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Frontiers of Philosophy in China

ISSN 1673-3436

ISSN 1673-355X(Online)

CN 11-5743/B

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Front. Philos. China    2015, Vol. 10 Issue (3) : 353-379
research-article |
Authenticity in the Zhuangzi ? Contemporary Misreadings of Zhen 真and an Alternative to Existentialism
Paul J. D’Ambrosio()
Philosophy Department, East China Normal University, Shanghai 200241, China
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This essay reviews the Zhuangzian notion of zhen 真, often through the text’s advancement of the zhenren 真人 (“genuine person,” “true person”) or zhenzhi 真知 (“genuine knowledge,” “true knowledge”). Contemporary scholarship, in both Chinese and English, often presents zhen as analogous to the existentialist theory of authenticity, which correspondingly reflects on interpretations of the “self,” and thereby the zhen person. Much of the Zhuangzi is a reaction to the Lunyu, including an ironic response to the Confucian cultivation project. If we establish our interpretation of the “self” against this background then we find that zhen in the Zhuangzi is actually used to argue against the Confucian identification of the person and self through social roles or conventions. However, advocating zhen does not suggest that there is some essential or core “self” to refer to; instead, it implies a natural state of responsiveness where the person acts efficaciously by being in line with what is obvious or affirmed in the situation. This essay thereby presents a reading of zhen that is historically and culturally consistent, and sets up the Zhuangzi as an alternative, and not an echo, to some of the major issues dealt with by the existentialist movement.

Keywords Zhuangzi      Daoism      zhen      authenticity      existentialism     
Issue Date: 28 October 2015
 Cite this article:   
Paul J. D’Ambrosio. Authenticity in the Zhuangzi ? Contemporary Misreadings of Zhen 真and an Alternative to Existentialism[J]. Front. Philos. China, 2015, 10(3): 353-379.
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