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Title: An account of spontaneity in the Zhuangzi
Authors: Nord-Bronzyk, Alexa
Keywords: Humanities::Philosophy
Issue Date: 2021
Publisher: Nanyang Technological University
Source: Nord-Bronzyk, A. (2021). An account of spontaneity in the Zhuangzi. Doctoral thesis, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.
Abstract: The concept of spontaneity has appeared as a perennial theme in much of the scholarly research on the Zhuangzi. Aspects of spontaneity appear through concepts such as ziran 自然, wuwei 無為, and you 遊, fictional stories, and metaphors. This thesis aims to consider the many different ways in which the text exposes any notion of spontaneity, and to develop an account that facilitates the scattered interpretations throughout the current literature. The first chapter of this thesis will analyze some of the key passages surrounding spontaneity. In the second chapter, I will categorize the common interpretations of spontaneity in the Zhuangzi. It will then become clear that the concept of spontaneity is multifaceted and complex, making the project of creating a new and cohesive account of spontaneity in the Zhuangzi interesting and worthwhile. In Chapter Three, I begin with a thorough analysis of ziran 自然, the term most often associated with spontaneity. Even though ziran is such an important concept in Daoism, the specific use of ziran in the Zhuangzi has often been overlooked as Laozi’s conception of ziran has dominated the literature. Focusing on Zhuangzi’s ziran is thus an important contribution. Additionally, a large portion of Zhuangzi scholarship has analysed the concept of spontaneity through what are known as the “skill stories” in the text. With skill being such an important theme in the Zhuangzi, it has become a mistaken tendency to assume that spontaneity too could be thought of as a skill. I argue that ziran should not be thought of as a skill and a more appropriate reading would render ziran as an “organic happening”. In Chapter Four, I develop an account of spontaneity in the Zhuangzi in light of my analysis of ziran as an “organic happening”. I begin with an analysis of you 遊in order to demonstrate the passive and active aspects of spontaneity. Spontaneity is passive in the sense of the psychological mindset of the sage as non-deliberate and non-purposive. The sage is active in how his spontaneity manifests through responsiveness to the immediacy of situations where shi/fei distinctions are dissolved. The final chapter of this thesis will place the present account of spontaneity in the arena of the competing interpretations of spontaneity in the text. Spontaneity will remain multifaceted and complex, but the key themes will be illuminated and many of the misconceptions will be cleared away, such as reading the Zhuangzi as a “do nothing” text.
DOI: 10.32657/10356/152487
Rights: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC 4.0).
Fulltext Permission: open
Fulltext Availability: With Fulltext
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