History: CPLT324_Tzu

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Assigned: from Chuang Chou (832-58).

Chuang Chou

Chapter 1 (834-37)

Note: the text sometimes uses Chuang Chou, sometimes Chuang Tzu — the latter term means "Master Chuang," while the former is Chuang's personal name. Both refer to the same person — Chuang writes about himself in the third person.

1. On 834-35, our selection begins with quotations from a mythical book, it seems. What philosophical stance does Chuang Chou take when he discusses such things as "the great bird P'eng," the cicada, and the dove in connection with human perception and understanding?

2. On 835-37, in what sense does Chuang Chou, with his comments on political or bureaucratic office and on "usefulness/uselessness," challenge the basic orientation of Confucianism? Consider also what the young herdsman says to the Yellow Emperor on 858: what does he explain to the Emperor about governing?

Chapter 2 (838-45)

3. On 838-41, Chuang Chou addresses the basic philosophical problem of self-consciousness (i.e. our awareness of ourselves as thinking beings, as mind-body units, etc. – our ability to "get a handle" on what we are). What view does he advance concerning the possibility of grasping ourselves this way?

4. On 839-43, Chuang Chou analyzes the "categories" of thought humans (especially philosophers and logicians) employ. Why, according to him, do they use such categories as "this" and "that," and what error does the use of them involve? What are the consequences of the error?

5. On 843-45, Chuang Chou offers some comments on "the sage"? According to him, what is a sage? How does he recast this figure in accordance with his own theory of knowledge (i.e. his ideas about "epistemology," as the branch of philosophy that deals with how knowledge may be gained is called)?

Chapters 3-4 (845-48)

6. On 845-46, a cook named Ting explains to Lord Wen-Hui? how he has become so adept at the culinary art. How has he done it? Why is Ting's method (if that's the right word) the fundamental way "to care for life"? What does Ting not have to do that others must do?

7. On 847-48, the carpenter Shih learns something from an ancient oak tree. What does he learn, and what underlies his further defense of the tree when his apprentice challenges the insight he has gained? How does the next section (on "Crippled Shu" and the madman Chieh, who shouts at Confucius) reinforce or modify that insight?

Chapters 6-7, 12 (848-53)

8. On 848-53, Chuang Chou focuses on Confucius in some detail, generating dialog for him about his thoughts on death and the ceremonies surrounding it, and then on Tzu-Kung's report to the Sage about an old gardener. On the whole, how does Chuang Chou represent Confucius? Is Chuang Chou recasting him in his own image? Does he seem to approve of his Confucius' opinions? Explain with specific reference to the text.

Chapter 13 (852-53)

9. Here the wheelwright P'ien explains to his master Duke Huan that books just don't contain all the wonderful wisdom the Duke thinks they do. What is P'ien's reasoning on the matter? If the wheelwright is correct, how does that complicate Chuang Chou's status as a philosophical writer, and how might he nonetheless defend his writings? (One' can't be certain that he would do any such thing, but it's worth considering.)

Chapters 17-22, 24 (853-58)

10. On 851-55 (Chs. 17-19) describe human attempts to understand other not only the consciousness of other beings, but also the state of nonbeing and the supernatural realm of ghosts. How successful are these attempts, in your view? Is Master Chuang (i.e. Chuang Tzu) right in doggedly claiming he knows what fish enjoy? Does he learn anything from the skull he contemplates? What does the Invocator learn about the difference between himself and a pig? And finally, what helps Duke Huan get over his melancholy fear of a ghost?

11. On 855-56 (Ch. 20), Chuang Chou is stricken with unhappiness when he runs into a chain of predatory acts, which include his own stalking of a magpie. What is it that has made him so unhappy? How do you interpret his statement that he "forgot his body" and the magpie "forgot its true self"?

12. On 856-57 (Ch. 21), Chuang examines the "true artist" and the downright archer. What makes the artist genuine, rather than simply insolent or lazy? Why is the archer a failure, in spite of his skill?

13. On 857-58, (Chs. 22, 24), Master Chuang says that the Way is not locatable in any ordinary sense. How, then, is he able to offer us any insight about it? In what manner does the selection from Ch. 22 exemplify Chuang's efforts in that regard?

Lawall, Sarah, ed. The Norton Anthology of World Literature. 2nd edition. Volume 1ABC. New York: WW Norton, 2002. ISBN A = 0393977552, B = 0393977560, C = 0393977579.


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