Ethics in the Zhuangzi: Diversity and sagacity

Frank P. Saunders

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Philosophers in China during the Warring States period generally saw themselves as investigators into the Dao-the uniquely authoritative Way to live and to flourish. Certain voices found in the Zhuangzi, however, offer a radical response to this project by rejecting the premise that there exists such a uniquely authoritative Dao. Instead, they argue that there exist myriad, diverse dao, none of which has absolute moral authority. Yet the very texts that undermine the idea of an authoritative Dao simultaneously make positive ethical suggestions regarding how to live and flourish. In this paper I explore texts in the Zhuangzi that discuss the diversity of dao and sagely flourishing, and I argue that these two themes come together to form the basis of a comprehensive ethical view that I call Zhuangist pluralism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)221-235
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Philosophical Quarterly
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Jun

Bibliographical note

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All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Philosophy


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