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Title: Situations beyond human control in the Zhuangzi
Author: Yuan, Ai
ISNI:       0000 0004 7232 9040
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2018
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In this project, I reexamine the idea of acceptance in the Zhuangzi and develop it by reconstructing an 安 (contentment) as a fundamental element in dealing with 'human limitations', and accordingly, with things beyond human control. I argue that the question of how to deal with human limitations is central to ideas in the Zhuangzi of how one should live in the mundane world. That is to say, the idea of an is seen as an important part of self-cultivation for living a good life. In other words, the reason for the discussions on human limitations in the Zhuangzi is to arrive at a way of dealing with these limitations, rather than to try to escape from them. To be specific, this project not only examines debates and discussions regarding human limitations through different terms and stories, but also focuses on actions and attitudes that can be adopted to deal with these limitations. It discusses the following aspects: how the Zhuangzi justifies the attitude of an (安) as a conscious and active choice through which one can willingly accept human limitations, namely ming (å‘1⁄2) and nature xing (性), and accordingly lead a safe, efficient, and peaceful life; how the idea of contentment allows one to be a filial (xiao 孝) child when confronted with a problematic relationship with one's parents; how the idea of an is justified in the Zhuangzi as a form of courageous (yong 勇) behaviour; how and why the Zhuangzian sages chose singing (ge 歌) as a means of expressing their contentment towards situations that are beyond human control; and how laughing (xiao 笑) at the uncontrollable can be transformed into a form of self-control. With a thorough analysis of contentment in the Zhuangzi, this project makes the following contributions. First, the Zhuangzian idea of contentment is re-evaluated by relating it to other questions of philosophical concern, therefore bringing new significance to it. Second, this work opens up a new discussion on how and why one can affirm and willingly accept the human limitations within the field of Chinese philosophy, so that one can engage in a topic that is also of concern in religious studies and Western philosophy. Third, through this project, we will be able to appreciate more fully the ways in which Zhuangzian philosophy is related to other works in early China.
Supervisor: Meyer, Dirk Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available