come across writings about early Chinese conceptions of “the self” I think of Chris Jochim’s essay “Just Say No to ‘No Self’ in the Zhuangzi,” found in Roger Ames’ Wandering at Ease in the Zhuangzi (SUNY, 1998). But I never see anyone reference this essay. Do people not know of it or am I the only one who was impressed with it?

  2. I’ve cited it once: in “A Mind-Body Problem in the Zhuangzi?” where I note that he flatly denies that there is any such thing. Needless to say, I think he is wrong about that.

    Dredging up my notes here (I haven’t looked at his piece since it was published) … Jochim’s argument is that “self” is misleading for ji 己 (and likewise “no self” for wuji 無己), because ji doesn’t have the connotations of a Western, post-Cartesian concept of self. I did not understand why using the term “self” necessarily commits one to a Western, post-Cartesian concept of self, though of course I agree that such a conception would be inappropriate. His own suggestion for ji is “egoism,” but when I reviewed the book back in 2000, I offered “self-centeredness” instead, on the grounds that “egoism” has misleading philosophical connotations too.

    • Point taken Paul. I didn’t recall his use of “egoism,” but I see it now. What I did remember was “ego concerns” (p. 58). Since reading his article I have often used “oneself” rather than “the self” in my translations/interpretations.

      For those interested, his mid-essay summary goes as follows: “Although Master Zhuang occasionally nominalized ji 己 and wo 我 to designate certain undesirable habits of thought or behavior, he did not hypostatize these habits as a false ‘self’; nor did her hypostatize other ideal habits or inner qualities of the person as a true ‘self.’ He simply did not think in these terms. He was interested in the various habits and qualities of one’s ‘person’ (shen 身) and one’s ‘heart-mind’ (xin 心); and he taught of personal cultivation whereby one could let go of habits and qualities that obstructed one’s innate tendencies to get along with others (shun ren 順人), wander in the world (you yu shi 遊於世), and join in the flow of all living things (wan wu 萬物). He had, at most, a pluralistic conception of ‘the person.’ Therefore, it does far more harm than good to interpret and to translate Zhuangzi by reference to concepts of ‘the self.’” (p. 56)

    • I agree with you that “oneself” is safer than “the self.”

      I have to add that I reject Jochim’s unstated assumption that a philosopher named Master Zhuang wrote the book in question, i.e. that we can speak of what “he was interested in” and what “he taught.” Of course, this gets us back to the same issue that we’ve been debating for a couple of weeks. For now, just observe how he makes no effort to defend this assumption, and how comprehensively it informs his interpretation of the text.

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