Zhuangzi glossary


how much background to fill in

A friend who has no particular background in philosophy kindly offered to look at an early version of this. She found it disorienting and asked for more background into who Zhuangzi was and why he was writing. Immediately I had misgivings. Even something as non-controversial as my description of Zhuangzi as a Daoist can be misleading. A Google search will identify “Daoism” as a school of early Chinese thought in opposition to Confucianism and Mohism. But those categories were invented centuries later by a Han Dynasty historian to order to organize books in his library. We have no reason to believe that Zhuangzi thought of himself as a member of one philosophical team as opposed to another; his relationship with Confucius, in particular, is far from so black and white. So, while I recognize background is important, I worry about introducing ungrounded assumptions. Also, while background is useful in explaining why an odd remark made sense in that context, it risks suggesting that it only makes sense in that context, when what I am trying to explore is what sense it might make for us now. So I can use guidance in how much background tp fill in and how best to do it.